Dry suit

I live in WI.

I can get to one of the great lakes maybe 4 - 5 times a year.

I have a lot of respect for our inland seas.

Would you get a dry suit if you were I?

I’ve got a farmer-john and a Kokatat Tropos Super Breeze splash jacket.

I could get a nicely used boat (Valley Skerrey) for the money I’d spend on a dry suit.

What do you guys think?

Great Lakes

– Last Updated: Feb-29-12 8:40 PM EST –

The Coast Guard considers most of the Great Lakes
to be "arctic waters" most of the year.

Is your life worth $ 500 ?????????

Then again , everyone is different.
Put blankets in the car, car heaters on high,
suit up in what you got, jump in off a dock,
float around with the PFD, see how you feel.
You'll get the whole hyper-ventilate experience;
the muscle contraction making swimming difficult;
and you'll become aware of psychological effects.

Unless you try different gear first hand;
you'll never know if you're ready.

A Detroit paddler's thoughts.........

As much as it seems kinda crazy
A dry suit really is worth the price of a boat. It doesn’t make sense until you do it. And this comes from a long-time dry suit denier. (Ok I had a 2 piece suit that wasn’t dry. But a literal “dry” “suit” is a whole other matter)

I shouldn’t say this

– Last Updated: Feb-29-12 8:44 PM EST –

I've paddled Superior the last three summers and didn't wear a dry suit any of those times. I was in the water all three times (tradition!). But water temps were relatively warm and my safety factor was more conservative. I used a dry top and farmer john and was shedding the dry top by midday. So I'd ask what your skills and experience are, and to factor those in. My view is that the greater your skills and experience, the more freedom one has to make judgement calls.

Of course, not having a dry suit where you are shortens the season. And, OTOH, if you have a dry suit, and don't use it all the time, you'll have it for years and years. If you have the money and don't need a new boat, and want to paddle fall and spring, I'd think about getting one.

Get one…
I would get one.

It’s an expense but you will be happy for it in the long run. Not only will it extend your paddling season but you will be more comfortable than in a wetsuit. Not to mention the safety factor. I paddle year round and could not live without mine.


on where in the Great Lakes you plan and when you plan on paddling.

If your paddling early and late…get the drysuit

if you plan on being a frequent visitor along the north shore of Lake Superior…good to have a drysuit

if you plan on summer warm temp times and southern Shore of Lake Superior, get the Skerry.

Very few people that paddle the sand and sun times need a dry suit .

If you get the skerry and build your skills on the Wisconsin river…then do a few summer time trips to Lake Superior, I doubt that you will ever put on the drysuit.

Build your skills …then by a drysuit and extend your season or places on the Great Lakes.

If you paddle Isle Royal…GET A DRYSUIT

I know lots here seems to be contradictory…but it’s not

With the Skerry , in you own area, you will be able to learn to roll…with the drysuit, you will think that you don’t need to learn to roll because You have a drysuit.

I have two drysuits, but living where you do and paddling where you do (only thinking that you have to get one or the other…I say get them both…but get the Skerry and the skills first, then the drysuit and expand you paddling horizons.

Best Wishes


Dry Suit
Save your money and get the Skerray (great boat) and a much more affordable yet equally as warm and functional full surfing wetsuit.

I switched over from drysuits for kayaking several years ago and live in the Pacific NW. Water is currently 42, air much less. I have more flexibility and spend less time maintaining a full wetsuit. Cost for a really good one? $600 for the top of the line and $400 for one suits that are just as good. Check out wetsuits by Xcel, O’Neill, Patagonia, BodyGlove, etc.

If you’re not familiar with thickness, 5/4 means 5mm in the chest, 4mm in the arms and legs; 5/4/3 (chest, legs, arms) and what I use, a 4/3mm.

Dry suit
In your location, unless you are going to limit your paddling season to just July and August and then stay close to shore, a dry suit is really the only choice. I consider the dry suit to be a part of the boat package. If you have one you really kinda have to have the other as well; neither is worth much without the other.

Others disagree with this but my opinion is that full wetsuits are not a good choice for kayak touring. They work great for surfing but that is really a very different activity from touring.

Get the dry suit.

Another boat
I should have mentioned I have a pretty good older boat (Kevlar Eddyline Raven).

So the Skerrey would be second boat vs a Drysuit.

The vibe I’m getting here is:


I’m a cautious/conservative paddler.

To date because of the lack of a dry suit I’ve only paddled very close to shore in Superior and Michigan (sometimes proximity to shore puts you into worse conditions).

Do you think you could safely explore the Apostles without a drysuit?

Get the boat.
We enjoy reading statistics here.

You answered your question
If the lack of a dry suit is limiting your paddling, you need a dry suit before getting a second boat. I would also not be surprised if, due to the lack of a dry suit and staying near shore, you have not pushed your skills to get to things like really good bracing, solid roll and a mix of self-rescue skills. These would be on the list for paddling the Apostles.

I wouldn’t take a trip to the Apostle Islands without one. The only exception might be in midsummer and only when exploring the mainland caves.

I don’t think I’d ever take an extended trip on Superior without a dry suit because while the weather might be predictable when you depart, it might not be during the following days.

I love this thread and the varied responses. It just shows that it’s a personal decision but that regardless of your choice it should be influenced by safety. Personally I find a wetsuit more comfortable than a drysuit unless the air temps are cold.

