Dress me up for colder water...

-- Last Updated: Jul-05-07 9:21 AM EST --

... typical Ontario fall water and weather which would be around 30-40F. Start with the base and build up. What do you sugest I wear as i have nothing yet and will need to start buying some clothing for fall paddling. I dont think I need the entire drysuit as I think for the top layer a good wetsuit and neoprene farmer john type stuff will do. What do you guys wear while sea kayaking??

Thanx for any help.

Some advice
First, read Jay Babina’s article about Farmer John wetsuits: http://tinyurl.com/2y32bn.

With that as a background, what I wear for colder conditions is a farmer john wetsuit with a couple of layers under the top (heavy synthetic top, fleece). Over that I wear a dry top. I use my heavier neoprene booties and a neoprene hood that covers my neck. I also have a dry bib to match the top if I think conditions warrant.

Drysuits are a lot more comfortable for the conditions you’re describing. You can get a good Kokatat tropos drysuit for $375 now (or you can pay $1000 for their top of the line drysuits). I wear a farmer john wetsuit with paddling jacket at times, and hydroskin when the air temps are really hot, but my drysuit is actually the most comfortable to paddle in until the air temperatures hit the 70s. Just buy the drysuit if you’ll be paddling when the air temperatures are in the 30s and 40s, because the water temps will be really cold. If you go in, you’ll be happy you got that drysuit.

At those temps…
drysuit. The more basic ones won’t cost any more than the higher quality layers described by Dr Disco. Just a good drytop, not optional for those temps, can easily be a couple of hundred dollars. The layers all told will cost the same as a midlevel drysuit, and be much more of a pain to get in and out of.

Other alternatives

I like the Stolhquist Bodypod and the NRS suit better than the Kokatat Tropos suit. Both of these are about the same price but are three ply material (unlike, the tropos).

and for 40-60F drytop??
Would that be enough for those temps? Above that as in now and untill the end of Aug. the temps wont drop below 60F or so for water so I will just wear what I wear now which is a pfd :slight_smile:

I am now looking at

Palm Aleutian for drytop (mid temps)

Palm Torrent drysuit (for colder temps)


What are the opinions?? Prices are mid range and the amterials/construction seem good to me… but again I never had a drytop of drysuit.

For myself when I started I did not have
a dry suit but I was able to find an inexpensive one piece wet suit. I would not wear a farmer john. One piece to me is the way to go. A farmer john is ment to be worn with the wet sit top for it to work properly. Buy a drysuit if you can afford it.

I like drysuits
We got farmer johns last winter. Used them, but I never went into the water. Dh tested his in the local river (water temp-lower 40’s at that time) and found the experience rather chilling. I opted out. You’ll survive a swim I guess, but well, I hate being cold.

This summer I found a couple of Palm drysuits through sierra trading post. The only have the womens at the moment, but I checked everyday and finally a mens popped up (and disappeared shortly after I ordered it). REI had some in their outlet store. Kayak academy has some used ones too.

Just me, but I love the idea of being relatively dry for a day of kayaking. Plus in a drysuit, I’ll get out and play in the water. I won’t do that in a wetsuit.


I’m from maine and my paddling season is from March until December on the ocean—I would reccomend the drysuit if you can afford it—much more comfortable and given appropriate clothing underneath much more protection if you you do go in the water.

Only real way to tell
is go swimming and see how long you can take it. Big diff between 45 and 55 degree water for most people.

by popular request
Here’s what I wear for chilly water, layer by layer:

  1. undies
  2. an NRS rash guard t-shirt
  3. long underwear (polypropalene, marino wool)
  4. on a cold day, a fleece “union suit”
  5. a drysuit
  6. NRS titanium/neoprene socks & neoprene booties
  7. glacier gloves
  8. an NRS mystery material cap

As usual I’m different!!
I hate dry suits. I think they have their purpose and are great for a lot of people, maybe most of you folk. BUT, I find them slippery on the thigh hooks, limiting in options, expensive, bulky with the big zippers, etc.

I paddle cold Alaskan, BC, and PNW waters and kayak surf year round. My preference is for a good dry top with neoprene pants, not bibs. I wear soft wool under my top, and neoprene booties. I like pogies for the hands, and have had luck with NRS neo gloves…tear the velcro wrist wrap off!

My system does not offer the protection of a dry suit, but I believe it’s adequate assuming you have good skills. It’s a tradeoff. I for one will lose a margin of safety for paddling comfort and freedom of movement. For surfing my dry top and spray deck are one piece and this really allows for free movement.

