dry top vs suit vs nothing?

After reading a few threads about the importance of a drysuit for cold conditions, my wife and I decided we probably should get some but now aren’t sure.

We’re fairly new to paddling and stick to lakes or gentle rivers. We’re concerned that we should have some protection in the event of a spill into the water during spring time (in Montana/Idaho) or if we’re out in rough conditions on one of the high cold lakes in Yellowstone or Grand Teton Parks.

The thing is we haven’t seen many others canoeing in drysuits and we wonder if it would be overkill considering we’re almost never more than 20 yards from lake shores unless its really calm and our rivers aren’t all that wide or deep.

Do you think it would suffice just to get a dry top and keep it stowed unless we were out in rough or early spring conditions?

I think you are right on the money !
for the conditions that you describe.

When my wife and I are paddling in colder water or cold weather, we always keep dry suits, (both top and bottom) in a dry bag.

We havn’t had to use them yet, but they are there when and if we need them.



Take a swim and then you’ll know

– Last Updated: Mar-22-05 9:03 PM EST –

Got a wetsuit to go with that top? Carrying a child where you might have to swim to deal with them going over, or tip the boat over as you haul them in.

What are the consequences?

– Last Updated: Mar-22-05 7:52 PM EST –

I have heard the same reasoning from myself and my wife. IT was dumb luck that saved us. We did not accurately know the consequences. I had the same reaction you see others and they seem ok. In my other post I discussed a rowing team in shorts and t-shirts in frigin waters. They seemed OK, near shore, water only 7 feet deep, etc. But last year 2 of them went in and almost died. Did they learn no, and now they promote this approach. Beware being a sheep, others may not know what they are doing! Darwin at work perhaps.

If you go over in frigid water with regular clothes on, and head goes under, you may not come up. Even if head on surface massive gasping, dizziness, panic. You will not be in control of yourself and your judgment is very messed up. Anything can happen. In frigid waters, and a canoe, you cannot get back in boat and the boat will not go to shore easily. If you let go of boat you may not be able to swim 20 yards, people have died going even that far.

If you are open to it, check out information here on other threads and make some move towards immersion wear, it can be comfortable, not expensive and


dry suit vs wet suit
THese two would be you best bet. the only thing about the dry suite is that you accumulate small leaks or tears eventually and there more expensive then the wet suit. THe wet suit is designed to keep you warm when you are wet, although they are tight on the body, (you’ll get used to that) plus with a pair of splash pants and wind jacket you can protect your gear form the eliments. YOu also mentioned, “vs nothing”, that is just plian stupid to even consider. classes of water do not change just on level, and technicality, it can change on the weather, and on your gear for example, your on a level one rip in early april, then it rains, (i don’t know where your from but here the rain is cold) that make it level 2, say your wearing a sweat suite its then level 3 then your boat flips level 4 mainly because of the state your body will be when you get out of the water

Not nothing!
I see lots of motorcyclists riding without helmets, too.

It’s your decision, but if you are seriously thinking of using neither wetsuit nor drysuit, try swimming in the lakes and rivers at the time of year you intend to paddle.

I’ve never seen a canoeist at Yellowstone wearing either, but then again most of them were paddling overloaded or poorly-trimmed canoes. Please do read “Death in Yellowstone” (the “water” chapter) for some true accounts of what happened to other paddlers not prepared for the conditions they encountered.

In addition to cold water and sudden violent wind, there is the remoteness factor. There won’t be any Coast Guard to help you out.

Nude canoeists?
please put something on. I suggest you search and read up on Gasp reflex and cold shock. Then make your own , informed decision as to what you feel is safe for you.

In Alaska

– Last Updated: Mar-23-05 4:25 PM EST –

in September 2002, our REI multisport trip leaders had us wearing pfd's over our regular hiking clothes with temps up to 60's during day and down to 30's at night. One canoe couple dumped on flat water (how'd that happen?). They got to shore about 20 yards away and changed clothes and were fine.

On the same trip we rafted down six mile creek one morning in class III and IV rapids. The different leaders on this portion had us wearing dry suits.

ok then,
what are some advantages/disadvantages to using seperate tops and bottoms (assuming you’re wearing themm both at the same time) versus a one-peice suit?

If you are going the two piec route
and want to approximate a dry suit allow me to suggest a bib pants and double skirted top combination. anything else will be leaking pretty quick.

Dress to swim
If you are comfortable swimming in those conditions then you will be all right canoeing. But don’t kid yourself or you might not live to paddle another day.

If you can comfortably swim yourself, your partner(in case he or she is disabled) and your gear to shore in your street clothes in the conditions that you are paddling in then you don’t need any special clothes. If not then can you in a wet suit? a dry suit with nothing under? a drysuit with fleece under?

If you are not sure this is the time to find out. Head on down to the beach and wade in.

I canoe in a drysuit, a wet suit with or without a dry top, and I canoe in swim trunks and a T shirt. I know what works for me in varying conditions. You need to find out what works for you.

