Cold weather gear - Looking for advice on gloves, boots, drysuits

I am looking to find ways to extend my paddling season this year and in future years.

Some info- I paddle in NJ and PA and do most of my paddling in the bays in NJ that are saltwater/brackish. I can typically paddle into the start of October but that is when the water starts to get cold along with the air. I would like to further extend my ability to paddle into the fall season. I don’t plan to paddle in the winter months or in very cold conditions. (Water and air in the 50s)

So to my question- Looking for advice on gloves, boots and dry suits that would suit my situation. I don’t think I need top of the line items but I want to be safe. Looking for gloves that give protection but don’t add a lot of thickness for paddle grip. Boots of any size work. And the dry suit needs to be functional but I am looking to keep costs down


Look for a used dry suit. I got my Kokatat GFER goretex suit which would have been over $1000 new, used for $400. It needed a new neck gasket but I got one of those for $40 and glued it in myself. I have been seeing a LOT of used suits in good shape for sale in various paddling forums, I suspect because people are cleaning out basements and garages and starting to pare down gear they are not using often enough to justify keeping it. Or more people are upgrading with newer stuff. I’m even thinking of selling that dry suit of mine (women’s large so wouldn’t fit you), to replace it with one that fits better and is semi-dry (neoprene rather than latex neck gasket),

For footwear, I like both my $30 hard-soled neoprene Deep See short dive booties and my knee high Kokatat Nomad boots (which are like the Deep See’s with a gaiter attached.) I even use the tall boots in hot weather when I have to launch from slimy mucky banks. Having protection to my knees means I can wade out and climb in my boat with rinsed off shoes and not get muck in the boat or have to paddle all day with soaked feet. I can push the tops down once in the boat so my legs stay cool until a land. And it is nice to be able to climb out when in streams or shorelines if the boat grounds out on a gravel or sand bar and just pull it out to deeper water without getting soaked to the knees.

On gloves, I have yet to get a pair I really like but have a pair of the $20 molded Glacier Gloves which have been adequate for warmth but pretty clunky the few times I needed them. I’don’t often paddle in colder waters so I have not been motivated yet to seek something better, but have been watching for other paddlers’ recommendations.

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I have used quite a few different cold weather gloves over the years and find that the Glacier Glove Perfect Curve suits me best. Not cheap but they function well for my purposes. I’ve had a couple pair of the Kenai model. They were grippier and more flexible but didn’t wear well for me.

I would advise getting gloves sized larger than your normal glove size because neo gloves are tough to get back on wet hands.

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Now is a good time to look for leftovers from 2019-2020.
Glacier gloves
Bootied dry/paddling suits
Kokatat Odyssey
Kokatat Endurance Paddling Suit
Stohlquist EZ

I even know where they’re at. See below

See you on the water,
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
845-229-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile
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Store: []
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Kokatat if it’s in your budget. Look at the price per year and resale if ever. I paddle bays of Long Island to 32° best time of the year. Bit colder if calm.

Once you are dressed for it, the 50s will not seem that cold.

32 degrees is good to if properly dressed. I just don’t like when ice is forming on kayak and gear, and me.

For gloves, I strongly suggest Pogies. If you have not seen them, they are like oven mitts that go over your paddle shaft. You stick your hands inside and hold the paddle shaft in your bare hands (or with your summer gloves if you prefer). I have used these in 30 degree weather and my hands typically get too warm and need to come out for a breather every so often. The main benefit, besides great warmth is that you don’t need to worry about bulk or thick gloves making it difficult to hold your paddle. Also, it is easy to get your hands in and out and once out, you have full finger mobility, unlike with heavy and thick gloves. Also, you never have to worry about dropping a Pogie when you pull your hand out as it stays attached to your paddle.

If you want a new dry suit, shop around on the internet. There are usually some decent sales for the lower end suits in the $500 to $600 range. Also, you may want to consider a semi-dry suit, i.e., a suit with a neoprene neck seal rather than latex. As long as you don’t expect to do a lot of rolling or otherwise submerging your head and neck, these work just as well as full dry suits, but many people find the neoprene neck gaskets much more comfortable than latex. Also, semi-dry suits tend to be a bit cheaper.

