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What To Wear After Summer

a group of people riding skis on a snowy surface

What To Wear After Summer

The Hudson River was carved by glacier during the last Ice Age. Along Manhattan, salt water from the Atlantic Ocean mixes with fresh water from the Hudson Valley. The Ice Age is over and now humans paddle the path of the glacier. Warm blooded we are, we must take special precautions because cold water of any temperature can have a sudden effect on body and brain. Firstly, we use boats or boards that feel stable so as not to fall into the water. Even if you feel stable on a boat, always be prepared for unplanned capsizes. This precaution is called “dressing for submersion” in the boating community. Here’s what to wear in cool and cold water.

Always Wear a Lifejacket

Wear a Coast Guard approved lifejacket in any weather or water temperature. We do not recommend inflatable lifejackets unless the water feels warm. The foam in a traditional lifejacket keeps your head out of the water. At MKC, we provide lifejackets for you. If you want to use your own, order several models to find the right one. We prefer lifejackets with less foam around the shoulders and more around the chest to maximize shoulder mobility. There should be adjustable straps along the shoulders and chest and secure pockets that fit your essentials.


From October-December and April / Water Temp 60-70F
Wear a wetsuit, jacket and boots for paddling through cool water. At MKC, we provide these 3 items for you. Many paddlers bring their own. Don’t wear anything that contains cotton. Bring a change of warm cozy clothing for after. This is what you should wear:

    1. Borrow our 3-4mm sleeveless wetsuits. Underneath, wear underwear that is not cotton.
    2. Borrow our waterproof paddle jackets.Ā Underneath, wear your own rash guard or synthetic long sleeve shirt that’s warm when wet
    3. Borrow our 5-7mm neoprene shoes. Underneath, wear your own synthetic or wool socks.
    4. A beanie that doesn’t contain cotton is always helpful.


Our favorite lifejackets, wetsuits and jackets. Clockwise from top left: NRS Ninja PFD; MTI Trident PFD; NRS Jane & John 3.0 Ultra wetsuits; NRS Endurance splash jackets.

Clockwise from top left: NRS Ninja PFD; MTI Trident PFD; NRS Jane & John 3.0 Ultra wetsuits; NRS Endurance splash jackets.


From January-March / Water Temp Under 60F

Wear a drysuit or semi-drysuit for paddling through cold water. They prevent water from getting to your under layers through water-tight gaskets at the neck, wrists and ankles. Full drysuits have gaskets made of latex while semi-drysuit use some neoprene too. Neoprene is less water-tight thus term “semi”. Semi-drysuits are more affordable and work when paddling with a group, not alone. Order your drysuit ahead from a reputable dealer who can handle repairs. Our members buy their own suits. Here are their recommendations. Need advice? Email or chat us or attend our virtual Off-Season Info Session!


Recommendations From Our Members:

a group of people standing around each other

Our favorite semi-dry suits and dry suits. Clockwise from top left: Kokatat Swift Entry dry suit; Kokatat Meridian dry suit; Stohlquist Shift dry suit; Crewsaver Atacama dry suit; SUPskin Dynamic dry suit.



Wetsuit Versus Drysuit

Hypothermia Risk: The most common 3-4mm wetsuit does not offer enough thermal protection for cold water. A thicker 5-7mm wetsuit with sleeves gives thermal protection but restricts movement. Sleeveless wetsuits are not warm enough. Drysuits and semi-drysuits are the best to keep your body dry, allow for layers underneath and allow for a full range of motion.

Cost and Durability: Quality being equal, drysuits cost 2-3 times more than wetsuits. Drysuits last 2-3 times longer than wetsuits. If you plan to paddle for years, get a drysuit from a reputable maker who repairs zippers and gaskets. Zippers are vulnerable and need to be rinsed of salt water after each use and lubricated periodically. Drysuit gaskets can tear so take your time getting dressed.

