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Cold water Safety-Immersion protection

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  • April 09, 2018 7:52 PM
    Reply # 6080522 on 6052921

    Air + water temperature formulas are misleading and potentially dangerous and should not be used as a "when to wear" guideline for thermal protection. Following the 120 air-water temperature formula as stated above would have a paddler skipping the thermal protection if the air temp was 80 and the water temp 45; or 75 air and 50 water; or 70 air and 55 water – all of which are very dangerous water temperatures for an unprotected immersion because they are in the maximum cold shock range.

    See the NCCWS section on Myths and Misconceptions / Air + Water Temperature Rule:

    Last modified: April 09, 2018 8:09 PM | Anonymous member
  • April 09, 2018 11:17 PM
    Reply # 6080824 on 6052921

    Skipping Thermal Protection or Selectively Dressing For The Water Temperature.

    A majority of the reasons that paddlers give for not dressing for the water temperature invoke some version of the bankrupt “Challenging Conditions” argument originally put forward decades ago by TASK, a trade association of sea kayak manufacturers and others with a financial interest in the growth of the sport. I address it in great detail in Anatomy of A Bad Decision, an article I wrote for Sea Kayaker Magazine in November, 2010. Here's the link:…/Anatomy%20of%20A%20Bad%20D…

    Another frequent reason that's given is fear of overheating, which is often expressed something like this: "If we dressed for the water temperature on a hot day, we'd be in danger of geting hyperthermia." *

    There’s an easy workaround for the overheating issue, which is to use evaporative cooling to offload excess heat. I personally roll to keep cool and also make sure that my hair is wet and the hat I wear is wet as well. If you can’t roll, you can achieve the same result by splashing water on yourself or using the assised dipping technique mentioned earlier in the thread.

    The goal is to maximize the amount of surface area on your clothing that's nice and wet. There are some variations on this depending on the type of thermal protection that you’re wearing, but the underlying concept of evaporation is the same for all of them.  If the surface of the neoprene wetsuit or the drysuit fabric doesn't absorb water, wearing a loose, long-sleeved cotton shirt over your wetsuit or drysuit is also a viable way to increase evaporation.

    Conversely, if you're wearing a wetsuit and standing on shore during a lunch break on a cool or cold day, particularly when there's a little breeze, you may need to put on something like raingear to cut the convection (windchill) and evaporation so that you don't get chilled.  An old paddling jacket or retired drytop also work well in this regard, and it doesn't matter if the jacket has a few smallish holes and the seals are mostly shot.  I always carry some large contractor garbage bags to led to fellow paddlers for this purpose.

    Learning to work with evaporative cooling takes practice, but it's well worth the effort.  Using evaporation to your advantage is a fundamental wilderness travel skill and it's also useful whenever you're working outdoors and concerned about overheating.

    *Although the term hyperthermia can refer to any core body temperature above the normal 99.6F, the term is often used synonymously with heat stroke - the most extreme (and generally fatal) heat-related medical problem that one can experience.  Heat stroke, however, is characterized by a core temp in excess of 106F.

    Last modified: April 10, 2018 12:07 AM | Anonymous member
  • April 09, 2018 11:59 PM
    Reply # 6080850 on 6052945
    Edward Miller wrote:

    Thanks again for all the replies on the email list.  I've decided to find a dry suit (don't want both that and a wet suit), boots, and gloves.  I have some neoprene gloves but I don't know if they would protect from the wind, once they get wet.  And I certainly don't have boots.  After all that I'll still most likely paddle in warm water!  


    Ed, some neo gloves shed water easily so that the surface stays pretty dry.  Other types absorb a lot of water and are therefore subject to more evaporative cooling.  Neo gloves that are also a tight fit can restrict circulation to the fingers and make it hard to keep them warm.  

    I have three sets of hand protection:  A lightweight pair of Stohlquist Warmers Kai Paddling Gloves which are 2mm stretch neoprene; a mediumweight pair of NRS Maverick gloves of regular 2mm neo; and a heavyweight pair of NRS Toaster Mitts - the ones a lot of my mates use on the Great Lakes in gnarly cold weather.  I can easily use the Warmers inside the Toaster Mitts so that I have some protection if I have to take the Mitts off.  

    I haven't had a problem with the Mavericks or Toasters in terms of evaporative cooling, but it definitely restricts my use of the Warmers - they're "mild conditions" gloves for me.

    With the exception of some rivers and lakes, few locations in the PNW have water temperatures high enough to safely skip protection – even in August.  

    Bear in mind that without protection, most people will experience maximum intensity cold shock if the water temperature is 50-60F. This is explained here:

    Even during the warmest part of summer, the average water temp never gets above:

    53F at Port Orford, OR

    54F at Port Townsend, WA

    56F at Newport, OR and Seattle, WA

    58F at Seaside, OR

    Source: NOAA – National Centers for Environmental Information


    Last modified: April 11, 2018 11:22 AM | Anonymous member
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