Here in Seattle, Washington, boating season officially opens on the first Saturday in May with a grand parade of decorated boats. Thousands of people turn out for the celebration. The end of the season closes without fanfare, and only a few of us keep boating as the months of cold and rain set in. Even in midwinter, the weather here isn’t often cause for misery as long as you dress properly.
Feeling the chill often stars at the extremities: the feet, hands, and head. Protecting these areas from weather has been the mission of Sealskinz since the company’s founding in 1996. Their waterproof, windproof, and breathable socks, gloves, and hats are designed and manufactured in Great Britain. I started using Sealskinz socks in 1998, and they have performed well and held up for many years of sea kayaking and bicycling.
I have a new pair of Sealskinz socks now as well as their gloves and a knit beanie. They are all composed of three layers; the inner and outer layers differ with the article, but the inner layer of all is a membrane that is waterproof, windproof, and breathable. While there are outdoor fabrics with the same characteristics, Sealskinz products set themselves apart with a membrane and fabrics that stretch.
Sealskinz socks come in ankle length, mid length, and, my favorite, knee length. I find boots awkward for boating and prefer to wear low-cut boating shoes and let knee-high socks take care of keeping my feet dry. Apart from the cuff, the Sealskinz knee-highs have a seamless inner layer with a merino-wool blend in a continuous knit that varies in thickness from toe to heel to cuff. The uppers have a tight, nubby knit for warmth; the toe and heel have a thicker layer of looped yarn for cushioning and extra warmth. The outer layer is nylon with elastane. The socks slip on easily, fit snugly, and there’s enough stretch to tuck pant legs comfortably into them. In the cold and rain they’re very pleasantly warm, and they keep my feet dry while wading at the launch ramp.
The Waterproof All Weather Ultra Grip Knitted Gloves are made of materials like those in the socks but have a finer knit. Like the socks, there is a seam at the cuff, but by some miracle of knitting machinery, there are no other seams. The seamless, stretch construction provides a noteworthy advantage over gloves sewn of non-stretch fabrics. The gloves don’t bunch up or crease, creating pressure points that can lead to discomfort and hot spots. The palm and fingers have small dots of rubbery substance for a non-slip grip without compromising the stretch of the fabric. When rowing on a rainy day, I have a comfortable grip on the handles with just as much grip as I have with bare hands. The tips of the thumb and index finger on both left and right gloves have a speckled gray material that is compatible with touchscreens. They work best when fingertips are pushed well into the ends of the gloves.
The knit acrylic exterior of the Waterproof Cold Weather Roll Cuff Beanie Hat looks just like an ordinary knit beanie, but it has the protection of the Seaskinz membrane. The interior layer is a polyester fleece. The hat is deep enough that it can cover my ears with the cuff, and although the cuff is sewn front and back, the sides can be unfolded for even more coverage. I have other beanies, but they’re not as warm and not effective when it’s raining or a strong wind is blowing; the Sealskinz beanie offers good protection no matter what the weather is doing. You can add to its uses with the LED-equipped version of the hat. It has an opening in the cuff that holds a USB-rechargeable headlamp.
These Sealskinz products have made my outings in the off season much easier to enjoy. They are well designed, perform well, and, if my previous experience with their ’90s-era socks is any indication, can last a long time.
Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats Magazine.
The Cold Weather Roll Cuff Beanie, All Weather Ultra Grip Knitted Gloves, and the Cold Weather Knee Length Socks are available from SealSkinzUSA for $40, $55, and $55 respectively. SealSkinz offers a variety of waterproof hats, gloves, and socks.
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