2mm wet suit bottoms or Hydroskin s?

Which of these would be the most universal for paddling in upstate NY water temps. At what point(time of the year?) would a 2mm wet suit bottom get too uncomfortable(hot) to have on ?

Just getting into kayaking - so Im trying to ease into paddling attire without sacrificing on safety.
I'm sure several years into this, it will all come together with a variety of clothing options acquired to match the temps. Untill then, Im just another newbie confused by so many options that are available.

Thank you to all of you experienced paddlers that are willing to share your opinion and experiences. This allows us newbies to grow in kayaking that much sooner!

Hydro skins
were, for me, a waste of money! If it’s cold enough to need them, they are inadequate, and I live and paddle in Florida. They are comfortable, though, and if you don’t plan on coming out of your boat, they may work for you. If you plan on standing in the water instructing, or otherwise getting real wet, go for something better. Just my opinion after two years of use. Ken…

Torso too
For going into late spring/summer paddling you need to take care of your torso as much or more than your lower half. Granted you want something to be comfy in for sitting in the boat and having water splashing in (even with drip rings), but that is lower priority than staying warm should you end up unexpectedly swimming. For that you cover torso first, then butt and legs.

As to which of these, are you talking long in both cases? As in not shorts? As to hydroskin v. wet suit stuff, hydroskin is more likely to have a wind blocking layer than any wet suit material. You need that - neoprene without a wind blocking layer is a prescription of hypothermia once wet and up in the air even at temps in the 60’s.

I’d not go further than investing in a pair of basic neoprene bottoms and a top right now. Get a decent paddling jacket too - you’ll never regret it. Wait for the water to get to 60 degrees, then see where your interest goes.

2 mm bottoms great to have

– Last Updated: Apr-19-09 1:25 PM EST –

I have a pair of 2 mm Oneil bottoms that i wear quite a bit when the water temps are between about 62 and 68 and air temps are in the low sixties to low seventies. (that's about six months of the year here) That is for being in the water constantly surfing for several hours at a time. For those water and air temps I usually have on a long sleeve Hydroskin top. I use my 2 mm bottoms in the coldest part of our winter under my 3/2 for waveski surfing when I don't want to use my heavier 4/3. I use my 2mm bottoms when the water is cold but I don't want to use a heavy wetsuit for competitions when I'm only in the water 20 minutes.

I have a Hydroskin farmer John that will work for the same temps being in the water or slightly cooler for just touring and you need some immersion protection. I thin high quality 2 mm stuff like Oneil is warmer than hydroskin. For cool/mild water rempshydroskin works wel to keep you warm.

In new york 2mm bottoms and a hydroskin top would be fine for late spring early fall kayaking. Or later in the summer if you are kayaking in colder sterams or lakes.

Start here …

and here


Very good information and will get you started in the right direction.

Water temps?

Some of these gauges have temperature readings (like Albany):


It’s already up to 50F!



neoprene bottoms
I also have them in 2 mm. Very kayaker friendly - grip the seat (yours & the boat’s), flex when you do, better insulator than Hydroskin bottoms. And I find neo wears better (does not abrade) than 'skins.

Two neoprene pieces plus a waterproof shell cut for paddling is a great foundation. You can add synthetic or wool blend layers - 1 or 2, short or long sleeved as you prefer - underneath a waterproof shell where the arms are cut for paddling.Two slim layers better than one thick one.

Your PFD foam is also an insulator so consider that a layer as well.

If you invest in a good skirt made of neoprene you’ll find it and the boat help keep your lower body warmer.

But, dress to get wet and stay warm if (when) you come out of the boat. Springtime w. the occasional warm day is still a cold water outing for northern paddlers. Dress for the water temps.

In the link below is a great comparision of how water temps affect clothing choices.

Don’t forget a cap or skullcap, some kind of neoprene footwear, and paddling gloves, a lot of heat is lost at those points & hand dexterity is necessary for rescue situations.

