What to Wear for Fall and Cold Weather Paddling

In Equipment by Daniel

As we enter mid-September...

You might notice a few things beginning to change...

The sun starts the day a little later, there might be a bit of a colder breeze at night, and the leaves are starting to show up on your driveway in more abundance.

Fall is on its way.

(At least for our Northern Hemisphere folks! For those down under, or in tropical areas, first off - lucky you! And second, this email will be great for general knowledge but maybe not practical at this point in time.)

But with fall, comes the necessity to change a few things about our paddling gear so we can continue doing what we love into winter and beyond!

Join us as we do a quick rundown of what to wear (and what not to wear!) so that you can remain comfortable on the water all year long.

*Side note: For transparency sake, there will be a few affiliate links to fantastic gear that will help you achieve year-round paddling. Using these links for purchase help keeps the Perfect Paddles lights on!

Let first start with...

What not to wear.

1. Don't Wear Cotton

This might seem like an odd request at first glance.

Don't wear the most popular fabric in the world?



Because cotton absorbs - sweat, rain, the water (if you happen to fall in). Everything.

The absorption quality of cotton will keep the cool water close to your skin and will decrease your body temperature in a rapid fashion.

And that can be a dangerous combination if you are paddling in cool temperatures.

Your next logical question should be, "Then what should I wear?"

Well, let's take away the suspense and get right into it!

2. First, Find Out Important Information

What you should be wearing will differ depending on where you are located...

And how cold the temperature gets in your area.

It can also depend on whether you plan on flat water paddling or ocean/river paddling.

And it can depend on your skill level and the type of board you use.

Also, it can depend on...

Just kidding. That should cover it.

Let's start with the easiest question - what's your location?

Are you in southern California or northern Canada?

But even more important - what are the water and air temperatures where you are located?

With those two important pieces of information in mind, you can now begin to decide what to wear.

3. The Right Suit

Almost everyone agrees - a wet suit is the perfect place to start and will be your best defense against the cold.

Protection with a wet suit can range based on the thickness of the suit itself.

Here is a quick guide to help you out:


Any of the above options will give you coverage for the appropriate temperature.

There is just one thing...

When it comes to paddling in wet suits, it can quickly become uncomfortable.

If you plan on SUP surfing, then that is your only option.

The neoprene fabric will keep you warm and satisfied when splashing through the waves.

But on flatwater paddling days, the constricting nature of a wetsuit can become bothersome, and if you aren't being submerged into the water with any consistency, it can actually hinder the performance of the suit...

Causing you to become cold regardless.

Don't worry - there are other options!

4. Layer Up

If you're a flatwater paddler by nature and enjoy your time on lakes and bays without the danger of taking a plunge there are few things you can wear to stay warm and comfortable...

As we've already stated, ditch the cotton. Instead, use a base layer made out of polypropylene - a great example is Under Armour's Cold Gear.

But really, you should aim for any type of material that releases your sweat to keep you dry in cold temperatures.

A great example is something like this:

Okay, now that we have our base layer let's move on to the next few...

Next, you're going to want something to keep you warm like a fleece jacket or wool sweater.

Both of these materials are non-absorbing and will keep you warm and dry even with moderate to heavy paddling.

And in case you have a lingering doubt that you might fall in once you're paddling on the water, you can always choose a dry-top jacket.

These are great for winter paddling. They work well as a top layer and usually come with a seal around your neck, waist, and wrists.

While we cannot guarantee they will be 100% waterproof if you happen to completely submerge yourself - you'll have a better chance of keeping your vital organs warm and dry as opposed to wearing just a fleece or wool sweater.


For pants, you can dress as you would going to the gym - thermals, sweats, or leggings will do.

But they're only good at keeping you warm, not exactly dry if you happen to fall in. If you want to make sure you stay warm you can also choose a pair of neoprene leggings.

Made of the same material as a wetsuit, these only extend to your waist which will give you the flexibility to paddle and the protection you need in case you fall in.


5. The Top of the Line

If you don't want to wear a stifling wet suit while paddling flatwater...

But don't yet feel confident enough to just dress in layers...

There is a third option...

A drysuit.

Often considered the top of the line when it comes to cold water paddling gear, a dry suit allows you to comfortably layer up underneath while protecting yourself from the water on top.

They’re fully sealed around the neck and arms with built-in booties at the bottom to keep you completely dry even when submerged - though we do not recommend prolonged submersion even with a dry suit!

There is one catch...

A good one will cost you around $1,000.

But if you're stuck in a cold-water climate, it is the best investment you can make to keep yourself warm and safe!

There are plenty on the market but from our experience, you cannot beat the quality of an Ocean Rodeo.

Check it out below:

6. The Rest of You

Now that we have the main components covered, let's go over the rest of your cold gear options...

Head: Any winter hat will do but wool is a great choice. Just make sure it covers those ears!

Hands: One suggestion is neoprene gloves. These work great for surfing when you are in the water. But for flatwater we suggest a good pair of winter gloves with grips on the palms. These will keep your hands much warmer over time.

Feet: There are few options to explore here. Neoprene boots are the usual go-to. The thicker options will keep your feet protected, and if you feel the wind/cold creeping in, you can always take a break, dunk your feet overboard, and allow the neoprene fabric and your body heat to warm the water and keep your feet from freezing.

However, if you are not located in a strictly cold-weather climate (Ex: Southern California or Florida), and instead just need moderate protection there is a solution for you discovered by one of our supporters!

User Submitted Review from Gary F:

"I’ve tried at least 10 different brands of “waterproof” socks - here’s the best combo I have found. Your toes will stay warm and dry and not cramp because the socks are too thick. I have found they don’t slip at all on your board."

Wool Liners:

Waterproof Socks:

PFD: Always wear a PFD (vest or belt) when paddling especially in cold water!

That's it!

Don't let the change in weather stop you from doing what you love. Instead - adapt!

With a little effort collecting these pieces of gear, you'll be able to paddle all year round with ease.

And while you're having fun out there...

Remember to...

Stay stoked!
-The Perfect Paddles Team