dry suit advice

We are recreational kayakers, only weekend river trips. This is our second season and we love the Winter Wonderland in Mi where the temperatures plumet, last year we did not have drysuits and everything I now read says GET ONE, what can you recommend as an alternative to this investment?

Stohlquist BodyPod

The Stohlquist BodyPod seems to be reasonable. It’s about $450.

I haven’t seen one but it might be better than the Kokatat SuperNova, which is about the same price. The big difference is that the Stohlquist is a three-layer fabric and the SuperNova is a two-layer fabric. The three layer fabric should hold up better.

Some folks use thick neoprene
others use dry bibs with a drytop. I find the bib/top combo almost as dry as a drysuit.

I use a Dry top w/ farmer john…
…wetsuit. It has worked well for me to date, but putting on a wet wetsuit is really hard (mentally) on a cold wet day. A consideration if you do a lot of paddling on consectutive days.


A altermnate…
My wife and I use the following and it worked good for us in Alaska as well as here in the cold high country of NC.

Use polypropelene long johns and long sleeve undershirts. Polar fleece pants and tops over them, and then a pair of gortex loose fitting bike pants with a light weight or heavy weight water proof jacket over everything.

We take off and put on the various items depending on the weather.



No good for immersion!

This setup would work fine as long as you don’t “go swimming”.

The point of a dry suit or wetsuit is to be able to handle being immersed for a fair bit of time.

I’d rather have no fear
of capsizing and swimming by wearing my drysuit. Instead, I will laugh and play in the water. :o)

Even the less expensive non-breathable suits should be fine in cold air temps- unless you are paddling hard or have excessive sweating issues. Even under a tuliq, if you are not sweating excessively, a properly fitted drysuit will be comfortable. The less expensive “semi-dry” suits with neoprene around the neck instead of latex gaskets seem that they would be ideal for paddling waters shallow enough that one could stand on the bottom.

We only get 4-5 months out of the year for true “warm water” paddling here. The drysuit has enabled me to continue comfortably for several more months that would have otherwise left me dreaming of better days. It’s a balmy 20F here with water temps still in the high 40’s. I’m looking forward to getting on (and into) the water.

Stay home, watch TV, harden the arteries, complain about winter all the time, frown a lot.

I bet in a year you won’t even feel the pain of paying for the dry suits.

I like rustys theory
he told me that he jumps in before he paddles to see how comfortable he can be in the water in case of capsize. then he goes paddling. I’ve paddled through four winters in illinois already without proper clothing and I am thankfull I never got myself into trouble. I realize now how dangerous this was. we all say how important pfd’s are as paddling gear, if you paddle in cold water a dry suit is not an option, you cant simply assume you will not dump as I did for four years. They tell me we will all swim sooner or later. lets all be safe, no one wants to hear of a fellow paddler losing their life due to using bad judgement in cold weather.

My experience

– Last Updated: Nov-18-05 4:57 PM EST –

My usual experience is not a high energy thing like surfing, which I found is very tiring compared to regular tour paddling.

I managed to make it down to about 50 degrees when I was learning to roll, that is swimming at least half the time, wearing multiple layers of neoprene and hydroskin. At 50 degrees water, sun and air temps in the high 40's it took the following for me to be warm enough to handle the swimming part as well as being up in the air for paddling around between roll attempts: Expedition Jane wetsuit, long sleeve midweight rash guard top, NRS Mystery top, often a hydroskin vest under the Mystery top, Stolhquist Gripp drytop on the torso, Seal Skinz water blocker socks and neoprene kickers, Mystery hood on my head and goggles to protect my facial skin against any gasp response. (These days with the drysuit I also add earplugs and have gotten a nice assortment of gloves.)

Bottom line - even accounting for having gotten the above at really, really good prices I was wearing about $400 worth of clothing, before talking about the gloves. If I had paid anything nearer full price the tab would have been a lot higher.

Now that I have the drysuit, definately a big investment since it's the Kokata GoreTex suit, I admit to having expended more money on long underwear type layers. However, the top layer of fleece separates that I wear under the drysuit were also my around the camp clothes on a recent camping trip, the lighter and midweight layers go under my shells for snowshoeing, and the way the heating prices look this winter I figure they'll be under my pajamas as well. And my only maintenance that costs money on the drysuit is a failed gasket (the neck gasket costs $44 to get replaced), or a replacement zipper which is pricey but hardly ever fails. Maintenance of the suit itself against leaks is free for the life on the garment, or me whichever comes first I guess.

