Are You Ready for Cold Weather Boating?

While at first glance one might think I posted this picture of myself holding up a nice fat striper just for the ego boost, in reality, this shot is directly related to today’s topic: cold weather boating. (Yeah, sure I could have chosen a different picture. But ain’t she a beauty?)

This picture shows more than a fat striped bass – it also shows the most important single piece of cold weather boating gear on the boat.

If you look closely, you might notice that the jacket I’m wearing is a Mustang “Bomber” style Float Coat. Sewn in-between the inner and outer shells this jacket has a layer of “AirSoft” foam. That turns the jacket into a USCG approved Class III PFD. So as long as I’m wearing my jacket, I have on a life jacket by default.

Having a PFD on is never a bad idea, but when it comes to float coats there’s a whole lot more to the story. When boating in cold water, whether you’re fishing, hunting (Stearns makes a camo version of these coats, by the way), or just cruising, the number-one danger comes from hypothermia. If you take a spill and end up in the drink, a normal PFD won’t help keep you warm. This jacket will. It also keeps you surprisingly warm in general, because that layer of foam is a great insulator. In fact, when I travel north to go ice fishing once or twice a year I always wear this jacket, purely because it’s the warmest one I own. It’s also waterproof, has fleece-lined pockets, and extremely sturdy zippers. I’ve had mine for about a decade, and it’s only the second one I’ve owned (I got my first in my 20’s, and it lasted at least 15 years). But don’t take my word for how great these things are. Shop around on Google, and you’ll notice that this is one of the few products around that consistently gets five stars from just about everyone who writes a review.

Whatever brand or style you choose, if you’re planning to do a lot of cold weather boating this winter, consider getting a float coat. (Cost ranges from around $150 to around $350 depending on model, style, and size). Not only will it keep you afloat in the drink, dry in the rain, and warm in the cold, it’ll also add a splash of color to those pictures you take while documenting your catch.

Lenny Rudow: