5 Cold Weather Boating Tips: Dressing for the Shoulder Seasons

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you have to hang it up for the season.

If you’re anything like me, you have to be dragged kicking and screaming into winter every year. It’s currently 32 degrees outside and I’m wearing shorts and Birkenstocks. Call it denial.

It was about 45 degrees when this picture was taken, but I

It was about 45 degrees when this picture was taken, but I’m snug as a bug in a rug. Dress correctly for the weather and you can enjoy late-season boating, too.

While many of my boating brethren have already traded fishing for bagging leaves, I’m still scheming how to get a few more days on the water. And that means picking the right gear to do it. So here are some cold weather gear tips to help extend your boating season.

1. Layer, Layer, Layer

You’ve likely heard this from your local weather forecaster several hundred times over the past few years, but layering truly is one of the best ways to stay warm. That’s because each piece of clothing traps a layer of insulating air. And as the temperature or your activity level changes, you can shed a layer at a time until you’re comfy again.

2. Put a Lid On It

There’s actually some scientific debate as to whether we lose the majority of our body heat through our heads, but one thing’s for certain: wearing a hat, especially one that covers your ears, goes a long way toward keeping you warm on the water.

You can certainly wear a traditional wool knit cap, but if you’re like me and don’t enjoy the feeling of having a wool dome over your head, consider a baseball hat combined with a fleece neck gaiter that you can pull up over your ears.

3. Check Your Footwear

Putting on a thick pair of wool socks sure sounds good when it’s freezing outside, but make sure you’re not compromising the circulation in your feet by compressing thick socks inside tight shoes or boots. I learned this one from a physician I used to sail with, after he got tired of listening to me complain about my cold feet.

After seeing that my feet were about to burst out of my boots, he recommended getting a pair about a size and half larger to encourage more circulation and trap more air in the layers of my socks. It totally worked.

4. Hand Jive

The unfortunate thing about gloves is that they tend to get in our way when boating. For anglers, it’s almost impossible to tie on a lure or hook with big, bulky gloves, while sailors might have a difficult time tying knots or cleating a line with a pair of gloves on. Luckily there are all sorts of breathable lightweight gloves on the market today that make such tasks easier. Some even have coatings that allow you to use your touch-screen electronics or smartphone without having to take your gloves off. Me? I like fingerless gloves that keep most of my hands warm, but still keep the tactile parts of my fingers exposed.

5. Block the Wind

Once you’ve got everything covered and layered up, make sure you have a good windproof jacket and pants to help keep the air from penetrating your layering system. And yes, breathable is better. Otherwise you stand the chance of literally fogging up inside your jacket as you perspire. Breathable fabrics let that perspiration out, keeping you warm and dry.

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While it may sound as if I’m telling you to bundle up like the Michelin Man, I’m not. In fact, the correct application of cold-weather gear results in you being able to sail, fish, paddle, row, or do whatever you like on the water, without being uncomfortable.

Now put that rake down, get out there, and enjoy.

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Gary Reich is a Chesapeake Bay-based freelance writer and photojournalist with over 25 years of experience in the marine industry. He is the former editor of PropTalk Magazine and was the managing editor of the Waterway Guide. His writing and photography have been published in PassageMaker Magazine, Soundings, Fly Fishing in Salt Waters, Yachting Magazine, and Lakeland Boating, among others.

Early Season River Rafting: Layering 101

Whitewater rafting on the North Fork American River, CA.

I love early season river rafting. It’s what we, as rafters, wait for all winter long. We get excited knowing that as the snow begins to melt, nature is handing us our season pass to fun. Ask any guide what their favorite sound is – I can almost bet they’ll say it’s the roaring, rushing thunder of a raging river. This roar is the loudest in spring. It’s what fills the ears and hearts of those adventurers, those self-proclaimed “whitewater junkies,” with jubilation. It’s the sound we find intoxicating enough to trade the warm, luxurious comforts of everyday living for the frigid, unmatched exhilaration of rafting the runoff.

But, are we really making a trade? Is it possible to stay warm while being sluiced by waves cold enough to give you an ice cream headache? Absolutely. When it comes to whitewater rafting in cooler temps, it pays to take a tactical approach to layering.

