Cold Weather Float Tubing
I always feel a little disheartened when I have to deflate my Float Tube. That hissing noise, as the air escapes, is a reminder that fishing for the day is done. If I had my way, I'd leave the thing inflated and parked in the living room, next to the sofa. But for some reason, my wife doesn't much care for the idea.
The only thing worse is seeing the leaves fall from the trees and knowing that those warm days of tubing are gone for a few months. Now, I'm faced with choices! Do I finish those repairs around the house that I've been putting off (like that leaky pipe under the sink)? Perhaps, I should spend "quality-time" with the family? Or - maybe I should tough it out and find a way to go tubing and fishing in cold weather? Hmmmm? Decisions - decisions??? Fortunately, that course on "Problem Solving" should pay-off...
I can stop by the local hardware store and purchase a larger bucket for that pesky leak. While I'm in the area, I can pick-up some bait at the Tackle Store next door. As for the "quality-time" with the family... I can give my teenage daughter $20.00, a cell phone and drop her off at the Mall, on my way to the lake. That extra float tube and some reverse psychology... "but Honey, you never spend "quality-time" with me?... That should take care of my wife! Now, all that's left is preparing for "Cold Weather Float Tubing".
Tubing in cold conditions offers several challenges and requires careful planning. A forgotten item may mean a miserable trip. I suggest using a small check-list of your cold weather gear. More is better!
Since half of your body is going to be in the water, it's important to understand "heat loss" and how to prevent it.
*"Heat loss to the cold water tuber comes primarily in the form of conduction. When a warm object is in contact with a cool object heat will flow from the warm object to the cool object until a temperature equilibrium is reached. Secondarily, heat loss may occur through the process of convection. This is when air currents carry away water molecules found at the surface of the skin causing the body’s average surface temperature to drop. Poor circulation may be another cause for cold and discomfort. You can combat the effects of conductive heat loss through the use of appropriate insulation."
As with normal cold weather fishing, layered clothing is the best choice, but a tuber is faced with problems... There is not storage for that un-needed sweat-shirt and those waders don't fit over the top of the insulated cover-alls and Sorel boots. You don't have to be a despite fisherman to get over these hurdles. All you need is your favorite Sporting Goods catalog and some extra cash. Since I'm saving money on that leaky faucet, I can afford to place my order through Cabela's.
The first item we will need is long-underwear. There are a number of different styles to choose from; down-filled, therma-silk, wool/cotton blend and thinsulate. What I recommend is the "Power Stretch", made by Polartec. These are designed to stretch with your body's movements. They are light-weight, abrasion resistant, and wind-proof. Plus, they offer total coverage; socks, union bib pants, jacket top, and a separate hood. Whatever you choose, remember three things... warm, flexible and light-weight.
On top of this, I wear jeans, a Duofold T-Neck cotton shirt, and a weather resistant jacket. The jacket will take some careful consideration. This is your primary outer-wear, so there are several features that you will need. Since I wear my life jacket under my jacket... I need a coat with pockets and lots of them. The jacket has to be wind-resistant and most importantly... water proof. I don't want to get wet! Finally, I want a color that is highly visible. Yellow, orange or bright green are my choices.
If you're like me, when my hands get cold... I'm cold all over! This presents a real challenge in a float tube, because you have don't have a choice - your hands will get wet. Whether it's netting a fish, removing a hook, or washing bait from your hands - they will get wet and cold. Here's what I do... carry two pair! My primary are water-proof gloves made by "Sealskins". These are great for those times when you just don't have time to get your gloves off. Also, I carry an insulated pair, just in case I need the extra warmth.
Even though I wear the hood from Polartec, I use a stocking cap. These are very easy to store away if you don't need it.
Finally, and perhaps the most important item are your waders. Those light-weight vinyl ones that you used during the summer months won't work! You need a pair of insulated waders. I recommend using 5mm neoprene waders. With proper layering underneath, these should prevent the majority of heat loss.
All that's left is a thermos of hot coffee and a few sandwiches. You're ready to enjoy that quality-time with your spouse. That reminds me - since I have to order these items for both my wife and myself... the cost is doubled! So, I will have to put off a few more of those household chores. Ahhh! That just breaks my heart!
* "Staying Warm", Gary D. Scavette, Northeast Anglers Inc.
Copyright, 2001 - Brent Gagermeier