Dumb Apparel Question

-- Last Updated: Apr-24-09 11:17 AM EST --

I'm already thinking about next winter.

What's the difference between "wetwear" (or -gear) and "drywear"? I just received some pants by Kokatat. They look very impressive, and the length is right. They fit well in the seat. But they're very tight at the waist. And they're so tight around the ankles that I think they might restrict blood flow.

I paddle (canoe) in the Southeast. The objective - the assumption - is that I won't get dunked (immersed). Any suggestions on what sort of pants might be best for the 30-ish temps we have in mid-winter?

sounds like
Sounds do me like you’ve bought dry pants with ankle gaskets. They’ll be waterproof when wading, but will allow some water in through the waist if swimming. They are often worn with a drytop, which can be mated fairly well to the pants to reduce the amount of water getting in.

What are your water temps during the winter. This is important for knowing what you’ll want to wear.


– Last Updated: Apr-24-09 10:43 AM EST –

Wet wear keeps you warm by itself getting wet and trapping warmer water between your skin and it. Think wetsuits, and fairly tight-fitting. Most wet wear needs a wind-blocking top because, once wet and in the wind, the typical paddling Farmer John is a fast path to hypothermia.

Dry wear keeps you warm by keeping your insulation layers dry. The pants you got, if they have a latex ankle gasket, will do the best at that if mated with a dry top with a double tunnel so that you can somewhat secure the seam between the pants and the top, and avoid swimming. The basic two piece dry wear systems tend to leak at least a little at the waist if you end up in the water, hence the really cold water preference for one-piece dry suits. The two piece systems also tend to act as more dry wear if the paddler can roll, which limits the time that water has to find a way through an imperfectly formed seam.

For water temps in the 30's or low 40's, my cohort typically goes with a dry suit. I am talking kayakers, but I know more than one canoeist who has gone out and gotten a dry suit after an unplanned swim.

Maybe if you exchange for the next
larger size, you’ll get larger ankle gaskets as well as a larger waist.

Have you tried kneeling in them? Dry pants have to be generous in length to allow for the shortening caused by kneeling.

Have you got a system for mating, in a waterproof fashion, to a drytop? You don’t want to swim with water sneaking in at the waist that can’t escape at the ankles.

Water temperature usually doesn’t drop below the 40s in SE winters. Still, more than a short swim can take a lot out of you. It’s a matter of how much insulation to wear under a drytop or drysuit.

is this a (dumb apparel) question
or a dumb (apparel question)?

If you want some dumb apparel, I’ve got some I’m looking to get rid of.

Warmer Water
We occasionally get some crusts of ice on the water in the morning. It’s generally gone by 0900. I have, once or twice, been kept off the water by real ice(!).

My guess would be, when the morning temp is 35, the water temp is about 10 degrees higher (but then, why would it freeze?).

Btw, I paddle on a small river, no more than 1/3 mile wide. I believe I could swim to shore - canoe in tow - in these conditions. I’ve done it in warmer weather.

Your ability to swim in 40 degree water without cold-water gear is certainly much less than what you can do in 70 degree water. There’s a video that’s been linked on here that shows folks in that water temp can barely even stay above water for a couple minutes.

A larger size might work
but I seem to be at one of those difficult sizes (I’m 65). I’m not overweight. But by getting a “Large” I typically end up with, like, 35 in inseams – much too long for me.

I haven’t tried “a system for mating, in a waterproof fashion.” I really don’t think conditions here are extreme enough to warrant the bells-n-whistles I associate with waterproof gear. If I lived in Minnesota, I’d think differently. Expense is not an issue, but I’m only willing to go to just so much trouble for a 60-minute morning workout. I just want to stay warmish and dryish – above the waterline.

I appreciate that, but
I stay close to shore at this particular time of year, I wear good PFDs, and my backstroke is strong.

But if all goes wrong (very unlikely, imo), at least I’ll die doing what I love. :slight_smile: Better than wasting away in some old-folks warehouse.

Fresh Water Freezes…

– Last Updated: Apr-24-09 12:09 PM EST –

..at 32 degrees F, or 0 degrees C, period...it ain't gonna be 10 degrees warmer than that if there's a skin of ice...and it won't warm appreciably during the day even with sun on the water ...

And...that's absolutely lethally cold...if cold shock doesn't get you immediately, be aware that hypothermia will very quickly (within a very, very few minutes) render you incapable of self-rescue. Best suggestion - pick a safe spot, don your 'immersion' clothing, and go for a shallow-water swim - you'll figure out pretty damn fast just how adequate your thermal protection actually is.

