How to Prepare for your Fall Paddling Clinic
By Shira Lander
This time of year, we usually get a call or two during the week before a paddling clinic from a clinic participant. They want to know, quite obviously, what they should wear.
How do you prepare yourself to still have a pleasant experience on the river when the air and water gets colder?
Learning to whitewater kayak this time of year is not for the faint of heart. When you first learn to whitewater kayak, you will likely spend some time swimming in the river. It’s best to be mentally and physically prepared for that. But let’s face it, if you can love whitewater paddling in the cold, then you’ll really love it in the summer!
Paddling on the Deerfield River in autumn is a magical experience. There’s barely anyone else out there, so you’ll have a ton of space on the river and you’ll likely see more wildlife. Plus, the hillsides are a sea of warm colors from the fall foliage.
And anyhow, there’s no such thing as bad weather – just bad gear!
If you’re signed up for a paddling clinic with us, we will provide you with a wetsuit, booties, and a splash jacket.
Choosing The Right Paddling Gear
If you’re using our wetsuit or your own, I recommend layering with the wetsuit. The Farmer John wetsuit is sleeveless, so wearing a warm wool or fleece layer will keep your arms and core even warmer. I really love the NRS Expedition Weight long sleeve shirt. It’s fuzzy and warm but stretchy to allow your arms to move freely while paddling. They are also quite breathable too so that once you start to warm up, you don’t overheat.
Even warmer than the wetsuit is the much-coveted drysuit, where you can literally wear your suit and tie, throw on a drysuit over it, paddle to work, and be dressed and ready to go at your desk by 9 am.
The NRS Axiom Drysuit is constructed with 3-layer GORE-TEX Pro for best-in-class durable, waterproof, windproof, and breathable performance. If you plan to continue paddling through the winter, I highly recommend investing in a drysuit. It’s the best way to stay warm and dry on the river. You can layer underneath your dry suit with warm and fuzzy base layers like the Immersion Research Thick Skin Pants. These pants are so comfy, you’ll find yourself wearing them while you lounge around sipping hot cocoa and planning where you’ll paddle the next day.
I also recommend layering your footwear. Wool socks work great under booties to keep your toesies warm. If you prefer Astral’s loyak shoes for paddling, you can pair them with the NRS Hydroskin 0.5 Wetsocks and your feet will thank you later. Otherwise, the NRS Paddle Wetshoe is a one-stop shop with thick neoprene coupled with a soft interior lining. Just remember to go a half or whole shoe size up if you plan to wear them with your drysuit.
While we’re warming up our extremities, let’s talk heads and hands. If you have the space under your helmet, or your helmet is adjustable, then you can layer it with an NRS Hydroskin Helmet Liner and avoid the brain freeze when you go for a flip.
Keeping your hands hot is a hot topic – do you prefer gloves or pogies? For Fall paddling, a nice pair of NRS Hydroskin gloves should do the trick. But when it’s really frosty, you can get toasty with the NRS Toaster Mitts. Some people prefer direct skin to paddle contact so that they can feel their paddle grip more. If you’re one of those people, then you’ll want the NRS Mamba Pogies. Though it’s worth noting that if you’re likely to end up swimming and you’re using pogies, your hands will be bare when you take the swim.
Although I wear a PFD no matter what the season, I do really love the insulation a PFD can provide in the colder months. I always recommend to my students to keep their gear on during our breaks to keep the heat in your core. We have a wide variety of PFDs from rescue vests, to low-profile PFDs, to youth PFDS, and more. This season, the Kokatat Hustle PFD really caught my attention. It is SO comfortable. The two foam panels wrap around your back and torso and have adjustable straps on the sides so that you can fit them exactly how you want. The adjustable shoulder straps let you have the foam panels sit low on your torso making it more comfortable for your chest.
All of these items and more cold paddling favorites can be found in our online Outfitters Shop. But if you’re still not sure what’s right for you, definitely stop by and see us in Charlemont and we’ll help you pick out your cold weather gear.