Gear questions for spring in New England

Hey everoyne,

Doing a white water kayaking school here soon, and I’m finding the process of looking for gear to be incredibly annoying. For all of you theorizing about lack of entry due to cost… even when going the cheap route information is sprase beyond “A wetsuit!” or “A drysuit!”

I’m going the cheaper route of a wetsuit. I’m on a budget, such is life. I’ll be doing spring and fall white water, just starting out.

What do you wear with a farmer john wetsuit to stay warm?

Exposed armpits has to be cold as hell, and also a great way to stink up a jacket. What is the intermediary layer and how is it worn?

What other gear is advised? Water shoes (Neoprene)? Gloves? With all of that gear is a jacket still advised?

Here’s what I’m considering, but just don’t know and google is turning up NADA:

NRS h2core rashguard (

Stohlquist paddle Maw Gloves (

NRS Freestyle water shoes (

Oneil Superlight farmer johns Wetsuit (tried it on and it fits best of all I tried)(

Please help me out. I’ve honestly tried googling, and I’ve just find this answer countless times “Get a dry suit and do this that and/or etc etc… or get a wet suit, no further info”.

What part of New England?

– Last Updated: Apr-02-14 10:06 PM EST –

One just does not wear a sleeveless FarmerJohn wetsuit in Maine in April or May..

Maybe Connecticut. New England has several temperature ranges. Highs now are from 20-60 north to south.

You need a full length one for Maine Paddling along with wetsuit booties (not water shoes..those are cold) and good insulating gloves.

And a skull cap

If you are taking class on a dam release river its usually cold as they release from the bottom.

Wetsuits allow wind to penetrate so you may want to wear a paddle jacket at least to keep the wind from chilling you

We do not have spring at this end of NE. Its called mud season.

I won’t be going up to Maine until the weather gets nice! Looking forward to going out that way though, I used to love it up there as a kid camping out on Sebago.

So… knowing that, would a farmer john with a rashguard and a jacket for the wind work out in slightly warmer than Maine snow run off temps?

I’ll have the shoes linked above and the gloves above… helmets are in the air since I can’t find anywhere selling them directly in a store. I have a good sized head and need to try helmets on to ensure fit without headache (XL motorcycle helmet, same with snowboard helmets except burton/RED/Anon for whatever reason).

depends on temps
Depends on temps, but dry top or paddle jacket is pretty much required. As said above, blocks wind. Dry top with a decent roll can really keep you pretty dry (where a paddling jacket or swim won’t).

I also wear some sort of polypro or rash guard with my wet suit. Maybe 2 layers, if it is cold.

Something for feet - I usually use wetsuit booties unless it is warm.

Different layers for the head make a huge difference. I have 2 different thickness caps, and switch (or wear both) depending on temps.

you are taking a course

What do the people instruction recommend?

Personally I would not go out with a FJ and a rashguard in upper thirty degree water. You will lose dexterity quick if you wet exit.

Most folks in the spring wear FULL wetsuits… 3 mm at least.

Over or under?
Okay, rashguard OVER or UNDER your wetsuit?

This seems incredibly simple of an answer, but the answer really isn’t out there on the internet, and I keep finding conflict answers!

Well it is a simple answer
How can a rash guard protect against rashes if you wear it over the wetsuit?

Consider a wind blocking top

– Last Updated: Apr-03-14 10:43 AM EST –

The coldest I have ever been was on a day with temps in the 60's, but a stiff breeze came up and my wetsuit was soaked from rolling/swimming practice. If you are thinking about WW you will likely be wet.

Wet wear keeps you warm in the water. It is useless in windier or chilly temps when wet in the air, or worse. Granted you tend to be working hard in WW while paddling, but you also want to be warm when you pull out for a snack. So I suggest you add a basic splash top to the list.

As far as under the wetsuit, you will need layers in a couple of places to prevent chafing/rashes. Hence rashguard. I have personally not found rashguard to have warming properties unless the sun was also out for a warm day anyway, so in my case I forego the extra cost for the heavier weight stuff. I find it better to get that gain by a good shell.

I am in dry wear for more serious work, but for shorter easy paddles the last few years I have been known to hop into neo shorts, cotton pants and rashguard tops.

And get a basic hood. It'll cushion the helmet a bit if it is an imperfect fit, and it will make your first swim a lot less distracting by modifying the impact of colder water around your head.

One note re Maine
I just checked, and it appears that Sebago Lake should be reasonably warm (water temps) by the summer. Not bathtub warm, but OK to allow for a range of clothing choices. But - it is also not far from coastal waters, and you need to be aware that the water there is a lot chillier. The last couple of years the coastal waters off of Maine have been unusually warm - which translates to the water temperature passing 60 degrees by sometime in July.

