It’s time for cold river rafting, kayaking, and anything else that would qualify you for the polar club. But, just like any sport, you need the proper gear. Doing any kind of cold-water sport or activity presents special dangers – the most obvious and common is hypothermia. To protect yourself, make sure you take these precautions.
Get Rash Guards or Dry Tops
There’s nothing worse than getting beat up by your own surfboard or kayak when you’re out trying to have fun. Wax attracts dirt and sand or tiny bits of gravel, sometimes, and that can seriously hurt. A rash guard is a suit that you wear to protect yourself from chaffing and scraping against your gear and other equipment.
Dry tops are another piece of clothing you should consider. When the water is cold, you don’t want something that will keep you wet. Dry tops keep you dry – even when you get wet, the material dries quickly.
Many other materials, even many wetsuits, may not provide ample protection from the cold water. If you get wet, and you’re wearing material that holds in the moisture, you put yourself at a high risk for hypothermia. When kayaking, capsizing is just part of the fun, and righting your kayak though is a skill that you must practice at some point and get good at.
Wear The Right Hat
Wearing the right hat is important to protect your face from the cold, but hats can also protect you from the sun. Why would you be worried about the sun? It seems incredible that you could get a sunburn in the middle of winter, but it happens all the time. The sun’s UVA rays shine year-round in most parts of the world. UVA rays are capable of penetrating deep into the skin. When this happens, it oxidizes the melanin in your skin, which acts as your body’s natural sunscreen.
In the summer, the sun’s rays consist of both UVB and UVA. The UVB rays can cause sunburn but they also upregulate melanin, so your body is better able to protect itself by making more natural “sunscreen.” In the winter, the sun sits too low in the sky for the short-wavelength of UVB rays to pass through the atmosphere.
Even when you’re kayaking, the water creates an almost perfect reflective surface for the sun. So, don’t be fooled by the cool air, and the cold water. Wear a brimmed hat and consider putting on sunscreen so that your face doesn’t turn red, like a lobster.
Get Water Slippers
Water slippers are relatively inexpensive, and can be found at both retail outlets and places like www.SportPursuit.com. They’re almost a necessity for any kind of cold water activity. Some of them are designed to repel water, while others absorb it but dry quickly. Regardless, the basic idea is the same: they keep your feet dry, or at least drier than if you were wearing regular tennis shoes.
When choosing a water shoe, get one with a good tread on it. Some water shoes have a better design than other. What you want is something that will reduce the risk of you slipping without compromising flexibility in the foot.
Ronald Walker is a veteran outdoor guide. He enjoys blogging about outdoor sports equipment and safety.
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