Dry or wet suit ?

Thanks for your patience with me. I really want to buy the right thing. With such a big investment, I don’t want to make any mistakes.

Thank you

$.02 from a neighbour

– Last Updated: Sep-12-04 6:52 PM EST –

Hi from Nova Scotia, Inukshuk. I paddle year 'round, and don't (and wouldn't) own a wetsuit. We used to have a saying in the survival suit biz: "A wetsuit makes it easier to find the body."
BUT! Before anyone jumps down my throat, I'd like to point out that many Maritime paddlers use wetsuits to extend their Fall paddling, when water temps typically lag far behind air temps. They work just fine for that, I would never look down my nose at a wet-suited kayaker in Sept/Oct or even early November. Given the huge price difference, a wet suit should suffice as long as you're not paddling solo and you don't intend to use it in the Spring.

I just want to point out again that I only paddle in lakes and rivers. No sea. But, I will have to accept the fact that you guys are really stuck on drysuits. Is it safe to say that people not wanting drysuits, just find the price to expensive ?

I enjoy paddleing in my wetsuit and have swam in water 30`. With a wetsuit you can have muliple items of different thicknesses and dress for the conditions at any temperture. A 3mm farmerjohn, 2mm jacket, 2mm sox and neoprene gloves will get you started. Hydroskin is great for mild weather. NRS has a good selection and prices. Get what your comfortable with and try swimming and rescues with it.

Rivers are often colder than the sea
The ocean acts like a big heat sink all summer long, soaking up the sunshine. The other day the Halifax Harbour wave buoy was reporting 56F air temp and 61F water. A wet suit would work fine in those conditions, as long as there was someone around to assist you. Can you find any temp data for the rivers and lakes you intend to paddle?

Btw I edited my clumsy response above to reflect what I was really trying to say. I had confused “wet” and “dry” a few times…doh.

A wetsuit is better than nothing, and will at the very least lessen the initial cold shock that kills so many. My advice would be to get a cheap wetsuit and try it out. I’ve even seen them in Loblaw’s lately, beside the groceries! If you don’t like it, cut the neoprene up for cockpit outfitting and boot insoles…

Wetsuit for the conditions you describe
I believe that for the conditions you describe, a 3mil wetsuit and dry or semi-dry top wil be sufficient. You had mentioned a 5mil wetsuit, I wouldn’t recommend it, they are much too restrictive to movement for paddling. Stick with the paddlers standard…3mil.

Remember, if water temps get below 50, or if you plan on going out further from land in questionable conditions, especially if you are solo, a Dry suit is the better choice.

May I suggest…
that investing in this book:


might be a worthwhile investment in self-education on the topic of cold water immersion. It is well written, objective and not too bad of a read.



Picuret getting clearer
I’d go for a wetsuit cause you are going to need one anyway a paddling top or dry top is also indicated.

If you are older or have heart problems you should investigate the risk of croaking when a bunch of cold water infiltrates the wetsuit ant hits your chest though.

Carry warm enough clothes to get home in in a dry bag.

Take a look at::

What is the cost/risk ratio you are considering?

Enjoy safe paddling…


Why ?
Why should I need a wetsuit anyway ? If I have a drysuit I simply remove or add layers underneath. In the summer time, I only wear a bathing suit.

I think what Keith is saying…
…is that if you’re serious about paddling in cold weather, you’ll end up with a dry suit eventually, so it’s cheaper just to do it now and be done with it. Otherwise, you’ll just waste money on inadequate garments that will ultimately be relegated to collecting dust in a closet.

Have you tried a 5mm wetsuit?
Most wetsuits are designed for activities where the participant isn’t sitting, as in a kayak. The thicker the suit, the less flexible it is. It also tightens the fit of the boat substantially. Just for laughs, I tried the 6mm farmer John from my diving wetsuit. I can’t even sit comfortably in the boat, much less paddle.

The bottom line is that you simply cannot beat a dry suit for comfort and versatility. Yes, it costs more, but you’ll probably find that you wear it more than any other paddling garment you own.

BTW, you actually need a dry suit more in the spring than in the fall. Spring water temps are deathly cold, even when the air is warming up. I consider spring to be the most dangerous time of the year to paddle, since it’s easy to be lured into grossly under-dressing for the water temps.

I guess you’re right
My mind is just about made up… I think… :slight_smile:

Seriously, a drysuit seems to be the best idea and the most versatile solution.

Most people wear wetsuits…
…because they’re cheaper, not because they are better or even as good as a dry suit. I suggest that you see if you can borrow or rent one of each and try them for yourself. If that doesn’t convince you to buy a dry suit, perhaps you’ll be happy in neoprene.

FWIW, since I bought a dry suit, I haven’t worn a wetsuit for paddling. Not once.

Famous last words
"I told you I wasn’t going into rough conditions. Calm and sunny weather. No sea and no big waves."

Lots of kayakers have said this and some of them never came back. Read the book “Deep Trouble”. It will give you perspective on how easy it is to get in WAY over your head. Particularly if you’re a relatively new kayaker, it doesn’t make sense to compromise your safety.

I’d say you’re correct

– Last Updated: Sep-13-04 9:35 AM EST –

The majority of people I've encountered who vehemently promote wetsuits and/or are dismissive of dry suits are simply trying to justify not spending the extra money for a dry suit. A dry suit is a better solution, but it costs more.

You can pound nails with a rock, but that doesn't mean that a hammer isn't a better tool. It just isn't as cheap.

OK, ok ! :slight_smile:
You all convinced me ! I will buy a drysuit (and maybe get a new mortgage on my house !:))). Seriously, I will get one (a drysuit) as soon as possible.


Not possible
I never found a place renting drysuits. But, as I said to others, I will buy one. You all convinced me.

Thank you

Is that a good option ?
Is a non breathable drysuit a good option, for the price ? Or should I go with Gore-Tex all the way ?

Judgement call
>You can pound nails with a rock, but that doesn’t mean that a hammer isn’t a better tool. It just isn’t as cheap.<

If you only have a few nails to pound, a rock will do just fine. Why waste money you can put for other (better) use? For building a house frame in wood, the hammer will be worth every pound.

The trouble with our “buy more” society is people wants to believe buying additional MAGICAL equipment that would handle every possible problem which they should have avoided by using their brain in the first place! Add to that the manufacturers who are only too eager to sell whatever “ultimate protection” to people who rather not be responsible for their own decision. I wonder what percentage of the drysuit’s cost has to do with the insurance against potential liability suits from relatives of dead kayakers who happen to be wearing a drysuit!

Yes, it’s the famous last word of some dead kayakers who said they ONLY go out on sunny calm days. But how many MORE fair weather kayakers lives to their ripe old age without ever putting on a dry suit, by simply using their brain to decide when it’s too cold to go out?