One thing we love about paddle boarding is the fact that you can do it in nearly all weather conditions and throughout all four seasons. Granted, the colder months are definitely reserved for the brave, but there’s nothing that a few extra layers won’t fix.
Suiting up and paddling in the winter months not only adds a tremendous amount of paddling opportunities to your schedule but also gives you a different perspective of the surrounding nature and wildlife.
If you are one of the brave ones, and hats off to you, we’ve compiled a list of the best gear and clothes for cold weather paddling so you can wrap up warm and enjoy everything a winter paddle has to offer.
The first thing you’ll need to decide on is a drysuit or a wetsuit. Drysuits were designed to be completely waterproof and act as a shell to keep all water out.
They are usually favored for cold weather kayaking, and cold weather paddling purposes as the loose shell allows the paddler to maneuver more easily. Due to their slightly baggy fit, you can also choose to layer up underneath for additional warmth.
The first drysuit on our list is the KING-Q PROOF Drysuit which is made with three layers of fabric that are waterproof, breathable, and durable.
To prevent water from seeping into the suit, KING-Q PROOF added latex gasket neck and wrist seals as well as full taped seams throughout. Getting in and out of the suit is a breeze thanks to the waterproof zip that runs from shoulder to shoulder along the back of the suit.
The suit also features a large chest pocket, a neoprene waistband, neoprene socks, two mesh thigh pockets, and, for the men, a “pee zip.”
Paddlers of all sizes can enjoy KING-Q PROOF’s drysuit as it comes in sizes small all the way up to 3 XL.
Crewsaver designed the Atacama drysuit with a front aquaseal zip for easy access and limited restriction. Paddlers can get in and out of the three-layer laminate drysuit without any assistance from another party, which is ideal if you’re heading out paddling alone.
The drysuit’s right leg has a pocket with a D-ring to attach or store important belongings like your keys or phone, and the neoprene arm and neck cuffs will keep the water out and your body heat in.
The Kokatat Men’s Hydrus Swift Entry Drysuit is the most premium drysuit on our list and is made from a specially designed three-layer layer fabric with latex wrist and neck gaskets to make it as water sealed as possible.
The Kokatat suit comes in electric blue or tangerine and features a large nylon waterproof zipper and reinforced seat and knee patches.
If you’re still confused about the difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit, then a wetsuit is designed to keep you warm when wet. Wetsuits aren’t waterproof, and if your suit doesn’t fit you properly, air will be able to get inside inevitably making you cold.
Wetsuits are favored for water sports like surfing as they create a skintight layer that allows you to move around easily in the water. For new paddlers who have a high chance of ending up in the water, or for SUP surfers who are constantly being splash by water, then a wetsuit would be a better option.
The Hyperflex Wetsuit is constructed to be a flexible and comfortable 3mm neoprene skin to keep you warm while in cold water. Flatlock inside seams bind the neoprene together to create a form-fitting suit with a full range of motion.
The suit’s adjustable collar also aids in keeping you warm in cold conditions, and the down-the-back zipper makes getting in and out of the suit as straightforward as possible.
Hyperflex made the suit with a 50+ UV shield for those days when the air temperature is cold, but the sun is out and shining.
The O'Neil Reactor II is perfect for a range of paddle sports and is made from soft neoprene rubber to aid in performance and comfort. O’Neil carefully designed the suit with minimal seam placement for optimal flexibility and mobility.
The water-resistant back zip closure system is an easy entryway into the suit, and the suit itself works as a wind-resistant skin to protect you against cold temperatures.
It’s no secret that the majority of our body heat escapes from our heads and feet, which is why it is crucial to be wearing a hat when paddling in cold conditions. Hats come in a range of different styles, from the simple beanie to a hooded balaclava cover.
The Achiou Winter Balaclava is a perfect example of a hooded balaclava cover. The hat is made from a lightweight fleece material with an elastic closure and can be worn in one of four ways.
