Breathables vs. non-breathables

I hereby cast a vote for NRS TRITON fabric, which is used in the NRS Extreme drysuit.

I have been using a non-breathable combo. of Bomber Gear drytop and Kokotat dry pants. I always finish my cold weather paddles very wet, polypro underlayers saturated, water running out of wrist/ankle gaskets.

This Sunday I tried my new Extreme drysuit. I set out on a typical 15-20 mile paddle in 45degree air, 15mph wind, partly cloudy skies. Underlayers consisted of double polypro longjohns top and bottom, and polartec shorts.

Immediately I felt a HUGE difference. I became a bit warm at first (typical) but I only noticed the heat in my head/neck area (wearing 2mm neoprene storm hood.) I got a little sweaty under the hood but felt comfortable in the suit. As the wind picked up on open water, I began to feel downright cool under the drysuit. I could tell that I was experiencing “evaporative cooling” which never happened in my non-breathable combo. I actually had trouble staying warm at a few points.

After a 5hr. paddle, I stripped down and was amazed at how dry my underlayers were…almost imperceptably damp. I had to touch them to my face to feel any dampness at all.

What a difference! I smell better too.

Not to rain on your parade…
But how did the vapor escape through the sprayskirt and PFD(assuming you wore both)?

Sorry if I sound sceptical but I’ve never had the luck to experience any so-called breathable gear to work as advertised(yes I do wear the right layers below).

Wearing only my polypro shirt, I still get wet below PFD and skirt.


I liked my breathable dry jacket so much that I sold my Hydroskin top on Ebay.

The sweat next to the body is turned into water vapor by body heat and passes through the breatheable laminate. Once it passes through and hits the PFD and colder air, it probably would condense back to liquid and can’t go back into the suit. The neo skirt probably poses more of a problem as it is probably warm between the skirt and the suit. I personally do not use the whole skirt tunnel. Instead I fold it in half and have a skirt tunnel band of about 4". That’s a minimal percentage of area that is not breathable compared to a whole suit that is not breathable in which sweat build and pool. I have never had pooling of sweat in my drysuits or drytops.


Lower body breathability
I tend to get damp, if heavily layered, under the drysuit just at and below my waist. But at the waist you are talking about multiple layers by the time you account for the sprayskirt, the overlay panle from the drysuit, the bottom of the PFD and the waist mounted tow. I figure it’s a testament to the GoreTex fabric that I am not soaking wet there. Never a problem on my legs - the fabric seems to vent fine inside the boat as long as the water or air is at least a little cooler than my own body temperature. (In the northeast that’s not hard to manage.)

I also tend to use a neo deck skirt with a velcro waist, but a breathable tube. If it were a neo tube things could get a bit more damp I suppose.

I can’t wait…
to try out my new NRS Extreme.

I got a great deal from Colorado Kayak Supply, made better by joining Paddling Perks.

CKS was a bit cheaper than most retailers in the US and didn’t charge extra (unlike most others) for the XXL. Even better, my suit showed up with the breathable socks instead of ankle gaskets (they didn’t mention on their site that the socks were an option).

The suit fits well. Now I just have to take a jump into the cold North Atlantic and test it out.


Local damp areas/blockage
I’ve found Gore-tex to be both breathable and waterproof, as tested many times while cycling, hiking, paddling, and shoveling snow (don’t laugh–this is a high-sweat activity).

However, even with G-t drysuit, I still have damp (NOT soaking) areas where the PFD covers my torso. When the PFD is snug against the body, the vapor has no place to evaporate. In this case, the blocking item is on top of the breathable G-t.

If the blocking item is between the skin and G-t, a similar thing happens. Moisture under the gaskets is a good example of this one. I know it’s the gaskets inhibiting the evaporation, because on my sleeves the only dampness is directly under the gaskets; the rest of the arms are bone-dry. Ditto for the legs–except under the ankle gaskets.

The sprayskirt tunnel also blocks moisture from evaporating from the torso. The skirt itself still leaves enough air in the cockpit that condensation is not a problem in the drysuit bottom. Plenty of air space around the legs for moisture to move out.

Possibly, by wearing wicking layers against the skin and absorbant layers above that (under the drysuit), you can mask the dampness from your perception of it, but the moisture will still be inside the suit if it’s blocked by PFD and/or skirt tunnel.

Rain as hard as you like…

– Last Updated: Jan-11-06 6:15 PM EST –

I shall remain dry in my drysuit!

My pfd is neither air nor water tight (especially as I'm constantly moving.) A steady 15mph wind was blowing, I'm sure this took care of any water vapor between the suit and pfd. I was also out of the boat three times, and had the skirt pulled off a couple times on the water. I'm sure this was enough to keep the moisture levels low.

also VERY impressed with Triton fabric…
I have used an NRS Revolution dry top for two seasons and its still one of my favorite pieces of paddling gear. It’s tough as heck and it has remarkable breathability. I sweat and roll… a LOT, and yet I still end each day only slightly damp.

Guess You Like Rainy Parades, eh?

I love rainy days. If I decide to paddle on the weekend, and one day is sunny and the other rainy, I will go on the rain day.

Thanks Krousman for the information on the Triton material. I’ve only paddled for Michigan rivers for 6 years, year round, and have finally gotten to the point of researching better cold weather gear.When items are pricey, I tend to research for 1-3 years, so your comments are greatly appreciated. MICHIGAN NANA