Even though the temperature here in East Tennessee hovers between 50 and 60* in February and March, we just can’t keep people out of the water! One of the most common questions we get year round is “What do I wear rafting in cold weather?” This questions is especially important during the colder months. Heat is lost much more quickly in water than air, so being unprepared for any cooler water temperatures is essential for preventing hypothermia. Luckily you have some options to make your raft adventure as comfortable as possible, even when it’s cold outside.
What should I wear Rafting in Cold Weather?
- Cold Weather Wetsuit. Often associated with surfers or divers, wetsuits are a great option for cold weather trips. Wetsuits are usually made of neoprene, which is important to note is NOT waterproof. Anything you wear underneath a wetsuit will get wet. While this sounds counter-intuitive, this is precisely how a wetsuit works. A layer of water and air is trapped against the body. This water is raised to your core temperature and provides a warmer insulation layer against the surrounding colder water. The air trapped in the suit will also provide a little extra buoyancy should you find yourself swimming instead of rafting. Wetsuits vary in style, and many people will use a “Farmer John” suit, which has short sleeves and longer pants. Raft Outdoor Adventures has wetsuits available for you to rent, and each one will come with a waterproof jacket, known as a paddle jacket.
- Wool. You mean like those itchy sweaters I used to avoid? This one may be surprising, but yes, wool is an excellent option for cold weather water sports. Wool happens to be one of the few fibers that maintains its insulation properties when wet. Fishermen have been known to dunk their woolen mittens in water, letting the outside freeze, which keeps their hands warm. At Outdoor Adventures, we strongly recommend wool socks or gloves, because anything beyond that can be very heavy when wet.
- Synthetic fabric. Like moisture-wicking synthetic fabrics that keep you cool in the summer, the same fabrics can help keep you warm in the winter. These are great for layering, especially as base layers underneath wetsuits.
- Fleece. Fleece makes excellent hats and gloves, and a thinner fleece can be easily layered underneath a waterproof shell for added warmth.
What should I not wear when Cold Weather Rafting?
While knowing what to wear is important, you should also keep in mind items to avoid wearing.
- Cotton is hereby off-limits for winter rafting. When cotton gets wet, it stays wet, which will only make you colder. The key is to keep yourself warm with layers and synthetic fabrics which will keep your core temperature up.
- Open shoes are also a no-no. Summer is over, sandals are out. Wear sneakers or water shoes that provide full coverage. Neoprene booties are great for cold weather, providing an additional layer for your feet . Both sneakers or booties can be paired with wool socks for added warmth.
- Too many layers. It is important to have enough clothing on to stay warm, but restricting your range of motion with too many layers is a safety hazard. If you capsize or fall out, you will need to be able to move easily to get back to safety.
What else do I need?
The accessories really make any outfit, and raft accessories are no exception; they can do a lot to keep you comfortable during your trip. If you know you’ll get very cold, renting neoprene hoods, socks or gloves may be helpful. You can also get a helmet liner, which will cover your ears and still fit underneath the rafting helmet. If you wear glasses or sunglasses, make sure they are secured with a strap, so if they do fall off, they will not be lost. Always bring a change of clothes with you to change into after your trip.
If you take some time to prepare and dress appropriately for your trip, we guarantee you’ll have a great time with us on the Pigeon River. The fun doesn’t have to end when it’s cold outside. Book your trip with Raft Outdoor Adventures today, and we’ll keep you having fun on the river all year long.