The Ultimate Sun Screen


Gail Ferris


In reading the December 2009 issue of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker I noticed that among New Products was listed products Dr. Shade sun protection items from Glacier Glove

Quite by accident I decided some years ago to take with me a ski hood made of black windproof material that covers my entire head with openings for my eyes and mouth. The opening for the mouth covers my nose so that I can breathe freely with a flap along the top of my lips covering my mouth. Very conveniently the opening for my eyes can be stretched open to expose my nose and mouth as needed. Wow what a nice invention that hood is.

My original intention was to have a windproof insulating material hood to keep me warm in cold windy conditions among the ice. I have had the less than pleasant experience of being committed to paddling many hours among the ice wearing insufficient insulation on my head neck and face really it is not fun just getting colder and colder knowing there is no choice but to just try to make due with anything I could scrounge any flat material like plastic bag or a piece of waste plastic debris from the water from my cockpit to help me stay warm. I am not above stuffing Mylar and or plastic potato chip package wrappers inside my hat hood or inside my pogies just to help me stay warm. Thanks for trash on the water in seriously freezing moments like this.

I bought from Campmor in New Jersey I noticed that they offered this neat ski hood in black polyester velvet wind proof material that does not absorb water and just folds up small.


On the back of my lifejacket I have sewn a large hook and loop closure pocket on the back of my lifejacket where I keep these special items. These are items I may or may not need depending on the circumstances while paddling. When I get out of my kayak I just put these Items such as binoculars back inside this pocket on my lifejacket. The reason for this pocket stowage is that I do not want to be doing the awkward move of hunting in my cockpit for any of these items.

Opening the sprayskirt on my cockpit while paddling among the ice is a very bad choice I loose all the precious heat from my cockpit and run the risk of losing my balance or taking in a wave.

When I am already feeling cold, any activity that interrupts my paddling among the ice for more than a split second really can make me become much colder.

I stay warm by paddling. I know I have already tried sailing my kayak in the arctic, forget that idea, only in a dire emergency, really dire, would I sit and sail or fly a kite from my cockpit to propel my kayak.

What is really scary when the cold is getting to me is that my judgment ever so slowly becomes more and more compromised. Hypothermia is really scary because there I am all alone I start misreading what I am seeing.

One time I nearly missed a whole settlement, Aappilattoq, and paddled over to another island a few miles away because I did not happen to look off to my side and notice that --- was just over there. I imagined that I was still among the islands and that the island this town was on was more miles to the west. Wow that was close!

Looking at the ad for Dr. Shade I agree that white is the best color for paddling in warm climates to wear as a sun screen.

I discovered that using a hood as both insulation for cold conditions and as a physical sunscreen keeps me from developing the proverbial cold sore on my lip. The endless discomfort of a cold sore is distracting because it never goes away until days after I get off the water and it is ugly to look at.

When I paddled in 1989 in Pond Inlet I had a cold sore the entire time the results being that no one whom I was with ever knew what I look like without a cold sore.

The sensation of being sunburned is miserable I would rather wear some sort of fabric barrier than attempt to use chemical sunscreen agents because they irritate my skin and do not provide sun barrier for sufficient time as I paddle usually the entire day. Four hours which is what chemical sunscreens work for is just long enough to get started paddling on a normal day.

I have had my Kokotat dry suit for years and noticed that any petrochemical based compound I put on my skin drastically reduces the life expectancy of my latex seals. This is a major factor why I put nothing on my skin because the last thing I want to do is compromise my latex seals.

I wear a drysuit always when conditions require and wearing my drysuit is a matter trust because when I fall into the water any leak in my drysuit is the last problem I want to have as I am paddling in Greenlands icy waters. Kokotat makes a very reliable product I can attest to that after years of relying on their drysuit and finding that yes my dry suit keeps me dry even when I trip and fall into the water and when I am paddling in breaking waves for hours.



Above is a photo taken off Innarsuit island where I was wearing these items which I find very handy for dealing with paddling exposure in cold bright sun 8 10 2009