The phrase, commonly misattributed to British author Alfred Wainwright, rhymes in both Swedish and Norwegian so my guess is it originates in Scandinavia but they can fight amongst themselves for credit – the author is lost to posterity.
Our propensity to ponder the meaning of life means we are susceptible to cold in extreme conditions since one third of our body’s heat is lost through our oversized head.
The human head is huge relative to its body size when compared for example to the seal, which can remain smugly warm for extended periods in waters close to freezing. A balaclava, beanie or neoprene hood all work well in insulating head heat and a cagoule hood will keep the lot dry. Some 40% of the body’s heat is lost here and a wet cold head is a fast route to hyperthermia. In the summer a sun hat should be used to reduce the damaging effects of the sun and the risk dehydration.
A sea kayak cagoule comes in many guises and its purpose is to keep the wind out which keeps wind chill down. In doing so they also keep the water out and, to double ensure of this, they often also have taped seams. A good quality sea kayak cagoule is made from Gortex to allow the kayaker’s skin to breath whilst also having a latex neck seal and wrist seals to keep water from entering.
A spray deck is essential in keeping the sea from entering a kayak. In cooler months a neoprene spray deck will keep the heat in the boat and, in summer months, the use of a neoprene spray deck will reduce temperatures through the cooling effect of evaporation. A neoprene spray deck enables a sea kayaker to roll in the eventuality of capsize by keeping water out of the boat. Nylon spray decks are cheaper but they can collect water puddles at sea and can be ripped off by waves.
Gloves are important to the kayaker. In summer a simple pair of fingerless sailing gloves work well in minimising the chances of getting blisters and they also keep hands cool as they retain evaporating water for long periods. In winter neoprene pogues are the only real way to keep hands warm. These are wetsuit mittens secured to the paddle shaft, similar to those attached to a pizza delivery scooter’s handlebars.
I prefer to wear a wetsuit under my cagoule so, if I want to swim, I can. Importantly it is a free dive wetsuit, which comes in two halves. This means that I can wear just the bottoms allowing me to get in and out of the kayak with water to my waist and still remain warm and dry. It also means, if nature calls, I can easily answer.
Neoprene boots with rubber soles, otherwise known as booties, or neoprene socks with trainers are best as they allow the sea kayaker to get in and out of the boat in water and on rocky shores whilst keeping feet dry.
Wet feet dry out slowly inside a kayak and, all the while, sap heat from the body.