Fit: Wetsuits are tight, stretchy and porous. The same wetsuit can fit varying bodies, albeit not perfectly. Drysuits are inelastic, impermeable and loose around the chest, arms and legs. Because of this, a tailored look is hard to get with a drysuit unless you have a well-proportioned body. If you have time and money, contact the manufacturer to get a custom-fit drysuit.

Bathroom: Being able to go to the bathroom easily is important. While surfers can go into their wetsuits, paddlers have to hold it. Drysuits should have zippers around the waist for women and in the front panel for men. Do not get a drysuit that has only a chest zipper.

Undressing: After paddling, peeling off a sweat-soaked wetsuit is unpleasant. With a drysuit, simply unzip it, step out of it, and find yourself in dry warm wool clothes!


Under Layers

Drysuits require layers underneath for warmth. Kokatat drysuits are thick and airtight, so be careful of over layering and sweating underneath. SUPSkin drysuits are thin so add several layers for warmth on cold days. These tops and bottoms are the best! If you choose real wool, remember to wash and store them in a sealed airtight container when the spring ends to prevent moths from devouring them.

a person in a suit and tie

Layer under your dry suit. Clockwise from top left: Immersion Research Thick Skin top and bottom separates; Smartwool 250 shirt; Patagonia Capilene Air shirt; Decathlon Simplewarm bottoms; Smartwool 250 bottoms.



Extremities can be quickly impaired by cold water. Kayakers do best with pogies, which keep water off your hands or kayaking gloves. GET POGIES! They velcro around the paddle and create a warm cavity for the hands. Pogies remain attached to the paddle even when the hands let go. We highly recommend them for sea kayakers!

Paddle boarders move their hands to different parts of the paddle and cannot use pogies. SUPers face a challenge in terms of hand wear and usually settle for 1-1.5mm neoprene gloves for cold days. If the material is thicker than 1-1.5 mm, it needs to have a pre-curved finger. Otherwise, a straight thick glove will tire out your fingers from bending the material to hold the paddle.

a group of people posing for the camera

Kayakers wear pogies and SUPers wear gloves. Clockwise from top left: Brace Master ski gloves; NRS HydroSkin Forecast 2.0 gloves; Glacier Gloves; Shaalek heated gloves; Stohlquist Toaster pogies; Kokatat kayak mitt.


For winter, 7mm neoprene shoes with wool socks keep your feet warm even if they get wet. 3mm work for autumn only. 5mm booties can be too thin for winter if you run cold. 7mm is warm and cozy. Look for booties with a side zipper because they are easy to put on and take off. Cold water rinse and air-dry your booties or they will stink. We recommend wool socks to prevent smells and keep your feet warm. Bring extra socks for after.


a pair of shoes

Wear neoprene shoes with wool socks. Clockwise from top left: Smartwool Hiking socks; Kokatat dry socks; NeoSport 5mm low top boots; Henderson Aqua Lock boots; Neosport 7mm high tops; NRS Remix water shoes.


For cold days, wear a fleece headbandĀ or hat with earflaps. The brighter the better. Even if the day seems warm, have a warm hat because the cold air will take heat from your body.

Other NecessitiesĀ 

Use a 10-20L dry bag to store your energy bars or blocs, gloves, and hat. Calories mean heat, so eat your snacks as you paddle. Tether your waterproof phone case to your lifejacket. On your boat deck, keep an insulated bottle or two. There is more equipment to bring on a paddle trip, but I will leave that for another blog.


The essentials. Clockwise from upper left: Thermos 24oz Stainless King bottle; Clif Blok chews; Sea Dog 4-3/4ā€ carabiner; AquaVault floating phone case; Rheos floating sunglasses; Sea to Summit Lightweight 13L dry bag.


Plan Ahead

When you get new gear, take it for a short paddle during a calm day and to a Rescues Training. Return or exchange gear that’s not working out. The earlier you get gear, the sooner you can go through a few iterations before the coldest days. With patience, you’ll find the prefect outfit and enjoy paddling through the fall, winter and spring!