Neoprene is a great choice of material for kayaking apparel such as wetsuits, gloves, boots, and pogies.
Even if you are not an avid kayaker, or into any kind of water sports, chances are that you are somewhat familiar with the synthetic rubber known as neoprene. There are many products made from neoprene that touch our daily lives, including bags, shoulder straps, cushions, and even mouse pads. However, if you have a particular interest in watersports such as scuba diving or kayaking, neoprene takes on additional significance.
Kayakers and divers alike often rely on neoprene wetsuits, boots, and gloves. For example, a kayaker may wear a wetsuit in order to protect himself or herself from from cold water temperatures. Even though kayakers are normally out of the water while kayaking, a wetsuit can keep the kayaker safe in case of capsize. Also, some kayakers like to practice rolling, which is a maneuver that can be used to upright a capsized kayak. Kayakers may be submerged in cold water repeatedly when practicing rolling, so a wetsuit or other exposure protection is crucial.
A neoprene wetsuit works by trapping a thin layer of water between the inner surface of the wetsuit and the skin of the wearer. Since only a thin layer of water is trapped, it does not move easily and is quickly warmed by the person’s body heat. Neoprene is a great material for making wetsuits because it is flexible so that it conforms to the wearer’s skin, for example, around the wrists and ankles where water might otherwise get in. Neoprene also does not allow water to pass through it easily. Thus, the thin layer of water remains relatively trapped inside the wetsuit. Even though the goal of a wetsuit is to keep the layer of water mostly trapped, neoprene wetsuits still do let water in, especially if the person wearing the wetsuit is moving around while submerged in the water. If the water is cold, water flowing into the wetsuit can usually be felt as a chill.
Kayakers also benefit from using neoprene boots, gloves, and pogies. Neoprene boots are useful even if the water is not cold because they can protect the feet from sharp rocks and shells. For instance, when a paddler is launching his or her kayak, he or she may have to wade in the water while guiding the kayak away from the shore. Neoprene is an excellent choice of material for kayaking footwear because it is waterproof, durable, and has excellent insulating properties. Neoprene gloves and pogies are used for keeping a kayaker’s hands warm while paddling. Paddling gloves are often made from more comfortable materials than neoprene, but neoprene is still a safe bet if the water is extra cold. Pogies are more like mittens than gloves, and can be described as a flexible covering for the hands that also accommodates the paddle shaft. This allows the kayaker’s hands to stay covered while the hands keep a direct grip on the paddle.
So if you are headed out onto the cold water on your kayak this weekend, squeeze into your wetsuit, put on your gloves, and remember how much you appreciate being encased in neoprene.
Thanks to Larry Kane!!