There are a multitude of reasons I don't hesitate to head out on the water for a late season boating excursion. I'd even go so far to say that I enjoy fall outings as much if not more than their hot summer counterparts. This could be due, in part, to my love of the fall season in general but more likely it is influenced by the lack of traffic on the water. A slower day at the docks has big advantages for die-hard boaters. For starters, I don't have to fight as aggressively to find a spot at the courtesy slip, stand in a long line for ice at the ship's store or feel I am interrupting others when we beach the boat for a shore side barbecue. It could be my imagination, but I swear the fish bite more regularly when the weather is just a touch on the cooler side and when there are fewer boats on the water. On slower lake days, I can pull my daughter on the tube without worrying that we'll get in the way of another boater.
Yes, late season boating has a long list of advantages. So, why aren't more people doing it? The answer is pretty simple, actually: weather. As boaters, we are by nature, sun lovers-water lizards who seek out a hot sunny day like a moth to the flame. If it's a few degrees cool on land, you can be sure you'll feel that effect three-fold once you launch and get underway. Not much can ruin fun faster than having an icy chill run up your spine while planing across the open waters of your local lake at the start of your day. However, a little low-temp start doesn't have to mean you can't enjoy the rest of your day. While a boating day in early fall may start out on the cool side, it will likely warm up by afternoon. So the logical way to handle it is by dressing appropriately, of course.
That's where layers come in to the mix.
Comfort also plays a big role in staying safe. If you find yourself shivering to keep warm with numb fingers and toes, your judgment and ability to make smart split-second decisions can be severely compromised. Things like losing balance or control of the helm may become an issue. Layered marine wear such as long underwear, fleece jackets and foul weather coats act to keep us warm and dry by creating a microclimate around the body to wick away moisture and control temperature. As the sun heats up, layered clothing can be peeled off singly to optimize comfort or as temperatures cool, layers may be added according to each person's individual needs.
The ideal clothing systems should consist of three layers, which can be used in a variety of combinations to control heat transfer and manage moisture. These items in a variety of combinations may be ideal for a multitude of conditions. When it comes to more severe cold, thoughtfully selected layers will work to keep you warmer than a single heavy one.
You may find that a simple t-shirt, jacket and waterproof shell combination is sufficient. In other cases, wool, fleece and heavier foul weather gear may be necessary. The primary point is comfort and versatility regardless of what layers you select.
Our bodies at rest expel about two ounces of fluid an hour. Add moderate activity to that equation and the amount increases to about a pint. If you're wrangling a feisty fish or playing with the kids on a cooler day, you'll likely perspire more than you'd expect. Since water absorbs heat much faster than air, wet skin gets colder about 25 times faster than dry skin. Ultimately the goal of layering is to start dry and stay that way.
Layered marine clothing such as the products offered by West Marine (www.westmarine.com), Ibex Wool Products (www.ibexwear.com) and Under Armour (www.underarmour.com) are designed to wick moisture away from the skin to effectively meet our primary goal of staying dry-not always an easy task.
At The Core
The layer worn closest to the skin is arguably the most important. This base layer acts to wick moisture away from the skin. Wicking allows the body's natural evaporation process to maintain body temperature and preserve a layer of warm, dry air next to the skin-a very important part of staying comfortable. While cotton is a popular and traditional fabric, it does not make an ideal base as it absorbs up to 25 percent of its own weight in water, reducing the effectiveness of any high-performance outer layers coupled with it.
Under Armour's all season gear is designed specifically for the marine environment. One of our favorites is the Tilghman knit shirt ($79.99). This lightweight, performance fabric was designed specifically for fishermen. Its Micro PolyArmour body offers fast-drying performance when you're on the water and mesh under arm venting maximizes breathability when the action heats up. Its mesh cuffs also promote fast drying when your hands get wet after reeling in a big catch.
Another must-have basic from Under Armour is the men's Heat Gear fishing graphic T ($29.99). If the sun comes out to play enough to warm you down to a single layer, this is a great one to have on. Its loose fit offers abrasion-free performance and it is UPF 30+ treated for protection from the sun's rays.
Ibex wear offers the comfort and protection that only merino wool can provide. Its Woolies Sleeveless ($52) offer an ideal base for easy layering and will meet your stretch, softness and temperature regulation expectations. The Woolies Zip T-neck for women ($65) is an ideal complement to the woolies sleeveless base and will most likely become a staple in your cool weather wardrobe both on and off the water.
This ultra-venti-lating, award-winning base layer allows you to zip up for warmth and down for cool.
Men will love Ibex too. The Woolies Crew ($60) is a great next-to-skin base because it is lightweight, breathable and durable. Woolies Bottoms ($60) will work to keep your legs dry and warm.
