Menu button


Info on rolling, river features, kayaking technique, advice on kit purchase...

Moderator: Web Monkeys


Postby Pyro » Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:39 am

So, the new paddling year is upon us, the autumn's arrived, and it's time to think about keeping warm. A lot of people get put off our wonderful sport by the fact our main season comes around when the weather's normally at it's worst. But, with a few bits of sage advice and a little bit of help, you can keep yourself warm, cheerful and happy on the nastiest of river days. This thread is reposting the distilled wisdom of a couple of old threads on thermals/kit/keeping warm, a few links on places you might find stuff and a few hints and tips from club members both present and a long way past it. If you spot any bargains going around town, or have your own experience on gear that works (or even gear that doesn't!) post up and share the wisdom.

The Basics

Conventional wisdom says that multiple thin layers are better than a single thick one - multiple layers trap more air which your body warms up and keeps you nice and toasty. Those layers don't have to be top-of-the-range expensive super efficient all-singing-all-dancing technofabric. They can be stuff you've got at the back of a cupboard and hardly ever use.

There's a few qualities you want in your clothing to layer-up for paddling.

Base layer - wicking:
Something that helps pull sweat and moisture away from your skin. Cheap gym t-shirts, synthetic running tops, lycra tights and general sports/gym kit. Should be close fitting ideally, and follows Rule #1: AVOID COTTON. Sorry, but that includes underwear. There's no point looking at top-spec tops and fleeces if your pants are going to just absorb water/sweat and get chill your skin. Wicking underwear can be quite expensive, so if you don't want to splash out too much wear whatever you'd normally go swimming in underneath.
Gents - that doesn't mean we want to see your budgie smugglers. Keep them to yourselves.

Thermal layer - warm stuff:
There's a whole bunch of stuff you can look at. Most people will have an old fleece lying around somewhere - add it to your kit bag. Any synthetic layers, thin jumpers and almost any of the stuff you'd pull on normally at home when chilly will do. Again, avoid cotton t-shirts, avoid thick woolly stuff - the jumper your Gran knitted you for Christmas is best left at home, for multiple reasons - and try and go for two or three thinner things rather than one thick one. Don't forget your legs when you're thinking of thermals. Ladies - thick tights are a good start. Gents - lightweight jogging bottoms. You'll often be sat down for long periods of time with a slightly wet bum, so anything that's comfortable and warm without holding too much water will do.

You can often find budget brand thermal kit pretty cheap, Gelert/Hi-Gear/Peter Storm and similar brands. You'll see them all over the place, whether that's TK Maxx, Ellis Brigham or Go Outdoors. They're budget brands, but that doesn't mean the kit is sub-standard, and you can often pick up a couple of full sets of these baselayers for the price of one high-end top, and they'll do the job pretty much just as well. It's worth stocking up on these basics, especially for multi-day trips like the Tyne Tour, Lakes or NSR, then you've got a spare set to wear for the second day or to stick on both sets if it's absolutely baltic, or just to sleep in!

Wetsuits are a good part of the thermal layer. Thick-ish, warm, designed for messing around in the water, perfect. If you've got one, it'll be just fine for you as-is. If you're looking at buying one, look at either short (or long but detachable) sleeves, as full sleeves can restrict your arm mobility - fine if you're a surfer, not so great as a paddler.

Shell layer - windproofing:
The club have wind-and-waterproof cags to keep your top half a bit drier and a bit warmer when we're out and about. A pair of cheap waterproof trousers will help keep you a touch warmer when we're out of the boats, especially if you're wet already. I won't cover cags/dry pants/dry suit options, as they're something that will no doubt come up in due course.

The Other Bits

FEET are almost certainly going to get wet, and cold toes can be painful, so you might as well look after yourself. A couple of pairs of thin synthetic socks or thicker hiking socks are the best way to go. Again, avoid cotton, and if you're really getting into it, a pair of neoprene (wetsuit material) socks or SealSkins waterproof socks are fantastic. Shoe-wise, a pair of old trainers or hillwalking shoes will be great to start with, neoprene boots or specific paddling shoes can come later, and are often a compromise between what fits over warm layers and what fits into your boat!

HANDS are the possibly tricky part. Gloves, generally, are not a good idea on the river - they might increase the warmth but can also reduce the amount of grip you can get on the paddle. You can get some specific paddling /sailing gloves which are grippy enough when wet, but sometimes the better option is just to face getting cold hands, once they 're numb it doesn't matter any more. Ask around the club and find what people have that works for them.

