13 Winter Kayaking Tips for Adventurous Paddlers

The cold winds blow, ice forms on the water’s surface, and snow blankets the banks, but for intrepid kayakers, winter is the perfect time to paddle. Discover essential winter kayaking tips! Stay warm, safe , and enjoy the serene beauty of paddling in colder months. Learn gear, safety, and preparation When the fair weather crowds stay home, the adventurous few layer up, pack their boats head out to explore the winter wonderlands found only by those willing to brave the cold.

Winter Kayaking Tips

 Whether you’re a seasoned paddler looking to challenge your skills or trying Winter Kayaking Tips for the first time, follow these 13 essential tips to make the most of your frigid journeys. Master dressing for warmth, choose the right gear and equipment, learn safe paddling techniques, and discover winter’s hidden paddle-friendly locales. 

Paddling through ice, snow, and cold takes dedication, but with the proper preparation and knowledge, you’ll find winter kayaking’s unmatched solitude, beauty, and sense of accomplishment like no other season. Winter Kayaking Tips lets you see amazing sights without lots of other people around.

 Places that get crowded in summer are empty when it’s cold out.

But kayaking in Winter Kayaking Tips isn’t like paddling in summer. The good weather doesn’t last as long. It gets dark early. And the air and water are freezing. So you need to plan, get the right gear, and know what you’re doing to kayak safely in winter.

TOP 13 Winter Kayaking Tips

Here are some tips to help you get ready for a fun and challenging time kayaking in the cold months. Follow this advice to stay safe and make great memories paddling in icy conditions.

  1. Dress for Immersion
  2. Follow the 120-degree Rule
  3. Always Wear a PFD
  4. Take a Dry Bag With a Change of Clothes
  5. Fuel Up Beforehand and take Plenty of Food
  6. Use a Thermos
  7. Avoid Kayaking Solo
  8. Have an Emergency Plan
  9. Always Carry a Means to Call For Help
  10. Warm Up Before You Hit the Water
  11. Rolling a Kayak is Better Than a Wet Exit and Recovery
  12. Be Aware of the Sea Fog
  13. Remember the Days Are Shorter in Winter

1. Dress for Immersion

Dress for Immersion

When you kayak in winter, there’s a lot less room for mistakes. Even if it’s sunny out, the cold air means getting wet can be dangerous, especially up north. Capsizing on a hot summer day is no big deal, but capsizing in Winter Kayaking Tips is serious.

So while you never want to flip your kayak, it’s extra important to avoid that in the winter. But there’s always a chance it could happen anyway, so you need to dress to handle falling in the water.

A dry suit with warm layers underneath can save you if you do end up in the drink. For really cold areas, get a dry suit with a hood too. Pick out clothes that will keep you warm in cold water as long as possible. The right Winter Kayaking Tips outfit could be the difference between an unpleasant spill and a life-threatening emergency.

2. Follow the 120-degree Rule

You: When it comes to deciding if you need a drysuit for paddling, there’s a handy little rule you can use called the 120-degree rule.

Me: Oh yeah, what’s that?

You: It’s pretty simple – you just add the air temperature and the water temperature together. If the total is less than 120 degrees, it means you should wear some kind of thermal protection like a drysuit or wetsuit.

For example, say it’s a brisk 65 degrees out and the water is an even cooler 50 degrees. Add those together and you get 115 degrees. Since that’s under 120, that would tell me it’s probably smart to gear up with a drysuit that day unless I want to freeze!

The 120-degree rule is more of a helpful guideline than an absolute law. But it gives you a quick way to decide if conditions call for extra insulation when you’re hitting the water. A pretty nifty trick to have in your back pocket!

Kayak Safety – Cold Water Kayak Safety Rules

3. Always Wear a PFD

No matter how warm the water, how calm the paddling is, or how good a swimmer you are – always wear a life jacket when kayaking.

Always Wear a PFD

Last winter, I flipped my kayak in Hawaii. My boat filled up with water, so I had to swim a couple hundred yards back to shore. Even in the nice warm water, I was so thankful for the extra floating power of my PFD. It kept my head above water until I made it to land, totally wiped out but alive.

