Vermilion, Ohio is sometimes gifted with unseasonably warm days throughout the traditional winter months, and paddlers take advantage of warmer weather to rescue their boat from storage and take it for a float down the river. If you’re that avid paddler, it is extremely important to dress appropriately in order to have fun and stay safe out on the water.

In the excitement to get out and paddle, don’t forget to be prepared for all sorts of weather—no matter what the thermometer is reading. Temperatures and weather can change quickly and drastically throughout the day, so it is essential to be prepared for worst-case conditions. Remember: Air temperature is NOT an indication of water temperature. The 120-degree Rule is an easy way to determine what type of clothing is appropriate to wear while boating. The rule is this: If the air and water temperatures add up to less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, you need thermal protection.

So what is thermal protection? Thermal protection refers to a way of dressing yourself that always includes at least one insulated (base) layer and one protective (outer) layer. The qualities of these layers combine to keep you warm in the event of a mishap such as a cold-water immersion. Insulated layers should consist of fabrics such as synthetic fleece. Avoid 100 percent cotton materials, as they tend to draw heat away from the body and take a long time to dry.

Protective layers include clothing such as parkas, rain suits and nylon jackets; these outer “shell” garments guard against wind and also help to hold heat in, preventing cold air and/or water from cooling the insulating layer(s). As a final, topmost layer, a life jacket should always be worn for maximum protection in the event you would fall in the water. Not only does it serve to keep you afloat while your body is adjusting to the cold-water shock, but a life jacket provides excellent insulation.

Advance preparation for inclement weather and cold-water immersion will give you the chance for survival should the worst occur. By following the 120-degree Rule and dressing properly for the weather, you’ll be keeping yourself safe while enjoying a break from winter on the water.