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Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

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Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby ELM » 14 Aug 2010, 16:33

I don't wish to offend anyone nor am I dictating what anyone should wear,this is merely my opinion.
It scares me when we pat each other on the back, for skimping on the one thing that is going to save our lives if we are left stranded in cold water, "What We Wear".

The best way (IMHO) to find out if your gear is up to the challenge, is to test it in real life conditions. e.g. In the same areas and water/weather conditions you normally go kayaking in. Testing your gear in the next door neighbours solar heated pool in summer isn't going to show if your gear is capable of saving your life on PPB in the middle of winter.

Note: Do not let yourself get into a Hypothermic state. At all times make sure you have assistance, have a rescue plan & stay close to your dry clothes etc.

Go some where safe (next to car park) & with plenty of assistance, take some blankets (in case), dry change of clothes, something warm to drink (not alcohol) & have a rescue plan ready that everyone concerned understands (in case).
Have everything on the bank ready. Load your kayak as for a normal day (leash everything), put on your pfd, and then do a deliberate capsize in chest deep water and see how you go. Make sure you can right and board your kayak without touching the bottom. Once you're on board, see how long it takes for the cold to take effect on your muscles, etc, it's not over just because you are out of the water, wind chill through wet clothes has the potential to lower the skins surface temperature 4 degrees lower than that of the atmospheric temperature around you. Allow for the return trip.

I am no expert and I may be wrong, but here is my take on suitable kayak clothing (Warning, long winded).

Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.
IMHO appropriate Kayak clothing is clothing that is worn to protect you from the elements. Appropriate kayak clothing should protect you from the sun, wind, rain and more importantly immersion.
The dangers from an immersion situation include;
(1)Hypothermia
(2)Cold Shock
(3)Drowning

My opinion is that you should dress for immersion first and foremost, then work on a balance in comfort, freedom of movement and surface protection after that. If you are not dressing for immersion, in my opinion, you are sadly (putting it politely) very mistaken and should not be on the water in or on a kayak. Remember, water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air.
If you are getting cold on your kayak, then you are ill dressed for an immersion whether short or prolonged. If you are staying very warm or even getting hot then you are probably better suited to a prolonged immersion and will have a higher chance of survival when or if the situation arises. If you are getting cold on your kayak and cannot warm up, you are doomed and so is an enjoyable day out on your kayak, if you are overheating then simply take a dip, practice a quick re-entry to cool off, have a drink of water and continue your day on your kayak.

To properly protect yourself in an immersion, you need to minimize heat loss to the water around you. The only way to do that is to have a completely sealed barrier or have a close fitting thermal barrier and minimize water flow next to the skin. Conditions change on a regular basis so it is important to take notice of the condition and dress appropriately to best protect yourself and that is more easily achieved by layering
A good balance should include;
(1) Base layer (thermal).
(2) Secondary (waterproof / wind proof / UV protection)
(3) Accessories (hats / glasses / boots / further UV protection)
(4) Approved PFD Type 1 or Type 2.

Cotton and Wool Clothes
Cotton and wool clothes should be avoided, in fact they have no place on a kayak as they absorb water, dry slowly and become heavy. Wearing wet clothing that breathes similar to cotton and wool will accelerate heat loss through wind chill and the extra weight will make it harder to extract yourself from the water back onto/into your kayak where you can concentrate on managing heat loss. If you find yourself in an immersion situation, the most important thing is to get back out of the water as quickly and safely as possible.

PFD's
In Victoria, people using Kayaks & canoe's are required to wear either a Type 1 or Type 2 PFD.
PFD Type 1
A PFD Type 1 is a recognised life-jacket.
A PFD Type 1 will provide a high level of buoyancy and keep the wearer in a safe floating position. They are made in high visibility colors with retro-reflective patches and can be either an inflatable PFD or a flotation foam filled PFD.

PFD Type 2
A PFD Type 2 is a buoyancy vest – not a recognised life-jacket. It will provide less buoyancy than a PFD Type 1 but is sufficient to assist keeping your head above water for a short period of time. Like a PFD Type 1 they are manufactured in high visibility colors and only come as a flotation foam filled PFD.
Without a doubt, Type 1 PFD's are the safest to wear if you find yourself stranded in the water, however, flotation foam filled Type 1 PFD's can be quite bulky to wear and can be uncomfortable even difficult to wear on a kayak when paddling. Where as the inflatable style Type 1 PFD has minimal bulk allowing much more freedom of movement and comfort while sitting and paddling, but once inflated they become extremely bulky across the chest and behind the neck. If you are in the water and inflate your PFD, exiting the water to the safety of your kayak can be considerably hindered as is the ability to paddle because of the bulky inflation. If the PFD is deflated, it cannot be re-inflated until a new gas canister has been fitted, it is also no longer recognised as a life-jacket until a new canister has been fitted.
Another thing to consider with an inflatable PFD; if you were to be knocked unconscious before inflating your PFD and there is no one to assist you, your PFD will not inflate unless it is an auto inflate.

