Dry suit or not? Is it just the $$$

Me Too
What Bohemia said.

Dry Suit vs Wet Suit Debate

The factors to consider in making your choice revolve around how serious is the danger level in your paddling. Ask these questions of yourself:

  1. Will my paddling be in whitewater rivers?

    If so, will there be easy pull outs or long

    series of rapids making self rescue or

    aided rescue difficult. Water temperature

    and clarity affect choice.
  2. Will my paddling be in large lakes or the

    ocean in winter conditions? Will I be

    making crossings of open water of more

    than one mile where self rescue or assisted

    rescues may be difficult.
  3. Will I be in extreme conditions such as

    presented in the Arctic Ocean or Greenland.

    Once you answer those questions choices become easier. Most of your 3mil wetsuits are not designed for protecting you in seriously cold conditions over an extended time. If you go to a heavy weight 5mil wetsuit you have a reduction in mobility for paddling. Advantage over a drysuit is wear and tear factor. A dry suit is more comfortable and works better in extreme water conditions as long as it doesn’t leak or get punctured or torn. All the individuals I have known who kayak open water on big lakes or the oceans in northern climate conditions wear dry suits made by Kokatat or NRS with high floatation PFD’s like Extrasport B 22, U 22 or Swiftwater Ranger. All have over 20 lbs floatation and still allow freedom of movement.

    Those that paddle whitewater rivers seem to be satisfied in most cases with 3mil wetsuits and dry tops and booties other than in canyon runs with few pull outs.

    Best advise! Better to go with a $500+ dry suit if you are going to face real winter conditions.

    Happy Paddling!


Splash pants
may seem redundant but what happens is that you inadvertantly (at least I do) get water in the cockpit and usually on the seat. With the splash pants you aren’t sitting with a wet butt. (at least that’s the way it works for me):slight_smile:

Plenty of other variations
It’s not a matter of drysuit vs. farmer john+jacket. Browse through some catalogs and you’ll see that pretty quickly.

Some of us, including myself, started with a drytop+drypant combo. It leaked a little, not too badly IF the waist area was cinched down hard, but nonetheless something I wouldn’t want in frigid water. So then I bought a 1-piece drysuit; leakage problem solved. Very comfortable, with lots of freedom of movement, and the breathable Gore-tex keeps me dryer than any other immersion wear. Yes, it was worth the price.

Last year I experimented with wetsuits, both shorty and full. The full wetsuits are a major pain to don and doff, worse than drysuits. They do not provide as much shoulder freedom of movement, in my experience. But I like the lower profile (not baggy). Makes me feel like getting in the water and playing like a seal. The shorty is easy to don and doff–still has that tight-in-the-shoulders feeling, though. I’ll use them this year again in spring, summer, and fall. At this point, I am sticking with the shorty 2mm for summer rolling and other wet practice. It’s amazing how quickly I get chilled if the water is cool even in hot air.

Haven’t decided yet whether the full wetsuits will be keepers, but at least I got them at great sale prices. See Sierra Trading Post’s website for huge deals on wetsuits, all the time.

I would suggest
you borrow a farmer john and a paddle jacket and jump into the surf and swim for a few minutes.

When you’re done and back in the car shivering , rubbing your hands in front of the heater ducts and struggling to peel off that wet neoprene you’ll probably come to the right decision.

Every one should test their own choice of immersion wear in real conditions in a controlled manor as in the example above.

Hypothermia sucks but I think more people should enjoy winter paddling if it’s done safely.

Here on the Great Lakesin winter we see large numbers of ducks ,geese,loons that were hanging out in the far north in the summer.They seem to enjoy the swells as much as we do.



Thanks for giving me quite a bit to
think about. I’d have to say you have convinced me to buy a dry suit. The Stohlquist B-pod is probably at the top of my list. Now the question is with or without a spray skirt tunnel? My first inclination is no, because while I hope to get my roll back this spring (I had one in a whitewater boat about 15 years ago), I don’t anticipate doing a lot of rolling. On the other hand, it doesn’t add much to the cost. Oh, the endless decisions when it comes to buying more gear . . .

it IS just the $$
It’s strictly a money issue,for one simple reason:

If you CAN afford a good drysuit, chances are you can also afford a farmer john wetsuit for other conditions.

