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Thread: Inflatables and cold (freezing) weather?

  1. #1

    Default Inflatables and cold (freezing) weather?

    I posted in kayaking already, but it never hurts to double your efforts. I am thinking of doing a winter float down the upper kenai in my inflatable kayaks. Obviously it will be balls cold. But, will the boats handle it? Cold temps have a way of bringing out weaknesses in materials and design.

    Any advice, warnings, and precautions would be awesome.

  2. #2
    Member power drifter's Avatar
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    I have been told that it's not a problem. You just want it warm when you unfold and inflate it. Add air as needed.

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    A friend and I ran the upper kenai in Feb. a few years ago in SOTAR IKs. No problems!! Had her all to our selfs. I did bring ice screws and climbing gear to get out because of the shelf ice. Lots of fun-- but one of the more colder trips i have done in 30 yrs of boating. Maybe again this year!! Have fun, just be careful, even in KOKATS would have been a bad swim. Think it would have been a much more fun trip with pac-type rafts with pad on the floor and spray skirts. Just my SHERPA did not have thigh straps or spray skirt. Just be careful of ice and one chamber tubes. Once in the straps and skirt you find your self bouncing off the bottom like your in a big garbage bag. Another reason i prefer dual tubes. Thank God my experience as such was in Fiji.
    Goo

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    With Aire, or any other boat with bladders in them you have to be careful when setting them up, or even moving them in below freezing temps. Shards of ice that develop inside the tubes have been known to shred the bladder material.

    I've IK'd the upper Kenai in February as well. Jack Mosby of KCK often uses their email list server to call for a Kenai trip whenever it warms up for a few days. It's a nice winter break.

  5. #5

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    Ok, so keep it warm to inflate...easy. My bandit has no bladder but the aire does. Yeah, I am thinking the dry suit with waders over and a fair amount of layers.... When you guys say ice shelves... what do you mean? Say I want to float from the russian to Jims... is there literally a wall of ice you need to climb?

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    When we ran the river the conditions were marginal with lots of ice that would not let you get out from the steep banks. Worked out fine with the screws and rope. Could have probably have gotten by with a couple of ice axes and rope. Having had a bad experience in Siberia lots of years ago doing the same thing, i always bring self rescue equipment. These were first runs, before sat. phones, not that would have helped!! At least people live on the Kenai, which can be a big help. Just use your best judgment and check with the folks that live in the area and let them know when you will be there. Should have a blast.
    Goo

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goeaux View Post
    When we ran the river the conditions were marginal with lots of ice that would not let you get out from the steep banks. Worked out fine with the screws and rope. Could have probably have gotten by with a couple of ice axes and rope. Having had a bad experience in Siberia lots of years ago doing the same thing, i always bring self rescue equipment. These were first runs, before sat. phones, not that would have helped!! At least people live on the Kenai, which can be a big help. Just use your best judgment and check with the folks that live in the area and let them know when you will be there. Should have a blast.
    Goo
    We did the upper Kenai a couple of winters ago, and the ice slabs along the shoreline were up to 4' thick if I remember correctly. We found a low spot and managed to clamber out, but it was not easy. Ice axe would have been great. Felt soles were of course worthless out of the water. Like walking on banana peels...

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    See if this photo link on shelf ice opens for you. Pictured is completely mellow version, yet portrays some of the real risks around moving water, getting in, and out on the rivers in winter.

    If you look on this page of my website... 3rd pic up from from bottom of page is an overnight trip in February at -20 F. Looking closely, you see the camps tent anchored on older overflow ice bedded atop dry gravel. You can also discern that the raft is on river edge, but not actual water's line... note rink-like clear ice over 30 feet out from raft.

    This long, thinner shelf-ice can present a few risks of thin-ice breaks with little support to move boat or boat freezing down quickly (wet surface hitting deep-freeze - think mopping an ice-rink). Thicker, steeper ice may be a no go on take-outs altogether... so good notion to look at perspective take outs before launching at put ins.

    It is misinformation to say the fabrics in your particular boats are fine in cold when inflated... in fact the boats you have are definitely compromised when folded up with handling, transporting, and while inflated on water in freezing extremes. Jim is correct on bladder boats with ice between bladder and outer skin. Less expensive PVC and unsupported vinyl bladder systems (for me) would rank poorly in choosing a winter use IK. The Bandit urethane is third-tier stuff --- would be a better system for winter boating than Tomcat.

