Kayaking in Winter

by | Nov 20, 2018 | Safety First | 0 comments

For many people, winter is a time of rest and preparation for the next kayaking season – a sort of hibernation period that means no to any water activity. You really can’t blame them though, as humans generally, the mere thought of getting into ice cold water or snow is a big turn off for most people. This is true for most people, as the season shifts into winter and the water freezes over, many kayakers hang up their gear and store their kayaks for more favorable conditions. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way; winter can be one of the best times to be on the water and get your paddling on.

Kayaking in winter, although can be quite challenging than other seasons, can also be very enjoyable.  For one, because many people would most likely bail out, so it’s quieter with less crowd, conditions are near perfect. It provides a lot of opportunities to challenge yourself and see the world from a completely different perspective than you have been before. There are actually many perks to kayaking in winter.

Glacier Bay Kayaking

Fewer people and more you-time.

Remember the last time you heard of a fantastic course, and planned for weeks to paddle and enjoy with your family and friends. You looked up pictures, and it looked so beautiful you could almost imagine the serenity of paddling with your loved ones; only to get there to meet hundreds of kayakers, probably thinking the same thing you were. It loses the private touch, but this is rarely the case when kayaking in winter. The particularly cold weather is a huge factor in making sure that people stay home and sit it out.  Even experienced kayakers often store their gear at home and wait the winter out. So if you want private time with your spouse or family; or you’re just a beginner intimated to paddle in front of people. You can be sure that by winter, the water would be less populated. Trust me; there is nothing like having the whole sea to yourself.

Peace and serenity

Fewer people means less noise and fewer distractions, as the water is quiet. You can literally hear the sound of the breeze and wind brushing against your skin and your kayak. You can listen to fish swimming and their splashing from jumping in and out of the water, calls of animals from afar, even the sound of your voice coming back to you like your future self is calling out to you. There are lots of peaceful things in life, and kayaking in winter is way up on the list.

Lost Lake winter kayaking

Amazing scenery

There is so much to look out for when you are kayaking in winter.  From the beautiful sunset to ice cap formations. If you plan your trip in the early months of winter, you may also be greeted by scenes of animals preparing for the colder months to come.

The perfect way to challenge yourself

The truth is winter kayaking is miles ahead of normal kayaking regarding required preparation, the risk involved and safety measures to be considered. There’s no other way to say it.  It’s much difficult than summer kayaking, but that’s no reason to chicken out. Think of the confidence it would build in you after completing your tour. If you’ve been looking for the perfect way to test yourself in understanding your abilities and limitations. This is definitely for you.

Patagonia Kayak Adventure


It is common to think that after the rapids and waves of springs and summer. There is not much left to do in winter, but this could not be farther from the truth. From navigating freezing conditions to gliding around glaciers of ice, winter provides a lot of unbelievable thrills for fun seekers, and with the right gear, you are in for a real treat. Although a sit on top and an inflatable kayak are not often used during winter, with the right gear and equipment it is not a problem. 

So you know what kayaking in winter provides in terms of fun and fulfillment, and you’re just as eager to get in your boat and start paddling but hold on buddy. There are just about a few things you should have in mind to have a stress free, safe and enjoyable tour.

Plan ahead

Touring in winter is quite different from other seasons because now, there is so little room for error so if you can help it. You would have to try your utmost best to plan against contingencies and uncertainties. It’s better to choose a route you’re already familiar with, monitor the weather forecast for the duration you would be paddling and avoid taking unnecessary risks. The shorelines are also much more slippery this time of the year, so it’s always safer to put everything into considerations before making the bold step.

Know your limits

If you managed to read to this point, you already have an idea of how crazy kayaking in winter can get. It’s not a question of if you’re just chilling in a puddle, late or touring on a big ocean. The seemingly calm and peaceful water that seems like the height of tranquility can become a death trap in an instant.

So you know you want it, you want to challenge yourself; you want to feel the cold dry air brushing against your skin; you want to delve into the white wide horizon with no disturbance in sight for miles, you want to prove to yourself you can survive and thrive even under harsh conditions. Picture this though- you’re on the edge of the water, and everybody is reveling the beauty of the sea and jumping in his or her kayaks to face the cold- ask yourself this – am I up to this? – Do I have the skills to navigate the harsh conditions while paddling a kayak? – If your answer to any of the questions is no, then you probably should sit it out.

Huge waves winter kayaking

Know your equipment

A paddler is only as good as his kayak.  You can be the best paddler at sea and still end up having problems smoothly paddling or successfully navigating your way around. Some kayaks are better suited for harsh conditions than others, and you would save yourself from stress and frustration at sea if you take the time out to pick out your gear and kayak according to the particular needs of your tour.

Dress for the occasion

There is an adage in Minnesota that says “There is no bad weather, only the wrong gear“– this proverb perfectly describes the reality of kayaking in winter. Dressing approximately for winter Kayaking is one if not the most important thing to keep in mind before going on the water. Water temperature drops significantly in winter months, and your regular kayaking outfits will just not cut it. Dressing for winter means you have to put in mind the consistent heat loss and like any kayaker would tell you- always dress for immersion.

To properly account for the different scenarios like falling into the cold water, hyperventilation, hypothermia, cold shock that you are at risk of in winter, consider the following essential to any winter escapade you might want to have. This ultimately means that the choice you make in picking either a wetsuit or a dry suit goes a long way in protecting you from the cold and enjoying smooth paddling which brings us to the question- what is really the difference between a wetsuit and a dry suit and how does it affect performance and safety.

Drysuit vs Wetsuit

Wetsuit vs drysuit

One of the biggest debates in winter kayaking is the question of which suit is most essential for successfully navigating cold waters. There are a lot of factors that separate the wet from the dry suits; but the easiest way to remember the difference between a wetsuit and a dry suit is to take note that wetsuits let thin layer of water in, while drysuits feature seals and heavier insulating materials to make sure its wearer stays dry in cold water conditions.

      However, for winter kayaking we recommend the drysuit; water-resistant and compact from neck to feet. This suit is the ideal cover piece to protect your body from extreme conditions out on the water.  A little pricey but you get the absolute best on your investment returns as it can be used for an extended period under different conditions. You can otherwise get dry suits with socks that are sown in but without works fine too. The goal is to keep your feet dry in and out of the kayak and if you can find alternative ways of doing that, then it’s fine. The drysuit keeps the water out, breaks the wind and provide insulation while being immersed in water to prevent loss of body heat and prevent convection.

A life vest

Lifevests are essential to survival, they make sure you stay afloat on water, keeping your mouth above water in the event of you suffering from cold shock helps conserve energy because of the ease it provides in moving through water.

Gloves and mittens

To protect your hands from extreme cold and keep them active and functioning, it’s advised to wear gloves especially neoprene gloves.

Gloves for kayaking

Warm socks and boots

Just like protecting your arms and fingers, your toes would also need to be sealed away from cold temperature by wearing warm sock and neoprene boots to provide warmth and coziness to your feet in the boat and outside on shore.

Neoprene hood

There’s always the risk of immersion so you can get a neoprene hood or a stocking cap to cover the head for protecting against cold temperature, cold shock and generally body against hypothermia.

     Other clothing and equipment that may be considered are emergencies and first aid kit, heel pads and seat pads for comfort and some means of making fire.

  Kayaking in summer and spring alone is fine, and a lot of people do this, but there’s absolutely no reason to hang up your gear for the year when winter comes through. With the right equipment, gear and attitude, kayaking in winter is a real taste of what beautiful adventure nature provides.