Published Jun 24. 2018 - 4 years ago
Updated or edited Jun 24. 2018

Staying warm in cold water

Glazed waders
Glazed waders
Global FlyFisher

It might not be freezing right now, but the water can still be very cold, even during a northern hemisphere summer.

The main issue to observe if you want to stay warm during the cold season is not as much insulation as it is moisture.
If you can avoid getting moist close to the skin, your are almost sure to stay warm.
The dryness is obtained by using garments, which transports the moisture away from your body and out to the outer layers of your clothing--and ideally away from there through a breathable membrane. And I do write layers because it is important that you have more than one--especially in cold weather.

Proper dressing for cold weather should be something like:

  • A layer of thin, sweat transporting underwear. These are specially made, high tech synthetic garments, and the single most important part of staying warm. Forget cotton, which suck up moisture. Wool can do as it stays warm when wet, but the modern high tech fibers are the best.
  • Second layer is insulation. This will typically be a layer of synthetic fleece, but other materials can do. Make sure you select a non-compressible garment, which will not flatten under the preasure of water, vest or a backpack. This layer is also recommended to be non-absorbent, but is not quite as critical as the underwear. The most important aspect is air.
  • The third layer is usually the outer layer, and is ideally a breathable, waterproof garment such as a high tech jacket or a pair of breathable waders. Totally waterproof layers will work, but will trap the moisture, which has evaporated from the body, potentially causing heat loss.

Opposite what most people think, the new breathable waders are not primarily for summer use. During the cold season they help you stay dry, and by that help you stay warm. Wear an extra layer of insulation in stead, and keep the breathables on during the winter.

They work!

First published: 
Jul 8. 2004

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