Drysuit questions

New paddler here and was wondering about next spring time paddling. Say May.Iam in Buffalo NY so paddling Erie canal,creeks some lake Ontario and Erie.I don’t paddle out far on lakes maybe a 100 to 200 yards. But full wetsuits are just out of my price range.

I did a search here and found allot of argument of either wetsuits or drysuits. But I did find drytops from NRS and kokata they have several all about $230 to $250 range I also found some drypants by Kokatat for $140 so for a total of about $380 it appears I can have a drysuit. But does that work ok to have a drytop and then getting drypants? The drysuits from head to toe are one piece and priced in the $600 to $1000 range. So does this piecing of drytop and drypants work OK? Water temps from what I found out at beginning of May around 40F.

Plus how are drytops and bottoms supposed to fit, Loose or tight like a wetsuit? How warm are drytops compared to wetsuits. It can get pretty warm air temps in May.

Wetsuits are allot cheaper but I don’t want to fall into the water and be so shocked by cold that I inhale water.Or would a wetsuit be enough to keep one from being shocked into inhaling water? The if wetsuits would work how thick should they be. 2mm or thicker. NRS sells a hydroskin but not sure if that’s even close to be enough protection.

Drypants here http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=2259

and drytop http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=2265&pdeptid=1172

Say that again?

– Last Updated: Nov-16-11 1:03 AM EST –

1. "Full wetsuits are just out of my price range."

But then you say you are considering buying a drysuit, which generally costs more than a full wetsuit, even if the drysuit is NOT Gore-tex.

Separate pants and drytop are false economy, in many people's experience. I'm one of those who tried that first, found that the combo did not seal anywhere as well as either a full wetsuit OR a one-piece drysuit, and ended up buying both later on (for different seasons).

But if I had to choose only one and I lived in an area where most of the paddling season involved cold water, I'd get the drysuit. You can easily adjust underlayers to get a good range of temperature uses.

Caveat emptor: You really need to get an idea of what YOUR cold tolerance is. That's something nobody else can answer for you. Also, the decision may hinge upon a lot of things that haven't been detailed, such as Do you have a reliable roll? Do you have other capsize fast-recovery skills down? Do you tend to be fairly conservative about what risks you take vs. what the conditions are? Do you generally have good balance or not?

Drysuits and wetsuits do come up for sale as used items, so don't rule that out IF you can examine them in person.

2. "Or would a wetsuit be enough to keep one from being shocked into inhaling water?"

No. You could inhale water regardless what you're wearing. There is NOTHING that'll guarantee you won't do that (short of not getting in the water). All you can do is lower the risk. In addition to the wetsuit or drysuit, you'll need protection for your feet, hands, and (especially) your head and neck. Likely these areas will be covered with neoprene products. That still is no guarantee you won't inhale water. Never rely solely on equipment to prevent disasters.

3. Hydroskin ain't anywhere near good enough for 40-degree water!!!!!!! It's something like 0.5mm neoprene bonded to a very thin nylon face. I would not wear neoprene for water that cold (that's what the drysuit and good underlayers are for).

To give you a few examples of neoprene applications:

* Someone I know used to scuba dive in San Diego, in winter (water probably warmer than 40 degrees); he wore 7mm of neoprene (two full wetsuits). You wouldn't be able to paddle decently in that thick and tight a straightjacket...I mean, wetsuit.

* I have a 1-mm long-sleeved shirt. That is not warm enough for repeated rolling or other immersion even in 60-degree water. Another person who used the same make and model of shirt on the same day, same place, got cold even before I did. And that was on a day with air temps in the low 70s.

* The 3mm full wetsuit I have was barely OK for rolling in water temps down to high 50s. Just OK, not exactly warm. It's comfortable (for lots of rolling) when air temps are above 70 and water temps above 65.

The above examples are obviously subject to individual physical differences, but these are not unusual results.

Wet and dry
A typical paddling wetsuit that is going to actually keep you warm enough to handle decent time in cold water is usually going to be too hot for being upright in the warmer air/still cold water days in the spring. Given your geography, you have a solid month of time when the water will still be trying to get out of the 40’s and the air will feel warm enough for lightweight pants and a Tshirt on a really sunny day. You can do better with the wetsuits designed with surfers in mind, but they are pricier than the basic Farmer John type suits.

Drysuits and drywear need to have space for one layer underneath and still leave you able to move.

Two piece systems are not nearly as effective as a one piece suit for the kind of real swim a new paddler is likely to have, with the possible exception being the two piece bib system from Kokatat. But you are up in price levels again there and are close to the price for a lightly used drysuit from someplace like the Kayak Academy.

