There are many ways to stay warm on the river. Here's how:
Firstly, there’s no way around it… If you don’t have a drysuit, or your drysuit is old and more of a very-semi-drysuit at this point, you’ve got to get a new one. I personally (stubbornly) stay away from drysuits most of the season as a rafter, but there is a time and place for them, and it’s spring boating.
Rafters don’t typically need the best-of-the-best quality suits, as rafters end up in the water a whole lot less than small crafters. A suit like the NRS Crux or the Level Six Odin is perfect for rafting, and a great balance of features and price point. If you want to go full-send, pick up a Kokatat Gore-Tex Idol Drysuit. The practical “switch-zip” entry system on the Idol tends to be favored by rafters because it’s easy to take part of the suit off for long sections of flatwater.
Kayakers often wear drytops for most seasons of the year.. But, there's a caveat here, especially in the colder months. As a kayaker you may need to wade out into the river to help a friend in need, so get a drysuit!
Most people have their own favorite layers to wear under a drysuit, many of which are also baselayers for winter sports. If you forget to zip your suit up all the way (which happens more than you might think to experienced boaters), or you profusely sweat, your clothes are going to be all wet when you take your suit off and those might be the layers you intended to wear while at camp for the night.
|Do yourself a favor and invest in a one piece fleece, like the Level Six Hot Fuzz Unisuit. Keeping your paddling layers separate from your camp layers will ensure that your night of spring camping doesn’t get ruined by your day of spring paddling!|
A drysuit will have you covered from your wrists to your neck, but your hands and head can still get pretty darn cold after even a short swim in spring runoff. Invest in a pair of gloves that will insulate your hands when wet, but aren’t too bulky that you lose dexterity with your oar handles or T-grip. I’m personally a fan of the Level Six Proton Glove as I feel it adds a lot of warmth but maintains its grip better than other options out there when they’re wet.
Pogies are popular among kayakers, as these attach to your paddle and allow you to slide your hand inside a warm neoprene pocket. Pogies have the advantage of allowing you to still feel your paddle with your bare hands which many paddlers think makes for a better feel than gloves. This also gives you more dexterity over gloves. For pogies, we like the boxy shape and neoprene wrist enclosure featured on the Immersion Research Microwave Pogies.
I also would invest in a liner like the Shred Ready Helmet Liner to keep your head warm. You probably won’t end up using it all that much as a rafter but for $20 it’s worth keeping close at hand, especially if it starts raining and your hooded jacket isn’t as accessible as you’d hoped.