Dressing for Cold
I try to dress for the water temp and if the water temp is low and the air temp is high, I keep my head wet to compensate. I usually wear a long legged farmer-jane and a short or long sleeved NRS hydroskin shirt under that. A drytop goes over that. A drysuit would be preferable, but I have yet to purchase one. One thing I can tell you is that when practicing rolling last fall, when cold water entered my ears, it caused extreme vertigo to the point where I could not remain upright. I subsequently bought some (highly recommended by some) Dr. Pro earplugs. I have not tried them in cold water yet, but will this fall. I would say that ear protection would be high on my list of must haves for cold water. -Nancy

As someone else mention, what
ever you go with try it and see how it works before you need to use it. When my wife and I bought our drysuits we went for swim in a local river. It was February and most of the river was frozen so I would say it is safe to say the water was somewhere in the 30’s. We were fine in just our street cloths and the drysuits after 20 minutes in water just floating around. The other nice thing about a drysuit is when you are done even if you went for a swim you just step out of it and you are ready to go home.

To The Contrary…

– Last Updated: Jul-05-07 9:02 PM EST –

Whenever I paddled and especially if I surf paddled, I was totally soaked in my insulating layers under my drysuit. This happened with the top of the line Kokatat Goretex Meridian and the Palm Stikine. (I actually likef the Palm's fit better and didn't notice much of a difference from the Kokatat goretex. Heck, either way, I was wet.)

These days, despite having two perfectly good condition drysuits, I use wet suits exclusively year round: 6/5/4 for winter (sub 40 degree water), 4/3 late fall and mid spring, 3/2 for most of the summer, 2/1 shortie for summer dog days. Add it all together, these wetsuits would be about the cost equivilent (actually about $100 less) of a kokatat meridian. But, I actually find the wetsuits more comfortable and think they are safer for my type of paddling -- mostly surf and some ww.

But, for most general paddlers, yeah, I think one of the mid level drysuits (with appropriate layering) is probably a better bet for a beginner/novice and buys him/her more time in an extended swim.


wet suits
If I didn’t already own a farmer jane wet suit and dry suit, I would be tempted to try Sing’s surf wet suits for the surf zone. The ones that he wears are super stretchy, have no zips and have arms. They look really comfortable once on but are really hard to get on/off. Especially off once you are wet. I think I would miss the pee zip though…



– Last Updated: Jul-06-07 9:53 AM EST –

only the winter one doesn't have a zip. Initially, I had trouble getting it off because I got confused about which side to slide off first. The attached hood and overcollar makes a difference in which to come off first and I went the wrong way -- my right side. When I tried the left side, it was like easy... Duh. :)

Spring 4/3 suits have a short zip in the back and are easy to get on/off.

3/2 are even easier because of the thinner neoprene.

2/1 shortie is next to nothing and great when I want to pretend I am a sexy surfer dude.

I bought my winter Excel Infinity suit one year too soon. This year's Infinity model will begin using water proof zipper. That's means easier on/off but still minimal water infiltration. I still love my suit though. Warm as heck, flexible and don't worry about ripping it in at my beloved rocky home break. (Indeed, it provided nice cushion the couple times I got dragged a bit along the boulder bottom.)

Pee zipper? We are talking about a "wet" suit... LOL. That's another plus. I have been out there 4 plus hours straight of surfing without worrying about a "relief break." The wetsuit is the *best* immersion wear choice if you really get into the waveskiing.


Drysuit versus
I had thought of those before recommending a drysuit, but for a newer paddler I thought a basic drysuit might be a better choice. My thought was that once someone has seat time, they may find that the newer surf type wet suits will work for them. But the better ones seem to cost nearly as much as a starting drysuit, especially if you hunt sales, so the savings is more in personal best fit for comfort than cost.


– Last Updated: Jul-06-07 11:06 AM EST –

2 or 3 post up, I agreed that if you got $400 bucks to spend, then a mid range drysuit is probably best for the newer paddler, especially if they are in the northern climate zone.

What sometimes emerges around here is a "drysuit dogma" that doesn't take into account variables such as where a person is located, the length of their paddling season, their budget, and or the presumption that wetsuits are just not up to the task of keeping someone safe in an immersion.

The surfing types on this forum laugh/scoff at the dogma because we see more surfers out in the winter, literally immersed in rough water conditions that most drysuit owning paddlers avoid (as they should if without the necessary skills).