Your best bet is to get to pool sessions over the winter and learn some good self-rescue skills, also start on a roll. Your water is going to be ice before long anyway. This will reduce the amount of time you would be in the water should you capsize, and give you a better sense of what you have to do physically to get back in.

What about something like the SuperNova
that Kokatat makes? I know it’s not Gore-tex, which is better than Troops, but for accidental immersion protection wouldn’t it be better than two pieces (with appropriate layering underneath) and more versatile than a wetsuit? It lists for $495 at EMS but they sometimes have 20% off sales (they are having one now) which would bring it down to just under $400, close to the $380 for two pieces.

Obviously, some of the pricer suits are better, especially for repeated exposures (like rolling) but if someone is trying to stay in the $400 price range, is this a reasonable suit?

budget options
You’ve gotten excellent information in the first two responses, so I will only add that I agree with them and that a drysuit is your best option. But you could get by in moderate conditions with a full 3/4 surfing wetsuit with a drytop and pants over it. These overgarments would not need to be Goretex since you will be sweating or damp under the wetsuit anyway, though you might want the shells to be Goretex for use in milder weather without the wetsuit.

But you don’t need to buy new. There are plenty of bargains to be had. My 3/4 (the trunk area has the thicker 4 mm neoprene while the arms and legs are 3 mm) Excel wetsuit I bought used but in perfect condition on Ebay for $35. I got a Kokatat Goretex dry top on Sierra Trading Post new for $40 and a new with tags pair of Kokatat coated nylon pants with neoprene cuffs on Ebay for $30. In fact, just last weekend I found a new Kokatat coated nylon hooded paddling anorak for my boyfriend on the clearance rack of a hunting and fishing store for $5. My Kokatat Goretex drysuit was bought used for $400 also in excellent condition (it only needed a gasket repair on the neck which I fixed with a scrap of latex and adhesive.)

While I am glad that there are enough people in the world willing to buy new to keep great companies like Kokatat in business, I am not ashamed to go the “recycling” route and buy previously owned gear if it means I can enjoy higher quality and the best funtionality within my budget. If you are squeamish, a good soap and water wash will remove any imagined “cooties.”

The Kokatat size charts are VERY accurate. I’d encourage you to take your measurements and consult their charts to determine your size and then start your search for a used suit. Wetsuits are dicier – some brands run quite small. Excel, Camaro and Oneill run true to size but I know Body Glove models are super tiny.

There is a small US company, American Wave, that is going out of business next month and currently selling off their stock of neoprene water wear for good prices. I have one of their 3 mm springsuits for diving and it is very well designed and also flexible enough for paddling. Sizes are true. Here’s a link:


Just a couple points
The water where I am is mostly in the low to upper 50’s year-round (Pacific Ocean). When it is in the lower part of range it seems cold to me in a wetsuit for extended immersion, in the middle or upper part I never got cold despite extended immersion in surf or practice.

I have a drysuit now, but still wear the wetsuit for certain situations. If I were in 40 degree water that would not be time I’d wear a wetsuit.

I know two people who are happy with a dry top/dry pants combo. But they are thin, so they don’t mind the bulk of the rolled connection at their waist. With my middle section, I cannot tolerate the extra material there. And neither party went to that combo as a goal. They started with a wetsuit/ dry top combo, then eventually added the pants, as it was a smaller incremental cost over a drysuit - given that they already had the drytop. The combined cost of a quality drytop and drypants combo is higher than many drysuits can be found on sale.

My supernova lets in a ton of water thru the neck if I stay down for nice long scull, or when I was earlier in my rolling and had a lot of wet exits. I also have a skinny long neck. I’ve known people who can do better who have thicker necks. But if you are going to be in the water for more than a couple of minutes, the major diff between the Supernova and a two piece system is where the water comes in.

Bibs/top combo

– Last Updated: Nov-16-11 12:00 PM EST –

Let's see - I'm going on my third year with the Kokatat bibs and semi-dry top (neo neck). First off...the material that rolls together for a seal between the two all ends up at about chest level. I'm pretty slim, so it isn't a problem for me - but if it might bother you, that's a non-starter.

Rolling the two pieces together is a bit of a bother, making sure you do it right for a good seal. I haven't tried a full drysuit yet, but i think I can guarantee you that they are easier to put on and take off.

The bib/top combo does keep water out well, for a short swim. For my current use, it works good - but I'm not on big water with it. Everywhere I use it, I can get out of the water pretty quickly. If I actually had to swim any distance (more than 200' or 5 minutes or so), I wouldn't expect it to keep me very dry.

