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Water And Ice: The Best Frozen Paddling Destinations, And What To Pack

Since its inception, paddling has been an all-weather activity. Its early origins include climates ranging from tropical coastlines to frozen archipelagos. Today there are countless paddling opportunities in all types of weather, not just in the summer heat. Sure, paddling in sapphire waters along tropical white sand beaches sounds pretty great, but there is a quiet and magical quality to paddling through an untouched frozen wonderland.

From The edges of the North Pole to Antarctica, there are many of epic cold weather paddling destinations that are worth freezing for. Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Alaska, Iceland, and Patagonia all offer their own unique frozen paddling opportunities. But when paddling over frigid waters, bringing the right equipment becomes more important than ever. Packing all cold-weather paddling essentials ensures a safe and comfortable experience through any frozen wonderland.

If you are new to cold-weather paddling or wondering if an icy paddle is worth the effort, you have come to the right place. Not only are there some incredible arctic and other cold weather paddling destinations to check out, but some of these spots are truly worthy of an international paddling bucket list. Keep reading to learn about some of the best freezing cold paddling destinations in the world and all the packing essentials that go along with any cold-weather paddling trip.

Incredible Cold Weather Paddling Destinations

1. Eastern Greenland

Since the Inuit people built the world’s first sea kayaks thousands of years ago, Greenland has been the birthplace and Mecca of cold weather paddling. While these ancient indigenous people may have built kayaks out of necessity as a means of survival, today there is a booming tourism market in Eastern Greenland for adventurous kayakers seeking a mind-blowing arctic paddling excursion.

There are several multi-day paddling excursions that explore the treasures of eastern Greenland. The highlights of this journey include bobbing and weaving through endless icebergs as well as paddling by multiple giant glaciers. There is a plethora of important wildlife in this region as well. There are walruses, humpback whales, and even narwhals in the water. There are musk ox, reindeer and so much more on land - needless to say there is no shortage of exotic arctic creatures here.

You can enjoy this frigid experience throughout the warmer months, with most choosing the summer, when the sun shines almost endlessly, and the weather is much more enjoyable. There are several traditional and perfectly quaint villages on this route as well, including Tasiilaq, where you can get a taste of authentic life in rural Greenland.

But others enjoy coming on the shoulder seasons when more arctic wildlife viewing is possible, as well as the stunning aurora borealis. Regardless of when you come, any kayaking trip along this historic and majestic glacial coast will be a cold-weather paddling trip you will cherish forever.

2. Svalbard Archipelago, Norway

Norway is perhaps the most beautiful country with Arctic connections. From its otherworldly southern fjords to its fairytale arctic cities, no place exudes arctic bliss like this Nordic country. While much of the country is considered ideal cold-weather paddling territory, the ultimate frozen paddling spot in Norway is the Svalbard archipelago.

The Svalbard archipelago, often referred to as Spitsbergen, is a group of islands located between mainland Norway and the North Pole. It is one of the northernmost inhabited places on Earth. Just reaching this island chain is an adventure, and upon arrival, the silent grandeur of glaciers and icebergs is sure to memorize any visitor.

There are many kayaking tours available from Svalbard, but being in an arctic climate, these spots are limited for safety reasons. But once you secure a spot, you are treated to intimate views of glaciers, whales, and other wildlife like reindeer as you navigate the coast and come face to face with countless icebergs and frozen vistas.

3. Antarctica

Getting to the elusive southernmost continent on the planet takes time, patience, and money. So once arriving in Antarctica, it makes sense that you should experience all that this wild tundra has to offer. What better way to feel connected to this vast frozen world than to paddle in its waters?

Whether coming by plane or on a cruise ship, there are several paddling opportunities in Antarctica. This trip is only available in the summer months but allows you a chance to see a completely frozen world in the warmth of endless sunlight. Paddle with seals, whales, and penguins through this one-of-a-kind frigid wilderness. No trip to Antarctica is complete without a journey along the coast in a kayak.

4. Baffin Island, Canada

Canada is home to many incredible paddling destinations that are accessible throughout the year. Its southern provinces are home to some of the world’s most beautiful glacial lakes as well as some incredible oceanic wildlife. But up north, in the lesser-known and scarcely inhabited Nunavut province, there is an island with much colder, but equally stunning paddling opportunities.

Baffin Island is situated high in the Arctic Circle, in Nunavut. While it is the fifth largest island in the world, it has a population of just over 13 thousand people. But what it lacks in residents it makes up for in natural grandeur. Even though it is located in the far reaches of the Arctic, there are several kayaking companies that run top-notch Arctic paddling expeditions in this region.

On Baffin Island, you can paddle among walruses, orcas, narwhals, and more, and feel truly isolated from the rest of the world and society. This trip to the lesser known arctic north is a great way to feel nature’s massive scale as well as its raw beauty.