Lots of drownings could’ve been prevented by simply wearing a life vest. I know they look kind of silly and maybe no one else has one on, but your life is worth taking just a few seconds to strap it on. So even if you think you don’t need it, put on a PFD – it could end up saving your life.

4. Take a Dry Bag With a Change of Clothes

Even if you’re just kayaking for the day, bring an extra set of clothes. That way, if you fall in the water, you’ll have something warm and dry you can change into. Make sure these spare clothes are wool or similar material that stays warm when wet. No cotton!

Keep the extra clothes in a dry bag in your kayak, and only open it if you need it. That’ll ensure your spare outfit stays dry in case you have to use it. Having that dry extra layer could save you from hypothermia if you take an unexpected dip on a Winter Kayaking Tips paddle. So don’t forget to pack an extra wool or synthetic shirt, pants, socks, and underwear – it could be a real lifesaver.

5. Fuel Up Beforehand and take Plenty of Food

You: Brrr, it’s freezing out here! Good thing I packed plenty of snacks to keep me fueled up.

Me: Snacks are important? Some hot cocoa or coffee would do the trick for warmth.

Plenty of Food

Totally, warm drinks help, but food is even more vital when you’re out in the cold. See, your metabolism revs up to generate body heat and keep you warm. So you burn way more calories than usual.

It’s like your body is a woodstove and food is the logs – gotta keep feeding it fuel to keep that calorie fire burning! A mix of quick sugars and slower complex carbs works nicely.

The bonus is that extra snacking means you get to eat more guilt-free on a winter adventure! Just don’t forget to load up at dinner the night before too. That gives you a stockpile of energy to tap into the next day. A big ol’ carb-heavy meal does wonders when you know you’ll be out in the cold tomorrow.

6. Use a Thermos

Hot drinks by themselves won’t keep you warm, but it’s mentally comforting to have something warm to sip on. Bring along a heavy-duty thermos that can keep drinks hot for hours. And be careful not to burn your mouth!

If you’ll be paddling all day or overnight, pack extra tea bags or whatever you like to drink. You might be surprised how many hot beverages you can go through when it’s freezing outside. Having something warm to drink can be a nice little pick-me-up when you’re chilled to the bone on a winter paddle. So make sure to bring along a well-insulated thermos filled with your favorite hot drink – it’s an easy way to warm up from the inside out.

7. Avoid Kayaking Solo

You: Paddling with a buddy or a group is smart any time of year, but it’s especially clutch in the Winter Kayaking Tips .

Me: Yeah? How come it makes such a big difference when it’s cold out?

7. Avoid Kayaking Solo

Well, worst case scenario – if you end up taking an unexpected dip so avoid kayaking alone, it’s way easier to get back in your boat and warm up again if someone’s there to lend a hand. That icy water can paralyze your muscles and send you into shock fast. And with shivering and numb fingers, you’ll need help getting the gear back on.

Plus, having a paddling partner to chat with about the route, and the weather, and make decisions is super helpful. Like if there’s a nasty crossing you’re unsure about, getting a second opinion can confirm your instinct to skip it or give you confidence to go for it. Two heads are better than one!

And back on shore, you’ve got someone to team up with for setting up camp, heating water, and sharing body warmth in the tent. Solo winter paddling is hardcore mode – buddying up makes it way safer and more fun.

8. Have an Emergency Plan

No matter how many people are paddling with you, think through what could go wrong and how you’d deal with it. Make a float plan beforehand and give a copy to a friend or family member.

Once you’ve got your float plan, stick to it unless you have to change it. Your plan won’t help much in an emergency if rescue crews are searching the wrong area.

Bring a first aid kit in a dry bag to keep it dry until needed. Taking a wilderness first aid class can be super valuable if you paddle remote areas far from help.

Advanced planning and having the right gear and training help ensure you’re prepared to handle emergencies on Winter Kayaking Tips and trips. Thinking through problems ahead of time and being ready to respond could make all the difference out there.

