Layering for Cold Water
from NRS online
Year-round boating is the ideal for
many of us. For most areas of the country, this means we
will be boating at least part of the year in cold-water
conditions. Boating is a water sport Ė letís face it,
getting wet happens and water is approximately 25-times
more efficient than air at drawing heat away from your
body. This means once you get wet, your body is more
prone to excessive heat loss. This condition, known as
hypothermia, causes more cold-water boating deaths each
year than drowning. Check out
Water Protection & Hypothermia for more information
on the effects of cold water heat loss.The key to protecting yourself from
that heat loss is the simple concept of wearing multiple
layers that will retain your body heat when you get wet.
Layering lets you add or remove pieces as the dayís
conditions change, helping your body maintain a safe,
comfortable temperature. Typically there are three main
components of an efficient layering system Ė the base
layers, insulating layers and the outer layers.
Over the base layer you want one or more garments to
hold in your body heat. These can be synthetic or wool
fabric pieces of varying weight and thickness or a
neoprene garment, or any combination of these pieces.
The synthetic and wool fabrics are breathable,
light-weight, and afford good freedom of movement. The
synthetic fibers wonít absorb moisture, but rather allow
the water to radiate away from your body, keeping you
more comfortable as you generate heat while paddling.
Merino wool, on the other hand, absorbs up to 30% of its
weight in water while still maintaining its insulating
value. This characteristic of wool helps it keep you
warm when conditions are cold and cool when itís warm.
Check out the range of insulating layering options in
Base Layer section of nrsweb.com. Another consideration for wool is
that itís a natural fiber that is renewable. Merino has
the advantage over traditional wool of being a very fine
fiber that does not prickle or itch when worn against
the skin. And, it doesnít hold odor, no stink! Any of
the Ibex wool garments found in the Base Layer section
can work well in your layering system.
Neoprene is a closed cell rubber
material that is an excellent insulator. It also offers
impact protection as well as extra body flotation.
Thicker neoprene will be warmer but more restrictive to
your body movements. If warmth is your main concern,
youíll be well covered in our
NRS Menís and Womenís wetsuits . Thinner neoprene
will stretch much more easily, but wonít be quite as
warm. If your priority is mobility, check out our
NRS HydroSkin, a line of thin (0.5-mm) neoprene
garments that give considerable warmth with the comfort
and mobility of thinner layers. All NRS neoprene
garments are made with a glue layer between the inner
nylon fabric and the neoprene foam that contains tiny
particles of titanium metal. These shiny metal particles
reflect back your bodyís heat and significantly increase
|The Base Layer
with a moisture-wicking layer next to the skin.
Synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon and
polypropylene donít absorb water and move
moisture from your skin to outer layers. Merino
wool wicks moisture and is comfortable against
the skin, unlike traditional wool. Do not wear
cotton, it's comfortable when dry but absorbs
water and dries slowly, losing its insulating
value when wet. Check out our line of
NRS Base Layer apparel, notably the NRS
HydroSilk Rash Guard, NRS Wavelite and Ibex
Semi-dry wear splits the difference between the
other two styles. There are semi-dry tops and some
semi-dry suits on the market. Typically, they will
feature latex gaskets at the wrists (and ankles, on a
suit) only. The neck usually features a punch through
neoprene ďgasketĒ or an adjustable neoprene cuff of some
sort. Semi-dry wear is a great option for touring and
recreational kayakers and rafters, who want to prevent
water entering their inner layers at the wrist and ankle
and donít need quite such a water-tight seal at the
||Wind and waterproof outer garments rounds
out your body core protection system. An outer
layer made with a fabric featuring a breathable
coating or laminate is definitely preferable.
This will allow perspiration moisture to pass
out of the garment, keeping the inner layers
drier and significantly increasing your comfort
and warmth levels.
Outer layers come in many
shapes and sizes, but there are three main
types: splash wear, dry wear and semi-dry wear.
Splash wear is simply any waterproof outer
layer that is designed to keep your under layers
dry if you get splashed or rained on. If youíre
using neoprene as your insulation layer, wearing
a waterproof garment over it will cut down on
evaporative cooling from the wet outer fabric of
the wetsuit. If you go for a swim in splash
wear, your inner layers will get wet.
keep water out during immersion, you need dry
wear garments that have latex gaskets at the
Drysuits are the ultimate option for
immersion protection. With their waterproof
zippers and gaskets at the neck, wrist and
ankles, theyíll keep water out of your inner
layers. A number of our drysuits now come with
waterproof, breathable socks. A
dry top and
dry pant combination may leak a very small
amount at the waist juncture due to torso
movement, but youíll stay dry enough to be safe
during a swim.
Questions to ask yourself
before boating on cold water:
|Donít Forget the Extremities
You lose a lot of heat from your
Caps or helmet liners made of neoprene or
synthetic fibers can really keep you warmer.
gloves for boating are generally made with
neoprene as the insulating material. If you find
your fingers and toes getting really cold at
times, a helmet liner will help cure this as
much as gloves and booties will. Keeping your
head warm creates a chain reaction that youíll
notice all the way through your body.
Additionally, gloves and boots provide increased
grip and traction while they insulate. You can
add neoprene socks and glove liners for even
more protection from the cold.
Things to consider when boating on cold
- How cold will the water and air temperatures be?
- In the past, how comfortable have you been at
- Whatís the weather forecast?
- How experienced are your boating companions?
- How reliable are your self-rescue skills?
- How easily can you get to land to warm up and
change to dry clothing, if need be?
- Youíre engaging in a water sport Ė exposure to
water is going to occur.
- Dress for the worst-case scenario you may face,
usually a long swim.
- Have apparel that you can layer together to
adjust to changing conditions
- Donít forget your PFD. It acts as an insulating
layer and will keep you afloat while youíre
recovering from a swim.
- Practice self-rescue techniques.
- Test your cold weather apparel by taking a dip
- Check with local boaters, boating clubs and
search and rescue organizations for gear
- Bring high-energy snacks and lots of liquids. A
thermos of something hot is good to have along.
- Remember Ė going out boating is optional, coming
back safely from a trip Is MANDATORY!
Cold Water Protection
The warm water and
air temperatures of summer are quickly
going; fall is here and winter's not far
behind. It's time to think about the gear
that's going to protect you in the cold
water waiting for you just around the
If you're just beginning to extend your
boating season out of the warm months,
please take the time to educate yourself on
the hazards of cold water boating and the
methods of protecting yourself.
Hypothermia, the dangerous lowering of
body-core temperature, is a serious boating
hazard. We've received permission from
Charlie Walbridge, co-author of Whitewater
Rescue Manual, to reproduce sections of his
book that deal with
Cold Water Protection and Hypothermia.
Charlie offers an excellent explanation of
the causes and consequences of excessive
body temperature drop.
You protect the body's core temperature
with the clothing you wear. A good layering
system tailored to your boating conditions
is essential for comfort and safety. Read
Layering for Cold Water Boating for
suggestions on base, insulating and outer
Check your gear for
wear and tear. Now's the time to replace torn
drywear gaskets and repair other gear.
A Cold Water Caution by