Another cold weather paddling question

And, The Flip Side…

– Last Updated: Nov-29-12 3:24 PM EST –

the exact last day I wore my drysuit - Dec, 2015:

I was wearing my kokatat Meridian, with polypro base top and bottom and a micro fleece pullover. Sunny but breezy, post nor'easter day. Surfing a break about a mile away from the car. After a couple of hours of surfing, I took a break with my buddy (who incidentally was in a wetsuit) and after talking a bit, I felt chilled because I was thoroughly soaked from sweat in my "drysuit." Never fully recovered from the chilled feeling after the break. Instead, I hiked back to the car and called it a day.

My previously unquestioned belief in P-Net drysuit dogma ended on that day. Went with wetsuits ever since and my two drysuits hang in the basement. Given that I only paddle when the conditions are "interesting" -- which in the northeast -- is usually in the winter, I think I would have had more opportunity than most in P-Net to fall victim to hypothermia from dreaded "evaporative cooling" of my wetsuit.

Again, I am not making a blanket statement FOR wetsuits over drysuits. More nuanced based on skills and venue -which is why I increasingly tend to not want any part of these discussions.) However, I don't agree with those who go the other way and deem wetsuits as somehow a less costly "comprise" of sorts (for risk ignorant paddlers) when it fact, for some, like me, wetsuits are by far a better and more appropriate solution.


Yup, it is very much so

– Last Updated: Nov-30-12 6:51 AM EST –

But I bet it was December of 2005.

We paddle with a couple of guys who can walk around at least for a bit in a wet wetsuit at air temps down into the high 40's. What I have to wear is too much for comfort for these guys. My husband has typically been more tolerant of cold than me, but less so than these guys. I have paddled with others with no more tolerance than me, of both genders.

And by the way, that was not the first time in my life I have been hypothermic in moderate temperatures. I got it handled faster that day than the other two times though, happily.

That is why I tend to be so conservative in my recommendations. Until someone knows what is "cold" to them, the worst that happens with something like a dry suit is that you sweat a lot and smell pretty rank at the bar afterwards or undergo an uncomfortable but usually (always someone will be the exception) non-fatal chill. I have had a couple of those. But I can handle the sweat with a change of clothing in the car afterwards, and the chill with some more aerobic motion to warm up. The onset of hypothermia in that wetsuit, even with a drytop, came on too fast to afford me the kind of time I would have in an uncomfortable dry suit scenario.

What conditions?
You really didn’t say what conditions you’re paddling in and the likelihood of a capsize or a wet exit. Can you roll?

Celia was right on the money. I’ve been with paddlers who capsized in 40 degree water with a farmer john and drytop and in no time they were shaking. I always hear these stories of people in light weight wet suits on surf boards all day long and I can only say, I don’t know how they do it or it’s a lot more aerobic than it looks.

A wet suit will prevent cold shock but anything heavy enough to give you long term protection will be miserable to paddle in. I’m a ex-scuba diver and my cold water dives were less than an hour and then you get out of the wetsuit and into dry clothes in a warm car.

If the waters you paddle in are fairly tame, you could get away with a wetsuit to get to shore but you’ll have to immediately change into dry clothes (plenty) for the walk back and some heat packs just in case.

Look up cold shock. It can stop you from breathing. Look it up. It’s very serious.

AgreeWith This…

– Last Updated: Nov-29-12 3:47 PM EST –

"I always hear these stories of people in light weight wet suits on surf boards all day long and I can only say, I don't know how they do it or it's a lot more aerobic than it looks."

Yes. Paddling out past the break zone and paddling to catch a wave is both aerobic and anaerobic. The demand steepens exponentially with wave size. As a group, surfers are in far better shape than most paddlers I have met or paddled with.

(Okay. I'll qualified by saying the group of local "cored" surfers at my homebreak who surf year round but especially enjoy winter storm surfing. It's a self select group who can be counted to show up individually almost always after each winter storm.)


Its nothing to fool with that is for sur
e. I did once get a good solid touch of hypothermia that scared me and I am more cautious now. It was summer. But it was in the arctic. On the Clarke river. It went from 75 degrees and gorgeous calm weather to sleet and freezing rain and winds I’m guessing in the 35 mph range. I got damp trying to keep our tarp up and a fire going. All of a sudden I realized I was shivering and could not stop. I dove into my tent stripped off all my clothes and got into my very warm down bag. Took hours but I did warm up. It was the first or second night of my first trip in the arctic. I was worried perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew. We were 500 miles from the nearest human being. It dawned on my that the only thing between me and death was my tent and my bag. Thankfully I had a very good tent and bag, and they both held up well. No trees to tie to or to break the wind. Tent was being held down by boulders on the corners. Rattled to beat the band all night long. I remember thinking for a while that we might be in very serious trouble. But, the next day the weather broke and we had a glorious two weeks on the Thelon catching big grayling and trout and watching all sorts of wildlife. I’ll never forget that trip.

Any idea on a good surf hood? Been getting flushed with a mystery skin cap, starting to get the ice cream headache.