With all that - as has been mentioned above, the price of this setup new is getting very close to that of the less expensive drysuits. I bought my bib/top combo used for a very good price. If I was buying new - even for my relatively light use - I would go with the full drysuit. And eventually, I will be doing just that anyway.

As for warmth...you can layer under the drysuit just like you would with a light jacket while hiking.

SuperNova Reaction

– Last Updated: Nov-16-11 2:58 PM EST –

We have two of 'em, about 5 seasons use. Mine has had a few problems - neck seal replaced under warranty, and small leaks in the feet, plus some signs of delamination. My wife's SN has been perfect since day one with equal usage.

The other option is used - I have two Reed ChillCheater suits, very nice and comfortable, that cost me about the price of one new, low-end Kokatat Goretex - and that includes the cost of some factory repairs to the seams on both.

Right now iam taking a roll class. So far I had two classes and can now roll no problem. I have two more 2hour classes so I should have my roll down no problem for next spring. I just bought a used Eddyline Nighthawk 16 which is 22 inch wide and the whitewater kayaks in class are pretty wide in the 27 inch wide range so I would guess my kayak will be easier to roll since its much narrower. (not sure on that).

Now I have found some water-skier wetsuits in the $400 range. Like this one


or this one www.bartswatersports.com/catalog/Drysuits/O’Neill_Assault_Drysuit/index.asp

Not sure if these water-skier drysuits would work well for kayaking?

So it looks like drysuits are the way to go for me in May. Just trying to keep cost as low as possible but buy something that will work ok the first time and not end up wasting money like I did on kayaks this year were I kept upgrading till I got what I really like.

Another option I was considering was to buy a drytop and also a wetsuit bottom plus over the bottom use my splash pants i already have. I did try on purpose my splash pants and water got in but slowly at ankles and waste.

I don’t plan on doing any kayaking in dangerous situations but it can get wavy very quickly on the lake BUT I don’t paddle out far at most 200 yards. BUT I do plan on doing some rolling to cool off as it can get pretty warm in May here. Not sure I would want to wear any heavy clothing under drysuit as I would sweat like a pig even at air temps in the low 60F. I was sweating under my pfd at 60F this fall while paddling hard.

I will look into the other options mentioned above too. Thanks for the help.

Need layer under drysuit
It can be a very wicking layer - but you do not want to be sweating directly into the water blocking layers of the fabric. It’ll age the suit faster and it feels dreadfully uncomfortable.

A dry suit by itself has little to no warmth. It’s what you wear underneath that makes it warm, hence the recommendation for very wicking layers.

No fabric will “wick” unless the right
moisture and temperature gradients exist. Wicking fabrics that work great for mountain biking and hiking can get rather sodden when used under a drytop, because whether the wicking is based on micro texture or on coating, the fiber surface has to draw water onto it for wicking to occur.

One of the best fabrics under a drysuit is polypropelene. It absorbs zero water, it doesn’t get soft when soaked, and it gives up water just as soon as the moisture and temperature gradients inside the drysuit will allow it. Every other fabric, including polyester and Nylon, can absorb water into the fibers, and if coated to prevent absorption and to allow wicking, will have surface affinity for moisture.

For me…
polypro is only medium successful under a dry suit. I find that Cool Max is best as base layer, or other manufacturer’s versions of it, then a light fleece or an older synthetic that Hind used to make.

I find polypro to be really good up to a point, then it suddenly turns sodden and chilly. I have a good bit of it because it is a nice moderate temperature solution, but it is best for shorter paddles or longer ones where changing out layers at midday is likely to be easy.

But I paddle with people who have very different stories. Some like the wicking silk blends for example, but they do not work at all for me.

Bottom line, the layers under a dry suit are kind of like defining the single best violin in the world. There isn’t just one - it depends on a variety of factors like the person’s chemistry, the specifics of the paddling environment etc. It’s not really a problem though - whatever doesn’t work for paddling is likely to be fine for shoveling snow or running errands in subzero temps. If you live in the northeast you’ll find a way to use the stuff.

hydrosilk 4 under drysuit?

– Last Updated: Nov-16-11 7:54 PM EST –

Ok for a layer under a drysuit how about NRS Hydrosilk. I just got one of those shirts for kayak roll class. Would a pare a jeans be ok for pants under a drysuit? Iam having troubing affording a drysuit let alone a whole other set of cloths for under it.

Plus are waterskier drysuits good enough. Barefoot and O'Neil both make drysuits for watersking for about $400.

Be careful that what you call "polypro"
is actually polypropelene, and not polyester. All the time I see people calling polyester pile garments “polypro.”

