Cold water, warm air

Note: I’ve read quite a bit via the search function plus plenty of time on google, but more info never hurts.

I’m reaching a point in the year where the drysuit is getting too warm and the layers underneath are not insulating enough in the event of immersion but I overheat extremely fast with proper insulating layers, so I need a new solution for the warm summer months. Where I live the water is usually between 12-18C (53-64F) and might get up to 20 at the end of July for a few days, so definitely still hypothermia territory. The air however will easily range from 22-26 (71-78F) on average and 27-30 (80-86F) if we get a heatwave which usually last 2-3 weeks if it happens.

I’m looking at a couple of wetsuit options and am wondering what people think might be best:

A 0.5mm neoprene long sleeve shirt with either: 3mm neoprene pants or 3mm neoprene long John / farmer John.

Do either of these sound like a reasonable solution for the temperatures? Is there something else that I should be considering instead?

PS. No roll yet but working on changing that.
PPS. Looking at Palm brand gear, thoughts on them? Not a lot of reviews I can find.
PPPS. Posted to Reddit first and they sent me here as a better place to ask

Welcome to the community. In cold H2O and warm air conditions I wear a 3mm farmer John wetsuit and a LS dry-top to deal with possible immersion. On sunny relatively low-wind days it gets a bit too warm on top. On these same days my wife wears a 2mm shorty sleeveless wetsuit, and LS dry top. She does not get as warm as I do - but not sure whether she’ll be good in immersion.

Looking forward to replies - as this something we don’t have a good solution for. We are considering getting SS dry tops.

Along with the temps, another part of the decision is related to your skills, equipment, the waters you paddle in, and how you react to the cold.

For safety, you would wear enough thermal gear to allow you enough time to get back into your boat or to safety. So what I wear when I paddle alone is likely different than if paddling with others. And what I wear for a paddle on protected waters were the chances of flipping are super low is much different than when I am in exposed conditions, and different again if I am rock gardening or surfing where I have a high likelihood of flipping. And I would feel I need less if I was on a sit on top or paddleboard over when in a sea kayak, because they are faster to get back on. And white water kayakers often wear less than sea kayakers, as they usally get quickly flushed to shore (where they can get out of water).

My layers vary down:

  • full dry suit, expedition level - often worn for the rock gardeing/surfing
  • paddling suit (neo neck) with lightweight material - for colder water/weather when chances of fliupping are very small
  • 3 mm farmer john - not worn that much, as I prefer the paddling suit and find they kind of match conditions when they would be used.
  • 2 mm shorty john - my more likely intermediate condition gear if it was too warm for paddling suit
  • .5 mm short sleeve shirt - find I rarely wear for paddling.

This is all based around me knowing my rescue skills (pretty strong and regularly practiced) and that I have a bit of extra weight (built in thermal insulation) such that I don’t chill that quickly when swimming. Plus have a variety of paddling jackets, semi-dry tops, and layers to mix and match with these.

Palm hasn’t been available in the States for about 10 years. Pretty common in Europe. I had a Palm paddling suit (lightweight dry suit but neoprene neck) years ago that I got as a closeout when they left the market and found it to be a good product.

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That’s been super helpful, thanks! I’m definitely low on the skill side of things since I’m still relatively new to kayaking, so I suppose the long John and .5 long sleeve shirt is probably the way to go for me.

I think at 3 mm Long John would be good and then yeah if you want, go with that 0.5 mm top and/or even just a t-shirt. If you get too warm just splash yourself with some water.

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To follow up on this I ended up going with 3mm neoprene pants (palm blaze) and 1.5mm top (vaikobi flexforce). The past month or so has been warm for longer than normal, usually around 25-27C and what I found was on land the pants in particular could be quite warm but both on and in the water the whole outfit was super comfortable, both in warm sunny and cool windy conditions. The bottom sitting in the boat never felt too hot and the top breathed extremely well, but also insulated effectively. I spent up to about 40 minutes in the water without ever feeling uncomfortable. (The temperature this year in the water has ranged from 15-19C).

I’ll pick up a long john 3mm in a month or so as it cools off but probably stick with the top until it’s time to switch to the drysuit.


Older original post (last summer) but it turned up as I was searching the archives for feedback on Palm drysuits. Seems that prior owners have liked the brand but repeatedly mention they became unavailable on this side of The Big Pond. They have a US dealer now and I just ordered a women’s Bora model (to replace a Kokatat that has never quite fit me right).

I’ll report on performance of it once I have it in hand, but thought I would mention, since dry suit season is approaching, that the brand is now available from Watersports Outlet, based in the UK but with warehouses from which they ship in Santa Margarita, California and Traverse City, MI.

I paid $738 for the suit, which has some features I liked such as a hood, full dropseat, advanced neoprene neck gasket, reinforced fabric socks, kangaroo pocket, back cross shoulder entry zip. Not Goretex, but I am not a heavy sweat-er and have been fine with G’tex alternatives in other rain and dry wear over the years.

One of the main reasons for trying this is that the size range for womens suits from Palm is better for me. They offer 6 sizes. I am on the cusp between M and L in Kokatat but have a short upper body so I swim in my L sized GFER with a lot of extra bulk.

Maybe I just have an “British body” because I have found that Brit-based outdoor gear lines like those from P & H/Venture, Rab, Palm, PeakUK and Yak, seem better proportioned and scaled to me than US brand size metrics.

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Most of the year I wear dry suit but when it gets a little warmer and too warm for that in the shoulder season I use a NRS Hydroskin both shirt and pants like in late May and September. I get the thicker one as the difference in how hot you get when out of the water and paddling as a dry person is minimal, but the difference in how warm it keeps you is HUGE. I use the thin one for swimming in the local ocean and I get cold after 30-40 minutes in the water. Without it I’d NEVER swim and even then I go in the water maybe 5-6x a summer. FYI we live on the water. I was originally from Italy where water is soupy warm from May to September. We live in Southern New England where the water is too darn cold to enjoy swimming on the single hottest day of the year that’s why I got a kayak so I could enjoy the water without actually going in it!