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 Post subject: Cold water clothing
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 12:12 pm 
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I'm looking for some guidance on what to wear when kayaking in Maine. How would you regiment your dress code for water that is low/mid 30s in the winter, low/mid 40s in the spring, and low 50s to low 60s in the summer/fall? I'm more interested in dry tops/dry suit vs. a wet suit.
Thanks.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 2:50 pm 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Drysuit with 2 layers of fleece for winter and 1-2 for spring. Summer would be neoprene or synthetic t shirt & shorts depending on air temp, maybe a splash top. If you go the drysuit route, get one with booties, not latex gaskets. Your feet will be much warmer.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 4:45 pm 
tsunamichuck's advice is spot-on. I would supplement the winter kit with a neoprene hood for your head, and with water that cold, pogies mitts or gloves for your hands.

For rolling or wet practise in Winter, I generally wear a wet suit inside the dry suit - really warm.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:15 pm 
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Another solid vote for TC's recommendations. In water as cold as you describe in the winter, definitely a dry suit. A big ditto on the Goretex integral socks, also. And, order them to fit your feet. I got mine stock, and they are way too big -- and bunch up inside my Chotas.

Oh, yeah: footwear: fleece-lined neoprene booties/boots in winter. Google up Chota and check out their options. Come back with links to the ones you like, and we can help there, also.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:37 am 
knight of the folding kayak realm

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Location: Spruce Head, Maine
Quote:
Summer would be neoprene or synthetic t shirt & shorts depending on air temp, maybe a splash top.


I have a kokatat inner core shirt--is this what you mean? Or would I need something heavier?

At what temperature is a full dry suit needed, in general? I guess I'm surprised that for mid 50 degree water a splash top and synthetic T is enough.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:57 am 
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Paul wrote:
Quote:
Summer would be neoprene or synthetic t shirt & shorts depending on air temp, maybe a splash top.

I have a kokatat inner core shirt--is this what you mean? Or would I need something heavier?

At what temperature is a full dry suit needed, in general? I guess I'm surprised that for mid 50 degree water a splash top and synthetic T is enough.
TC is of the school that expects to reenter and roll, or roll up immediately without a wet exit. If you are a wet exit and paddlefloat self rescue person, like me, then you should consider maybe neo below the waist, and a dry top above on 50 F water. It is tough when the air temp is in the 60-70 F range, and the water is that cold.

Dry suit on anything below 45 F or so, depending. I paddle with a very thin woman who wears hers on any water below 60 F. OTOH, I can swim in 60 F water for half an hour or so and still retain hand function, so I wear Hydroskin longies and often a short sleeved wicking top on 60F water.


Kokatat choices:
http://www.kokatat.com/product_detail.asp?code=ics
http://www.kokatat.com/product_detail.asp?code=ocl

These look like comfy, high-tech fleece to me. they breathe too much for good immersion protection.

I think TC means something like this:
http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp? ... deptid=942

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:22 pm 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Neoprene works very well for lots of folks in mid 50 deg water.. Take a look at surfers and divers. Your body will acclimatize to cold conditions as you gradually expose yourself. When I lived in Reno and was year round paddling Tahoe, I swam in 39 deg water before I went out... every time.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:58 pm 
knight of the folding kayak realm

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Thanks for the advice. I'll look into that stuff. I wonder if they make a size 15 bootie....

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:39 am 
knight of the folding kayak realm

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Is gasp reflex involuntary? How do you avoid the potentially perilous consequences associated with gasp reflex if it is involuntary?

I imagine that cold water swim practice, similar to what Chuck does, is a big help. But even with that, how much of a risk is gasp reflex?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:55 am 
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Significant risk on very cold water. Clothe warmly the head and upper body to minimize it. In very cold water, a neoprene hood is a good idea.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 2:22 pm 
knight of the folding kayak realm

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I think I need to move to the Carribean. This stuff scares me.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 2:34 pm 
knight of the folding kayak realm

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Below are some interesting snippets and reports from experienced paddlers on the gasp reflex and related issues. I found these on the Net, and I suppose it's ok to repost them here.

Last night at a skills session, I went for my first unintentional swim in 7 months, thanks to the gasp reflex.

It was warm (mid-60's), sunny, the water temp was around 50 on the dead-flat-calm lake and I was clad in my usual dry suit and fleece. One of the students in the beginner's class I was assisting in asked about balance bracing, so I took the opportunity to do an impromptu demonstration, sans hood or nose plugs. After sculling down, I rested on the suface for a few seconds and all was fine. The water was brisk, but not uncomfortable. To recover, I normally submerge momentarily, set up and do a lazy roll onto the aft deck. No big deal, right?

