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What to Wear

In general, the best clothing for rowing is soft, stretchy, breathable, and fairly form-fitting. One of the basic clothing requirements is Spandex shorts/trousers for wearing in the shell. Loose shorts can get caught in the slides under the moving seats, so avoid basketball style shorts, sweatpants, or warm-ups. You should avoid cotton. Cotton does not keep you warm when it gets wet; instead, it makes you colder. Cotton should not be used as the base layer, because it does not wick moisture away from the skin. On especially wet days, you should have dry clothes to change into when you get back on land. These can be cotton or other heavy, bulky materials, since you won’t be working out in these. Down should never be worn on the water. When down gets wet, it will clump and get very heavy, and it has no insulating properties.

Conditions on the water often are 10 degrees cooler, and the wind is frequently stronger than on the land, so the best advice is to wear layers that will do the best job of keeping you warm: a base layer, an insulating layer, and an outer layer. Synthetic fabrics, such as Polypro, CoolMax, and similar fabrics are best because they keep you relatively warm even when wet, and they dry quickly (UnderArmour, Nike, EMS, and REI, among others, make clothing of such materials in various weights). You will get wet from perspiration, rain, and splash. The key is to have synthetic clothing that will keep you warm even when wet. The best clothing for rowing is soft, stretchy, breathable, and fairly form-fitting. One of the basic clothing requirements is Spandex shorts/trou for wearing in the shell. Loose shorts can get caught in the slides under the moving seats, so avoid basketball style shorts or warm-ups. Sweatpants when it is cooler will also work. Loose tops can get caught in the oar handles, so avoid bulky jackets or sweatshirts. In general, you should dress as though you are going running in the elements or Nordic skiing. Coaches can provide advice about which garments will “make the grade” – it is a safety issue, and if you don’t wear the proper clothing, a coach MAY require you to stay on land while the rest of the team takes to the water!

Layering is important for keeping warm and maintaining the right temperature. Your needs will change during a practice depending on exertion and changing conditions. Having the appropriate layers enables you to regulate your insulation and protection. Sometimes a rower may mix 2 out of 3 layers, depending on conditions.

Base layer: Form-fitting and intended to wick moisture away from the skin, the best base layers (tops and bottoms) are made from fabrics such as Polypropylene and Capilene. Running or workout t shirts/tanks are good for this layer. They are thin and similar to base layer garments worn when skiing. Multiple base layers can be worn for added warmth.

Insulation layer: A synthetic fleece jacket should be worn on colder days when extra insulation is needed. The jacket should be thicker than the base layer but not bulky. Polartec or Polarfleece clothing products fall within this category. Some insulation layer fabrics also have wind protection built in.

Wind block layer: Having a wind block that breathes helps the rower retain warmth while not getting too hot. Base and insulation layers are generally not designed to block the wind. Look for a jacket that is form fitting so that it does not interfere with the oars and has ventilation panels on the sides for breathing. There are jackets designed specifically for rowers, Splash Jackets are waterproof, breathable, and not bulky; technical rain coats are also excellent, such as an EMS Thunderhead Jacket.

You can lose a lot of body heat through your head. On cold days, it's important that you wear an insulating hat to keep warm. On hotter days a HeadSweats or CoolMax hat can help absorb sweat without it getting in your eyes. In all weather, a hat and sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun! In the warmer months, the amount of sunlight increases dramatically (it reflects off the water, too). Sunscreen (at least SPF 45) should be brought to every practice once we reach the water.

Hands can get cold while rowing. However, you will not see rowers using traditional cold-weather gloves. The reason for this is that rowing requires a tactile feel of the handle. You can bring gloves onto the water to wear when youare not actually rowing, or you can put your hands under your armpits to keep them warm. Some rowing manufacturers also sell “pogies,” which are knit hand-warmers that fit loosely around the ends of the oar handle and over your hands.

Socks should be synthetic or wool (SmartWool socks are good, for example) to help ensure that feet stay warm while wet. You should have second pair on land. Good socks will help prevent blistering from the hull’s shoes. Change your socks every practice in order to prevent fungus or athlete’s foot.

All rowers and coxswains should bring a pair of running shoes to every practice. Even when we are on the water, sometimes water conditions prevent us from taking to the water. In such circumstances, it is not uncommon that the team will run together. Shoes are also more safe and reliable when carrying the shell to the water, as opposed to flip-flops or Crocs. This is a perfect use for those ratty old sneakers that are no longer good for jogging! Waterproof Clothing Waterproof clothing is not required for rowing. Many companies make water-resistant clothing which is more economical and provides close to the same amount of coverage on typical (non-extreme) days. If you do purchase waterproof clothing, ensure that it is highly breathable. Really waterproof clothing tends not to breathe as well, increasing body heat and sweating, and then holding the perspiration within the clothing instead of letting it evaporate. This can result in your getting too hot, taking off the waterproof clothing, and then getting really chilled.

For regattas, rowers typically wear the team uniform: the MITRC striped unisuit or tank-top and a JL long-sleeved uniform shirt, which can add warmth on colder days.

MITRC's striped uniforms as well as splash-jackets, shirts, tank-tops, hats, and other MITRC-branded gear are available for purchase at least once a year. An e-mail announcement will be sent to all members in advance of each gear order.