Meanwhile, there is not a darn thing that I can do with the layers built around neoprene but to wear them paddliong, in fact I am quietly trying to find homes for them now since I really only need a backup set to handle something like a gasket failure.

I have a Semi - Dry Suit

– Last Updated: Nov-18-05 8:46 AM EST –

I have a Kokatat "Super Nova", Semi-Dry Suit. It has waterproof sewn in Socks, and a water proof relief and entry zippers. It also has Latex wrist gaskets.

The main difference between this Semi-Dry suit, and a full Dry Suit is the neck gaskets. A full Dry Suit has Latex neck gaskets to keep ALL water out. The Semi-Dry suit has a neoprene neck gasket, that can be tightened around the neck. I have one and my paddle buddy has one, and we really like it.

He actually went swimming, and dove under the water in his, and with the neck tightened, he got no water in at all.

If you are in freezing temp water, and the likelyhood of you going under is great, a full dry suit is what you need. If the water is not freezing, and the chance you will get wet is not as great, this Semi-Dry suit is the ticket.

www.moosejaw.com has it on sale for $385.00, and shipping is free on anything over $99.00. This is where I got mine. All you need is a wicking base layer underneath for warmth, based on the air and water temps. They breathe too, when the air is warm, and the sun is beating on you.

See my review on the Kokatak Super Nova Semi-Dry suit I recently wrote. It is far better than the wet suit I have but don't use any more.

The other major diff in SuperNova…

Another major difference between the SuperNova suit and other suits is that the SuperNova is a two layer material and (most of) the others use a three layer material.

Kokatat has a good reputation and the SuperNova is well made, but a three layer fabric should be more durable.

A three layer material has the PFTE (eg waterproof/breathable magic stuff, like GoreTex) sandwiched between two layers of fabric (fabric, PFTE, fabric). A two-layer material is “missing” the inner fabric leaving the magic stuff exposed and unprotected from abrasion.

You can tell if a waterproof/breathable material is two-layer if the inside is shiny and a different color than the outside fabric layer. A three-layer material has fabric inside (you’ll see and feel the weave). Some two-layer materials (eg PacLite) have little grey nubs.

The three-layer material is more expensive that the two-layer.

It looks like the Stohlquist BodyPod is made of three-layer material and is about the same price as the Kokatat SuperNova suit. The NRS suit is also three-layer and about the same price but doesn’t have booties.

try this link…
I own 3 garments from them and they are an excellent value for the money. Not as breathable as the Goretex products but then again you do not have gaskets to replace, either. Very good quality stuff from Reed.


Augustus Dogmatycus


response to drysuit options
your response to my question was totally inappropriate.

Bad hair day or something?

– Last Updated: Nov-18-05 5:29 PM EST –

This content had a reply that was maybe OK for what I thought had occurred, not what actually did. As is so often the case around here Sing captured a salient point about the order of these replies that I had missed. The above post was not pointed at me. So - it is gone and I ask anyone who saw it to try and forget it.

I will probably get nailed for rewriting history, but I'd like anything that was quite that wrong to be gone and can't actually do that without killing all the following replies.

Check The Order Of Responses
I don’t think he is responding to you…


He Is Joking…
and basically saying that if you paddle during the cold season, the drysuit will prove a worthwhile investment. It only takes one accidental swim in the cold water to make the suit earned its cost.


Sorry if I am wrong
I didn’t check the times of responses - I apologize if I got out of line (literally) here.

As to the thread - these things usually wander a bit. Inappropriate has to have pretty loose parameters.

(Assuming you are responding to me)

My first season paddling, I had a wetsuit and paddle jacket. About November, I had my boat on the car and was looking out over a beautiful, dead calm river delta, contemplating the ice forming around the edge. I stuck my hand in the water, turned around and didn’t paddle for months. Next year I bought a dry suit. So I’m just relating my experience re. alternatives and my decisions.

So feel free to ignore my post, doesn’t bother me.

That being said, the new semi-dry suits may be a reasonable compromise for some people.


– Last Updated: Nov-18-05 10:30 PM EST –

what you say is true. If you want to paddle into the colder months in the northern climes, investment in both equipment and skills building go up significantly if one wants to maintain more than a razor thin edge of safety. The other option is to stay home and watch TV. Yuck!


PS. We are now entering the semi annual "killing season" (the other being Spring) where unwitting paddlers go out and die because of unpreparedness.