Fall and winter gear?

Hi all. Been kayak racing a few times now and need to know what is best for fall/winter. Races require wet/dry suits in cooler temps. Question is, which is better for us kayakers…wet suit or dry. Is a full coverage suit required?



dry suit
I’ve got a full 3/4 wetsuit and a Goretex drysuit. The drysuit is way more versatile and comfortable – not like a sauna in milder weather and can have insulation layers added in colder conditions. Of course it is more expensive but if you look for a good used one you can find deals. Only paid $400 for my Kokatat (new would have been $1000) and all it needed was a $15 neck gasket repair.

If you are racing and it is in the south
I wouldn’t wear either a wet suit or a dry suit.

Just a long sleeve poly pro shirt and a bathing suit would be my choice.


Over-Loading the Material

– Last Updated: Oct-01-12 10:04 AM EST –

For training purposes in cooler weather:

ANY material can be overloaded by sweat
- i.e. going all out, racing, will soak the material

Those breathable garments on the market work
on water vapor, not on sweat droplets, getting out.


IF a material lets sweat droplets out
- it is not waterproof to begin with.

What are the air and water temps?
Those are the key factors for choosing what you are going to wear.

Even breathable dry suits are miserable if you are really cranking it. When going hard on cold water I use neoprene trunks, a hydroskin top, and a breathable top.

Breathable stuff dries quick

– Last Updated: Oct-01-12 1:40 PM EST –

Don't let me discourage anyone from the
breathable fabrics, they are wonderful stuff.

They will also ""dry" nicely if you slow down
from doing sprints and paddle quietly for
a recovery period.

To gain better understanding, look for stuff like this.
It explains exactly how the fabrics work
and its all based on water molecule size - vapor vs liquid


DON'T let the marketing hypesters dupe you though.
All fabrics have limits, and you will sweat going full tilt.


or better not?

– Last Updated: Oct-01-12 2:58 PM EST –

Maybe listening to people saying that "its all based on water molecule size - vapor vs liquid" is not the best of ideas. The size of water molecule in a block of ice, a jug of water and a cloud of fog are exactly the same - hard to believe, but amazingly true. The key words here should be "wetting", "hydrophobic", "surface tension" and "diffusion".

The essence of any "membrane" out there is that it is basically a spider-web of hydrophobic "threads" that are packed close enough to be impermeable to liquid water due to the effects of surface tension (the fibers are not wettable). However, the spaces between the fibers allow water vapor (individual water molecules - for simplicity sake) to make their way though the membrane. The speed of this transport is dependent on the properties of the membrane and also on the temperature and humidity gradients across the membrane - if the outer layer of the "breathable" fabric becomes wet (saturated/covered by layer of water) the rate of diffusion will drop by order of magnitude, if not more. This is why all "breathable" fabrics have some sort of water-repellent coating on the outer surface - not to add to the water-resistance, but to keep the outer surface "dry" so to allow vapor to escape.

If you read somewhere that "our membrane" allows (liquid) sweat through, rest assured, it's hogwash - because if the membrane is wettable and permeable to liquid, it's wettable in both directions - ergo, it is not water resistant.

hydroskin or farmer john
NRS hydroskin is about the right weight or a 3mm farmer john for extra cold. I paddled my surf ski in my farmer john and a hydroskin top last winter in 33F wind and snow and I was just right. I raced my SK in a farmer john and polypro top and was still sweating in below freezing temps. There was ice on the boats at the start. Another good option are the 3mm NRS rodeo pants and a hydroskin or wind breaker vest on top of a polypro top.

I made the mistake of trying my drysuit once in PNW winter conditions(barely above freezing rain and wind). I was saturated inside fairly quickly. Goretex can not keep up with a decent workout pace.

for me
Any sleeved hydroskin or wetsuit is too restrictive for racing. If you are doing a fall race, I’m assuming in the south, the water probably won’t be cold enough to put you at any real risk of dying, but splash with cool air can make for an uncomfortable situation. I would suggest long sleeve poly and then another layer on backup if wind picks up or it gets cool enough to start chilling your skin.

Ryan L.

Dry top ring for neck

– Last Updated: Oct-01-12 5:10 PM EST –

Long ago I had a ""ring"" made of clear tubing
that could go around my neck seal to open it up
to cool air, making it more comfortable.
In rough conditions I could flip the neck seal up
and be protected almost instantaneously.

It's in a box...somewhere and would take
hours to find now, no pictures or brand name,sorry.

Anyone else know what I'm talking about here ?

Found an internet pic of something similar

Got one
A friend actually put them together for a bunch of us. Basically a bit of wood from a dowel and plastic tubing from the plumbing/hardware store, just a little rummaging time to put together.

Helps heat get out

– Last Updated: Oct-01-12 8:33 PM EST –

The ring acts a bit like a vent on those nice
rain jackets with the ""pit zips"" allowing ventilation,
only it's around the neck letting heat escape.

Just remember it's around your neck or it
could cause all that water to rush in and
be downright fatal ! It's a bit of fatal catch 22.

Meant and designed for on-land gear gathering,
portaging, walking around, comfort during breaks, etc.

I remember that
There is no magic solution for staying dry if you are sweating a lot. I just always assume, If I want to paddle hard with a top or drysuit on, I will get damp and will have to change into dry clothes when I stop. Breathable fabrics help a lot but for me, nothing works like a T-shirt in the summer.

If I do a winter paddle where I will stop for lunch, I always change my shirt. Or I just do shorter paddles with no lunch stop. Plus your PFD covers the entire chest area.

Another fallacy is…
Layers keeping you dry. I’ve tried everything and every combination and if I sweat, my first layer is damp or wet, period. I know wicking fabrics work better than cotton but, once I start to sweat under all that clothing, nothing is going to wick it away.

Dressing for the water is a juggling act. You want to wear the least you can get away with and still be protected and much of that decision is based on the conditions, (wind sun, temperatures) and your actual assessment about the likelihood of coming out of your boat and if you are paddling alone or with a capable group.

Sometimes in the winter we do a inland marsh paddle and everyone cheats all over the place but the same group in open ocean with some winds is dressed for an Atlantic crossing.

don’t forget…
…spray skirt. A long tunnel of neoprene reaching up to your chest under the PFD goes a long way in terms of protection from elements (unless you are going to take a swim).