Finally, give some thought to what you will layer under the dry suit as most dry suits are just waterproof layers with little to no insulation. Typically, light to middle weight wool or fleece pants and shirts provide very good insulation down to 45 degree water temperatures. For colder water, heavier layering garments may be necessary. The key is to wear materials that don’t absorb water (e.g., never wear cotton) as even the best dry suit can leak if the gaskets are not perfect. Also fleece and wool will help sweat pass through and out of the dry suit while cotton would hold the sweat.

Many dry suits include built-in booties that are made of the same waterproof material as the lining of the rest of the suit. You want a fairly thick and robust neoprene boot on top of this to protect the bootie. For your use, any 3mm neoprene booties will likely be sufficient.

Good luck and enjoy.

Don’t forget the hood. Lose a surprising amount of heat thru your head. Kokatat, NRS others make basic neo hoods, one is a constant companion in my day hatch.

The diving hoods are thicker, also squinch your face in interesting ways and unless you swim would be too much.

Although I really prefer a dry suit, for air and water temperatures in the 50s, you can easily get by with a wetsuit. It will save you a lot of money. I haven’t worn a wetsuit since I bought a dry suit many years ago so am not up on the latest models. Perhaps others can give you suggestions. For temperatures below that, I recommend a dry suit. Be aware that wetsuits do not work very well to keep you warm when out of your boat on shore. Have at least a jacket you can put on for shore breaks.

If going the dry suit route, I strongly recommend a relief zipper and built-in booties. Nothing like dry feet to keep you comfortable. As others have mentioned, a dry suit has all of the insulating properties of a shower curtain. You need the proper weight of wicking material top, bottom, and socks underneath.

For maximum safety, a lot of people recommend field testing your gear every time you go out. Walk into the water at the launch This will tell you if what you are wearing is warm enough and that a dry suit does not have any leaks. This is a tougher suggestion for a wetsuit, as who wants to get wet at the start of a paddle. However, you should try this at some point, perhaps at the end of a paddle where you know the water temperature to judge how well your wetsuit performs. With both, consider how long you might be in the water in the worst case scenario.

Helping with a cold water workshop a few years ago I discovered a small leak in my Kokatat dry suit. I sent it in to be checked and they found that the Gore-Tex was delaminating in one spot. The only question they asked me was what color I wanted for my new dry suit. Can’t beat Kokatat’ s lifetime warranty.


Good advice.

There is one follow on point. With a wet suit, there is an initial chill as the suit absorbs the surrounding water at its ambient temperature. After the wet suit has fully absorbed its fill of water, that is when body heat begins to warm the water that is trapped by the suit. The result is that for the initial interval of water exposure, you get a serious chill (depending on water temperature of course). If you are not prepared or expecting this, it can lead to initial panic, particularly if the water is quite cold.

Testing a wet suit as suggested is a great way to experience this phenomenon in safe conditions.

I mentioned this personal anecdote in another thread, but it bears repeating here. I had an unexpected swim in water that was in the mid 40 degree range while wearing a 3mm farmer john wet suit with a 0.5mm neoprene long sleeve rash guard and experienced that initial chill. It was shocking and did indeed cause me a bit of panic. Fortunately, I was close enough to shore to swim over in about 5 minutes (swimming in a PFD is much slower than you would think). Even after the wet suit started to warm up, I was still quite cold.

This experience was enough of a wake up call that I went out and purchased a dry suit that same week. As soon as I got the dry suit, I tested it as suggested. I put on a light layer of fleece under the suit and jumped from the dock into the same cold lake. The difference in this versus the wet suit was amazing. I never felt cold. There was no initial cold shock. I never felt wet. It was an almost surreal experience as I could tell that I was floating in water, but I was completely dry. I bobbed around for a few minutes and eventually swam (again awkwardly while wearing a PFD) around to the boat launch and walked out of the lake like the creature from the black lagoon. When I removed the dry suit, I checked everywhere and confirmed that I was dry from neck to toes. Since that time, I have only worn my wet suit on the rare occasion when the water is just slightly too cold for shorts. Other than that, the dry suit is absolutely my go to garment whenever the water is too cold for summer clothing.