We all tolerate cold water differently. Layer up your neoprene and take a short plunge very close to shore and a heated car & a hot nonalcoholic bev & sleeping bag, and see how you do after 10 minutes or so in the water.

Kayaking in late spring and late fall in Michigan led me to chose a 3/2mm sleeveless wetsuit as a foundation piece for late spring and late fall paddling. You can achieve much the same thing w. two good neoprene pieces. I have both setups and prefer the one piece because it’s one less seam to deal with, esp. at the waist, but it’s what works for you that counts.

Atlantic Kayak Tours


It’s part of their Expert Center which has great info on an array of kayaking topics.

Cheating with clothing
If you paddle alone and have no skills, a boat wake could knock you over and if you’re by yourself and unnoticed, you could be in real trouble in those cold NY lakes. If you’re with a group of friends with some skills, they put you back in your boat in a few minutes. You have to be able to take an immersion for an extended period in the beginning. Those Atlantic kayak tour articles are great but the part left out is your skills and paddling alone vs. groups. I like my Hydroskin shorts and long pants and I use them mostly for staying warm on lunch breaks in the warmer weather. I jump from my drysuit to those with nothing in between, but I can roll and usually paddle with friends. Don’t go crossing big lakes when there’s white caps with no skills or fellow paddlers.

Cold in Hydroskins
But comfortable in 2mm. I very the uppers, but when it’s wetsuit weather, I prefer the 2mm. Never seem too hot cause only am wearing them when the water’s cold which is like sitting in a fridge, so my legs appreciate a bit more warmth.

ditto to Jay and another thought
I think he is onto something with the hidden factor being skills and group who are trained in recovery along with knowing how dangerous 30, 40, 50 degree water is upon contact and how long in it.

A man died on the Hudson yesterday fishing I am so unhappy to report. It sure makes this real unfortunately.

Two other things make spring the “killer season”. Warm air makes us want to dress for warm air, not the water temps. And, neoprene and drysuits are costly and can over heat us. Every year we have these posts answers.

I find that complacency among in myself is something to watch for too. It is not great to over rate one’s skills and presence of a group if one gets really hypothermic in when plucked out quickly.

Maybe the best thing is learning to scull and roll, or even use a friend’s bow to get a bit wet to cool off. It makes wearing the right stuff easier to stay cool in

I’m in NEPA, about the same temps.
I don’t take chances with cold water. I paddle a lot in winter and alone, so a mistake could be deadly. Get the best cold weather gear you can and USE IT! Anything below 60 degree water can be a problem.

Practice self rescue and reentry, use long safty lines and keep your PFD on.

Give me a call if you want to paddle the Upper Delaware around Narrowsburg, NY 570 352 8806

Spring is brutal
I agree. You could die this time of year with a 2 mm farmer john on, and the dry suit can be torture when the air jumps to 70. If you take your hat off it will cool you down plus I often splash cold water on the suit and that works really well. I usually don’t want to roll because I don’t want that cold water on my head or in my ears or want to put on a hood.

If you are paddling spring or fall
I’d get a 3mm farmer john, some 5mm booties, Mystery gloves and a splash top. Then you can think about layering with a Hydroskin, Mystery, Immersion Research Thermoskin or Neosport XSPAN shirt. I like the farmer john with the stretch neoprene shirts for more flexibility in the arms and shoulders. I have a merino wool sweater that is in the mix as well. I just wring it out and I’m ready to proceed. The Body Glove System 5 is a good value but the jacket might be somewhat constricting for paddling.

agree w. you & tideplay
skills, esp. rescue skills, are the nicest accessories.

Savvy paddle partners are great, but figuring out who really is savvy and who just labels themselves as such can make for interesting reality checks on the water. A good reason it still falls on each paddler to successfully take care of him or herself - not out of selfishness (tho that is a powerful spur to survival) but out of practicality - hard to help someone else otherwise.

