These are the things you need to bring along yourself.
First thing’s first – A change of clothes. Canoeing is inherently a wet activity, however good your intentions accidents happen. Wet clothing is cold, cold is bad. Having something to change into straight away is definitely a good thing. Along with the change of clothes usually goes a towel, unless you are an exhibitionist with love of slightly damp clothing.
Secondly there are a few things that it pays to remember about the clothing you are going to be wearing whilst on the water. First rule is no cotton. Cotton soaks up water, becomes very heavy, sticky and cold. Jeans are particularly bad but generally cotton is best avoided. Wool is fine and responds a lot better when wet. Synthetics are better still. For your first time out, if you can’t find anything with no cotton don’t worry too much, just as little (cotton) as possible and not jeans.
As for shoes, trainers are not at all ideal but will probably suffice for a first time. Ideally look for shoes that don’t have laces (as there is a small chance that these could get caught inside the boat) if you are wearing laces then tuck the ends into your shoes to avoid them becoming an entrapment hazard.
What the club has for you to borrow
The club can provide all the equipment that you need to start canoeing.
You will also want to be wearing a cag. These are always called cags, it is short for cagoule, but no one says cagoule, as it is too close to anorak… The principle is the same though; it is a waterproof and wind proof outer shell. This has the obvious advantage of trying to keep you dry, and also does the very important job of keeping the wind off (wind chill, particularly combined with evaporating water, is a big problem when paddling). The club has cags that you can borrow which are suitable from starting off; so don’t worry about bringing one of these. However, you may wish to bring some waterproof over trousers to keep the drips off your legs.
Finally you need to be wearing a buoyancy aid (or BA). Sudden immersion in cold water can badly affect even the strongest swimmers. The club has buoyancy aids which can be borrowed.
This is sufficient for a first time out on the water. Obviously the amount of clothing you wear is determined by the weather if it is very hot and sunny you might want to reduce this as far as the extreme of shorts and a buoyancy aid. If it is cold and windy you may need several tops and pairs of trousers. The more you paddle the more you will begin to work out what is appropriate to the conditions. However always remember that even in the warmest sun the water is still cold, and if you have been working hard as well the effects of immersion could be worse. If you are unsure as someone for advice, there is rarely a shortage of opinions going around!
More Gear – Keeping Warm
Some of our keener members have been known to paddle long into the winter in their (cotton) T-shirt and shorts, however, in the interests of comfort and the avoidance of hypothermia you’ll probably want to get hold of some clothes to keep you a little warmer.
The first item on everyone’s list should be a thermal top. These are made from synthetic material (usually some variant on polypropylene) and are far better at keeping you warm than almost anything natural. Get a long sleeved top that’s close fitting.
The easiest way to stay warm when canoeing is to wear a wetsuit. Make sure you get a sleeveless design to keep your arms and shoulders free for paddling.
So you’re now really warm in your wetsuit except that your feet are freezing. A good pair of neoprene shoes or boots is essential for canoeing to keep your feet cold and protected from nasty things on the ground. Boots are warmer and protect your heel. It’s worth investing some time and money to get a good pair, as good footwear is essential if you’re scrambling over rocks with a heavy boat. Have a look at what the club’s coaches wear on their feet.
If you’re still getting cold, more thermals and layers of light, thin fleece or pile are the way to go – many thin layers are better than few thick ones, particularly when wet. The Salvation Army is a good bet for cheap fleeces.
A wetsuit is designed to keep you warm and wet. However, most people prefer to be warm and dry! Canoeists use waterproof jackets (referred to as ‘cags’) to keep off water and wind. The club cags are very basic, but will keep the wind chill away. Better cags (dry cags) have latex seals at the neck and arms to keep water out, even when you’re immersed.
You’ll probably keep the wetsuit on to keep your legs warm and provide insulation on the top half. However, most canoeists eventually buy a pair of dry trousers which combine with the cag to give a totally dry shell, under which thermals can be layered up to keep warmth in. We’re starting to get towards expensive gear now – by the time you get round to it, you’ll know what you want.
Buoyancy Aid – Keeps you afloat and provides more insulation. The club ones are perfectly fine. You might want to get your own when you find you really need a pocket. Consider getting one with a chest harness – if you don’t know what this is, ask.
Paddles – Club paddles are designed for durability not performance. They’re fine for learning the basics, but using a decent paddle, that’s the right size for you and isn’t different every session can make life so much easier.
Spraydeck – Keeps water out of the boat by fitting tightly around your waist and the edge of the boat’s cockpit. The club ones are quite good, but tend to acquire holes easily.
Boat – We’ve got lots of boats and some of them are modern, high performance designs. Try lots before you decide to buy one…
Suffice to say, there’s a lot more that you could buy, depending only on the size of your overdraft. However, the club provides plenty of kit to get you started, and people tend to naturally pick up stuff as they go…