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Go dry. Spend the extra up front. Wet suits need that little layer of water to keep you warm so that means you need to get wet. The problem with that little layer of water is that it will pool at the lowest point when you are not in the water : ie in your boots. You will get cold fast in a wet wet suit above water.
Wearing a wet suit for long periods of time when it is dry is not comfortable either.
Dry suits are better because you can layer according to conditions. Dry suits do require more care and maintenance. You need to be mindful of the wrist and neck seals at all times (latex will tear easy). Packing a dry suit wrong can damage the zipper, which in most cases, is worth 50% of the suit itself.

There are pros and cons to both but, speaking as a former North Atlantic sea urchin diver, dry is your best option.

P.S. get a relief zipper (for boys) like rstevens15 said. Peeing on you neck seal is as gross as it sounds.

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Been very happy with the semi-drysuit I got from Kokatat about 3-4 years ago. Water in the 40’s is not a problem and neither is air in the 30’s. Make sure you wear fleece under it, the Immersion Research 1 piece liner I got has worked very well and is comfortable. This is a good time to buy, you may also see some in the Classifieds. Definitely a good investment.

Such a difference compared to a wetsuit as when you get wet in a wetsuit once you stop moving you will get chilled rapidly. With a drysuit I just unzip when I get out and drive home, changing when I get back. Only time I wear a wetsuit anymore is if the water is cold and the air is warm, but not so common in New Jersey, maybe in the ocean it is.

how breathable are the Gore-tex suits really ? Looking at Kokokat Meridian but I tend to paddle all year long in S. Calif. Water is cool, mid-60s down to mid-50s in winter, but in summer it might 80 in the sun while paddling. A wetsuit would be a sweat box in that temp, but if I go over being that warm the water will feel much colder (at first).
When playing in the surf, its always going to be a wetsuit. In the past I kayaked in short/t-shirt but as I get older, I am afraid that water is getting colder, so thinking about a dry suit, but I don’t want a sweat box and they say Gore-tex breathes.

My Kokatat suit is not Goretex as those are almost twice as much.

It is supposed to breathe but temperatures in the 80’s gets pretty uncomfortable.

If I were paddling in S Cal. I would more than likely opt for the third choice. A pair of Kokatat Gortex Bibs. they can be paired with a short sleeve or long sleeve paddling jacket. With either a vent-able neck or a gasket-ed neck.

In the summer I carry a pair and also carry a Reed Chillcheater long sleeve paddle caig. and usually wear a pair of Reed chillcheater pants and a Kokatat gortex short sleeve semi dry top. I carry some insulating layers in a dry bag in case the weather switches and I need to go dry. This system has no latex gaskets to rip or tear. It has to be very cold …and then I put on a dry suit.

There is much more to maintain on a drysuit. When paddling cold,a dry suit is the best choice with the least amount of bulk. The bib/changeable top however is very adaptable to warm to cold variability and works nice for camping where you might want to remove the jacket but have the ability to dry foot around camp .

Lots of combinations if you do bibs.

I have the Kokatat Radius, which is Gore-Tex. Yes, it does breathe. I have worn the top when air temp was in the 70s and it was sunny. I recall splashing water down the neck to cool off but on the return trip when the wind picked up, was glad to be wearing it.

I may not have been so warm had I used a lighter layer underneath.

I paddle SoCal seas too. Goretex will never breathe enough to cool you in 70 or 80 degree heat. I usually adapt a combo of wetsuit bottoms and a shorty dry top in spring and summer. However, the goretex drysuit is fantastic for fall and winter in the 60s, especially if you can roll or balance brace to cool down.

Keep in mind even at its most breathable, goretex trapped between other layers is not gonna vent. Think about your neoprene booties, skirt tunnel, PFD…

I would still choose goretex if money permits, but the dream of not sweating in a drysuit remains elusive down here…

That is why I suggested the Bib option. Pairing it with a paddling jacket with a neck that can be opened or closed up if the weather dictates or a short sleeve top and carry the long sleeve jacket for if needed during the day. {I have the Kokatat Knappster short sleeve gortex top and whirlpool gortex bibs} {when I go all the way , I have a Odyssey drysuit by Kokatat.}

Lots of variations and adaptability.

Totally agree. I’ve never been able to get over the lump of fabric created by the folding of the bib into dry top, but it’s personal preference and body specific.

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