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Yes, You Can and Should Kayak in the Winter

man kayak is on a frozen river

As long as the body of water you want to kayak on isn’t iced over, then you can take your kayak out and paddle around.

Winter kayaking can actually be more enjoyable than kayaking in the spring, summer, or fall. There will be little to no other boat traffic and you’ll likely find it to be a serene and quieting experience.

With that in mind here’s a look at some things to keep in mind about kayaking in the winter.

Winter Kayaking Brings a Different Perspective

senior kayaker in a whitewater kayak paddling upstream of Arkansas River above Hecla Junction, Colorado in winter scenery (senior kayaker in a whitewater kayak paddling upstream of Arkansas River above Hecla Junction, Colorado in winter scenery, ASCII
Image from Getty

I don’t care how many times you’ve been out on a particular body of water. If you go out in the winter months, you’re bound to see things in a different way.

The wildlife, scenery, and even the water can all seem or feel different. The seasons change things, and being out there in the cold is a great way to take these changes in.

If you doubt me, wait until the next snowfall happens and then paddle out. You’ll notice that everything looks different, there’s a quietness that you’re likely not used to, and wildlife acts differently. It can totally transform the way you think about a particular body of water.

Kayaking in the Winter Lets You Change Things Up

In the winter months, it can be easy to fall into a rut. Exercising more often than not happens indoors and after several weeks of this, you can get bored or depressed. Winter depression is real, and getting out in nature is a fantastic way of combatting these negative feelings.

Instead of running on the treadmill or hitting the rowing machine at the gym, consider taking your kayak to a local river, stream, or lake. You’ll get a fantastic workout, get some fresh air, and some much needed time out in the natural world.

Prepare Properly and Winter Kayaking Can be Amazing

Paddling at Fort Dickerson quarry in Knoxville, Tennessee
Image from Getty

Don’t just paddle out with your typical winter clothes on. You need to go winter kayaking prepared. This means you need to dress appropriately, have the right gear, and have the skills to be comfortable out on the water.

There’s far less margin for error when kayaking in the winter, and you need to be prepared for this.

Dress Right

Dressing right is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Most advocate the use of a dry suit, and I highly recommend it especially if you’re thinking of going on a body of water that could have any rapids at all.

Also, make sure to wear a head covering underneath a helmet. Helmets are advocated for kayakers, but many people don’t wear them. In the winter especially, it’s smart to wear one and also have a skull cap or some other type of cap underneath the helmet.

Neoprene shoes or boots are another good thing to wear. They will keep your feet warm even if they get wet. Last, but certainly not least, you need some waterproof gloves or what’s called pogies, which is something that attaches to your paddle and keeps your hands insulated.

Take Your Time

When your out on the water, be prepared to take your time. You should never be in a rush. That’s when you can make mistakes and making mistakes out on the water in winter can be disastrous.

Take your time, enjoy your surroundings and focus on what you’re doing. This will allow you to enjoy the experience and make it easier to kayak safely.

Give Obstacles a Wide Breadth

I always advocate for giving obstacles a wide breadth, but when it comes to winter kayaking, this is even more important. You need to make sure you steer clear of anything that could cause you issues.

The last thing you want is to hit a log, rock or another obstacle under the water and be dumped out into the river or stream you’re paddling. Always take the safest line through a body of water in the winter.

Kayak With Others If Possible

I love kayaking by myself. It’s calming and enjoyable. However, in the winter months, I advocate for kayaking in groups. That way, if something were to go wrong, you have others around to help you.

If you take your time, avoid obstacles, and dress appropriately, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about, but it’s always nice to have someone there. Also, it’s nice to share the wonderful experience of winter kayaking with others.


What do you think about kayaking in the winter? Leave a comment below! Also, if you’re interested in kayaking, check out all the gear you could need at Gander Outdoor’s website.

Why you should kayak in the winter

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