Dry suits, splash pants and jackets etc


I’m wondering when not able to afford the state of the art clothing - what some of you might have substituted for the above items. For instance I am looking at some snow gear for less money that looks might work for colder weather???



Dress for immersion
You need immersion gear, not just cold weather gear. The cheapest alternative to a drysuit is a wetsuit. You can get a paddling one for $100 or so, less used. You can also find lots of heavy diving wetsuits used for short money. Some include a farmer john and a jacket for on top of that. They’re not the best for paddling movement, but they’ll keep you warm in quite cold water, and they’re cheap. Pair that with a wind-blocking layer, and you’ve got a good “cool water” outfit. Nothing I’d use in 35 degree water with 20 degree air, or anything, but enough for northern fall and spring, or southern year-round.

I understand this being a needed quality but if a product is waterproof - or if for instance one is wearing hydroskin underneath…is then the outer wear more about protectin against wind and primary wetness???


comes back to one thing
You are appropriately dressed for the conditions when you are comfortable swimming in whatever you are wearing. If you aren’t, then you need to dress differently until you are.

The length of time you need to dress for is dependent upon your ability to self rescue and the conditions you paddle in.

It is really very much up to the individual as to what their cold tolerance is and the weather/water temps where they are. I have friends who find the ocean in New England during summer too cold to handle with a bathing suit so for them, they need to dress more appropriately.

Wear what you are planning to wear and WALK out in the water and see how long you can stand it. When you are really, really cold and can stand being in the water no longer, THEN try to self rescue - re-enter and roll, cowboy, paddle float - whatever your flavor. If you can get back in and paddle again, you were dressed appropriately. If you can’t, walk to shore and know you were not and dress more appropriately next time and try it again.


And unfortunately…
…if you do this test (a VERY good idea) and your clothing system doesn’t cut it, your only responsible options are to either get appropriate clothing or stay off the water.

Or practice rescue to get faster

While agreeing with what the other posters wrote, recall that people did paddle for (probably) hundreds of years before any of today’s essential gear was invented. Admittedly, some of these paddlers died.

But my canoeing mentor paddled year round and never wore much other than wool for gear. He also stayed off big water when the water temperature was less than he reasonably expected he could survive. His winter-time paddling was focused on smaller streams and rivers where if he dumped, he could stand up, gather his gear, and quickly get himself out of the water. He carried a huge dry-bag duffel of extra clothing and gear, fire-making stuff, and I don’t know what else, because I never saw him swim out of his canoe. My first trip with him, the first thing I did was swim, right at the put-in. Embarassed, I said I was good to go (in my polartec) but meekly complied when he pulled some dry wool out of that big bag and ordered me to put it on.

So, an alternative to forking over big dollars for gear is ratcheting back your trips to small water, dropping the difficulty level a notch, being more conservative in what you will try to run, and packing extra gear. And if you run through all your dry back-ups, you have to be willing to walk off the river.

That’s how they did it back in the day. It’s no longer the way, but it can still work.

OT but funny, was when my canoing mentor would encounter today’s boaters at the put-in. Regulars knew him, but newbees would look over him and his gear (16’ OC) and derisively suggest he shouldn’t be on the river. He’d tell 'em to take care and they’d paddle off with this “we tried to worn you attitude”. The funny part would be when he’d end up rescuing them somewhere down the river. They’d look up with shocked recognition. Him? How’d that old timer paddle what just had me for lunch? He could be a gruff old guy, but was a hell of a paddler with an encyclopedic knowledge of every river he took me on.


Not really
The concept of a drysuit is to keep you dry no matter what. I can swim in mine in saltwater cold enough to freeze if I layer up properly underneath it. Done it many times just to make sure the suit doesn’t leak.

With just splashwear and mystery under it, you wouldn’t last long in the same water. That’s the difference.

thanks for all the tips…in the end it is personal responsibility…so thankful for all of you who have been there done it - I do listen :slight_smile:

Linda M.

Dry Top and Botom.
Don’t mix this up with a dry suit.

People with you will assume you are fine in a capsize and you get to pay for the lack of haste.

I have had this happen.

Better to be in a cotton T and jeans than fake the rescuer into complacency.

If cash is short I would go with a wet suit lots of fleese and a paddle top.

Of course I can roll, do a re entry roll, do a paddle float re entry or a scramble re entry in a nice flat pool. I can also put another paddler back in a boat in 24 seconds as seen on CBC with Carl Wellls some years ago.

I wear a dry suit but I also live where the Labrador Current is the environment.

In ponds I often wear street cloths and a PFD.

That’s not a solution…
…as you never know what kind of circumstance you’ll find yourself in after a capsize. You may be lose your boat or be injured and unable to re-enter. Your clothing system - whatever it is - MUST be able to protect you from the water for a reasonable period of time.

You’ve got the right attitude…
…which will go a long way toward ensuring a long paddling career.

the water seeps in
at the sleeves, waist, neck, and pants bottoms and you get wet with cold heat-robbing water (you lose body heat 26 times faster in water than air). A drysuit seals all of those points with a rubber gasket so inside you stay dry. (You wear layers under the drysuit for warmth.) A wetsuit gets wet but then traps that layer of water which your body heats up. Then, when you fall in the water again, the layer of heated water stays in place in the neoprene keeping you warm. That’s the ‘science’ behind it. Cold weather clothing will get soaked, leaving you cold and wet. (Brrr.)

Wait for spring and sales
Seriously - buying snow clothes now to paddle in is just inviting risk. Yes, for under a dry suit I use the same layers that I wear snowshoeing or working outside or at the horse barn or around this old drafty house in winter. But without a dry suit or equivalent, that stuff won’t do you much good in a swim.

At full northern US winter temps, Alexgruer’s advice is best to go get a proper wetsuit and related layers. But by the time you add up the wetsuit, the hood, winter-protective gloves and/or pogies, the really warm boots, the drytop for a top wind blocking layer and maybe some splash pants to ward off hypothermia while you are getting gear to and from the launch… you may find that waiting to put together the bucks for a dry suit would have been more effective.

I’m with booztalkin. Back in the 70s
we did not have dry suits, and the wet suits were awful. We paddled right through the winter in Georgia, using wool and synthetics and coated Nylon overclothing.

The other thing we did was we scaled back our whitewater when conditions were bad. Most of us stayed on rivers where we were pretty damn sure of not getting immersed, and the few who did were helped through with a change of dry clothes.

I paddled very actively through the 70s and 80s with a lot of improvised gear. As newsletter editor of a very large club, I can say that people were NOT dying like flies from cold water immersion incidents. Our few deaths were occurring in spring and summer months from pinning and entrapment. As a frequent trip leader, I can remember only two cases where I had to have someone walk out because they were too wet and cold to continue.

Now, with so many bargains in dry tops and bibs appearing, and with farmer johns at cheap prices on SierraTradingPost, most folks should be able to afford to get some good whitewater wear. But I don’t want to see people having to sacrifice all their cold weather paddling opportunities because of concern about immersion. Many, many people have been enjoying winter paddling for decades without being “properly” attired.