9. Always Carry a Means to Call For Help

When you’re out paddling, you gotta have at least one way to call for help if you need it.

Me: Makes sense. What kind of devices work for that?

You: Well the old-school VHF radios are good, but they only work if someone else with a radio is close by to hear you. Nowadays there are lots of cool GPS gadgets like inReach that let you send an SOS and text people from pretty much anywhere.

Those are great ’cause you can press one button to call for emergency help. And most plans let you check maps, and weather, and send texts to check in with friends and family back home too.

I always try at least two ways to call out if I can – like a GPS device and a radio or waterproof cell phone as a backup. When you’re out on the water alone, having multiple ways to call for backup could save your bacon if something goes wrong!

10. Warm Up Before You Hit the Water

Just like having a warm meal before you leave, you want to start paddling as warm as possible. Wear good layers of wool or synthetic clothes that hold in heat. A warm winter hat and waterproof gloves help too.

Stay in a warm car or by a nice fire until the last minute before you have to hit the water.

Doing some exercise to get your blood pumping might seem like a good idea. But your sweat will cool off quickly, leaving you colder than before and burning the energy you need.

So avoid getting all sweaty before your paddle. Instead, use smart layering and take advantage of shelter to start your Winter Kayaking Tips and trip as warm as you can be. That way your body isn’t fighting off the cold right from the beginning.

11. Rolling a Kayak is Better Than a Wet Exit and Recovery

Mastering the kayak roll takes time and practice. It’s not intuitive to flip upside down in the water and right yourself. But learning this skill can be a lifesaver in cold water, preventing dangerous wet exits.

Emergency Kit

Find a warm pool and patiently work on your technique. Joining a club can provide coaching. Persist through frustration – rolling will start to click.

That said, gaining this ability doesn’t make you impervious to risk. Always paddle with a partner, file a float plan, dress properly, and follow safety rules. A roll reduces, but doesn’t remove, the hazards of capsizing. Use your new skill wisely as one piece of your safety toolkit.

12. Be Aware of the Sea Fog

Sea fog is common on the Pacific coast but can happen anywhere. In winter, this fog gets incredibly thick and can limit visibility to just a few feet.

Sea fog forms when warm air moves over cold water, creating dense layers that can roll in quickly. As the water gets colder in Winter Kayaking Tips, you see more of this fog, especially in the morning as the air warms from the rising sun.

Always check for sea fog warnings before you head out. Fog advisories mean visibility is less than a mile. Avoid crossing big areas when there’s an advisory, and be extra careful in high boat traffic zones.

If you do get caught in heavy fog, have a GPS and compass to find your way. Trying to feel your way out without a compass is impossible – you’ll just go in circles. advanced gear and careful planning help you stay safe if you end up paddling in pea-soup winter fog.

13. Remember the Days Are Shorter in Winter

Summer’s endless days let you paddle anytime. But winter’s short daylight restricts outings. Around the solstice, you may only have a few good hours.

So adjust your plans. Long, multi-hour trips won’t work in Winter Kayaking Tips. And night paddling by headlamp is too risky.

Be extra conservative when deciding routes and timing. Make sure you can complete the paddle with ample margin before sunset. The daylight window will be narrow.

Shorten your distance. Pick nearby locations. Start early to utilize every minute of light. And end well before darkness falls. With careful planning, you can still enjoy Winter Kayaking Tips paddling safely.


Kayaking in winter requires proper insulation with a dry suit, thermal layers, and a PFD for immersion safety. Ensure extra calories, a change of clothes in a dry bag, and communication devices for emergencies. Paddle in a group, be aware of weather changes, and practice rolling techniques for added safety.

When it’s colder than 60 degrees, it’s risky and can cause breathing problems, shock from the cold, and hypothermia very fast.

A dry suit, made of waterproof material with sealed openings, keeps you dry in cold water. Wear insulating layers underneath to stay warm. For hot air and cold water, a wetsuit is still necessary.

The first rule of kayaking is safety first. Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket while kayaking. Prioritize your safety and be prepared for emergencies on the water.

Similar Posts