Dry drysuit baselayers

The moisture in a baselayer is obviously impacted by the breathability of the WB material in the drysuit, whether Gore-tex brand or a proprietary fabric. But I had believed that all non-cotton synthetics worked equally well at base-layer moisture management. I’m not experiencing this at all. The past few cool weather paddle weekends, I am finding the baselayers such as Patagonia Capilene and Malden Mills Power-dry and Power-stretch have an all day uncomfy wet feel. On a last paddle, it was suggested that layers made with polypropylene will not absorb any moisture. My last memories of polypro baselayers were from hiking days . . . those stinky clothes that would melt in the dryer.

Can anyone suggest a great baselayer material (and brand if desired) for cold weather drysuit wear that might be better for moisture than the fleece materials that I have listed, while providing warmth. Synthetic rash guards add little warmth so probably not an option?

Two contenders
Your memories of polypro are accurate. Not only will your base layers stink so will your drysuit. All will need a dose of Mirazyme.

I’ve had great comfort, warmth and all round success with the following;

1)GoLite Light Weight C-Thru zip top, or crew neck and tights. Extremely fast wicking and a warm silky hand to the fabric. The zip top is also a good looking garment so it doesn’t just have to stay in the gear bag.

2) GoLite Mid-Weight C-Thru version of #1. Layer these with the Light Weight stuff and you’re pretty well set.

3) GoLite CTE - only go this route if it’s bloody cold or you happen to be more reptillian in your metabolism.

2) Terramar Body Sensors mid-weight crew neck and tights. VERY good.

See you on the water,



Plenty of options
Thermax, CoolMax, Outlast and wool will all work, among others. I’ve used all of these at various times. Fleece layers (200 or 300 weight) over the top add more insulation when necessary.

I just got a Kokatat, Polartec 100 one piece “liner” for under my semi dry suit.

I have not tried paddling in it yet, but will let you klnow what I think of it when I do. But send an e-mail to me so I can reply my thoughts when I get to try it. It might not be a week or 2 until I get to go paddling.

Any one have any comments (good/bad) for me on this before I cut the tags off and wear it?

Happy Paddling!

base layer vs insulating

– Last Updated: Nov-10-05 1:17 PM EST –

I like really thin base layers. I like silk a lot and also have some polypro and others lying around. I use my base layers for moisture management. Moisture managemen adds warmth!

silk does not build up stink fast and is washable.

Then I use polartec on top of that.

NRS union suit
I’ve been out a few times now with an NRS Wavelite union suit and like it alot. It’s made from polyester/spandex. It feels very dry and warm against the skin. They are a bit pricey at $80 but I really like the comfort and fit of a one piece union suit.

It was actually quite a surprise the first time I removed my outer layers at the end of a paddle. Once the suit was exposed to a breeze evaporative cooling made it obvious I was not as dry as I thought I was. I haven’t had it long enough to say whether or not there will be odor problems but it works so well that I’ll deal with that when/if it happens.


I have no smell problem with polypro
as long as I launder it after a single trip. It does not melt in the dryer as long as you use the proper setting and dry it with other fabrics.

ALL “wicking” fabrics have a surface coating which has an affinity for water, and may become sodden under a goretex garment. Polypropelene feels dryer because, if not treated to “wick,” it has no affinity for water and will not absorb water. Polyester pile can feel dry if treated with a non-wicking coating which keeps the polyester from absorbing water. Polyester (Dacron etc.) absorbs relatively little water. Wool absorbs a little more, Nylon more still, and of course cotton is terrible.

The only magic to wicking fabrics is that the coating picks up water molecules from the skin, and the coating allows the water molecules to migrate to the outside of the garment where, IF the humidity is lower and the temperature adequate, the water will wick or evaporate.

I think the manufacturers of wicking fabrics want us to imagine that there are tiny little critters with buckets, taking the water from near the skin and tossing it outward away from the body. Doesn’t work like that. The process is powered by the temperature gradient and the humidity gradient. Either gradient can drive the process, but if neither gradient runs in the right direction, the moisture stays on your skin and in the fabric.

The best I’ve found is Smart Wool.
It’s warm, light weight, doesn’t stink, and is very comfortable next to the skin. I wear it all year round for Pacific Coast paddling. Spring, Summer and Fall, it’s great by itself. When it turns cold, I add a fleece layer over it.

What works for me
Have been living in my drysuit for most all paddling since we got ours last fall. I have a personal reason to want to stay dry even if the temps are warmer, and maybe one paddle has gone by this season without my practicing some wet skill. We paddle in the upstate NY area around Albany, up to Champlain and the 'daks as well as in Maine in July. So lots of cooler/cold water days with temps from cold to pretty warm.

Personally, I got some lightweight polypro layers and have found them to be the all around best base layer. They do clean up best in washing machine on low dryer settings, unlike some of the other materials which hand wash as well as machine. Of everything I’ve tried, including some fancy light silk layers, they hold the longest before getting wet enough with sweat that they’ve lost their ability to wick. Heavier weight may be a problem - haven’t tried it.

I’ve tried a bunch of the Duofold stuff - their most wickable stuff which I think is Varitherm works for warmer but not hot air temps, starts being too cold for me once things cool off. As above, a Polartec 200 or 3oo top layer works well and airs out nicely at the end of the day. I just use the same tops and bottoms I’d wear around the house or outside.

Lightweight capilene seems to work well, heavier weight seems to get soggy as you found with the PowerStretch top (me too - works but not for more than a half day).

I have found that the rash guard layers make me cold - they sweat up fast then don’t dry off well when you stop on break and have a chance to open up the top of the suit. But they do work for some.

I think it is all pretty individual. I tried a bunch of different materials, just making sure that everything I bought could be used for other activities so it wasn’t a loss if it didn’t work for kayaking. Then I doubled up on the ones that I found did work.

I’ve been wearing
a Kokatat Polartec 100 drysuit liner and have found it very comfortable paddling and swimming in 50 degree water. In preparation for the colder waters to come, I wonder how it compares to the NRS Wavelight Union Suit? Does anyone make a liner with the Polartec 300 material?

Ditto On Silk
Feels smooth to sit on too.

I just reviewed my Polartec 100
I just wrote a short review on my Kokatat Polartec 100 Dry Suit Liner. I am very pleased with it.

I wanted a one piece liner for the reasons I stated in the review, and I was very comfortable wearing it. Check out my review, for what it is worth!

Happy Fall Paddling!

a couple of other options
Immersion Research makes union suits-both thick and thin-short and long sleeve…i love mine!!

EMS just started making a powerstretch fleece farmer john with full chest to tailbone zipper…powerstretch is a great warm but VERY breathable material…they also have tops/pants/and knickers of the stuff as well…