We all love white water kayaking! Whitewater kayaking in Colorado and around the world in places like Costa Rica involves the same basic water skills however, very different temperatures leads to very different gear. Layering and great gear is the key to fun, safety and happiness on the river. The key thing to remember is that you need to dress for the swim and not for the temperature of the parking lot. This means that you should check the temperature of the water and make a well thought out decision. What are the chances that you will swim? Do you swim regularly? If so, check out or rolling classes. Remember that everyone swims; kayaking is simply just the time you spend in your boat between swims. Always wear your helmet, PFD and your skirt.
What to wear depends on the water temperature:
Really Cold Water – I had no idea what happy paddling was like in really cold water until I wore my first dry suit. After testing several dry suits and hearing the reviews of friends I would recommend the Kokatat GMER dry suit. This suit has been the pride and joy of countless kayaking adventures. The model shown is the men’s version, for females the same model works if you utilize this great device the Freshette or read about the many other options. Under this great water proof Gore-Tex shell, you would have to layer. The base layer is truly the most important. For the men the Kokatat full suit liner works great. The same liner will work for women or there is a women’s specific Kokatat full suit liner. Of course in a bind you can always just order fleece adult pajamas! On those really cold days I will wear another Mysterioso long sleeve or the short sleeve layer under my full suit. Having warm feet is a crucial; I always wear SmartWool socks which are thin and able to fit comfortably in my boating shoes. As far as boating shoes go there is no better rubber out there than Five-Ten Water Tennie, of course you should wear whatever is the most comfortable for you. You loose 50-60% of your body heat through your head, having a hat is crucial to success and can even save your friends life. I prefer the Kokatat Surf Skin hat, I usually carry two of these. Lastly you need to cover your hands, many people prefer gloves and some people prefer the poggie. Truly it is up to you and what you feel comfortable wearing and paddling with. A great selection can be found at NRS.
Cold Water – If you own a dry suit this will cover you here. If not than a wet suit is ideal NRS has a great selection. Under this wet suit I prefer the Mysterioso long sleeve or the short sleeve model. Of course on top of all of this you will want to wear your favorite dry top. Everything from above also applies here.
Late summer water – Late summer is great hot days and warmer water!!! Depending on how cold you get a short sleeve top can get you buy or your dry top. Some of those people who are truly warm blooded can get away with just a PFD. My honest advice is to dress for your own personal thermometer, if you get cold easily than wear a bit more, if you plan on spending more time upside down than wear a bit more. Remember in your dry bag you can always stash another layer and throw it on if you get cold, assuming that you have a splash jacket or dry top.
Costa Rica Water – My experience here is that I wore a Mysterioso fleece, Kokotat shorts and a pair of board shorts, a dry top on some days and on some days I would just wear my dry top and the board shorts wishing that I had a great shorty. We spent time in the mountains and time in the coastal regions and both were different.
Remember that you should always dress for the swim. See you on the water!!!
Written by Marcus RhodenHill Instructor with RAGuides