    I'd avoid boating and deploying sharp/pointy gear in your boats... unless you are very comfortable winter boating and using ice equipment... I'd avoid the combo. Be aware, dress suitably, and take a look-see at the take out options before putting in.

  9. #9
    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    What about hypalon - say in an old zodiac....can I duck hunt cold weather with it safely? I mean salt water in late November early December cold weather.

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    Some of the info I'm relating... could come across as brand specific or saying best of the best quality and nothing less.

    Tho' reading into it as running top-notch, finest of the finest is not a bad thought.

    Using brands with a reputation for repeatability... routinely demonstrating or field tested in all 4-season conditions... bombproof quality is the most sound thinking when planning to venture into extremes with known hazards and some probability for unforeseen situations.

    Will an older Hypalon fabric Zodiac (like a GR MK II or III) run in an icy bay for waterfowl, or around icebergs, or up on pack ice in all kinds of extremes? Yes... but to me this would depend much on the familiarity (use + boat condition + time + conditions/location) by user. Importantly, I also recommend the real condition of the boat and its components be inspected and assessed by a professional or by a keen eye for issues that these boats will get over mileage and/or time.

    Frigid temperature extremes of winter, on water, with ice are not the best idea if you use a mid to lower tier inflatable or one that is in disrepair.

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    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    I've had problems with my outcast cat bladders in the winter. The vinyl just doesn't hold-up well in the cold. My Pac 1400 with urethane bladders works like a champ, though and I've run several times in below freezing temps. You'll likely know right away if your boat will hold-up. My cat looked fine in the back of the truck, but by the time we got it unloaded and to water's edge, one of the tubes was completely flat, with a big hole in the bladder, right next to the seam. The other tube was flat by the time we got home. The vinyl just gets brittle in the cold. Urethane seems to maintain most of its flexibility. I haven't had to fight with shelf ice the times I've been out, but my cold weather floating has usually been in late November or March...Maybe one trip in January, as I recall, but it was a warm spell.

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    Yes --- this is a very important point concerning unsupported vinyl and relates to the inexpensive supported fabrics/construction as well.

    Believe it or not... these boats can crack like an egg getting into 15 F or lower temps.

    Little story took place a month ago up North:

    This indeed happened to a friend of mine, who had all the suitable high quality stuff (AIRE & Achilles), yet chose to use a fly-weight stream crosser in late fall for his Haul Road trip.

    He put on his dry-suit, PFD, inflated the new boat, and made a Sag river crossing to fish a deep hole.

    However, after a while fishing (for a few hours) with the cold temps and rod icing up... he decided to cross back to his truck.

    Less than 1/2 way ferrying across himself and gear -- the little vinyl boat split in half!!!

    Next thing he new, the little boat was clam-shelling on rapid deflation delaying his ability to get out and he's headed downstream. Fortunately!!! he made the decision to go with a dry-suit and PFD --- but still tossed into a survival situation, alone, roadside in freezing conditions, as it was getting dark!!! He grabbed for any boat material still afloat, grasping his pack, gun , and fishing gear --- recovering it all mid swim. The late fall water was shallow enough to pogo with his legs off the bottom and flail back to the bank. By the time he made his truck --- no dexterity, his suit and all was frozen solid to him, taking 1/2 hour to warm in the truck just to get it off and get into warmer clothes (thank goodness truck started!!!).

    Part of his other gear selection was a new BRAVO 10 Pump (not exactly super cheap and not to be confused with Bravo 2 junk)... upon seeing him at my shop... the yellow 'plastic' hose was cold-split-cracked as if cut by a blade clean through. Nice - eh?

    I relate the true event... to portray the higher probability of boat failures plus potential likelihood of some survival scenario occurrence with much of this lower to mid tier inflatable gear - particularly plastic fabrics like vinyls, PVCs, and (yes) even the cheaper urethanes.

    This also speaks to care/maintenance/repair/re-sale issues for folks procrastinating or neglecting and leaving inflatable boats out over the winter months. My recommendation --- make every effort to get inflatable boats of any kind clean, dry, and inside if at all possible.

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    Bullelkklr,

    I've been all the way out to Green Island in the middle of winter in a new Hypalon Zodiac with zero problems. I'd worry more about the engine starting or running into an obstruction than the hypalon... All of my trips in October and November for rainbows on the Kenai were uneventful excepting for cold-weather engine starts. Runs a little rough for a few minutes at 0F...

    IceKing02

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    they all good ideas , and i just come here for learning~

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