GEARING up for your first kayaking expedition? What are the essentials you can’t do without? And, what keeps you dry and warm when you are cycling in cold weather? Our gear experts clue you in.
I am a Malaysian living in New Zealand and have taken up cycling. My tropical body, however, is not used to the ever-changing climate. The sun is hot so it can get quite warm after a while but the wind is cold during winter. Right now the average temperature is about 11°C during the day and drops to about 2°C at night. What kind of apparel can protect me from the cold wind and rain but at the same time allows my skin to stay dry? – Hot & Cold, NZ
Active wear: Proper attire for cycling in the cool autumn weather in Copenhagen, Denmark
The best solution here is to get a quality base layer. I highly recommend Polartec fabric thermals, but merino wool or Sportwool would also be a good alternative. (Polartec is the brand for a collection of high-performance textiles used for cold-weather jackets and base layers. Sportwool is a lightweight, composite fabric made from a layer of superfine Merino wool and a layer of tough polyester.)
A good thermal will wick away sweat but trap your body heat. This prevents the cold air from penetrating the fabric. If you lead an active lifestyle, avoid traditional wool or cotton long johns as they only keep you warm if you are dry. Once you sweat, the fabric becomes wet and cold, and sometimes causes itching.
You may also want to look for thermal tights and cycling tops that are wind- and water-resistant. Cycling wear, like snowboarding and skiwear, are designed to fit snugly to decrease drag and wind resistance. A high-quality active wear thermal will keep specific muscle groups warm. It’s worth investing in a pair of padded, long thermal cycling pants.
But if you can’t find thermal cycling pants, you can improvise by wearing a pair of Supplex nylon pants over your regular padded cycling pants. Supplex is a branded, quick-drying nylon fabric that is wind-resistant. My Supplex pants have kept me comfortable in temperatures ranging from 0°C to 35°C, with a base layer.
A good-quality, wind-resistant vest is a good idea in case you start to heat up after some furious pedalling. Personally, I’d choose a Polartec WindPro vest but you can find cheaper, wind-resistant fabric options in the market. You should also pack a small, lightweight waterproof cycling jacket in case it rains.
Don’t underestimate accessories. Look for Polartec WindPro cycling gloves, multi-function Buff headwear and thermal socks. For total comfort, protect your extremities – head, face and neck from chilling wind. Avoid baggy clothes so your body heat will not dissipate fast.
Since you live in New Zealand, you might want to check out thermal products from Icebreaker, Skins, 2XU, and Under Armour. But they don’t come cheap. A cheaper option would be to use thermals from general outdoor brands like The North Face, Millet, Columbia, Wild Roses and Marmot – Leong Dee Lu, adventure buff cum outdoor retailer
> Base layers can be found at Corezone, SS2, Petaling Jaya (mycorezone.com / 03-7873 5560) and Lafuma, Bangsar Baru (lafuma.com.my / 03-2287 1118). For winter cycling performance wear, check these sites: chainreactioncycles.com; winstanleysbikes.co.uk; wiggle.co.uk
I’m going on a kayaking expedition to Lake Toba, Sumatra, next month. We’ll be paddling an average of 10-17km a day and will be based at one campsite (not towing our luggage along). This is my first multi-day trip, so can you suggest the appropriate apparel and gear? I have an NRS personal flotation device (PFD) and a drybag (kayak and paddle will be provided by the organiser). – Stoked about Toba
Your preparation should include the following:
It’s important to have a wide-brimmed hat with a BUFF headgear (a headband made of micro-fibre fabric that can be worn as headscarf, facemask, balaclava, headband, etc) to keep out the sun, and sunglasses to protect your eyes from blinding reflections.
Wear clothing that will not chafe, especially around your hips and shoulders. Do not wear sleeveless blouse/T-shirt as the paddling motion will cause the PFD straps to scuff your shoulders and underarms. Board shorts/surfing shorts, swimming tights (long, three-quarter, or short) and rash guards or quick-dry jerseys are perfect.
Some paddlers wear triathlon tights with butt padding to enjoy the extra cushioning. Footwear is optional but don’t forget to clip it to the kayak if you take it off.
It’s also a good idea to bring a lightweight, waterproof but breathable rain jacket with a hood. (Expect to fork out at least RM300 and above for a compact and lightweight/breathable jacket from a respectable brand.) Do note that neoprene diving tops will not keep you warm when you’re above water.
When it pours, you want to stay comfortable and dry as you paddle for shelter. Rain and strong wind can drain heat and energy from a tired paddler. Wear your rain jacket under your PFD and try to keep your core temperature stable. Never wear a non-breathable raincoat or poncho over your PFD because it is an entanglement hazard if you capsize in rough waters.
If you’re not used to paddling for long durations, consider wearing neoprene kayak gloves to prevent blisters. Do your best to stay in tip-top condition and not fall sick.
Hydration and food
Carry at least two litres of drinking water either in a hydration bag like Platypus or Camelbak or BPA (Bisphenol A)-free water bottles. The advantage of using a hydration bladder is that you can take small sips frequently to keep hydrated. Otherwise, you have to stop paddling just to take a swig from the bottle. The last thing you need is a splitting headache or fatigue caused by dehydration.
Try to consume at least 500ml of sports or isotonic drinks like Gatorade and 100plus a day. The drinks will help sustain your energy, replenish sodium loss and prevent cramps. Also, pack some energy bars or gels for a quick boost of energy.
First Aid kit
Slather sunblock generously over your skin and cover exposed skin with rash guards (particularly your inner thighs, feet, arms, and face). If you get burnt on the first day, your kayaking experience will be pretty painful for the rest of the trip.
Sunburn and blisters are common so bring a moisturising cream. If possible, keep your blisters dry. Other useful items: pills for headaches, fever, flu and diarrhoea, creams for muscle aches, bites and stings, and antiseptic cream for cuts.
And watch out for leaky boats!
Always carry a bailing sponge or a container to bail water out. SealLine Bailing Sponge, for example, works great because it will not disintegrate even after a few hours of work. It comes with a cord so you can clip it to your kayak. Lastly, remember to tie or clip your dry bag or hydration bags or bottles to the kayak. Do not leave any cord, rope or strap dangling over your kayak. You don’t want to be entangled in case of capsize. – Leong Dee Lu, adventure buff cum outdoor retailer
> Rash guards from brands like Bare, Akona and Prosun (local brand) and SealLine Bailing Sponge can be found at Corezone, Petaling Jaya (03-7873 5560). Board shorts are available at World of Sports (O’Neill and Dakine), Corezone (Prosun), Quiksilver, Billabong and Rip Curl stores in Klang Valley.
Any gear queries? We have free goodies up for grabs for the best gear question – from a stove and hydration pack to Original Buff and a nifty outdoor toilet roll holder (prizes courtesy of Corezone outdoor retailer, mycorezone.com)
Drop us an e-mail at Star2.email@example.com, subject: Gear Query. Gear Up is a monthly Q&A gear column.