Thursday, April 02, 2015

Pogies vs. Gloves for Coldwater Paddling

I've had some discussion (argument) recently with a knowledgeable fellow about wearing pogies versus gloves while cold-water paddling. The other fellow dismissed pogies as not adequate and argued that gloves are better because they keep your hands warm if you end up in the water, a valid point. Pogies are attached to the paddle shaft and if I swim, I'll have to take my hands out to perform the rescue and now have bare hands. The argument goes that you should always have something on your hands. 

Here's the thing, for me at least, gloves don't work. I have thick neoprene gloves and I'd much rather wear the pogies (mine are NRS Mambas). In the gloves, my hands get wet and cold. Once cold they will stay cold. Further, have you ever tried to do anything wearing thick neoprene gloves? It's hard. Grabbing deck lines is hard. Performing any sort of task is difficult, even when the hands are warm. Once you have cold hands in cold neoprene, they become practically useless for hanging onto anything smaller than a paddle shaft. 

By contrast the pogies act like a good set of warm mitts. My hands are toasty warm even when wet. I can pull the pogies off, perform some task with bare hands, and get them back in the pogies fairly quickly to re-warm or perhaps before they get cold. And my hands do re-warm in the pogies. In a rescue situation I now start out with warm dexterous hands, can get myself back in the kayak with a minimum of trouble, and get my hands back on the paddle shaft and back into the pogies. Gloves slow my rescues and keep me in the water longer. 

For me & my large hands, pogies + thin gloves does not work well since my pogies fit snug enough to make getting them on with gloves tough - and they do need to fit properly. However this may be a good option for some people. 

I should note that I do bring gloves with me when I cold-water paddle, and I keep them accessible. 

Whatever you do there is one major point that I would like to make - MAKE SURE IT WORKS FOR YOU. Try different combinations. Practice your rescues in the conditions you paddle. It's one thing to conclude that something works, but you have to ensure it still works when the sh!t hits the fan. Go for a swim then make sure you can still use your hands.

Going for an icy swim close to shore is a good way to verify that your clothing system actually works, without getting in over your head. If it passes this test with a few minutes in the water, move on to rescues to ensure that you can still help yourself. 

I enjoy paddling in conditions that many call "crazy", but I won't do it with the deck stacked against me. I paddle what might be considered dangerous conditions, in a very safe manner.