clothing for cold water immersions.^

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Joyce
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clothing for cold water immersions.^

Post by Joyce » Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:32 pm

Sorry but its this old chestnut yet again. Recently one of my friends capsized about half mile off shore and was unable to get back in by assisted rescue. He was towed to shore holding on to the back of a mates sea kayak. It was a three day trip with warmish air temperatures although that day was miserable, wet, no sun. He was wearing usual kayak specific layers topped by a cag but no wet or drysuit and was VERY cold by the time he reached land. I myself in those type of conditions would find wearing a dry suit far too hot (boil in the bag) but also because of abdominal surgery just cannot wear a wet suit. So what other clothing options/combinations are left for sudden cold water immersions in warm air temperatures which keep the wearer reasonably comfortable albeit wet to varying degrees. Often fit dictates unfortunately that one piece garments are impractable. Many thanks, Frank.

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Jim
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Jim » Thu Aug 12, 2010 12:31 am

You can get separate dry trousers and cags which sort of join in the middle (the seals overlap). Not a perfect solution but offers some flexibility - particularly the option to remove the top and adjust base layers as the weather changes.

To be honest, knowing how the weather can vary considerably in this country I would always take my drysuit along and would probably wear it on a day such as you described. Yes it's more stuff to pack but I do take having the appropriate kit quite seriously. A few years ago we set out on a fine day, as we approached our final destination it cooled down and with a little splashing I was just starting to feel a little cool when we landed and started unpacking. We then received a mayday about a kayaker in trouble near out location, 2 of my party launched and joined the SAR - I did have my drysuit with me but did not have time to put it on (they were not going to wait around) so did not get back on, but set up camp and monitored the VHF for news. Had we been travelling further I would have landed and changed. Similarly on a Jura trip we had to wait until around 4pm for the tide, so set off in the late afternoon sun. This time I had my drysuit on but the top rolled down, when the time came we stopped ashore briefly for a snack and I put the drysuit on fully because it would be after dusk when we landed again and getting cool.

There are always options, just need to get inventive with how you use your kit and organise your group/trip.

I am perhaps overconfident, but I do feel that in conditions where there is a chance I will capsize, the wind is probably up enough that I will put the drysuit on no matter how sunny it is. I guess if I was likely to capsize in less severe conditions I would have trouble deciding too.

Jim

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gasserra
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by gasserra » Thu Aug 12, 2010 1:49 am

I'm not sure that I agree with your concerns about being too hot in a dry suit. I've found that drysuits (specifically Goretex or other breathable fabric) offer the greatest flexibility in terms of the conditions to be managed. The drysuit itself affords no thermal protection--it just keeps you dry. The thermal protection comes from the insulating layers you wear beneath it--and you can select those over a wide range, from a thin polypro layer to thick wool or fleece.

The venue in which I often paddle--the Chesapeake Bay--offers a much greater span of water and air temperatures than is typical in the sea off Britain. In winter, the water temp goes down to freezing. Water temps of 1-5 deg C are typical. In summer, the water temps rise to 26-29 deg C. Air temps don't necessarily match. In early spring, you can have water temps of around 4-5 deg C with air temps of 17-20 deg C. In late autumn, you can have water temps of 18-20 deg C with air temps of 5-10 deg C.

The most difficult conditions from a clothing standpoint are those when the air is hot and the water very cold, typically in early to mid spring. By varying the insulation underneath, I find that a drysuit works in air temps as high as 21 deg C. For situations in which the water is much colder than the air, I keep an insulated storm hood in my buoyancy aid pocket or over my head but pulled down. If I end up in the water, I pull it on before I get too cold. If I get too hot, I just roll or take a dunk while supported off the bow of one of my partners.

I've found that a wetsuit (mine is 3mm thick), though good in water temps of 11-17 deg C, offers a lot less comfort when the air is warmer, and has less adaptability to specific conditions.

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Jurassic
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Jurassic » Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:39 am

What about wearing Reed Aquatherm as a base layer under your cag etc? I was thinking of going down this route for summer paddling. The combination of the pre-bent shorts and vest top would give some protection in the event of a swim but would be more convenient, less sweaty and easier for pee stops than the short john wetsuit I currently wear. You could also hide the Reed kit under normal outdoorsy clothing if the "gimpwear" look bothers you. Just a thought.

Bards
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Bards » Thu Aug 12, 2010 12:22 pm

I wear an old 5mm wetsuit I cut off at the navel for my bottom half; not sure if that is surgery-compatible, but it's not too hot under the deck in summer, nor too cold when immersed in water down to about 4 or 5 degrees.... That keeps things flexible, and on top I wear a Reed Aquatherm cag, with generally a good thermal full-sleeve rash vest (West) underneath, with added merino wool or additional tech layers which will retain warmth if needed. I always keep a neoprene skull cap (C-Skins) handy in the cockpit in case I or anyone else needs it, as the windchill on an exposed loaf can get quite silly. Oh, and Reed aquatherm socks or 5mm neoprene surf boots down at the bottom depending on temperature/footrests/deck height...
That combo works for me in terms of comfort, flexibility and budget (the Reed cag was a cheap 2nd hand job), but I should point out that local waters round here only rarely get down below 4.5, so I'm happy to accept that in some areas of UK it might get a bit ill-advised if things get really challenging...

Hope that helps,

Bards

Ken_T
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Ken_T » Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:00 pm

Hi,
If the route contained exposed headlands, open crossings etc I would be a bit concerened about not being successful performing a deep water rescue as you could end up performing a very long carry on the deck of your boat.
Ken

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MikeB
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by MikeB » Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:48 pm

Glad to hear it ended well - as regards suitable kit, it's always hard to know what's best to wear for any set of given conditions and I'm one of those who has a dislike of wearing a full drysuit in summer conditions - that "boil in the bag" feeling has a certain resonance!

The theory says "dress for immersion" - but realisitcally, wearing a full dry suit and appropriate insulation does get a bit much in the summer. That said, even 15 to 20 mins in the water in the summer is enough to get very unpleasant, even at this time of year.

My personal preference is now towards the sallys and semi-dry cag combination in summer - and the drysuit option at other times. Kokatat kit provides the option to link sallys and cag into what is essentially a dry cag, and the new Palm kit I've just bought seems to do likewise. That said, an open-necked cag IS going to let a lot of water in around the body if the neck hasn't been sealed before a swim.

It's certainly important to have some insulation under the kit, and ordinary fleece does have a nasty disadvantage in that it holds water when it's wet.

I'm wondering why the re-entry failed? Was it the conditions?

Mike

Bards
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Bards » Thu Aug 12, 2010 5:37 pm

Oh, I should have added that the one thing not covered by my clobber is my mitts - and on my last extended immersion that did indeed prove to be a potentially costly oversight...a bad situation plus reduced hand ability could all lead in the wrong direction, and not help with the rescuer's concerns by any means. I now carry them in the cockpit so if I'm going to be in the soup for a while (planned or otherwise) I'll still have helpful dexterity if I get the things on... I still can't face paddling in gloves, though....ditto with the skull cap... but they are an essential piece of immersion safety kit IMO

CONTADOR
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by CONTADOR » Thu Aug 12, 2010 5:40 pm

Disagree mate. Reduced dexterity in your hands is caused by your core getting cold and your body withdrawing blood supply to your extremities. having gloves isn't going to help with that really.

Bards
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Bards » Thu Aug 12, 2010 5:52 pm

In part that is of course the case where general hypothermia creeps in (which in can do at the extremeties soon enough), however I have certainly had it without any core temp issues; several times when surfing in a nice, toastie 5mm pukka suit but with my bare hands belonging to another being altogether. I also used to work on fishing boats; many occasions when I was properly warm from the work, but repeated/prolonged immersion in cold water and wind chill had taken away my hands to the point where I seriously had to use two hands to turn the key in the car door. We're all different in response to thermal issues (not everyone's internal thermal regulator is the same, for one thing), but that's my experience...
Actually I think the semi-constricting nature of wrist seals also makes the hands likely victims of reduced blood flow (i.e. human central heating!), too, which can exacerbate things... though these are only my impressions, I don't claim any proper medical knowledge!!!

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Jurassic
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Jurassic » Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:18 pm

I'm with Bards on this one (although I acknowledge that Contadors theory is sound). I regularly windsurf in air temperatures just above freezing during the Scottish winter (we don't let some cold weather get in the way of good sailing conditions) and I never feel cold other than my hands which turn rapidly into useless pieces of meat for any task requiring even slight dexterity. Ironically submerging them in the water and getting them out of the wind chill actually helps in these kind of conditions. Hands usually start to come back to life after about twenty minutes of sailing and after enduring the "hot aches" (winter climbers will be familiar with this sensation) I can usually function reasonably well again. Wearing gloves isn't an option as it encourages horrendous forearm pump.

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Jim
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Jim » Thu Aug 12, 2010 9:23 pm

Have you considered that the reason you stay nice and warm is that your body has diverted blood from your limbs to keep the rest of you warm?

I totally agree that feeling in your hands can be lost long before your core temperature is critical and those of us with poor circulation/tight seals will lose it quicker. There are other aspects such as wind chill, which I find is the predominant factor.

The bottom line is, if wearing pogies or mitts keeps your hands warm, then there must be blood getting there, you were just experiencing the effects of evaporation. If wearing them doesn't help, then you are heading for hypothermia, although probably a long way off. I often put pogies on when it gets windy and my hands stay warm.

Interestingly I can wear gloves when kite surfing, although all windsurfers report report forearm pump (and arthritis later in life).

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Kate D
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Kate D » Thu Aug 12, 2010 9:27 pm

Suggest that your friend spends his/her money on some rescue training instead of some fancy new gear. I find it hard to comprehend that a half mile tow/swim was required instead of assisting the swimmer back into the boat. There are many different ways of getting someone back into the boat even if the person is injured.

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MikeB
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by MikeB » Thu Aug 12, 2010 9:38 pm

As regards "hands", I find gloves unhelpful and rely on pogies when the conditions are cold - it's wind-chill that makes your hands cold. I've yet to find any gloves which give me enough tactile sensation to allow me to paddle properly and anything which is enough to keep my hands warm(ish) are way too clumsy - especially if trying to deal with a personal re-entry.

Without knowing all the details, it's hard to commentn meaningfully, but in principle I'd echo Kate D's comment about personal skills - both for the rescuer and the person needing rescue.

A pal of mine had an epic some years ago and spent rather a lot of money on personal communication and location kit after it. My (personal) view is that the money would have been better spent on getting some formal training, but that wasn't something which seemed to have been considered. Had it been, then (arguably) the epic would have been less epic.

I really do like to know that the people I paddle with know how to sort things out when they've gone all horribly pear-shaped.

Mike.

Scots_Charles_River
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Re: clothing for cold water immersions.

Post by Scots_Charles_River » Thu Aug 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Kate D wrote:Suggest that your friend spends his/her money on some rescue training instead of some fancy new gear. I find it hard to comprehend that a half mile tow/swim was required instead of assisting the swimmer back into the boat. There are many different ways of getting someone back into the boat even if the person is injured.
Agreed, even doing the FSRT gives you the basics. Using a sling around cockpits etc as stirrups, lots of tricks to help get someone in a boat.

Most clubs have a wet session at the first club meet of the year, waist deep water etc for practicing in a controlled environment.

Be safe.

Nick

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