It is however unlikely that this will be so this coming summer. If you decide to head to ocean waters, you will more likely find typical water temps in the mid to high 50’s until sometime in August.

So if you are thinking about making what you buy now work for a variety of environments, be aware that by talking about Maine you could be looking at up to 20 degree diff in water temps between a lake and offshore.

NH and VT, not so much ME
I don’t intend to go to Maine until the weather is quite nice :slight_smile:

I’ll mostly be in NH. Possibly visit Vermont for some stuff.

It may sound stupid…
It may sound stupid but I’ve read countless places that you aren’t supposed to wear anything under your wetsuit, with a few exceptions. A rasguard would count as something under your suit.

There’s lots of conflicting info out there.

Ocean water temps vs nice weather
To repeat, what I said was not about it being a nice summer day. It was that water temps offshore in Maine can easily be 20 degrees colder than anything inland in the “nicest” days of summer.

Hence many of us who are not accustomed to regularly swimming in Maine ocean temps are paddling in a drysuit on a sunny day with air temps in the high 70’s and more. Mainers seem to be more tolerant of the stuff, we are not at this point in our lives.

If you are buying clothing now, you might as well be thinking about what will work best for a all the places you are likely to paddle. Or you can do what we did and spend a substantial sum of paddling clothing that ends up spending a lot of time on a hanger. Both approaches work, the second requires more storage space. :slight_smile:

Some info.
You need to match the water temperature to the wetsuit you will be using

Down to about 55 or 57 a 3/2 full surfing wetsuit will work.

57 down to about 45 a 4/3 full surfing suit will work.

Below that get some local advice from what people are wearing. It’s likely 5mm suits with a hood.

You can certainly go commando under a wetsuit. I recommend a rashgaurd top, worn under the wetsuit -it makes getting in and out of the suit much easier - and saves chaffing under the arms.

Lots of white water paddlers go with dry tops and neoprene shorty bottoms - this can be fairly economical.

I would also suggest you hook up with other white water paddlers in your area. The website Boatertalk has a good forum for whitewater paddlers and you will meet some younger whitewater paddlers. this board is mostly older rec paddlers and a few older seakayakers.

I forgot…
I forgot to mention… I have no interest in ocean kayaking at the moment.

Rivers and lakes :slight_smile:

In the future, I’ll consider ocean kayaking.

Good info, thanks!

I’m connecting with the NH AMC paddlers group. They’re… slow to respond at the moment, but I’ll hopefully start making connections there. Lots of trips organized and what not.

I paddle with that group
good intro trips…you’ll find a range of things used and not so much latest gear… But everyone is warm and safe.

You will see some drysuits used in mud season. And more than a few “oldsters”

A good local resource is which has enough paddlers from around New England in various places to answer site specific questions.

Double thanks!
Nice, even more great info! Maybe I’ll see you out and about, and I’ll be joining that message board!

Exposed armpits are shockingly cold
I wear a 1.5mm neoprene long-sleeved shirt under the Farmer Jane. The FJ is a long-legged one, not a shorty. If you wear one of those with a 2mm FJ, and then a 2mm jacket, that makes 5.5mm of neoprene on your upper body, which should be pretty good for spring and fall, assuming you can get back upright/in the boat again before long.

The neck is another shocking-cold area if exposed. Consider wearing a surfing hood to protect it. I assume you already have the head covered with a neoprene cap.

A rashguard is not warm

– Last Updated: Apr-03-14 5:00 PM EST –

Most of them are just stretch nylon or polyester fabric, and a few have maybe 0.5mm to 1mm neoprene on the torso. They are called rashguards because they are MEANT to be worn under the Farmer John to prevent chafing or rash.

You'd be better off buying a surfer's neoprene long-sleeved shirt that has the neoprene throughout the entire shirt. Mine (RipCurl brand) is 1.5mm and it does fit under the Farmer Jane. I would not consider it adequate for getting dunked in spring/fall waters, but you mentioned a jacket. As I stated in another post below, the combination of shirt, Farmer John, and jacket can be layered to make a fair amount of insulation. Better yet, it is layered and therefore allows flexibility for adjusting to different temperatures. You could also buy a full wetsuit somewhere above 3mm thick but you don't have as much flexibility in layering.

If that O’Neill’s long-legged FJ…
…is the men’s equivalent of the Bahia Jane I have, it is very stretchy and comfortable. In fact, I liked the one I bought on sale (yup, REI) so much I went out and got another one, just in case they changed it for the next model year. It is the most comfortable neoprene I’ve ever worn.