Well, last fall I broke down and…
invested in a drysuit and only have raves about it- it frees me to paddle how I please when I please. I often paddle alone and for a time I deluded myself with the rationale of: I’ll stay close to shore and won’t do any risky moves, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Thought a lot about the risk and danger. Paddling sucked. Last saturday I donned the drysuit, a hydroskin headpiece, hydroskin gloves, and paddled up the Connecticut river for a few hours. Air- 50F, Water 39F. If I swam, so what- played around with some tricky freestyle moves (pathetic as they may be) so what! It put the fun back in off season paddling for me.



Umm…wearing PFDs, no matter the Temp…
is mandatory, silly…

I had to save someone who foolishly decided that he should loosen his PFD once in the middle of the lake on a late August day. Thought he ‘didn’t need it’.

His boat rocked violently, due to his mis-calculation on moving within the confines of the rowboat and he was promptly treading water.

The shock of the cool water, getting suddenly dumped, the Gasp reflex - inhaling some water and struggling ineffectively to return to the confines of the boat, left him exhausted and added to mental fuzziness. I was watching him do all this as I ran along shore from my campsite at the other end of the small lake.

When I saw that his head was floating inside the middle of the PFD (I was rapidly stripping off shoes and superfluous clothing by then) and it then went under I was in the water in a flash. It all happened over the course of 3-4 minutes. Good thing I’m a girl (heh) and a good swimmer. He’d be dead right now, if I wasn’t there. Nobody else did anything except watch maybe… After it was over… he tried to rationalize it away…sigh I, on the other hand, was shaking from the adreniline rush of doing it and what almost happened right in front of me for another 4 hours!

Drysuit…any leaks?
People have been cautioning about leaks…

How did you go about deciding which one to get?

I wonder if there are places that will let you test drive a wetsuit/drysuit…hmmm…

Janine- I went with an old concept…
since it was going to potentially save my life, I bought what I percieved as the best quality suit I could afford: a Kokatat GFER- Goretex with relief zip and goretex socks. Lurking here and reading all the threads on the subject (tis the season for about a week or two of cold water immersion talk to dominate the board) The comfort and quality is excellent, durability yet to be seen, but there’s a lifetime warranty on it so?



Leak testing
If I remember correctly, the tag on my Stohlquist drysuit said that they test every drysuit for leaks before releasing them for sale. As soon as I got mine, I filled the tub with cool water, donned the drysuit, and tested it. I quickly found out that the zipper MUST be completely zipped–don’t leave even a few mm of it as a gap. (It will be tight to zip at the end.) I tested it again with zipper fully closed and stayed dry.

The warranty covers defects, so I wouldn’t worry too much about testing drysuits, at least if they come from “the big two” (Kokatat and Stohlquist), who are the only ones licensed to make Gore-tex drysuits.

NRS, which sells drysuits of their own branding, has a good return policy. People have said good things about Ravenspring (England).

But it’d be smart to ask what the warranty and return policies are before buying.

to gnomon and pikabike…
How is the breathability?

I ask because it took me about 5 years of patient hunting to find a Gore-Tex jacket that actually worked as prescribed to work, keeping rain from getting in and allowing perspiration out. And that was many years mind you, AFTER Gore-Tex hit the market!

(It’s a Sportif-for Women and it is the bomb! The Columbia stuff, at that time, all sucked and were returned by me…)

Also, I guess it would be prudent to make sure to get a Rash Guard Top that covers that part of the neck where the zipper is closest to the skin when fully closed, huh?

Very breathable
I have an original-generation Gore-tex jacket, a pair of more recent rainpants, and the drysuit. All three of them are waterproof and breathable.

I don’t think Columbia even makes Gore-tex garments; are you sure that’s what it was? I have a Columbia rain jacket that is more breathable than coated nylon but still not as breathable as Gore-tex (cost much less, too). Many companies use fabrics that are allegedly breathable and waterproof but so far for me, ONLY Gore-tex has lived up to that reputation.

Columbia makes cheap stuff.

– Last Updated: Mar-26-05 3:48 PM EST –

Look at theri marketing copy Amnidry, supertex etc etc but they never pay for a fabrich technology that really works. Ma
Boyle bites without art!

When I saw people on a serious winter hike?semi climb in NH show up in columbia gear I packed extra stuff for them, They used it on day two.

Anything works on a pond or in a meadow but when the chips are down at the high stakes game; pay for quality. Immersion protection is your last line of defense, or really close to it.

Columbia & Gore-Tex
Well, waaaaay back then they had Gore-Tex clothing for sale. I honestly don’t know what they use now. There were some other manufacturers that put out some Gore-Tex stuff as well, though I can’t immediately recall their names…but they sucked too…

heh…yeah, when I see people wearing Columbia or other not-so-functionally sound clothing/boots, I think, “another victim of commercial advertising and the only reason they don’t realize it is because they NEVER go anywhere near a place/temp/weather condition will show them the error of their decision…” sigh