It is 25 degrees here today in Virginia Beach but with the wind chill it is about 13 so I think today is a great day to stay inside, have a good cup of coffee, and talk about cold weather paddling. In past winters I have paddled SUP exclusively so even as cold as it can get in Virginia Beach, I was usually able to avoid using gloves…or if I did have to use gloves it was the exception rather than the norm. However this off season I am trying to stay in my OC1 as late into the winter as possible and paddling OC1 in sub 55 degree water without gloves just isn’t realistic.
So I set off on a quest…
A quest for good gloves…no wait, a quest for good PADDLING gloves. The surf industry is littered with neoprene gloves of every thickness and design. Every wetsuit company makes them and many make them very well. Usually these gloves are designed by prone surfers for prone surfing, not for single blade paddlers like SUP and outrigger canoes. These surf-developed gloves are often fine for SUP surfing or short-duration fitness paddling. However, I find my hands and forearms fatiguing sooner than normal when I try to do endurance work of 1+ hour in addition to issues with overall grip and comfort. So back to my quest…I want to find a cold weather paddling glove that meets the following criteria:
- Waterproof (duh)
- More Thin
- Comfortable for OC or SUP paddling at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours.
- Cost efficient (less than $75)
- Even thinner
- When I wear them I look as cool as Kai Lenny on a foil
Basic web searching was not very helpful. Like I said, lots of wet-suit-company gloves out there, not many looking comfortable or affordable for distance paddling. Then I found the HydroSkin PADDLING gloves by NRS. I was super excited about NRS expanding the HydroSkin line to gloves. I have a pair of HydroSkin pants that are going on their fourth winter off season and I love them. Here are the specs on the NRS HydroSkin gloves from the website:
- The 0.5 mm neoprene core layer insulates and protects without adding too much bulk.
- The PowerSpan™ exterior stretches in four directions, allowing unrestricted use of your most important paddling equipment – your hands.
- The ThermalPlush™ inner lining increases insulation, repels moisture and dries quickly for added comfort.
- Silicone pattern on the palm and fingers provides a better grip and added durability.
- A durable water repellent (DWR) coating helps the gloves shed water, reducing evaporative cooling.
- Pairing snaps on the wrists help keep the gloves together.
- A fitted, stretchy slip-on wrist cuff makes the glove easy to put on and take off.
HydroSkin gloves are priced at $39.99 on the NRS website so these looked very promising. My pair arrived a day ahead of a nasty cold front so I was able to put these gloves through a few days of not-fun paddling conditions. In four workouts the air temperature was in the mid 40s and the water temperature was in the low 50s, winds between 5-17mph, and workout durations between 40-90 minutes.
When I first put on the gloves, they felt very comfortable and very thin, more like a good pair of mechanics/work gloves then wet suit gloves. I could wear them while rigging my OC1 so dexterity (an excellent Scrabble word by the way) was not an issue. The little snaps on the wrist to keep them together when they are not worn is a smart feature as is the lightly textured palm grip. When paddling OC1, your hands are going to get really wet and submerged at times. The NRS HydroSkin gloves were excellent for OC paddling and I really like them. I can’t emphasize enough how thin and snug they felt. It was pretty chilly when I was paddling and I can’t say my hands were actually warm, but I can say that they did not feel cold until late in the workouts past the 50-60 minute mark. And even when my hands were cold, they were never REALLY cold. I maintained full feeling and full functionality in both hands through all four workouts. I would definitely feel comfortable planning a 90-120 minute workout with these gloves. For early winter paddling, that is a win for me.
There were some minor things I did not like about these gloves, but they are very minor. The gloves seem to be designed for wear with a wetsuit or compression top. They are a little loose around the wrist opening and allow water in at the wrist IF they are not tucked inside something AND you submerge your hands to the forearm. Honestly, with gloves and water sports, I don’t know how to fix that but it could be an issue. Also, I have not tested the durability over time yet. At first glance, they seem very durable. I logged 31 miles in the four workouts and the gloves still look brand new with no wear marks but more time is needed to fully assess durability.
For me, the NRS HydroSkin gloves are an excellent choice for air temps to the low 40s and water temps to the low 50s. I am super excited to have found very good gloves made by a company with a history of performance paddling equipment. It will get colder here in Virginia Beach and these will work for now but not for late winter. I have a pair of the 1.0mm Fuse Gloves, also by NRS, that I will test and review here shortly as we get deeper into the winter.
I hope everyone is having a restful and happy off-season and holidays…keep paddling!!