Fall Paddling - Be Prepared and Don't Go It Alone

Suit up well for autumn paddling. Photo by Trip Kinney.

Foliage season, bird migrations and the serenity of a near empty lake all beckon the fall paddler. It can be a wonderful time to be on the water – if you’re well prepared. The cooler fall temperatures require a wet suit or dry suit. Any time the combined air and water temperatures are less than 120 degrees F, you should wear this extra gear under your Personal Flotation Device (PFD). You’ll also need lots of fuel to maintain your core temperature and reinvigorate tired muscles so be sure to bring lots of water and carbohydrate-rich snacks with you. Be cautious about heading out and make sure you, your boat and your group are properly equipped:

  • Plan your trip ahead of time and make sure it matches the mental and physical skill set of your entire party.
  • Leave your itinerary with a responsible onshore contact.
  • Be aware of the wind, water and weather conditions before you depart.
  • Bring a weather radio or VHF with you, check the weather forecast repeatedly, and adjust your travel plans accordingly.
  • Always wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD). Nine out of ten drownings occur in inland waters, most within a few feet of safety. Most of the victims owned PFDs but died without them. A properly fitted, buoyant PFD can save your life, only if you wear it.
  • Wear a wetsuit or drysuit with an insulating layer and a hat that stays put. Dress for the season in layers of synthetic fabric to prevent getting overheated and chilled from perspiration or water.
  • Pack extra dry clothing in a sealed bag.
  • Test your gear in advance in a controlled cold water environment to learn how much protection it provides.
  • Paddle near to shore and near others who can help you in the event of capsize.
  • Make sure you have the skills to travel to and from shore and shelter.
  • Ensure that everyone in your paddling party knows the signs and symptoms of hypothermia before you set out.
  • Stay aware of all boat traffic.
  • Fuel your body with high carbohydrate foods and lots of water.  

We love to hear about our members’ outings! Please send pictures and tales from the water to: lcc@lakechamplaincommittee.org.