The right clothing can buy some time if the rescues don’t go like clockwork. Not a replacement for getting it done, though. Not unless a fool is lucky enough that a ferry interrupts its progress to send out a Zodiac boat as happened in Puget Sound.

Kudos to the OP that he is asking about how to figure out the right clothing for cold water bec. it is a known and repetitive cause of drownings in the northern latitudes every midspring.

It’s a combination of people being oblivious and feeling invincible - no one will tip, everyone can “swim it in” or they will “just stand up”. Except when they misjudge depth and/or distance, which is easy to do if they haven’t been on that particular stretch in 6 months. Or it hits home too late how friggin’ cold one minute in 45 degree water can be, and how much body heat they lose while trying to swim.

I am not safety nanny to any of them, but when I paddle I am aware of them.

The OP is upfront about being new to kayaking, so we know that. We don’t know if he paddles alone or with a group, or what the skill levels of any partners are, so I just stuck to his point of entry, as it were.

If he would like to discuss different ways of acquiring skills or the dynamics of judging conditions, there are some people on this board who will be real assets… Websites like nrs.web and Atlantic Kayak Tours are just the intro to a thick book, the times on the water are the chapters.

I own Hydroskin and 2mm
neoprene and find that the hydroskin has much less insulating protection. If you think you will need protection from cold water, go for the 2mm. If you can roll really well and don’t think you will spend much time in the water, then hydroskin will work. The main difference is that hydroskin is very stretchy and allows water to flush through and under it. The only time I wear my hydroskin is during the summer months for minimal protection.

Depend on kind of paddling
I have used Hydroskin pans for the past 6 seasons -4 of those seasons, down in South Florida, and the other two, here in North Georgia.

In SFL, even those rare very cold winter days (low 40’s or upper 30’) they were just perfect because the water temp is always warm -never goes lower than 75º (the ocean).

In North West Georgia, I use shorts for as long as I can and the Hydroskin pans about 2 or 3 months a year because they are thin enough not to ruin my form/technique, and not to use sprayskirt.

However, a big however, they do not offer any protection for our typical winter water temp: upper 30’s low 40’s. ( I could not paddle with a 2mm anyway).

I use Hydoskins at the
the beach for boogie boarding or the wave ski on the hot days of summer in N.E., very comfortable and sometimes under a 3mm farmer john in the late spring for white water or sea kayaking near shore. I use the air, water temperature and personal tolerance for guide

Hi Newguy,
A few of the posts here are by your neighbors. If you haven’t done a wet exit yet, or haven’t practiced self and assisted rescues, think about signing up for a warm water pool session before paddling outdoors.

We have three sessions left indoors this year in Schenectady, starting tomorrow night.


I will be instructing at the second session, so you would get to meet a p.netter as well.

In addition, on Thursday evenings, we have kayak open pool practice sessions in Duanesburg running through April. Cost is $15/person from 7:30pm-9:15pm I organized these and am there most weeks. No formal training offered, but usually someone is there that will gladly help if you want to work on skills. http://www.dacc.info/



cold water paddling
Thank you all for your replies. I will remain a warm weather paddler, until I can invest in the proper clothing.

I do find it amazing how many folks give no concern for the water temps., nor do they do any research on cold water paddling. They only look at the air temp. as a factor. I quess the longer one lives, the more they research before placing themselves in harms way.

Those that choose not to, are simply removing themselves from the gene pool or are just plain lucky!

good for u! :smiley:
you are already further along, as far as understanding how to approach cold water paddling, than many northern paddlers, even the “intermediate” ones :wink: Join up w. some folks up your way as wetzool offers. You’ll not only build skills, but you can see what wetzool and other good paddlers in your area are wearing, and why. This will save you from wasting beaucoup $ on the wrong gear, or skimping and finding out it doesn’t keep you warm enough.

If you are ever in doubt
about the insulating properties of a particular garment, just go for a swim, it will make things very clear.