Winter is coming, you’ve splashed out on a new cag or drysuit. But will they keep you warm? The short answer – no! Dry outerwear is fantastic through those cold windy months, but they are not an insulator. Wearing nothing or, for example, a T-shirt under your dry gear in winter will be seriously uncomfortable and more importantly potentially put you in a dangerous situation.
In December/January, it’s unlikely that one thermal is going to keep you comfortable for your whole day on the river. My advice is to start thin and build thicker layers on top, two or three layers is usually my go-to depending on the temperature and how long I plan to be on the water for. On the flip side, too many layers can restrict movement so it’s important to find that sweet spot. The great thing about having too many layers is you have the option to strip them off, whereas you have a lot fewer options if you’re only wearing one!
Materials and stitch
There are lots of different thermals made from lots of different materials and they are all good at different stuff. Palm have options to suit all your needs from sweat-wicking and air channeling stitching to waffle stitching for maximum warmth and air flow. My go-to combo is the Arun series which are super lightweight and great for range of movement, warmth and taking moisture away, combined with the fantastic Tsangpo range for ultimate warmth and air flow with the waffle knit. A great feature I like about the Tsangpo thermals is the Polygiene treatment which helps get rid of your after paddle stink and go longer between washes.
If you’re hitting the river for multiple days, your thermals are bound to be a little moist and sweaty. It’s really important if you have the option to dry your thermals overnight! Moral wise there’s nothing worse than putting on wet thermals when it’s already cold out and although the newer thermals are designed to do their best to keep you warm when wet, you’re probably still going to get cold – and it feels horrible! Luckily in my experience all my Palm thermals dry super quick in a warm or sunny environment, my advice is dry them inside out first.
What you should have in your emergency kit is a perennial debate, but spare thermals is an obvious one! It’s easy to tear a drysuit or take a swim and get wet through, so having the option to refresh your layers is a game changer and could keep you out of sticky situations. This is especially advised if you’re paddling in a group or in a club with people new to the sport who are unlikely to have spare kit. If you’re going to carry spare kit the obvious thing should be to keep it dry. So buy a decent dry bag to stick in your boat, if you’re wet and cold, pulling out your spare thermals sopping wet is sure to ruin your day!
Keeping warm isn’t just about comfort, it’s also to be taken seriously! If you get cold, it dampens your day and your paddling will also suffer. So layer up and have a fantastic winter season!