cold weather paddling

I would like to know how cold a temperatuer a full 3mm wetsuit and a drytop combination would be good for? I would like to extend my paddling in indiana and kentucky but can’t afford a drysuit yet. I also thought about wearing hrydro skins underneath the wetsuit.

Depends on how you handle cold.
Depends also on where you are, what kind of back-up gear you have with you, and other factors. See the “justify drysuit” thread for more.

My sea kayaker friends say “swim your gear”. Put your gear on, go swimming, and see how cold you can stand. Me, personally, I think the water is already colder than you’ll find comfortable, and if you are a deep water paddler, it is the water for which you need to dress.


Chip’s right…
…it’s already too cold for the combination you’re asking about. Either get a dry suit or stay off the water until late spring when it warms up again.


– Last Updated: Dec-14-09 8:44 AM EST –

Murry's ran a drysuit sail on the Stohlquist suit. It was $200 off, making the total $450. It's still expensive, but about the best I've seen for a full suit. Call them and say you missed the sail and ask if they would give you the sale price if you bought one. They can't do more than say no, and with the economy, they may agree. The original link is on page five of discussion.

dress for the weather
We are in southern Ohio, paddling fat rivers, small creeks, and lakes. My wife and I paddle SOTs most of the time, so we always interact with the water…cold or warm. In the winter, we wear an underlayer of polypro and if cold enough a light fleece layer over that. Wool socks with neoprene booties. Main outer layer is windproof/waterproof bibs. Sometimes we seal the bottoms with a neoprene wrap. Upper layer is a windproof/waterproof hooded shell jacket. Polypro or wool stocking cap. Hydroskin gloves. We each carry a drybag with a fleece layer, stocking cap, gloves, and wool socks.

We generally get wet up to the calves just getting on/off the SOTs and we have each been fully dunked in cold water. The gear has worked fine for us.

Time in the water is the key

– Last Updated: Dec-14-09 9:34 AM EST –

I also use a two-piece solution (drytop + dry pants). Would have preferred to have a one piece but that's what I got...

In slightly sub-freezing air temps (with strong winds, which cause me to ice over despite the sun) and water temps around freezing (thin ice sheets near shore on the river, free in the middle) I felt entirely comfortable with a wicking shirt under wool sweater and on my legs - long underwear with a medium-weight exercise pants (these of course under the dry top/bottoms). While I did get entirely wet from spray, I was not planning on and did not spend any time swimming in water (close to shore).

Check these out: You can also see that I've been out for only a short time (under 2 hours) and worked out at a fairly high rate so body heat generated was considerable. Not sure I'd be entirely comfortable just floating about in the same outfit (and definitely not if in the water for a long time)...

When rolling with the same outfit, even in a few degrees warmer weather (38-42 F water, same for the air) I do get cold if I spend more than a couple of rolls in succession under water. I warm-up comfortably again once right side up. However, I know that if I had to swim for more than a few minutes in 40 degree water with these clothes I would get uncomfortably cold. And if I had to spend more than just a few minutes in the water it may become dangerous...

I have no idea if a 3mm wet suit would be better - try it, but remember that if you go off-shore, you need more than what you need if you paddle a narrow river with the shores within an easy and quick swim for instance.

Hmmm I use that combo right now …
Works fine with air temps down into the high thirties and water temps to about 55. That is for surfing where I am continuously getting hit by waves, crashing, tipping over, rolling etc. In other words in the water constantly for 1-4 hrs at a time. It would work to give you enough time to get to shore in colder water, maybe down to 45 degrees but I would go with a 4/3 suit.

I’m assuming where you are the water is close to freezing right now. You would want a thicker wetsuit or dry suit at those temps. I don’t paddle in water temps lower than 40 so I can’t really recommend.

Everyone is different
I really have a tough time with paddling when the air temp is below 50 degrees. The coldest I’ve paddled in this year is 43 degrees and sunny and that was really sad. The water stings your face and hands even though the rest of you is hot and sweaty.

I really admire you folks who paddle father up north for your fortitude. I just cancelled yesterday’s paddle because it was 46 and raining. I’ll be glad when winter is over.

The funny thing is swimming in 45 degree water with my current kit isn’t too horrible if I get my face out of the water, but the lack of sun and warm air makes the whole winter experience dreadful.

When the high doesn’t get to 50 and there is no sun, I’ll stick to Christmas shopping, amateur microscopy, cleaning house, or anything else INDOORS!

I’d suggest doing searches on
drysuit and wetsuit, and reading the past posts that

many experienced paddlers have posted. I doubt if they

will repost for every person asking similar questions.

I ain’t no expert, but I’ll say that it’s best to learn

the 2 different concepts between the wet suits and the

dry suits. I’ll let you do the research.

Wet means wet inside. From full to farmer john.

Dry means dry inside. From full to semi.

Good luck, and enjoy your learning experience.

dry suit
I did the same as your suggesting last fall, got away with using my 3mm wetsuit, paddling very conservativly and close to shore until the lakes froze, then in the spring I used that same suit in both lakes and whitewater till things warmed up. I did swim a few times in some pretty damn cold water in the early spring but it was always in smaller rivers and I was able to get out quickly and the air was warm. So you CAN get away with it if your carefull about where and what you do…don’t go out in the middle of a lake or in a huge river etc.

But this fall my wife bought me a dry suit as an early xmas present and I’ll tell you it’s been the best $700 we ever spent! Ive been paddling whitewater in all sorts of conditions (snow storms, below freezing, etc) that just wouldn’t be safe without the suit and I took a swim in 40 degree water through a rapid and was warm and safe as can be. Save your money and buy a dry suit as soon as you can and you won’t regret it.