Type 2 PFD's on the other hand, while not being recognised as a life-jacket and being less buoyant than a PFD Type 1, are not as bulky to wear when seated and paddling a kayak or canoe. They will offer immediate support if you end up in the water and will offer less restriction while trying to remount your kayak. Flotation foam filled PFD's also offer some thermal protection to the upper torso of the body and can increase wind chill protection.

Ok so lets look at some different clothes that you will see or hear of others wearing;
Dry-suits
From personal experience a dry-suit is by far the best option as a secondary layer, but only if you keep it sealed and layer accordingly underneath to match that of the external climate and water temperature in your area. A dry-suit has little thermal quality so the layers you wear under it are important to balance according to conditions, always remember it is easy to cool down by hopping in the water where warming up can be a lot more difficult. A dry-suit however is of little use and becomes a hazard if it is not kept in good condition, if zips are not done up tight or seals leak. If you are wearing a dry-suit full of water, firstly you will struggle to get back on your kayak due to the extra weight from water in your suit, secondly water will not be able to drain away from your skin sapping important body heat and increasing the chances of hypothermia. Both ladies and men can also enjoy the comfort of relief zippers using catheter condoms or a She-p body fixtures or relief zips and in my opinion and from personal experience, "A MUST HAVE".

Long John Wet-suit;
If you cannot afford a dry-suit or prefer using neoprene then a good set of neoprene long John's will give your torso and legs thermal and UV protection, the thickness will depend on personal body heat loss and the amount of exercise one will be exerting, however for winter I think 3 mm should be a minimum in a cool climate like Melbourne. A free moving fiber thermal layer like a polyester T-shirt and/or jacket (not cotton or wool) may also be needed for the arms and upper torso, once again depending on the amount of excursion and personal body heat loss.
As a secondary layer, you could then go for a windproof spray jacket similar to what cyclists and sailors wear, they will once again allow freedom of movement through the shoulders while blocking UV, water spray (not immersion) and wind.

Windproof/Sprayproof Pants & Jackets;
Pants & Jackets that are loose fitting may be warm and protect you from splash, wind etc when on a kayak but will not give you any thermal protection in the water in an immersion, as the water can freely flow by your skin sapping important heat away, and should only be classed as a secondary layer.

Wet-suits;
Neoprene, as found in wet-suits, will offer thermal and UV protection and can be classed as your thermal layer, you need to note however. A tight fitting full wet-suit (like a diver would wear) will actually help cause fatigue from limiting freedom of movement, also full suits cause chaff and minimize freedom of movement through the shoulders and arms when paddling, causing further fatigue. Its also a good thing to remember, if you are wearing a neoprene suit and are wet, wind will penetrate the neoprene magnifying the chances of wind chill after an immersion, hence the need for a secondary layer to block the penetrating wind and reduce the effect of wind chill.

Waders;
A lot of people like to wear waders, specially neoprene waders, they are comfortable and can keep your feet warm and dry, there is no doubt about that. But waders have the potential to be as hazardous as an unzipped dry-suit, any layer that is not sealed, needs to be able to freely drain water away, having a sealed boot/leg like waders, will not drain and will hold water against the body sapping important heat away. They ability for water to enter your waders in an immersion, even with a belt, is very high, making the task of exiting the water, even harder due to the extra weight of the now trapped water. If by some chance you are “not” wearing a PFD and you enter the water head first, the air trapped in your waders has the potential to hold you upside down (head first) under the water. If you do wear waders, learn to do a somersault while in the water, this will then transfer the air from your feet back up to the waist of your wader where it is expelled and water gushes inside instead. In the end, remember the idea of your clothing is for protection and I would not recommend the use of waders on a kayak.

Shorts;
Shorts may be very comfortable to wear, light, offer freedom of movement and hold very little water but honestly I believe they have no place on a kayak when worn on there own.
As most if not all of your time on your kayak will be spent sitting down, your legs stretched out and exposed directly to the elements. Even if it is overcast your legs are exposed to excessive amounts of UV light, possibly causing sunburn or even under extreme circumstances, skin legions and melanoma's. In the colder months with your skin exposed to wind chill and splashes of cold water, your body will begin to shut down the extremities to try and protect the bodies core temperature and muscular strength and flexibility will decrease in the process. Not only will you become cold and uncomfortable after a period of time, your chances of sustaining cold-shock or hypothermia will be drastically increased in an immersion situation. If you are unable to use your muscles to right your overturned kayak and to get back aboard your kayak you are doomed.

