The warm days of summer are still months away. But don’t forget about your paddling gear just yet. Some of the best paddling of the year can be had in windy and cool weather, when the fair-weather crowds are gone and old familiar paddling areas take on a new sense of discovery. Taking a few moments to get your boating gear tuned up for fall can increase your level of comfort and margin of safety.
With cooler weather comes bulkier protective clothing. Adjust the fit of your kayak’s back support and the foot braces to accommodate thicker clothes and footwear. If you are not a regular summertime wearer of your PFD or spray skirt, now is the time to bring these important items back into play. The spray skirt should be tensioned to stay seated on the cockpit coaming securely unless you manually release it, and the PFD should fit over the skirt tunnel and your jacket without riding up away from your shoulders. If it doesn’t adequately adjust to this range of layers, consider shopping for a new style.
The cold- and rainy-weather performance of your paddling clothing and other fabric items can be enhanced by a variety of products from McNett, Nikwax, W. L. Gore, and Grangers. Various cleaning agents, seam sealers, waterproofing compounds, and waterproof/breathable fabric restorers can be used to extend the life and comfort of these items. A quick Internet search for these brands will give you suggestions on which products to use. Look for these at your local outdoors store, and get your stuff in top shape.
Here are a few tips to add to your cool-weather comfort. If your legs and feet get cold inside the cockpit from contact with the water-cooled hull, try lining the floor between the foot braces with a closed-cell-foam pad for insulation. For a quick morale and energy pickup, nothing beats a hot drink on a chilly day. Invest in a stainless steel vacuum bottle. It will keep hot chocolate or soup piping hot for many hours and give you that needed boost. Last but not least, get your safety gear in order. A paddle float, pump, spare paddle, compass, dry bag of spare clothes, and waterproof cases for electronics should be gathered up and checked over. With diminishing daylight hours, be sure to have fresh or fully charged flashlight or headlamp batteries on each trip. Finally, be less ambitious with your distance and route planning at a time of year when there is less margin for error. And call a friend to paddle with–there is safety in numbers.