Having said that, a wetsuit and a drytop are a pretty workable,versatile combination,perhaps more versatile than a drysuit-though ultimately not near as good if you end up in the drink for any length of time and the drink is cold.

It’s the $ for me.
And the image of cooldoctor1’s head swollen huge and red like a blood filled tick before he trimmed the neck gasket.

I had forgotten that one! Thanks!


One place I really appreciated the wetsuit was in swiftwater rescue class, where we spent a lot of time interacting with rocks. Even a thin layer of neoprene provides some protection. The tight fit also makes it easier to swim and manuever in moving water.

For touring, the drysuit is great. I even wear it for fishing on rainy days – add a broad-brimmed hat, and I’m warm and dry when most of the other fishermen look miserable.

Then, it’s an option
Then, it’s an option not a requirement.

there’s another option
farmer john with a long sleeve 3 mil neoprene jacket. NRS makes several good ones for about $100. i don’t know why more kayak shops don’t carry them.

this is fall and spring gear and summer gear for me when I paddle in groups.

for winter paddling, i use a kokatat meridian. It’s better for cold air temps.

i have tested both outfits in 40 to 55 degree water–the dry suit definately is what i would want to be in if I have to float for hours, with three layers of fleece up top and two on my legs. so it’s safer. But, you sweat under it if you have several layers of fleece, so you are damp underneath when you take it off, even with the “breathable” gortex. I’ll take two sets of undergarmets when I camp. Even so, better protection with a dry suit.

Southern Exposure
Same question as epaddler, but from a different part of the country.

Not paddling Maine, Lake Erie or the PNW.

Paddling sea kayak on South Carolina lakes, slow rivers, and coastal marshes,

Coldest water would probably be Jocassee. I could avoid that during the coldest times.

It seems that there would be more times when a drysuit would be too much than when a wetsuit would be too little.

Any thoughts from the southern contingent on the proper southern gentleman’s winter wardrobe?

I don’t care how cold the water is when it drops under 70 degrees I am in a drysuit. I am sure it doesn’t stay that warm even there in winter, does it?

Remember - a drysuit keeps you dry - not WARM. If the water is warmer, simply use less insulating layers underneath to stay comfortable. If you get too warm - do some side sculling, use the bow of a fellow paddler to dip into the water, do a roll, etc to cool off. Tough to warm up though if you are wet though so better (IMHO) to be too warm than not warm enough.


south Carolina
this is Lake Murray today:


Water Level

353.01 ft.

at 5:00 PM

Yesterday: 352.97 ft.

Water Temp. 54.14

Lake Jocassee is much colder.

Drysuit. enough said.

When the temp is over 60 I like a NRS Farmer john and hydroskin tops. BUT. I have a tuiliq that I wear over the whole thing as I roll every time I go out. If the weather goes bad, I put the drysuit on in case I fall out of the boat.


Splash pants or nylon jogging pants over the wetsuit are warmer in the wind.

another deal

– Last Updated: Jan-09-08 6:26 PM EST –

Palm Ladies on Ebay $249.99

Item number: 140197056090

NC Here

Here is something different
and its been working for me since 1983 when I started. With my fishing/hunting background I just put my neoprene bootfoot waders on with a gore-tex anorak and a bungee cord around my waist. I’ve evolved a little bit over the years with gore-tex waders and polypro. and fleece instead of wool. Yes I’ve swam in Jan. in the N. Atlantic a few times and am still alive. When its your time to go to the big duck-hunting place in the sky it doesn’t matter if you have on gore-tex or seal-skin your out a here. But on the other hand if somebody comes out with a camo-dry-suit I’m buying it!

Bright colors spook ducks.

Ya’ll be cool. Bill

Drysuit is tuneable
I’ve worn it in air temps as high as low 80s. That’s too hot, even with just one thin layer underneath. (But it was OK because I was rolling.)

It’s comfortable (as opposed to tolerable) in air temps of the high 60s and downward. YMMV, though.