A Clothing Layer Guide for Every Outdoor Activity
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Canoeing - What should I wear

Getting ready for a relaxing canoe trip? Follow these general guidelines for a fun and save canoe trip. As with any outdoor activity, you will need to consider how active you will be during the activity. You will also need to assess the physical elements such as: will you be canoeing in rapids or on a calm lake, is rain expected or is sunshine in the forecast, is the weather going to be warm or cold? All of these factors will determine what you will want to wear while paddling your canoe. Also, because you will be on the water, there is always a chance of an unexpected dip.

Warm Canoeing:

One option to consider is the beach look, including a swimming suit and some sunblock. Not much more is needed. If you prefer not to dress down that much, you are pretty safe wearing some lightweight shorts or long pants and a t-shirt. Don't wear cotton as is will stay wet longer. Even on a nice sunny day, cotton pants and shirts take more than twice as long to dry than synthetic fabrics. Shorts or long pants made of lightweight nylon are great for canoeing. If water does happen to splash onto them, they will be dry again within minutes. Polyester or polypropylene t-shirts are great for water related activities. Helly Hanson makes a wide variety of polypropylene t-shirts that will dry faster than any other material you will find. Now, as for shoes, you might want to consider wearing lightweight sandals that won't slip off. There are many options in the footwear area so choose something you would be most comfortable with. In
warm weather, sandals are great because they let your feet breathe and they allow your feet to dry out quickly if you happen to get them wet. Shoes are ok to wear, but if you get them wet, your feet will be pretty soggy by the end of the trip.

Cold Weather Canoeing:
In cold weather conditions, you need to be prepared for the worst. White water or fast flowing water means cold water. Even if you aren't planning on falling in, there are still plenty of chances of getting wet. When I was in high school, my friends and I decided to take dates canoeing down the last stretch of the Provo River in Utah in early spring. We had no intentions of getting wet and we therefore did not prepare for it. Well, about halfway down the stretch, there was a bend in the river that caused the water to flow rapidly to one side of the river. To make a long story short, 4 of the 5 canoes tipped over spilling us into the cold winter runoff water. We managed to get all of the canoes back upright and continued our journey. If our trip had been much longer
than it was, we would all have suffered from hypothermia. Either way, our canoe adventure didn't turn out as fun as we had planned.

So, always plan to get wet. Go with the layering system. First layer-thin, lightweight, synthetic fabric. Second Layer-synthetic fleece insulating fabric. Third Outer Layer- Windproof and waterproof fabric. Canoe and kayak specialty stores sell products for the outer layer specific to paddle sports. They will have seals around the collar and the cuffs to prevent water from entering. Unless you are doing some aggressive canoeing, you can probably just use your waterproof ski parka or even a rain parka. This layering system will allow you to adjust your dress to control your comfort range. Using synthetic fabrics will keep you warm even when you do get wet. For footwear, you can get neoprene socks and shoes that work really well for cold water canoeing. A thin polypropylene sock liner will add some extra warmth if you need. Boots made for wet suits that have vulcanized soles are probably your best bet if you are planning on a long trip. For your hands, you will want some neoprene gloves. Thin polypropylene glove liners can be worn underneath them for added warmth.

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