How to Paddle In The Fall

With September half past and the weather getting colder, now is the perfect time to consider your fall padding opportunities.

Though summer is often thought of as the time to get out on the water, autumn offers great opportunities to extend your paddling season by a few more weeks. Additionally, the changing leaves offer beautiful views of scenery, crowds have dispersed along busy routes, and the bugs have finally kicked it. Combine this with strong sunshine and water that is still fairly warm, and it's easy to see why fall can be one of the best times to be out on the water.

Planning on some fall kayaking or canoeing? There are a few things you may want to consider:

Paddle Wear
Your number one change from summer paddling will be to dress appropriately. Though fall days can be warm, cool winds and paddling damp makes it easy to get chilled. Dress in layers to protect against chill and ensure you can enjoy a full day's paddle. The ideal cold-weather paddle outfit should include:

  • Insulating top and pants of fleece or wool.  The weight of these items can be varied according to the water and air temperature.
  • Drysuit or Dry top and pants
  • Paddling gloves
  • Socks or booties
  • Paddling headwear

For your gloves, booties and headwear, thick neoprene is best and will insulate even when wet.  The combination of insulation and wind/water protection should keep you warm in most situations. Don't neglect a good pair of paddling gloves.  Even if your trip is spill- and roll-free your hands will get wet, and it's important to keep your extremities warm and limber throughout the paddle.

Dry Clothes
In these cooler months it is also doubly important that you have warm, dry clothes for the trip home or your campsite. Neither you nor your gear will dry out as quickly as they did in the summer, and it's important not to let yourself get chilled.

When planning fall excursions remember that declining hours of sunlight may require shorter paddling days. Keep an eye on your remaining sunlight so you don't get caught out in the dark. A good rule of thumb is to hold your arm outstretched with your fist between the sun and the horizon. Each knuckle represents approximately 15 minutes before sundown, and each full fist an hour. After sunset you can expect another 20-30 minutes of usable light. Make sure to bring flashlights and headlamps for camping or packing up your gear.

There's no need to pack in your paddles just yet. Though the weather is cooler, we still have weeks of good kayaking and canoeing weather available. As long as you dress and plan appropriately, the fall season presents an excellent opportunity to see your favourite routes in a new light, unbothered by summer tourists or bugs.

Happy paddling!

Photo via Let Ideas Compete on Flickr