LAYER #1: The Base Layer

When getting doused in spring runoff, you’ll want to keep warm and stay warm down to your core. This means skipping the cotton, including cotton blends. Yep, even the cotton undies. Instead, opt for underwear or a swimsuit made of synthetic material. Ladies, if you’re taking the swimsuit route, this is where a 2-piece can really come in handy. Trust me, you’ll want the option of pulling your layers up and down without having to expose yourself while using the “facili-trees” (if you catch my drift). Don’t want to bare it all in a bikini? No worries. Tankinis give you all the coverage with maximum functionality. If you skip the swimsuit and go with synthetic unmentionables, don’t forget to make sure your bra’s synthetic, too. (My favorite river skivvies: ExOfficio Give-N-Go Underwear.)

LAYER #2: Long Underwear

Choose something synthetic, or even wool or silk; again, no cotton. This optional layer becomes mandatory when the water or the weather is really cold (think early spring or a rainy day). For the most insulating power, this layer should fit closely to your skin, but not be so tight it interferes with circulation. This layer can be worn under just about everything, making it the MVP of my layering team. For the ultimate balance of quick-drying yet toasty, choose a set that’s mid-weight and made either of polyester or Capilene®.

What to Wear for Early Season Rafting

LAYER #3: The Wetsuit

On early season trips, a wetsuit is awesome. This layer can be worn either with or without your long underwear. If you choose to go for the extra warmth of long undies, make sure you put your long underwear tops and bottoms on under your wetsuit. Afraid of looking silly in the wetsuit? You can always pull a pair of board shorts on over the top of your wetsuit. Because, after all, who doesn’t want to look good for the photos you’ll be showing off for years to come?

LAYER #4: Fleece Top

Oh, the heavenly, fluffy, warm comfort of fleece. I always bring a fleece top on the river. Why, you ask? Because there’s nothing else like it. A warm fleece can save the day. I wear my fleece over my long underwear and under my wetsuit while on the river. Sometimes, I just pack it in a dry bag and pull it on at lunch to give me that extra boost of warmth. After spending the morning getting drenched in bodaciously thrilling yet icy whitewater, a warm, dry fleece can be a game changer.

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LAYER #5: Rain Gear

I know what you’re thinking: “I just checked the weather report and there is no way I’m going to need this stuff. There is a 0% chance of rain for the next two weeks.” Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re better off without this layer. When you see the words “rain gear,” train your mind to read: “splash gear” or “wind gear.” Here’s a pro tip: rain gear isn’t just for the rain. I wear my rain gear over all of my warm, dry under-layers to protect my precious warmth from the wind and water, even when there isn’t a cloud in the sky. When you’re choosing this gear, do yourself a favor and get something waterproof, not water resistant. Oh, and skip the cheap plastic ponchos; you’ll want something that’s as tough as you are. Get gear that snugs around your wrists and ankles. If you can find a raincoat with a hood, the back of your neck will thank you.

Insider tip: If you’re borrowing a wetsuit from us, it will generally come paired with a splash top. On our one-day trips, a splash top is a fine substitute for a rain jacket. On our multi-day trips, you’ll still want the rain jacket for camp.

Whitewater rafting on the North Fork American River, CA.

SOCKS: Don’t Neglect Your feet!

Comfortable feet will happily take you wherever you want to go; uncomfortable feet will just complain, no matter how much fun the rest of you wants to have. In cold weather, wool socks are amazing. I’m not kidding. Your feet are going to be wet all day long; wool socks will keep your feet toasty, even while soggy. Synthetic fleece socks and neoprene socks dry a little faster and can be nice too.

SHOES: Protect Those Toes

Stubbing your toe is no fun, neither is losing a flip flop to the river. Choose footwear that will really stay on your feet in swirling currents. Seriously, folks, flip flops won’t cut it. In cooler weather, neoprene wetsuit booties are great; though personally, I love wearing my retired running shoes as my river shoes. In warmer weather, performance-type sandals like Chacos worn with fleece, wool or neoprene socks can be comfortable, just make darn sure they have a strap on the back to keep your foot in your shoe. I’ve seen people lose their shorts to the current. Don’t think the river’s not powerful enough to nab your shoes.

The moral of the story is to dress in layers. Be smart and plan to get wet! Remember that synthetic fabrics dry faster than natural fabrics and cotton is always a no-no (save the cotton for camp, or when temps reach 95-degrees). And finally, when you’re packing up for your adventure, always keep in mind–if you don’t bring it, you can’t wear it.

