Winter is coming!
One of the most common questions we’re asked is: ‘so, what do you do in winter?’ Well, apart from swapping salads for soups and roast dinners, we continue to paddle of course! We go all-year round and actually put in more miles in winter than we do in the summer, but key to staying awesome through the bleaker months is dressing appropriately.
Some of our favourite paddles come in winter. Quiet waterways, stunning autumn colours, snow… winter paddling can be an incredible experience, though there’s no doubt it doesn’t appeal to those who prefer heading out in shorts, t-shirts and factor 50. However, if you’ve got a newfound love of paddle boarding and you want to continue your new obsession, or you simply want to keep going to help you through these crazy times, then you can do so safely as long as you’re well prepared. That’s where we come in… we’ve got wet in inappropriate clothing so you don’t have to, all in the name of research!
The trick is to stay warm but not overcook. You can still work up a sweat when paddling, so reaching for your thermals isn’t the one. Also, there’s no ‘one-size fits all’ solution here… some feel the cold more than others, so assess your own paddling confidence, and how much you feel the cold, before deciding what to wear. It’s a fine line ensuring you guard yourself from cold water shock but also not overheating while paddling.
Below, we take you through your options, and some recommendations…
To wetsuit or not?
We provide wetsuits throughout our winter sessions and there’s something reassuring about wearing one for those nervous about falling in. However, wetsuits are better suited for those paddling in the sea. They work by trapping air between the material and the skin when wet, which means they can be hot if you don’t take a dip. Plus, they can restrict your movement too.
A long john wetsuit provides greater freedom to move but we prefer to opt for wetsuit ‘pants’ with a base layer, such as a thermal rash vest and one or more neoprene layers on top. You’re after water-repellent properties with the ability to wick sweat. Also, resist the urge to wear a hoodie (consider how heavy this might be if you take a splash). A neoprene hoodie/jacket will be your friend…
Brands we like/would recommend
Thermal rash vest
Sup bottoms come in varying thicknesses. Neoprene at 3mm will provide plenty of warmth, but may be more restrictive for movement.
If you want to stay fully dry then a drysuit is your best option, but be prepared to spend some money. As an example; Prolimit’s new Nordic drysuit is lightweight and guaranteed to keep the water away from your body, but it’s nearly £400. Supskin’s awesome sustainable wear is even more expensive, but you’ll have it for life. Maybe consider a thermal under layer instead? They’re infinitely cheaper. It depends on where you’re paddling, and the likelihood of you falling in…
Arguably the most important purchase you can make this winter is your footwear. Wetsuit boots will keep your digits warm, but make sure you go for those that cover your ankles. You want the full 5mm thick ones here too for complete protection, and if they’re non-slip then even better. If you’ve already got 3mm boots or what you might call low-top ‘summer boots’, then you can always use neoprene socks underneath to double your protection.
Bye bye cap, hello beanie. You might be tempted to reach for your knitted headwear here, but be warned: your head can overheat, and it’ll be useless if you get it wet if you go in (if you can stop it from sinking, that is). You can buy floating beanies and even thermal floating beanies that can be worn immediately after being wrung out. Magic!
It goes without saying that normal gloves are pretty useless when wet, so neoprene gloves are the answer. The key is to ensure they’re non slip; no one wants their hands sliding down the paddle, right?
The Dryrobe is quite simply one of the best things you can buy. Wear it while you pack away, or get changed. Sleep in it. Camp in it. Whatever you do with it, you’ll have it for life. Well worth the investment…
(Cheaper option from our friends at Sandbanks)