Women's LIFA sport pants ($21.88) available at West Marine are a great base for legs during any weather. LIFA is one of the most popular and trusted base layers in the world because of its rapid moisture transfer and comfort across virtually all sports and conditions. It retains 40 times less moisture than polyester and removes the sweat from your body and moves it onto the fabric's next layer, keeping your skin dry and you comfortable.
Worn in between the base and outer layers, the insulating layer acts as a buffer between warm skin and the cold air or foul weather gear fabric. Its job is to reduce heat loss from convection by limiting air circulation, trapping a layer of warm air near the body. Wool, since it retains some insulating ability even when wet, is the traditional insulating layer. Modern synthetic fibers like fleece are also ideal insulators because they are light, dry quickly, pass moisture outward and don't mildew. Densely woven fabrics, like Polartec polyester fleeces, maintain a warm layer by trapping air within themselves. The insulating mid layer can be removed as conditions warm up.
Gill's line of polartec fleece is available in both men's and women's versions. The i4 Polartec fleece jacket from West Marine ($89.99) is durable and dries quickly to maintain heat.
Gill's similar i4 polartec fleece vest ($69.99) acts the same but is ideal for warmer days, offering sleeveless insulation.
The men's Shak Full Zip ($145) from Ibex is a solid addition to any boater's wardrobe as it acts for ultimate layering. This popular zip is made from 100-percent dense-knit New Zealand merino wool and its chest-zippered pocket is an ideal place to store keys and cash while on the water.
The Weather Barrier
An outside layer acts to keep water and cold air out of the inner two layers, aiding them in maintaining an ideal body temperature next to skin. Your choice in exterior layer will vary widely depending on the prevailing weather conditions. Wind, rain, spray and even snow will dictate how you need to prepare yourself for any type of condition on the water. The ultimate goal is to keep wind and moisture out. Most outer layers, regardless of how heavy they are, should offer both wind and water resistance.
Stopping wind penetration is relatively simple with the use of a tightly woven material, a coated fabric or a fabric with a wind-blocking membrane. Stopping moisture is a little more complicated.
The men's Farallon lightweight jacket ($124) from West Marine is a good milder weather option and one of its most popular-selling products. This jacket features the superior combination of durable woven stretch fabric, waterproof breathable hydrophilic polyurethane membrane and non-pilling micro-fleece lining. The outer fabric is treated with Teflon DWR for an excellent water-repellant finish. Laminate these optimized materials together and you get the perfect medium-weight insulated fabric.
Also available at West Marine, Gill's IN4J Coast Sport Foul Weather Jacket ($185) is a good choice for coastal cruising, inshore and general boating. This jacket is versatile and represents an ideal balance of durability, breathability, weight and feel. It's made from a lightweight nylon fabric with soft-touch laminated coating for durability, waterproofness and better breathability. Both the jacket and available matching bibs have taped seams and are lined, with generous integral drainage.
For women, West Marine's Third Reef Foul Weather Jackets ($109) are breathable while still offering excellent waterproof protection. Third Reef Gear is constructed of Oxford nylon fabric with a hydrophilic coating. It's treated with a durable water-resistant finish, so water beads up on the outside of your suit instead of soaking in. It's fully lined with mesh drains at hem. This particular jacket includes two large combined hand warmer/cargo pockets, an internal pocket for GPS/handheld VHF and internal zip security pocket.
Henri Lloyd's Aura Waterproof Jacket ($119) is another great choice for women. Lightweight, breathable, waterproof and windproof, this jacket is designed to fit women comfortably for protection from rain, spray and wind. Its simple lines and attractive fit make it ideal for use on the water or around town. Rugged, 100-percent waterproof/breathable multi-layer fabric features a durable water repellency finish that helps shed surface water and is easy-care, machine washable.
Our extremities, especially the head, neck and feet, are where most of our body heat escapes. A variety of hats are available in many fabrics to trap heat inside.
The West Marine Orca Hat ($9.77), for example, has a durable water resistant-coated Taslan nylon shell, so water beads up. It is lined with Wind Pro fleece, which is tightly woven so it blocks wind four times better than normal fleece.
Layering principles also apply to feet and hands as well. Especially in the marine environment, bulky gloves are cumbersome and can create logistical issues when it comes to points of navi-gating and captaining a boat.
SealSkinz waterproof gloves ($27.99) are ideal. Not only will they keep you dry and warm, but also they really do fit like a second skin. These gloves do double duty, as they are both waterproof and breathable. Surprised that it's possible to have your fish and eat it too? SealSkinz technology works on the idea that water droplet molecules are larger than water vapor molecules produced by the body. Essentially, SealSkinz material (www.sealskinz.com) allows perspiration to be carried away from the skin without allowing water in.
Layering up before hitting the water is the smartest way to ensure you'll keep warm regardless of what conditions Mother Nature throws your way. That's because each layer has one function and you've got the luxury to mix and match according to your individual needs. Don't let a chilly start keep you from enjoying the boating season to its fullest extent. Just beat the cold by making like an onion, and get yourself some layers.