For us, those sort of water temps mean drysuits, multiple layers of wool or fleece under them for warmth, cold water hoods and gloves, full emergency drybags of warm clothes and safety gear - the whole 9 yards. It's all well and good to reckon you don't want to hang around an old age home for years, but there's no need to die needlessly and stupidly before one's time...

BTW - just a thought - if you don't want to go the full drysuit route, check out the Kokatat SuperNova semi-dry suits - we use 'em, and have been pleased with their performance to date. About 1/2 the price of a full drysuit, and the neoprene neck seal is a lot more comfortable than the latex one used on full drysuits...

Our water isn’t fresh,

– Last Updated: Apr-24-09 12:09 PM EST –

it's brackish. (Don't know what that does to your assumptions/conclusions/advice.)

Mean high (air) temp during January is about 50F. The water warms. Maybe you think it shouldn't, but it does.

Sorry, but I'm not for "the whole 9 yards." Are you a 'yaker? Your approach might make more sense for them, but the local kayak people don't seemed to think so.

Different strokes

– Last Updated: Apr-24-09 12:24 PM EST –

Brackish water freezes at a lower temp than fresh water, so if there's ice on it it's certainly less than 32.

Each paddler has to decide what's safe for them. Around here we have water temps in the 30s from about January to April, and the consensus of the folks I know is that it's too risky to paddle without a drysuit in that water. One mistake and you might not come home.

I think there are certainly canoers getting out this time of year who don't wear drysuits. But then, there are also boaters killed every year in the spring when they assume they won't end up in the water, and when they do it's sometimes too late for a plan B. Just a week or two ago a canoer died in NH. Ice has been out for a few weeks, so I'd guess water temps were a few degrees above your water that has skim ice in the morning.

If I were in NH
I’d certainly outfit myself differently than I do in coastal Carolina. Or, more probably, I’d buy a home gym thing for use during the winter months.

Brackish Water…
…is part salt water, so the freezing point will be a degree or two lower…

Yep, we kayak, and our ocean waters are always dangerously cold. Don’t be deceived by air temps - if there’s ice on the water, the water temp is at or about 32F…we’ve worn our drysuits on 80 degree F days, as did virtually all the other 30 folks on a club paddle…I’ve sweated like a pig in my suit while circling an iceberg on a gorgeous hot sunny day…

Granted, the ‘whole 9 yards’ package is a bit extreme for some places - but so are our conditions, and our desire to stay alive! People who mess with the North Atlantic without good skills, equipment, and judgment are pretty far out on a very slender limb…

We also canoe, and are perhaps a little more casual about water temps in a canoe - but we still carry a full change of warm clothing each in drybags whenever we head out. PFDs are, of course, worn at all times in any of our paddlecraft…

above the waterline
If you just want to stay dry above the waterline, and don’t want to dress for immersion, then the drypants you got are probably more trouble than their worth. Unless they’re mated to a drytop, they’ll probably not provide much protection in a swim, and the ankle gaskets are probably uncomfortable. If you only want to dress for the air temp, then just wear some rain pants/jacket, and fleece and synthetic layers underneath.

However, if price is no problem, and your main priority is being comfortable, and having an easy time getting dressed, then seriously consider a semi-drysuit like the supernova. Then you can just wear some fleece and long-johns. Step into the suit, zip up a single zipper and you’re ready to go. Warm, dry, and protected from a swim. Plus no painful ankle gaskets.

freezing is freezing
New Hampshire, North Carolina, what’s the difference if the water is 32 degrees in both places?

Hey, thanks!
This is about the first responsive post that seems to reflect where I am, how I want to paddle and what my expectations are – rather than simply relating the posters’ own personal situations and experiences (and worst-case scenarios).

I suspect this is good advice, and I’ll investigate it.

I didn’t make it clear,
apparently, that we have light crusts of ice a few times a year in the early morning (which quickly melts) and - maybe every second or third year - we have actual ice on the river.

In either case (and in other difficult weather, such as high winds blowing over a long fetch), I just don’t go out. One is not in danger of 32F water if one is enscounced in one’s soft and comfortable chair at home, reading a good book.

Curled Up In A Comfortable Chair…
…with a good book, a 3mm Farmer John wetsuit should do the trick…;->))

The Super Nova
semi-dry might be overkill (for me). But it has enough intriguing features to make me want to check it out thoroughly. I’ve written the company and requested they mail me a dead-tree catalog. The suit looks pretty exotic, but my shoulder surgeon said the same thing about canoeing three years ago. So you never know.