How Cold is Too Cold to Kayak? Drawbacks – 2022

When it comes to kayaking, there is a general consensus that the colder the weather, the more challenging it becomes. So, how cold is too cold to kayak?

To answer this question, we’ll need to take a look at some different factors – like temperature and wind chill – as well as your own personal comfort level. 

Keep in mind that there is no definitive answer; it’s all relative but an average 60 F/15 C may too cold. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at just how cold it needs to be before you should consider staying off the water.

Dangers of Kayaking in Cold Weather Conditions

There are many dangers associated with kayaking in cold weather conditions. Here’s a list of some of them:

Cold water immersion:

If your kayak capsizes in cold water, you will lose heat approximately 25 times faster than if you were in still water. In cold conditions, you can die from hypothermia within two hours of being submerged in 32-degree Fahrenheit/0-degree Celsius water.

Beach or Ice Damage: 

If waves push your kayak into a beach or ice at high speeds, you can sustain serious injuries like crushed fingers.


Your fingers and toes are more susceptible to frostbite when you’re in cold water; this is because your body will send blood away from your extremities to keep your vital organs warm. When this happens, the area of your body that’s farthest away from your heart will lose its oxygen supply and freeze.

Extreme Weather Conditions:

 When the temperature is extremely cold, wet or windy, you’ll be at an increased risk of hypothermia. If it’s windy outside, choose a day with calm winds to prevent additional challenges like waves that can push your kayak into objects like rocks or the shore.

How Cold is Too Cold to Kayak?

Here are some guidelines to help you decide if it’s too cold to kayak:

  • If the average low temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit/0 Celsius or less, do not go out if there is snow on the ground or mixed in with rain.
  • If you’ll be in open water without protection from wind and waves, wait until after the water has frozen over.
  • If you’ll be exposed to wind, wait until the air temperature is at least 5 degrees Celsius/41 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the water.
  • If you’re on calm water with no wind, wear a wetsuit or drysuit to maintain body heat.
  • When it comes to kayaking in cold weather conditions, the most important thing is to dress appropriately for the weather. You should always carry an extra layer of clothing and your cell phone or VHF radio so you can call for help if needed.
  • You need to know your limits. If you’re new to kayaking, wait until the water is warmer before taking it out on the open water.  It’s also especially important to keep pets off the ice because they tend to overestimate their abilities and become stranded or injured as a result of remaining on the ice past the point of safety.

So, That’s a question with no one-size-fits-all answer because everyone has different tolerance levels and abilities. If your body is telling you that it’s too cold, listen! Why risk hypothermia and frostbite when you can go out on calmer waters on a warmer day? At the end of the day, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

How to Dress for Kayaking In Cold Weather Conditions

What you wear is one of the most important factors when it comes to staying warm and avoiding hypothermia. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Wear synthetic or wool fabrics, which will keep you warm even when they get wet; avoid cotton because it will make you feel colder when it’s wet and cause you to freeze faster.
  • Wear a thin base layer next to your skin (like underwear). We recommend Merino wool because it’s warm even when it’s wet.
  • Wear a thick mid layer for insulation. The best option is fleece because it’s lightweight, easy to put on over your other layers, and traps air to keep you warm.
  • Put on a thin, waterproof shell layer. For the best protection from rain and wind, look for an outer membrane (like Gore-Tex) that is both breathable and waterproof.
  • Wear layered clothing to help trap body heat; choose wicking layers next to your skin and insulating layers on top of those.  This will keep you dry and warm.

Safety Tips For Cold Weather Kayaking 

It’s important to remember that hypothermia doesn’t happen instantly, although it can seem that way. It usually occurs after prolonged exposure to the cold and getting very cold over a short period of time (like falling through thin ice). 

Here are some tips to help you stay safe when kayaking in cold water:

  • Make sure someone knows where you’re going and when to expect you back. If something happens, they’ll know where to start looking.
  • Wear a life jacket at all times. It’s no guarantee that you won’t drown but it increases your chances of being found if something does happen.
  • Carry a VHF radio or cell phone so you can call for help if needed. Remember to bring extra batteries too!
  • Wear a wetsuit, drysuit, or other items that will protect your skin from sunburn and jellyfish stings; also consider wearing gloves if it’s very cold out. Another option is to install a marine radio in your kayak with an antenna for emergencies.


Now you know how cold it is to kayak, and how to dress for kayaking in cold weather conditions! Remember that every person has a different tolerance level when it comes to the cold; make sure you know your limits and take appropriate safety precautions before going out in frigid water.

In the end, we hope that now you are well aware of ​​how cold is too cold to kayak along with the benefits and drawbacks.


At what point does hypothermia set in?

Hypothermia can occur after prolonged exposure to the cold, but it often occurs suddenly after falling through thin ice. This happens quickly because you’re no longer surrounded by the warm water below the ice; instead, your body temperature drops rapidly as you’re submerged in much colder water.

How does wind chill factor into how cold it is?

Wind chill is a measure of what the temperature “feels like” when factoring in the effects of wind. For instance, if it’s 35 degrees F outside but the wind makes it feel like 20 degrees F, you have to dress accordingly to avoid hypothermia.

Can you kayak in winter?

Yes, you can kayak in the winter! But first, make sure to dress properly for kayaking in cold weather conditions and be aware of how long you’ll be outside for. Remember that it’s best to avoid traveling too far from shore if there’s a possibility of falling through thin ice.

What temp is good for kayaking?

The ideal temperature for kayaking is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, some people prefer to kayak in cooler temperatures, and others find that they enjoy kayaking in warmer weather. Ultimately, the best temperature for kayaking is whichever temperature you feel most comfortable paddling in.

Why do your hands get cold even if you wear gloves?

Your hands can “feel” colder than other parts of your body because the skin on your hands is much thinner. In fact, that’s why surgeons scrub up with antiseptic soap before performing surgery – they don’t want their hands to accidentally freeze onto a patient!

How does cold water affect your muscles?

Cold water immersion can cause muscle spasms and cramping. But if you’re prepared with the right gear, your chances of staying safe while kayaking in cold weather are much higher.

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