Thick fleece Jackets;
While they are warm and comfortable, thick fleece jackets have the potential to become extremely heavy in an immersion situation, even synthetic jacket will hold a lot of water, which has the potential to make it hard to exit the water. The one thing that a synthetic jacket, will do, is drain/ dry a little quicker once out of the water, but in my opinion should not be worn on a kayak.

Socks/Boots
Heat loss through your feet is a major effect on a kayak. Your feet are constantly in contact with the water from the moment you start off, so protect them the same as the rest of your body with layers. A good pair of neoprene boots and thick thermal socks will help keep your feet warm. If you want to go one step further and keep them dry as well, do not go for waders. Sealskinz socks are waterproof, wear them as a secondary layer like a dry-suit, then layer with thermal socks underneath, that way your main suit will still drain via the open legs if you are immersed. Also note boots with zips will allow more water to flow through allowing a greater heat loss, if you can, get neoprene boots with no zip. Wet neoprene can help increase wind chill, so in extremely cool windy conditions, an outer wind blocking boot gaiter or bag may be necessary to keep your feet warm.

Accessories
It is common knowledge that most heat loss is through your head, as is a lot of hydration. A good hat is a must and while a wool beanie is comfortable, it is useless once wet. Go for synthetic hats Legionaries are great or neoprene hoods to protect the head.
Both direct and reflective radiation from the sun can also do a lot of damage, sun creams of SPF30+ and sun glasses are also a good idea to wear for increased protection and yes even in winter there is a danger from UV light and while we are on the subject of glasses, get polarized which will also help reduce surface glare allowing you to see into the water while you are at it.
Gloves are also very handy to have, they can protect your hands from fish spikes and squid bites, protect from cold and UV light or just wear them as a final fashion statement, which ever ones you go for, it's a good idea to check if they will help or hinder gripping a wet slippery overturned hull, removing the finger tips can also help manage tying knots etc without removing the whole glove and they can also help better grip your paddle.

As said at the start, this is only my opinion and I am not an expert in any way or form, and there is no substitute for testing what you wear in a real life situation with the necessary precautions taken to stay safe while testing.
Last edited by ELM on 19 Sep 2010, 15:29, edited 1 time in total.
When we say it's BIG RED SEASON, we don't mean a big red blood stain on the bay,
GET YOUR LIGHTS ON + YOUR PFD'S.

Happy Sailing Fishing and keep blowing bubbles.
Cheers
Eddie

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Re: Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby Yuz » 14 Aug 2010, 19:26

Thanks Elm, very informative as usual. Hopefully after a few weeks of cold wind and rain Melbourne will get a bit more comfortable :D
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Re: Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby Dognut » 14 Aug 2010, 19:57

Good one Eddie.
Agree 100%. Not saying i do it but what you say is sound and probably needsto be stickyed hereabouts.
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Re: Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby ELM » 14 Aug 2010, 20:45

Thanks guys, tried to show both sides (pro's/con's) to all, as best as I could. Still a few that need to be added, like Rash vest, windcheaters etc and I will get to them in due course.
When we say it's BIG RED SEASON, we don't mean a big red blood stain on the bay,
GET YOUR LIGHTS ON + YOUR PFD'S.

Happy Sailing Fishing and keep blowing bubbles.
Cheers
Eddie

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Re: Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby GoneFishn » 14 Aug 2010, 22:28

Only one fault Eddie

If the PFD is deflated, it cannot be re-inflated until a new gas canister has been fitted, it is also no longer recognised as a life-jacket until a new canister has been fitted.
Another thing to consider with an inflatable PFD, if you were to be knocked unconscious before inflating your PFD, and there is know-one to assist you, your PFD will not inflate unless it is an auto inflate.

This is incorrect. All PFD1 inflatables have a manual mouth inflating tube as a back up for if the canister does not work or you need to top it up. Anyone who has an Inflatable should every couple of months inflate there PFD via the mouth piece and leave over night making sure that it has not deflated over night.

Apart from that Eddie you get an A (sorry no A+ for the mistake :lol: )
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Re: Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby ratfish » 15 Aug 2010, 09:29

Nice post Elm, here's some supporting info from the australian canoeing guidelines

The outer layer, whether PFD, cag or other, should be of a colour that makes it easily visible for other
water users or rescue services.

Clothing is to be of a material and design that give adequate protection from the weather conditions
that are expected during the activity. The protective qualities of the clothing shall not be significantly
reduced when the material is wet.

Suitable clothing includes but is not limited to wetsuits, dry suits, thermal underwear, synthetic fleece,
and paddling jackets for cold weather, and Lycra® rash shirts, stinger suits, and synthetic water-sports
shirts in hot conditions.

Note that compression clothing (Skins™, 2XU™, LineBreak™, etc) provides no thermal insulation, and
should not be worn in conditions where body heat must be retained.

