Cold Water Kayak Safety Tips

While some parts of the country may be ice fishing, Pennsylvania is experiencing a winter that is much warmer than last year. So far. The moving water of many streams and rivers will remain open even when the ponds and lakes freeze over with a foot of ice. This means there is still the opportunity for some fun kayak excursions, as long as cold water safety tips are followed:

1. Check the weather.  Cold water is enough. Best to avoid wind and rain/sleet too. 

2. Don’t go alone. It is tough to line up schedules and I love a solo kayak outing, but when the water gets cold there is safety in numbers. 

3. Let others know your plans. The Mrs., a neighbor, or a friend should know where you are going, your estimated return time, and your cell phone number.  At the very least, leave a note exposed on the dash of your truck at the parking area, just in case of an emergency.

4. PFDs. Highly advisable throughout the year for kayaks, it is the law in Pennsylvania after November 1st. This remains enforced until April 30, when the water begins a serious warm up. Check the kayak regulations for your state.

5. Take it easy. Use a little extra caution watching out for boulders, tree limbs, or that jet boat wake. 

6. Check the weather again. I’ll bet it has changed already. 

I love water, but on my strict timing, location, and temperature terms.  Beyond creating a foul mood, cold water shock can occur in 50 degree water. 3 minutes in cold water can be enough to sap swimming energy. Be sure to check your state boating regulations to make sure you are staying safe and following the law. And check our additional cold water safety tips.
Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.