The clocks have gone back and the days are getting shorter and colder. It's time to layer up and put on the winter clothing so that you can make the most out of your time on the water. This winter i will be using the Palm Bora Drysuit, coupled with Tsangpo and Seti thermals beneath to stay warm! Here is a closer look at what i'll be staying warm and dry in on the water this winter.....
What to wear when it's cold?
With the water temperature dropping it is very much a case of making sure you are dressed for the worst case scenario in the winter months.....that's falling in, or worse still falling in and becoming separated from your kayak. A water temperature between below 10 degrees celsius can be bitter against the skin and can zap the energy out of you really quickly. This can make things difficult when it comes to self rescue and you may only get a few chances before hypothermia sets in and makes your body incredibly weak. Minimising the chances of the water coming into contact with your skin is paramount. This is where a drysuit comes into play.
Whilst many of us use a two piece set up (dry trousers/bib and cag combo) in the Spring to Autumn months, or even a wetsuit, we can get away with it if we were to find ourselves taking a swim as the water is generally a bit warmer and the weather much milder. If you are planning on fishing into and through the colder Autumn-Spring months then a surface immersion drysuit coupled with thermals should be at the top of your shopping list.
Surface Immersion Drysuits
A surface immersion drysuit differs to that from a standard diving drysuit. A diving drysuit is designed to keep you dry when at depth at increased pressure conditions and will have different features to that of a surface drysuit. Primarily, they are not constructed of breathable material and are much heavier and cumbersome than a surface drysuit. These are not suitable for kayak fishing.... a breathable surface immersion drysuit is.
Whilst a surface drysuit will keep you dry should you take a swim, it won't necessarily keep you warm. It will in the sense that the water won't be coming into contact with your body beneath the suit and neither will the chilling effects of the wind reach your body, but in terms of actual thermal properties, a dry suit offers very little. This is why it is important to wear decent thermal base layers under your drysuit. This will be covered in a little more detail further on in this blog.
This year i will be using the Palm Bora Drysuit - a top quality breathable touring drysuit designed for paddling with all the features you would expect to find on a top spec drysuit. It has been designed by paddlers, for paddlers. This is important as many drysuits are not designed for the paddle sport world, but rather the sailing or boating world instead. That is not to say that a sailing or boating drysuit is not suitable for paddling in, they may just have some unnecessary features and may not be cut to fit comfortably when in the seated paddling position.
Lets take a closer look....
Palm Bora Drysuit - Initial Overview
Fresh out of the box....
- The supplex nylon 6 woven face fabric has a great soft feel and is highly durable. A DWR (durable water repellent) treatment prevents the fabric from becoming waterlogged so that the fabric stays breathable.
- A hydrophobic (water-repelling), microporous polyurethane coating is applied to the face fabric. The pores are too small to allow water droplets to pass through, but large enough for water vapour to pass through to the outside air.
- A hydrophilic (water-attracting) polyurethane membrane is laminated to the hydrophobic coating and transfers water vapour molecules along to the coating.
- The nylon 20 denier tricot mesh lining inside the suit protects the waterproof membrane and disperses moisture to provide the largest surface area for moisture absorption and transfer.
That's the techy bit over.... so what does that all mean? It means that you can paddle and build up a sweat with the suit allowing the moisture (water vapour) given off by your body to pass through the suit to the surrounding air, but at the same time not allowing water back in. You stay dry and you don't become a sweaty mess inside your drysuit!
Beware of non-breathable drysuits.....whilst they are cheap and will certainly be better than no dry suit in the colder months, it really is worth getting a decent quality breathable drysuit to start with.....buy cheap, buy twice.
So the Bora is made of some clever breathable and durable material. 4-layer 320D reinforced panels can also be found at the usual high wear areas such as the knees, elbows, seat and socks. A quality build that looks to be up to the task of taking on several years of kayak fishing abuse!
Lets start with the top half...
The Bora has built-in fabric socks XP 4-layer material with Nylon 320D soles. Built-in socks are great. They keep your feet dry and this allows you to wear a pair (or several pairs) of thermal socks beneath these to keep your feet warm. Cold feet are a real session spoiler so keeping them warm is a priority.
As with all fabric socks, they are not designed to be worn without protective footwear. If not protected they will soon get holed or wear through. I'll be wearing my Palm Descender Boots over mine.
Lets try it on...
Time will tell how this suits performs but initial impressions are great!
Thermal Base Layers
The best way to stay warm is to use layers of thermals. This allows for flexibility - put more layers on when its colder, and less layers on when its warmer. When choosing a set of paddling thermals there are a number of characteristics you want to look for. You want them to be lightweight and warm but at the same time you want them to be breathable and fast-wicking to move water vapour (sweaty air!) away from your body quickly.
Many people make the mistake of using standard cotton-based thermals - great for under a pair of jeans or trousers but in the often humid environment of a drysuit these will hold water against the skin. This water will cool down leaving you feel very cold. Good thermals aren't cheap but they may well save you having to cut a session short because you are shivering....can we put a price on that?
I'll be using a Palm Tsangpo Zipped Top, Seti Pants and Tsangpo Socks as my main thermals layers. A good quality Thinsulate hat will also be worn when it is particularly cold to prevent heat loss from the top of my head.
There is a dropped rear hem to help keep your lower back covered when in the seated position.
It's a shame that Palm don't also produce Tsangpo Thermal Pants (perhaps they are in the pipeline?) but they do produce Seti Thermal Pants which are the next best thing! I have now been using these for nearly 9 months both on the water and as an everyday thermal off the water (even as i am typing this). They are great!
The Seti Pants are made from waffle fleece which provides excellent thermal properties whilst remaining breathable to wick moisture away from the body. The lined waist hem grips the body well and doesn't itch after long periods.
Cold feet. They can ruin a session.
Once the cold has set in there is no shifting the often painful experience. Keeping my feet warm is a priority. The built-in fabric socks of my Atom Bib and Bora Drysuit mean that i can wear thick thermal socks beneath these to keep my feet warm. Over the top of thick socks i also wear a pair of Tsangpo Thermal Socks.
These are made from the same warm and stretchy Pontetorto fleece‚ with Polygiene odor control treatment that the Tsangpo top is made from. They have a 3D design to fit the shape of your foot comfortably. They do the job admirably.
On the Water
The Bora performed well and i stayed completely dry - this was properly tested by jumping in! It was comfortable whilst paddling with no restrictive areas in the suit. The hood came in handy and was easy to unroll on the water. The little tie-back button on the storm collar opening is great for paddling with the collar down as it stops it flapping in your face. The whole suit just feels great and you can tell it has been built for paddling in. The thermals did their job too, even when i was flailing about in the water!
How much and where to buy?
The Palm Bora Drysuit retails for £649.95. Offers can usually be found and Cornwall Canoes have them at a good price - click here for more info.
The Palm Tsangpo Zipped Top retails for £69.95, and the full suit retails for £99.95. The Palm Seti Pants retail for £39.95 and the Tsanpo Socks retail for £14.95. Again Cornwall Canoes stocks these thermals - see here.
Kit yourself out with decent winter wear and you will be happy paddling even when the weather is against you!