Got out today, some pretty nice little waves, hope some more come in…

Dry vs. Wet (suit)

– Last Updated: Dec-01-12 9:59 AM EST –

I must agree that in a good (meaning well-breathing) dry suit, the evaporative cooling effect is pretty strong. But *only* when you are soaking wet *inside* from sweating. If you are dry inside, there is virtully no issue. With a thick wet suit, you will sweat hard but you won't cool off either. You will sweat a lot in a dry suit too and you will cool off a lot when you finish. A non-breathing dry suit will work just like wet suit in terms of sweating you and not cooling you when you stop (of course, with the right layers assumed in both cases).

So, I must conclude, that if you stop active movement when soaking wet, a thick wet suit would be the better choice to keep you warm. Plus, leaks while in immersed in the water with a losely fitting dry suit can be a real trouble....

That said, for the kind of paddling I do most in the winter, a dry suit is better/easier to get in and out (in fact, I put it on at home, drive, paddle, wear it in the car back home - so pretty easy...

Heavy wool ancient Boy Scout sleep bag
One of these saved my life once. Got wet in a summer T-storm, temperature dropped and stayed down after and I was already running undernourished and dry. Had no shelter, just the bag. Young and foolishly optimistic. I climbed into that old thing with not many brain cells operating and woke up a few hours later realizing that I had accidentally done the right thing.

It took another few days to feel warm again even sitting indoors near a heat source, but I wasn’t a corpse.

water temp here is now at 33-34 degrees. There are a few paddlers going out this sunday to paddle some play holes. Found out some are wearing drysuits, some wetsuits, some wetsuits with drytops. I guess it just boils down to $$ and what your comfortable with (cold wise)obviously living in MN I am used to the cold, so any of these scenarios would probably work for me as long as I don’t take a prolonged swim. Found this link from Jackson kayak about cold weather paddling. Pretty good insight.

Check out ebay
Check out ebay for good dry suits. There are usually pretty good deals on there where someone bought one and out grew it or didn’t end up using it for some trip that they needed it for and are now getting rid of it.

Thanks, A Nuanced Response…

– Last Updated: Nov-30-12 8:29 PM EST –

that will nevertheless fly over most because it calls for pretty comprehensive assessment based on skills, vs. venue vs actual experiences (as opposed to speculative preference) using drysuits AND wetsuits.

Each approach has an inherent compromise, i.e the choice in thickness of wetsuit vs the amount of layering under a drysuit - depends on whether one is hard charging vs lilly-dipping; the ease or difficulty of the venue vs one's skills and level of endurance to avoid the likelihood of a quick or extended immersion in cold water vs overheating in the ambient air temp; etc, etc...

That's why blanket, dogmatic responses are easier and more the norm here.


If Your PFD has pockets
then losing the craft and the drybags and emergency gear, can be somewhat offset by keeping a space blanket (windbreak layer), matches and/or windproof lighter and a compass in your PFD pockets. These should get you through a short hike (less than several miles) and or an overnight in cold temps.

Frankly, if you are wearing a 5/4/3 wetsuit (with appropriate neo mitts and booties, you would more likely be going slow to NOT overheat on the hike. On the hand, if you wet under your drysuit, you may need to hike darn fast to keep yourself warm because you will chill anytime you stop. This would be the opposite of what most would think/claim here.


What’s Your Head Size?
I have several separate surfing hoodies (size L) that I don’t use anymore. If it’s hoodie and mitt time, I am in my 5/4/3 with the integrated hood.

You can have a hood if it’s your size.


when it comes to the hands in true winter paddling, I recommend NRS toaster mitts as the best and least expensive bet. With hands coverage, I have tried most of the options. Or you can spend hundreds (probably close to a thousand) bucks as I have to come to that conclusion.


Probably around a large…
Would appreciate a hood, will keep the old noggin from icing up…

I totally agree
My turn to agree.

I have tried every glove and when my fingers start to go, out come the Toaster Mitts. Having your fingers together in one chamber just always works.

and nothing about a wetsuit?
I understand Sings using a wetsuit in surf conditions, where you are immersed in the water, and the car is generally in the parking lot, salt water conditions, no shuttle, humping it past the surf line, etc…EJ talks about staying DRY, because on the river, you do have a choice.

Individual reactions?
Whether a wetsuit/drysuit is for you can also depend on you and your body. I ran a Thanksgiving road race on 30’s temp. and when it was over, walked to the car and immediately took off all of my sweaty clothing and put on new socks, undies,sweats etc. Drove in a warm car about 30 minutes to a Denny’s for breakfast. Got inside, had a hot cup of tea and then started shivering. I couldn’t stop. Husband had to go out to the car and get his jacket too. I wouldn’t wear anything that stayed wet now. You never know.

sounds like dehydration
the tea, while warm, is a mild diuretic. Your body is a radiator, and to work properly, needs fluid.

Either that, or fatigue

– Last Updated: Dec-02-12 10:09 AM EST –

I find that being dehydrated makes me less able to stay warm, and under some conditions I don't really feel as thirsty as I really am UNTIL I drink a bunch of water. Fatigue has the same effect on me. After a long winter hike I find that I often get much more deeply chilled and find it much more difficult than normal to warm myself back up again. Clothing that chills you when it's wet does make the problem a lot worse though.