HEAD is much easier. You lose a massive amount of your body heat through your head if it's uncovered, even more so if it's uncovered and wet. Get a thin fleece hat, a Buff, or a neoprene skullcap. Avoid woolly hats, they tend to stay wet and get heavy and cold, and the bobbles often don't fit well under a helmet.

Food and drink

Any clothing will only hold in the heat your body is generating, so do yourself a favour and help it generate. If you haven't eaten properly before/during a river trip, your body will be short of energy reserves, and you will feel cold quicker. Eat a decent breakfast, and make sure you've a bit of cash with you, a lot of our common river destinations have a breakfast stop on the way (Tees/Lakes/Scarborough). Take a couple of cereal/chocolate bars for on the river, and take a flask of hot drink along - put the flask in a plastic bag and tie it into the back of your boat, that way if you're cold on the river you can have a quick hot drink, then you're off again. If you end up with a bouyancy aid that doesn't have a pocket on it, ask one of the river leaders to keep a chocolate bar in theirs for you.

For general sports stuff, thermal layers and base layers:
TK Maxx and Primark are both on the Headrow in town and often have cheap fleeces, sports kit etc. Primark's fleece 'onesies' are popular under dry kit.
There's also SportsWorld on the Headrow, Up&Running nearby (and a smaller one at West Park) and also a Sports Direct at Kirkstal.l
Aldi and Lidl often have 'Specials' on sports kit, including some very good value Merino wool kit. The bigger Sainsbury/Asda/Morrisons stores carry clothes including sports stuff

For specific outdoors gear:
Cotswold, Nevisport, Millets and Blacks in town are good for higher-spec baselayers and thermals.
Slightly further afield, Go Outdoors at Pudsey is especially cheap if you have one of their discount cards (£5 a year) or at least go shopping there with someone who has.
(NB - There's bound to be some people in the club who have, ask around!)

For specific paddling kit:
Robin Hood Watersports (RoHo) at Heckmondwike is our nearest shop. People organise trips up there from time to time, particularly before bigger events like Tyne Tour, the Lakes trip and NSR.
Online, Wetsuit Outlet ( and Lomo Watersports ( often have some decent deals on kit. Reed Chillcheater ( do excellent Transpire Fleece kit at fairly decent value. Their Aquatherm kit also works well but looks... well... a bit gimpy.
Last edited by Pyro on Wed Oct 01, 2014 3:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Sometimes you dig your own."
User avatar
Chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool And all shootin some b-ball outside of the school
Posts: 2962
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 12:38 pm
Location: Wandering in edaphic genuflection, looking for an answer or reason

Postby ben » Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:45 am

Very nicely written up, Carrick.

Mods - as, no doubt in time, it will move further down the forum and then into obscurity, would it be possible to have a copy of the thread moved to the "technical" section.

Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Though the streams are swollen
Keep them dogies rollin'
Stop faffing!
Posts: 333
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 2:41 pm

Postby Pyro » Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:47 pm

Bumping this one in advance of the new term! :)
"Sometimes you dig your own."
User avatar
Chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool And all shootin some b-ball outside of the school
Posts: 2962
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 12:38 pm
Location: Wandering in edaphic genuflection, looking for an answer or reason

Postby ruby » Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:46 pm

User avatar
Failed/Failing my degree
Posts: 785
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2010 9:09 am
Location: Leeds/London

Postby Paddy F » Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:24 am

Bumping this for all the new members...
But it seemed like such a good idea at 4 in the morning...
Paddy F
Foam pile
Posts: 469
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:48 am

Postby Pyro » Wed Oct 01, 2014 3:01 pm

Bumping for the new year, after a few edits to bring it up to date!
"Sometimes you dig your own."
User avatar
Chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool And all shootin some b-ball outside of the school
Posts: 2962
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 12:38 pm
Location: Wandering in edaphic genuflection, looking for an answer or reason

Postby brync » Tue Oct 07, 2014 12:10 pm

Stickied this, seems like it should be.
I'm not in Aberystwyth.
User avatar
Theoretical kayaker...
Posts: 1058
Joined: Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:33 am
Location: Not Aberystwyth

Return to The Technical Stuff

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

About us

Congratulations on choosing the best club at Leeds!

At Leeds University Union Canoe club, we pride ourselves on our member base of paddlers who specialise in all disciplines of canoe sport at all abilities. Whether you're a complete beginner, a world champion*, a playboater, a river paddler, a creeker, a polo player, or a prolifically hard-core waterfall kayaker, we're sure you'll fit right in. Come along and get involved!

Register and introduce yourself here on the forum or visit our website for more details.

* Yes, we have one. But don't inflate his ego any more...