True polypropelene garments are always the driest of whatever I’m wearing for insulation, when I pull my drytop off. The one disadvantage of the fabric is a tendency to get smelly. But because nothing goes inside the fibers, they wash out OK. Helly Hansen treats the stuff, but I’m not sure I agree with that.

Funny story about the 2-piece combo
Initially, I bought a drytop and a drypant. The drytop was Gore-tex and the pant was coated nylon with a wide-banded neoprene waist. I made the mistake of thinking my legs would not get sweaty when paddling. Wrong!

But the biggest mistake was thinking I could get the two pieces to seal well enough to keep water out when immersed. At first, things seemed OK. But as soon as I began actually moving around–as in swimming–there came a sudden BLUB BLUB BLUB sound accompanied by a tremendous in-flood of water at the waist.

Wait, it gets even better! Once all that water had gotten inside, my pantlegs ballooned up and made paddle-float re-entry impossible to do despite my having gotten very quick at it without flooded pants. The gaskets at the ankles held it in! I managed to sort of wallow toward shore (think Goodyear blimp filled with water instead of air), where I held open first one pantleg, and then the other, letting what must’ve been several gallons of water rush out. I literally could not walk till I released that water, and could barely stand still.

That did it for me. I began shopping for a one-piece drysuit, which served me well indeed. No floods, ever!

It’s true polypropoline
I have a union suit and a few pairs of tops and bottoms, different weights, and used to have three pr of socks but I am pretty sure that enough ran away from home to be down to one pair. The one place I don’t hit this issue is with the socks - dampness down there is not a problem under the suit and booties.

Under a drysuit

– Last Updated: Nov-17-11 6:40 AM EST –

I am sure people have worn jeans but I doubt it is a good idea for your comfort or the inside of the suit. I see lots of opportunity for chafing. As to the NRS hydrosilk, recall that I said a dry suit per se doesn't add much warmth but the layers under it do that. Hydrosilk isn't much help in 38 degree water, though I use stuff of that weight in the warm air/water in the high 50's stuff in Maine in the summer.

You live in Buffalo, right? I have to think you already have at least long underwear for getting around in snow. I use much of the under-drysuit stuff in the winter as base layers for snowshoeing, or walking around the house on days that I refuse to turn the thermostat above 68 degrees. At the least you must have some fleece.

The worst that happens is the stuff you already have doesn't wick well and it shortens your time out. But unless you are willing to add in other purchases like about $60 of winter weight gloves or lighter gloves and pogies, and a good hood, you aren't going to last long on a day in late January anyway.

I'd suggest that you focus on getting to the drysuit, given where you live, and just start out using things you already have like fleece etc come spring when the water will still be cold. In the meantime try to find a pool where you can transfer skills to your sea kayak, learn rescues, and enjoy what is supposed to be a good winter for snow shoeing.

Oh yes I have thermal underwear and fleece BUT I only intend to kayak the earlyest would be May. Not January thats time for snow skiing for me. My kayak is put away until May.So wearing thermals or fleece in May i would heat up so fast I would pass out from the heat. Even light fleece would be to warm for me.So thinking hydrosilk would wick mositure away but still be cool enough to tolerate in May. I produce alot of heat.

The drysuit is only IF I tip over or roll to cool off. Thats was one of the reasons i thought a pair of dry pants and a drytop would be ok. So far I have never tipped over kayaking ever. My plan is to keep it that way. Now that Iam learning to roll I mite do that to cool off but thats it.

It sounds like alot of people here spend alot of time in the water. Thats not my intention. I only do flat water touring kayaking not white water. I guess I didnt make that clear.So for touring kayaking as a saftey precaution is what iam looking for. Not splashing my way down a white water river.

So anyone have any experince with water-skier drysuits like i linked in one of my above posts. By Barefoot or O’neiil.

Interesting story
Humm with that story in mind maybe a better combo would be a wetsuit bottom with a drysuit top. No chance of what happen to you with water rushing into drypants then. Iam only doing flatwater touring kayaking. So far I have never tipped over unless on purpose. Only from May to say late Octovber I would be paddling.But water temp in early May can be around 40F. It does warm up fairly quickly be end of May close to 50F. I have water skied in June with water in the mid 60F with just a bathing suit.It was cold but I could do that fine.

I do tolerate cold well. I have snow skied in minus 15F while others in my group of skiers froze i kept sking.I ski fast and produce alot of heat which keeps me warm. I prodcue so much heat i have trouble keeping my glasses from fogging under my turbo-cam goggles which have a electric fan in goggles to ventilate air under goggles.