5. Iceland

It is no secret that Iceland has some of the most unique and breathtaking geography in the world. Endless rivers, hot springs, and waterfalls exist effortlessly on this isolated landmass in the middle of the Atlantic. This country has become quite a tourist destination, for wilderness seekers and resort enthusiasts alike. But one truly incredible way to experience the power of this volcanic anomaly is to see it on a kayak.

While many regions of Iceland make for incredible paddling, the best frozen landscape paddling is found in Vatnajökull National Park. Join a guided tour where you can paddle through a wondrous glacier lagoon. Best of all, unlike many other glacial paddling trips, in Iceland, you can be back to civilization in time for a chic dinner on the town.

6. Prince William Sound, Alaska

It’s impossible to have a cold-weather kayaking destination guide without including Alaska. This northernmost state is home to all of the nation’s most incredible cold-water activities, and this includes canoeing and kayaking. And when it comes to kayaking among icebergs in Alaska’s arctic climate, no place beats Prince William Sound.

You can join many different types of kayaking tours in this wilderness adventure capital. Exploring this region by kayak is perhaps the best way to intimately experience the ecosystems within this stunning body of water. Rich with life and surrounded by mesmerizing fjords, there is never a shortage of picture-taking opportunities. Whether you are capturing ice falling from a glacier or a whale breaching, a day paddling on the Prince William Sound is one you won’t soon forget.

7. Patagonia, Argentina, and Chile

Far from the Arctic, there is another region rich with life and surrounded by glacial ice. Patagonia, the wilderness lover’s nirvana, is most famous for its hiking and mountain climbing. But no trip to Southern Chile or Argentina is quite complete until you have paddled in its pristine frozen waters.

From the world-renowned Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, to the gargantuan Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina’s El Calafate, Patagonia has some of the most incredible frozen paddling spots in the world. These excursions are best booked well in advance as parks like Torres del Paine is very popular. They vary significantly in duration and cost, but there is a cold-weather paddling experience for everyone in this South American paradise.

8. Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

For those looking to mix a bit of city life with a paddling trip in a snowy and picturesque region, consider Sweden’s Stockholm Archipelago. Stockholm is the largest Urban region in all of Scandinavia, in addition to being Sweden’s capital.

While paddling in the city center doesn’t exactly give the arctic wilderness feel most thrill seekers are after, a short commute to some of Stockholm’s outer islands, and you are transported into a frozen fairytale land. There are over ten thousand islands that make up this region. So it is impossible to see them all, but easy to create your own adventure. There are also many rental companies that offer a variety of tour options throughout the year.

In the warmer months, there is an absence of the arctic feeling in this region, especially with the endless sunshine and pleasant weather. But in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, you can experience more of an arctic feel, and potentially even experience the northern lights after a day of paddling from island to island.

What To Bring: The Cold Weather Paddling Checklist

Kayaking Dry Suit

A kayaking dry suit is the best way to give yourself protection against the dangers of the cold water around your kayak. They are both insulating and water resistant. Make sure you choose a dry suit that is comfortable over clothing and one you can zip on and off without too much strain.

Dry Bag With Extra Dry Clothing

Accidents happen, and waves can come out of nowhere. Getting splashed by cold water on an arctic kayak trip isn’t the end of the world, but sitting in cold wet clothes for hours afterward can result in a trip to the hospital. Packing an extra set of warm dry clothes in a dry bag prevents you from having to suffer through a cold weather paddle in wet clothing.

Easy To Maneuver Layered Clothing

Layers are key when cold weather paddling. You are bound to get warmer and colder based on activity levels, sunshine, and wind conditions. The key is having clothing that is easy to put on and take off. Easy to zip and quick dry layers are ideal for cold weather paddling.

Paddling Gloves

Hands need a lot of extra attention in freezing paddling conditions. Without protection, they can quickly feel raw, chapped, and frozen. Purchase paddling gloves that have a good grip, are well insulated, and are made of quick-dry material. Check out our kayak gloves buyers guide for recommendations.

Skull And Ear Protection

Humans lose the majority of their body heat through the head. This means proper head protection is critical. A quick dry skull cap and a backup kayak hat should be on any cold-weather paddling packing list.

Neoprene Boots

Quality and waterproof shoes are also critical when paddling in sub-zero or simply cold weather temperatures. Neoprene is waterproof and great for all slippery conditions. Pair these boots with great insulated socks (with a backup pair in your dry bag), and your feet will be safe and toasty for the duration of your frigid paddling trip.

Heating Pads In Your First Aid Kit

Every paddling packing list should include a first aid kit. When packing a first aid kit for a cold weather mission, make sure you include heating pads, and possibly an insulating blanket as well. Remember that staying warm isn’t a luxury, it’s a safety essential when you are navigating cold waters.

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