What we love most about these kinds of hats is that they keep your entire head, neck, ears, and face warm and sheltered from the elements. Insulated mesh fabric makes it easy to breathe, and the design of the balaclava protects your face from wind, UV rays, and freezing temperatures.
The Carhartt Men’s Knit Beanie is a simple 100% acrylic beanie designed with the sole purpose of keeping your head warm. Carhartt released the beanie in 47 amazing colors, so there really is a color option for everyone.
The Tough Headwear Balaclava is another fantastic option to keep your head warm and protected from cold climates.
Made from heavyweight fleece and a wind-resistant ski mask, the Tough Headwear will keep your head warm no matter what the weather. The balaclava is extremely versatile and you can wear it in a handful of ways to suit your needs and the air temperature in which you’re paddling.
Balaclavas are excellent gear for cold weather paddling as they do the best job at trapping in the air and keeping your head warm. The extra-long next of Tough Headwear’s Balaclava means you can tuck it into your jacket or drysuit for even more protection.
Your base layers are what you’ll wear under your drysuit or wetsuit. Base layers have the alternate name of thermals and are a thin layer of clothing designed to keep your body as warm as possible during your cold water paddling trip.
The HEROBIKER Men’s Thermal Underwear comes with a top and bottom made from 90% soft polyester and 10% spandex. Although they’re lightweight and breathable, they will keep you warm during a range of different activities, including stand up paddle boarding.
HEROBIKER designed the thermals with four-way stretch compression to sit comfortably on the skin and improve the wearer’s movement.
Thermajohn’s thermal underwear also comes with a top and bottom but is made with 92% polyester and 8% spandex to wick away moisture and keep you warm and dry.
This specific mix of fabrics prevents smells and gives the wearer full mobility while being neatly tucked away under any additional clothing.
Designed to fit snugly on the skin, the thermal underwear retains heat and minimizes heat loss in cold conditions.
The last set of thermals on our list is the MEETYO Thermal base layer set with included top and bottom. The set, like the previous, is made up of 92% polyester and 8% spandex to sit comfortably on the skin and keep you warm against cold air temperatures.
Moisture and sweat aren’t an issue in these thermal base layers as the fabric is breathable and absorbent, perfect for wearing under your cold-weather paddling clothes.
Your outer layer should consist of a jacket, preferably one with thermal and waterproof properties. It’s important to note that you may need to size up from your usual size, as you’ll most likely be wearing a few layers underneath while paddling.
The Columbia Woman’s Benton Fleece Jacket is a great paddling jacket for cold weather. Columbia designed the collared fleece out of 100% polyester for ultimate warmth and comfort.
A full zipper down the front makes the jacket easy to get on and off, and you can use two side pockets to store personal belongings securely.
The Wantdo Winter Thermal Jacket is made from a wind-resistant and waterproof fabric that will keep your body warm and dry while paddling.
As the jacket has a breathable fabric lining, it will remain ventilated without losing any of the valuable body heat inside. The high-cut collar and elastic cuffs prevent cold air from entering the jacket, and the zip down the front makes it easy to get on and off.
The jacket is equipped with a front chest zipper pocket and a large back pocket to keep your belongings safe.
While paddling, your hands are on the paddle shaft exposed to the elements, so it is essential to keep them warm. A thermal pair of gloves will keep the cold out and the heat in, allowing you to paddle for longer periods of time.
The first pair of suitable paddling gloves are the OMGear Neoprene Gloves that are made from 5mm of quality neoprene material. Neoprene works well in keeping your hands warm even when the water temperature is low, so it’s an excellent paddling glove option for when you could be exposed to very cold water.
To improve the grip on your paddle, OMGear added an anti-slip rubber palm that will prevent the paddle from falling from your hand, even when wet. The elastic strap around the wrist allows the wearer to customize the size to their particular hand, trapping in the heat and stopping the water from entering.
The second pair of winter paddling gloves on our list is the XUKER Wetsuit Winter Gloves that were created from neoprene and glued bind stitching.
As XUKER designed the gloves to be diving gloves, they offer up a high level of cold water protection and will keep your hands warm in even the coldest climates. Anti-slip rubber on the palms will aid in paddle grip, and the adjustable wrist closure ensures minimal water entry.
As we mentioned before, heat escapes from your head and your feet, so it is crucial to keep your feet warm during your paddle. Your feet will be getting wet throughout your trip, so investing in a pair of neoprene boots will make all the difference.
The Cressi Neoprene Anti-Slip Boots are an ideal candidate for paddling boots as they are made out of 3mm of neoprene and have an anti-slip stole to help you remain on your board.
For added strength and durability, Cressi designed the boots with a rubber heel and toe cap as well as a zip down the side for getting them on and off.
Neo Sports Wetsuit Boots come in a 3 mm, 5mm, or 7mm thick neoprene material, with the 7mm being specifically designed for cold water paddling.
The boots have heavy-duty side zippers and a puncture-resistant sole.
Regardless of whether you’re paddling in cold or warm weather temperatures, wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) is a must. Not only do they save your life in an emergency, but they can also add an extra layer of warmth to your paddling outfit.
We’ve mentioned two of the best PFD’s below, but we’ve also gone into more detail over on Best Life Jackets: A Buyers Guide to PFDs in 2022
The Sterns Adult Classic Life Vest is a simple jacket made from a 200D nylon shell and a lightweight PE flotation foam.
Stern designed the vest with large armholes and four adjustable buckles, so the wearer has optimal movement for things like paddling.
The second jacket on our list is slightly different from the first as it has a more open design. Onyx created the MoveVent Paddle Life Vest to have a lower mesh back and comfortable neoprene shoulder pads.
Onyx also included extra features like zippered pockets, a whistle, and reflective material.
A towel may be something you forget when packing up your SUP gear before a cold water paddle. If you’re an experienced paddler, you may think it’s unnecessary as you most likely won’t end up in the water.
Although that is true, there is always a slight chance that falling in may happen, so it’s best to be prepared with a towel just in case. Hooded towels like the ones we are about to mention are a great option as you don’t need to worry about them falling down, leaving you hands-free and available to carry other SUP gear.
The Hiturbo Microfiber Wetsuit Towel is made from a fast-drying microfiber material that not only quickly dries you off after a paddle but also works as a changing room for when you’re getting in and out of your wetsuit.
Microfiber towels such as this one are extremely absorbent and compact, making them excellent travel towels and ideal for sports such as paddle boarding. The towel simply goes over your head and then clips into place with flexible side buttons.
The second towel poncho is made from a slightly thicker microfiber material that will dry you off quickly and keep you warm.
Winthome’s Surf Poncho was designed to be oversized specifically to make changes in public areas a breeze. They created the poncho to be lightweight and compact, yet thick and durable, perfect for watersports and traveling.
Layers. Layers are the key to paddling in cold weather. We recommended wearing thermal underlayers, topped with a wetsuit or drysuit of your choice. Cold weather paddling usually calls for a wetsuit 4/3mm or more—the thicker the wetsuit, the better.
On top of your wetsuit or drysuit, you can wear a windproof and waterproof jacket, and waterproof pants if you so wish.
A hat, gloves, and boots are all essential bits of kits as heat rapidly escapes from your head and feet, plus no one likes having cold hands.
Finally, top it off with a PFD to not only keep you safe but as an extra layer of warmth.
Due to the colder weather in winter, paddle boarding requires a few added layers to keep you warm and comfortable out on the water.
To paddle board in winter, you’ll need:
If you’re heading out in cold and wet conditions, we recommend layering up with thermals, a wetsuit or drysuit, a jacket, a warm hat, gloves, and boots.
In our opinion, using a drysuit for wet daytime conditions is highly recommended as the drysuit works as a shell to keep water out. With that being said, drysuits aren’t designed for warmth, so you’ll need to layer up underneath.
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