Footwear is to be worn at all times while paddling. It is to provide adequate protection when the
wearer is in the boat, and while walking both in and out of the water. The design should be such that
the footwear cannot come off easily, especially while walking in water or mud. Heavy boots of any
style shall not be worn. Footwear must also not be of a design that may become caught on foot pegs
(some sandal types are dangerous when worn with some foot peg systems). -this ones more for river users

In situations where helmets are not worn, hats should be worn for to provide adequate sun protection
and/or warmth. Beanies and similar headwear may be worn under helmets to provide additional
warmth. Broad brimmed and legionnaire style hats provide suitable sun protection. Baseball caps do
not, and should not be worn without additional sun protection.

Sunglasses and prescription spectacles should be secured with a suitable restraint.

Leaders should carry extra dry clothing, as appropriate, for the participants, the paddling conditions
and the duration of the activity.

Also interesting to note that they recommend safety knives are carried where they are easily accessible but not on the outside of a pfd.

not to sidetrack the post but I'm curious how many people know the national standard signals for river use? and could we adapt them for sea use/fishing, what would the signalfor "plenty squida here mate" look like?
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Re: Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby Haynsie » 07 Sep 2010, 15:19

Good topic Elm,

Where do you see products such as Sharkskin fitting into the equation? For me they're half way between a wetsuit and a thermal layer as they stay warm even while you're wet, though I'm not sure if that applies while immersed.

I currently wear Sharkskin paddling pants, socks with neoprene dive boots, a woolen thermal tee, a long sleeve cotton fishing shirt and a spray jacket. But after reading your post about wool, I'm going to swap the thermal T for a sharkskin top. The cotton shirt is great for the sun and I figure it can be shed pretty easily if wet.

Cheers

Tim
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Re: Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby ELM » 07 Sep 2010, 15:56

Hi Haynse
I have not looked at the Shark skin pants, are they loose fitting, with or without seals or do they shape to your skin like a wetsuit. If they are loose fitting with no seals, then they will only offer surface protection, not while immersed in the water. If they have seals or shape to the skin then they will minimize water flow across the surface of the skin offering some thermal protection.

As for the cotton T, taking it off once wet is also defeating the purpose as it exposes your skin to the elements (sun/windchill), unless you are in a protected area with a change of dry clothes. Water will drain off a breathable polyester T shirt offering better protection on the trip back to shore and dry gear.
When we say it's BIG RED SEASON, we don't mean a big red blood stain on the bay,
GET YOUR LIGHTS ON + YOUR PFD'S.

Happy Sailing Fishing and keep blowing bubbles.
Cheers
Eddie

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Re: Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby Haynsie » 07 Sep 2010, 17:53

The Sharkskin has a fleece-like lining and a polyester outer that shapes to your body like a wetsuit and acts in much the same fashion ie, trapping a layer of water close to your skin which acts as insulation. It's great when wet, as even when the wind blows, it stays warm. Not cheap, but woth every cent IMHO. http://www.sharkskin.com.au/

ELM wrote:As for the cotton T, taking it off once wet is also defeating the purpose as it exposes your skin to the elements (sun/windchill), unless you are in a protected area with a change of dry clothes. Water will drain off a breathable polyester T shirt offering better protection on the trip back to shore and dry gear.


I meant that I intend on wearing a Sharkskin T under a long sleeve cotton shirt and taking the shirt off if wet, leaving the Sharkskin..

Cheers

Tim
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Re: Kayak Suitable Clothing, Pro's & Con's.

Postby ELM » 08 Sep 2010, 02:24

By the sounds of it, they will minimize water flow next to the skin when immersed then. Its amazing how the body can stay relatively warm when wrapped in wet "synthetic" fibers as long as you can stop the heat being "washed away" and of course blocking the wind chill that will follow once you are out of the water.

I have heard very good things about the Sharkskin pants etc just never got off my but and had a look at them, how long have you had them and what range of temperatures do you find them comfortable in Haynsie ?

You say they are expensive, but how expensive are they if they save your life, same as the dry-suits, they are worth a lot to buy upfront + more if you do not look after them properly (when will I learn :roll: ), but boy O boy when things go pear shaped and they do their job, you are so thankful you went that extra mile to get them. The other thing I like about the dry-suits, is you can pack them in the 4x4 for those unexpected river crossings (man that Thompson can get cold in the snow melt) & also keep you clean & dry when you have to change a tyre in the pissing rain & mud. I wear mine when fishing of the pier, wading the beaches, out on the kayak, as a coverall/wind blocker when boat diving and have even worn it snorkeling (cannot duck dive with it though) & as just mentioned, pack it in the 4x4 when going bush.
When we say it's BIG RED SEASON, we don't mean a big red blood stain on the bay,
GET YOUR LIGHTS ON + YOUR PFD'S.

Happy Sailing Fishing and keep blowing bubbles.
Cheers
Eddie

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