This time, however, as soon as I went under, I started gasping uncontrollably. I managed to avoid sucking in any water, but became disoriented and felt that insidious feeling of panic creeping up on me. Things went downhill from there in a hurry. A rushed setup and head-up exit resulted in a blown roll. Sculling furiously kept me above water for a few seconds, but I was gasping hard and so far out of position that I couldn't stay up. The partial breath I got wasn't enough and when I submerged again, I knew I was in trouble. The fastest way out would have been to set up and roll as I had originally planned or simply scull to the surface, but reason was overidden by the desperate need to breathe RIGHT NOW, and I grabbed the relase loop and bailed. I even let go of the paddle, something that I almost never do. UGH! How embarassing!

Although my body was warm and dry, I could not control my breathing, having inhaled a bit of water during the wet exit. Since I was swimming, we took the opportunity to demonstate a T-rescue for the students. Even when back in the boat, it took several minutes to get my breathing back to normal.

Lessons learned:

1) The gasp reflex can strike you even when you're comfortable, relaxed and paddling in benign conditions. I have been swimming and rolling in much colder conditions without problems, but I was always wearing a hood.

2) The gasping is absolutely uncontrollable and can incapacitate you quickly. Self rescue would have been quite difficult until my breathing calmed down.

3) Always wear a hood when playing in 50 degree water. I suspect that it was the lack of head insulation that triggered the gasping.

4) Even a reliable roll isn't 100% reliable. Although I was executing moves that I had practiced many times, the effects of gasping were so overpowering that even muscle memory failed me. Unexpected occurances can disorient you to the point where your skills will desert you.

5) Spend lots of time in the water, especially upside-down, to help aleviate the feeling of panic that can occur if you're not comfortable being submerged. I thought I had this licked, but I was obviously wrong.

6) Regardless of your skill/confidence level, you should not take the effects of cold water lightly. Unless you have gills, it's a foreign environment that can hurt you.


***

My most recent scare-myself-silly book, "Essentials of Sea Survival," by Frank Golden and Michael Tipton, 2002 reviews all the usual studies about survival time at various temperatures. They like "time of useful consciousness" as the cut-off, and conclude on the basis of all available data:

40 degrees, naked: half hour
40, clothed, 1.25 h
40, 5mm neoprene, 2.5h
40, dry suit with insulation, 5.5h

50, naked, 1h
50, clothed, 2h
50, 5mm neoprene, 3.5h
50, dry suit, off the chart (>>than 6h)

60, naked 2h
60, clothed 4+h
60, 5mm neoprene, 6h
60, dry suit (all day)

The main surprise in this chart to me is the relatively poor survival time in thick neoprene. 5mm is thicker than most kayakers wear, yet it permits consciousness for less than four fully immersed hours in 50 degree water. This accords well with my own experience--I switch to a dry suit around 60 degrees and don't mind wearing one in 65 degree water. Nevertheless, I swim in my drysuit in 32 degree water for an hour without difficulty, as long as there's adequate insulation inside.

These data strongly suggest that fuzzy rubber and all that stuff won't cut it in water temps below 60 degrees unless you're very close to shore.



***

In my opinion cold shock and the gasp reflex is bar far a greater enemy to a paddler than hypothermia. That will kill a person instantly. Many times the drowning reports indicate a person will fall into the water never to resurface probably because their lungs we filled the very second they hit the water.
The first year I was working on the Kennebec river a 60 year old man died after falling from a raft in early April. It was assumed that he drowned. Fact is the autopsy showed no water in his lungs. When he hit the water his throat swelled up and suffocated him. I am sure if he could have inhaled water he would have. I am not sure if that is called cold shock or not.


***
[/i]I get myself wet and keep myself wet whenever paddling in cold water, esp. face and neck, so that a sudden capsize doesn't cause the reflex. For anyone who hasn't experienced it or read about it, it's an involuntary desire to breathe which occurs as a vagal nerve reflex when cold water hits the face, neck and/or chest. If you've just capsized, this gasp might be your last.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 8:58 pm 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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The one time I ended up gasping was when I was doing a practice roll in a Sierra Lake that was abou 10 degrees colder than I was used to. Yeah, it was pretty freaky but a hood, even a fuzzy rubber one may have prevented it and getting my head exposed previously could have possibly prevented it. Just take a dip before setting out and get your head submerged. You can get yourself acclimated.. just have to do it.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:59 pm 
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Paul,

That is a pretty eye opening article. I think everyone should have and wear a hood when the conditions warrent. A low priced item like that can save your life!

Sounds like you are leaving the placid warm waters of Abu Dhabi eh?

Chris

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