BTW: I was going to ask where in WI., and where you paddle. Door County? I’d like to hit that area, maybe make the crossing from the U.P. someday, and definitely visit the Apostle Islands.

The term “classic” applies…
as it did to me on my post asking about using a “storm” as a first greenland paddle,(read post if further explanation is required). The big difference here is a)I had already cut out a storm paddle and was asking advice since I was second guessing my decision and b)(and this is a clincher), having a storm paddle in ones hands vs. another paddle most likely won’t be the difference between life or death.

While I’m new to paddling, I’ve got a lot of experience with backpacking, mountain biking, climbing rock & alpine, backcountry & ski mountaineering and over a decade of active service with search & rescue. The term “classic statistic” in any & all of the activities listed generally applies to an incident involving the deceased making a bad decision in an udertaking. These incidents always come down to either or both a lack of skill or being ill equipped for the conditions. The golden rule for surviving the leanrning process, IMO, is to never push limits of skill and protection,(gear, equipment, lifeline or whatever it is that will keep you alive if you end up overextended), at the same time. Since bad decisions are part of how we learn, I’d be the last one to knock someone for wanting to push the envelope. Please just be honest with yourself about the risks you’re opening yourself up to and the potential risks to those that may end up rescuing you or recovering your body. Your decision.

Many thanks, t.george

that was classy

– Last Updated: Mar-01-12 9:22 AM EST –

Outside of your small world there are plenty of more experienced kayakers who almost never don a full drysuit. Get out more, cliff.

Good Advice!
In my mind I was already in the Skerrey . . . but I think this conversation turned the light on for me.

Rather than get a second boat, I’m going to put the finishing touches on my Great lake safety gear including a dry suit.

I get on Lake Mendota (Madison - one of the largest non-impoundment lakes in our state) quite a bit. My having a dry suit there in the early Spring is going to greatly increase my confidance.


Yes we did Door County last year (Newport park -Lake side) and on Superior we coasted around Horshoe bay and Chicago Bay.

It always seems like there is always an element of risk when you truly enter the great outdoors. If you cover the trails in Yellostone you immediately up your chances of encountering a grizzley. The careful person then takes the appropriate precautions.

My take is if you play the game after you cross your T’s and dot your I’s (safety-wise)you should be able to go forth with a clear conscious.

I know people are loath to share there opinions here but if I could persuade you to please make some dry suit recomendations I’d certainly appreciate it.

Is a relief zipper a necessary option?

What are the brands that people here use?

Yes on the relief zipper
And that from a female. Most who try and duck it end up sending the suit back to have it added. It’s cheaper to start out with one. Just carry spare underlayers for that first moment when you walk into the water to burp your suit forgetting it was still open… I think everyone does that at least once.

More than one good brand, and for people with unusual body proportions it may limit the choices. Not going to comment there beyond suggesting that you get one with a decent warranty.

Good clothing promotes skills!
Whether it’s a wetsuit or a drysuit, dressing so that you are perfectly comfortable taking a swim means that you will practice bracing, rescues, rolls, etc. If you’re not happy getting wet, you’re skills won’t grow, and you won’t be as safe a paddler.

As far as drysuit recommendations, definitely get a relief zipper, and attached socks. Other options are up to you. For brands, I prefer Kokatat Gore Tex, because it has held up better than some friends’ NRS suits.

relief zipper and booties
…and IMO if you don’t have a skinny neck, and latex neck gaskets bother you, I’d look at the Stohlquist Bpod, with a more comfortable neoprene neck gasket. It’s never let water in on me but if you have a skinny neck it might.

But Celia’s right, it’s another personal choice.

Three Possibilities
My first - A Kokatat SuperNova semi-dry suit - a major improvement over the wetsuit it replaced - I had some problems with the neo neck seal and leakage in the booties after 2-3 seasons of moderate use. My6 wife’s SuperNova had no such problems.

Reed ChillCheater - I have two - very comfortable, the fabric has a nice soft feel and the neck seal is comfortable. Both had had leaks in the area where the tunnel overskirt (which I don’t need) is attached to the suit’s body - sent 'em back to Reed and they repaired them for a very reasonable price.

Stohlquist B-Pod - I haven’t used the B-Pod yet, but the original owner found it to be a great suit - no leaks, very sturdy. Stohlquist replaced the neck gasket (it was too tight) free of charge when it was purchased new.

Hope this helps. For me, paddling Newfoundland waters, a drysuit is as necessary as a kayak and paddle. I don’t being wet or cold, and think I’d just hate being dead…

Lake Mendota - Cold Season
Good for you! Most years, I go out on Lake Mendota a whole lot, and it’s my favorite windy-day playground since it’s so nearby to me. But I always marvel at the fact that in about 8 years of frequently going out on that lake I’ve only seen a kayakyer out there in cold weather ONE time, and in windy weather only ONE time. I’m sure there are a few others who do that sort of thing, but it’s good to hear that someone else in town (besides the presumed few whom I’ve never seen) isn’t strtictly a fair-weather paddler.

I’ve found a dry suit to be a great investment, mainly in terms reducing anxienty about cold water. Sometimes when deciding on using the dry suit I get a slight feeling of “oh crap, I’ve gotta mess with changing clothes at the put-in”, but it’s really not that big of a deal.