In winter the scenery speaks for itself. Wildlife sightings may be less common, but getting out on the water is still enjoyable in winter months.
The lower-light conditions of winter are very different from a photography point of view. It’s almost like filming in black and white—what’s called the “blue hour” in countries with very short days like Norway. The slow-moving and glass-like waters are a pleasure to paddle on. With the still winter air and the right conditions, it’s like sailing through a different world.
Boat traffic is less of a problem in the winter, although an eye must always be kept on the lookout.
One of the biggest bonuses about winter paddling is no insects! Not one of the tiny flesh-eating gnats, as opposed to thousands found on many coastal areas here in my Welsh homeland—during the summers.
Winter Kayaking: Your Health and Your Safety
There are many things to take into account while winter paddling.
Your health is the first to be considered, and I would advise a check-up, if in doubt. Asthmatics, for example, tolerate cold conditions less than others. Cold temperatures can cause cold shock, hypothermia, frostbite, which can all be devastating to our physical health.
Cold shock is one of the most common causes of drowning and must be considered. Training in cold water can help avoid this to an extent.
Winter Kayaking: Your Clothing
Clothing is of the utmost importance when you kayak in the winter.
I used to wear neoprene with windproof paddling jacket for years, and always suffered in extreme cold, especially if I was only slightly wet. Coming on to land became a battle to get changed into dry clothes as fast as possible.
After paddling for years, I decided to invest in a drysuit. A drysuit with the correct underlayers is essential for winter kayaking.
For my upper body, I like to use a thin merino wool base layer with a fleece jumper on top. On my lower body, I use one layer of wool, one of acrylic with wicking ability; a fleece layer is also an option if you feel the cold. To finish it off, a pair of wool socks go on my feet, and this completes my personal winter clothing preference, and it works for me. It’s better to start with too many layers than to start with too little.
The right gloves is a difficult one. I find neoprene gloves freeze when wet and lose their insulating properties. I also like to have my hands directly on the paddle shaft, which requires some trial and error when finding suitable gloves. Don’t forget a snug woollen hat as well!
The Extras to Bring Along
I keep a fresh set of dry clothes in my car and a warm jacket for the exit. I sometimes bring a thermos with some soup or tea inside so that it can warm me up after.
There may be a lot to consider before getting into winter kayaking, but it’s well worth the effort!