Clothing for overweight paddler

I finally got my wife out on a SOT kayak for the 1st time last weekend and she enjoyed it enough that she wants to get one of her own. Her biggest fear of paddling through the colder months here in eastern Tennessee is that she would fall out, get wet & then be miserably cold. I want to get her a drytop & dry pant but I am struggling to find ones that would fit her as she is overweight. She shattered her lower right ankle a number of years ago and even walking a mile is painful for her so she is looking at kayaking as an enjoyable way to get some exercise. Her measuremnts are 5’4" tall, 49" chest & 47" waist. Any help would be much appreciated as all the sizing charts I find online don’t show clothing that would fit her.

Contact manufacturers
They may be able to give you some guidance or do a custom order. The key parameter will be the gasket sizes and it may be easier to go with semi-dry (neoprene neck gasket). My chest, neck and ankle measurements are disproportionately large, so I wind up with long arms and legs, but have found ways to cope with that.

XLS - Kokatat
Your wife may fit in Kokatat’s XLS. It would depend on her ‘girth’ which measures from the shoulder and down between the legs and back up to the shoulder. I doubt you will find separates that work well due to arm length vs her girth. Kokatat makes the XLS in just their paddling suits and drysuits.

For paddling in the winter, either would be a good option. The one piece Supernova would cost about $525.

On sale for $398

Not many options
I am a man on the larger size but short (5’8", 54" chest, 30" legs). Kayak clothing isn’t very well designed for the short and stocky.

If you are willing to spend the cash she can get a custom dry suit made. Kokatat does have some special order sizes that would fit her maybe with some modifications.

Off the rack is hard and finding most of what I am going to recommend in a local retail store is impossible. Even at paddling stores and conventions I have had little luck.

NRS makes wetsuits for the larger paddlers – Grizzly for men and Venus for women. Look at the 3mm neoprene versions and not the thinner hydroskin. You can add a Grizzly/Venus jacket on top of the wetsuit as it gets colder. Also, consider the shorter leg versions as the size goes up they expect you to be taller. She might get a better fit using the short leg and adding neoprene socks and tall water boots.

The NRS Endurance splash jacket is one of the few I found that comes in very large size (3X for men) that fits me. The arms and neck are very adjustable and if really tight only lets a little water in for a short swim.

For a dry top you could try a Aquaskinz Raptor which goes up to a 52" chest size. They are hard to find so I have never tried one on but about the only large dry top I found. Fishing clothing in general supports larger builds then kayaking clothing.

For base layers the NRS Hydrosilk largest size really stretches and fits me. For something heavier in merino wool, check out Minus33 which comes in large sizes. Amazon carries it and you can buy direct from Minus33 as well.

One option is the farmer Jane wetsuit with wetsuit jacket. I wear skin tight hydrosilk under it as neoprene bothers my skin. I don’t get cold so I usually just add my Endurance splash jacket and board shorts over it. Might be a better choice for a sit in with a skirt. Depends how cold it gets down there and how late you want to kayak.

Another very unpopular options with kayakers is to match breathable fishing waders (not the big rubber ones) with either a splash jacket or dry top. When the water gets cold up here I start wearing the breathable chest waders with neoprene feet. I match that with paddling boots (NRS Paddling Wetshoe) which keeps my feet completely dry with the two layers of neoprene. Under the waders I wear merino and/or hydrosilk. I pull the chest waders up very high, burb all the air out and wear two wading belts – one at my waist and one on my chest. You want the belts tight. I then put my wading jacket on and PFD on nice and tight. This keeps me warm in the air, makes you pretty water proof from splashes, and should only result in a little water if you swim.

There is a misconception that if you fall in water with waders on they will fill with water and drag you to your death (water in the waders is not heavier than water outside the waders) or that you will be unable to stand up. I do know a number of fishermen who had problems with rubber waders that were not wearing wading belts that fell in the water. In that case you could have a problem. The way to mitigate that problem is simply use the wading belts, paddling or dry top, and a PFD. What really happens when you go for a swim is first you realize damn this water is cold. The PFD will keep you afloat and the wading belts with even a paddling jacket and PFD straps will keep a lot of water out. I frequently forget to tighten my neck and most of the water ends up in down my arms. When I have my paddling jacket tight the amount of water is extremely small. The waders meanwhile press to your body and will not fill up like a balloon. Maybe you get an ounce of water in the waders down the back, which always seems to go straight to the crouch area.

Still this is not the solution if you are doing big open water or any real whitewater. I mostly wear the waders when doing mellow streams (maybe hits class 1 at most) or lakes where I can just walk to shore. I have gone for a swim a few times in this gear just to prove to my kayak friends how little water gets in and that I don’t instantly die. There are number of internet videos out there showing the same thing. Still I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the water for a long period of time dressed like that or have a fast moving current dragging me down steam. For what I do in the winter a $800 custom dry suit is overkill.

I can’t help with the sizing issue, but
Just to be clear, a dry suit and dry pants combination is not going to be watertight in the manner that a one-piece drysuit is. So, while certainly better than nothing, if your wife falls off the SOT while wearing a dry top/dry pants combo, she is still almost certainly going to be miserable and wet.

Generally, dry tops are designed to be worn in combination with a skirted sit-in kayak. Once you leave the protection of the skirt and kayak, the dry top is no longer “dry.”

I just wanted to say thank-you for all the great info that was given…very much appreciated!

Falling out
I just wanted to address the falling out issue. I felt that way at first, and so do a lot of the women I take paddling ( I go out with new and prospective members of my club). But, depending on what sort of water you paddle on, falling out isn’t usually an issue, especially with a sit on top. I have an Ocean Kayak Venus 11, and I’d have to literally jump off to swim! That is not to say you shouldn’t be protected in cold weather, of course, just that as she does it she’ll become more confident and secure.

Try Reed Chilcheater
Reed Chilcheater makes all their stuff custom. You might try them

Plan on getting Wet

– Last Updated: Oct-11-13 7:12 PM EST –

In cold weather the best plan is to be ready to get wet. Even in Class 1 accidents will happen and you should be ready for a swim. Your Venus, like any other boat can flip in an instant if caught in low over hanging branches or a submerged log.

I'm not saying everyone needs a dry suit. Far from it. Just be ready because getting wet is part of kayaking. Over confidence in your boat or your skills can lead to trouble.