By Amanda Willis

Amanda knows that adventure, stories, and outstanding food and drink are best paired with the thrill of a new experience; it’s no wonder she works for OARS. Amanda has been on more than 100 river trips throughout the United States and has floated more than 3,000 river miles.

15 Essentials for Maximum River Trip Comfort

Your river trip is just a few days away and you’ve finally had the chance to look at the packing list. Naturally, your first thought is “do I really need all of this?” The short answer: Yes. But your gear essentials will be a little different for summer rafting in the Grand Canyon than for Idaho rafting in spring. So with that, here are a few suggested to pack that will maximize your comfort both on and off the water in every type of river trip setting…

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Spring Rafting in the Mountains

15 Essentials for River Trip Comfort

Hoody – Cotton, synthetic, fleece, wool, down—whatever material your hoody is made out of, bring it. We love Patagonia’s Nano Puff Hoody because it’ll keep you warm, but it’s lightweight, water resistant, and compactable.

Quick-Dry Undies – Let’s be real, what you wear down there can determine how you feel overall. ExOfficio’s Give-N-Go line of underwear—men’s /women’s, boxers or briefs—come in many forms and are compact, odor resistant, moisture-wicking, quick-drying, light weight and comfortable. Best underwear ever? You be the judge.

Beanie (or Toque for You Canadians) – Bed head in the morning? No problem. Cold ears around the campfire? Not even on your radar. A beanie not only helps you retain heat, but can also help you hide the fact you haven’t washed your hair in four days.

Long Underwear – If you remember anything from this list while packing, long underwear should be that thing. It can be worn as an extra insulating layer on the boat, and dry out fast enough to keep you warm in camp.

Your Favorite Whiskey – Is there really any better way to warm up after a long day on the river?

Somewhere in Between

15 Essentials for Maximum River Trip Comfort

Cotton Snap-down Shirt – Easy to throw on, lightweight and super fashionable. What else could you ask for in river attire?

Cotton Dress and/or Jeans – While we wouldn’t recommend wearing your Levi’s on the raft, when you get to camp few feelings are as good as slipping into a (dry) comfortable pair of jeans or a lightweight, packable travel dress. It’s always a welcome change from the damp, synthetic layers you’ve been sporting all day.

Body Wipes – When the closest shower may be 3 days away, you (and your travelling companions) will thank us for this recommendation.

Sarong – Sarongs are so unbelievably diverse they have become a must-have on all river trips for men and women alike. Use it for privacy while changing, or as a beach towel, a blanket, a pillow, a skirt, a bandage, a head dress…the possibilities are endless!

Something Sweet – Have you been holding onto that gourmet, 90% Cocoa chocolate bar, needing an excuse to take in the extra calories? Here’s your chance to seize the day!

A Summer River Trip in Canyon Country

Essential Comfort for River Trips

UPF-Rated Sun Shirt – While there are many synthetic sport shirts that boast the ability to protect you from the sun’s UV rays, not all of them can keep you cool as well. Columbia’s Omni-Freeze Zero shirts feature a built in sweat activated cooling mechanism that reacts with sweat to lower the temperature of the fabric.

Flip Flops – We love Chaco Flips because of their grippy, rugged soles and various strap options, but any decent pair of flip flops will do when you reach camp and want to give your feet a chance to dry out and breathe.

Wide Brimmed Sun Hat – Portable shade is never a bad thing when you’re outdoors in the sun. Protect yourself from the harmful UV rays, and score style points while you’re at it.

Moisturizing Cream – Rotating through the wet-dry cycle that is a river trip will likely wreak some havoc on your hands. We love all-natural Super Salve that both moisturizes and works to heal minor cuts and abrasions.

Your Favorite Craft Brew – Who doesn’t like to represent where they’re from, and what better way than to bring along a selection of your favorite microbrew from back home (to share of course)?

Still not sure what to bring? Check out our complete guide to packing for a river trip where we’ve compiled all of our best advice.

Source https://www.boats.com/how-to/push-boating-shoulder-seasons-cold-weather-gear-tips/

Source https://www.oars.com/blog/early-season-river-rafting-layering-101/

Source https://www.oars.com/blog/15-essentials-maximum-river-trip-comfort/

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