Hypothermic stories - OK I purchased

a NRS Drysuit. Now what do I wear under it. Also what do you wear inside & outside of the booties.


Water temperature is ??°
Everyone has different levels of resistance to cold. It’s really much like winter hiking.

Start with a good wicking base-layer and then fleece over the top of that. I have a Kokatat bodysuit in Polartec 200 fleece that is perfect for me when air and water is in the fouties. As it gets cooler, I add fleece long underwear top and bottoms. My coolest day so far this year was 15° air and 35° water. I added an NRS Steamer bodysuit to my layering and was toasty both in and out of the water.

The only way to know the truth for you is to put the stuff on and then go swim and see how long you stay warm. It will probably take you a few tries to find your comfort zone- where you can paddle without overheating and swim without becoming cold.

Never wear Cotton under it!
The FIRST and very important rule is to NEVER wear cotton under your dry, ot wet suit. Cotton absorbs perspiration, and holds if against your skin. It just makes you feel YUCKY!

Under my Kokatat Semi-Dry suit. I have a thin pair of POLYESTER underwear and a Polyester T-Shirt. Next I wear a Kokatat Polartec-100 “Long Johns” one piece long underwear. This is also Polyester. This 2 layer combo wicks moisture away from my skin, and keeps me nice and warm. I also have Polyester thin socks, and I wear a heavier wool sock over the thin socks. These keep my feet nice and warm.

Now,… Over the sewn in water proof booties I wear one of two things. Most of the time I wear my Chota Muckluks, just because I don’t want to get the booties wet. By keeping water away from my feet, they stay warmer. This is what I wear outside when the water is cold enough that the ice chunks are not melting on the water. When the water is warmer, I wear my NRS Paddling Shoes. They are above ankle height, and protect the dry suit from abrasion and tear. So wanting to protect the legs of the suit, I wear the chotas most of the time.

Keep warm, and stay safe, and remember layers of Polyester under the suit is the best!

The NRS “WaveLite…”

– Last Updated: Jan-02-06 7:24 PM EST –

stuff is pretty good middleweight stuff. Use it alone or combine with a thinner layer underneath, or heavier 200 fleece on top. I only mentioned it since they seem to have some on sale right now. I am tempted by the union suit.

Also, try to not use turtle necks or mock turtle necks. I find sometimes that these can actually push their way out of a neck gasket and cause seepage. Granted this applies to folks more white water/surf oriented where some serious body and head torguing moves can be expected.


All synthetic
As mentioned, no cotton. Cotton is worthless as an insulator when damp or wet. The fibers absorb the moisture, collapse and lose their insulative air pockets. Synthetics do not absorb moisture into the fibers, the structure of the fiber will hold air pockets and insulate when damp, and will drain when wet.

Even with a breatheable drysuit, you may still sweat and get dampness in your layers. If it is very humid, your layers will get damp as well.

I use polypropolene underlayers that can be purchased at local sporting goods stores. Anything made with synthetics (polyester, polypro., nylon, etc.) will work.

Trial and error
Everyone’s constitution is different, but what works for me is to look after the core but leave the arms and head relatively free to radiate excess heat. That is, I use a fleece t-shirt and neoprene vest under H-H fleece long johns to keep my core warm under the dry suit. Arms have only the long john sleeves for insulation, legs have the long john fleece and a pair of insulated nylon pants on really cold days. I can also add a fleece vest if necessary, but that’s rarely. On my head I wear a thin neoprene cap with ear lugs, and a fleece balaclava over that. If it’s relatively warm out, I’ll use the balaclava only, and if I still find it warm I’ll push it back to expose my head altogether.

As always, your mileage may vary, but I believe the key is to look after the core while leaving escape routes for excess heat. (I hate heat, makes me puke)

Wet Suits
When I was a little younger I use to race day sailers in the early spring, when the water temp was under 40 degrees. What I did was wear a “Farmer John” style of wet suit, with polar fleece gear over it, and topped off with a cheap nylon jumpsuit. If it was really cold, a jacket over the jumpsuit.

I didn’t use a drysuit due to cost.

Same as for winter sports
Fleece, polypro, in layers the same as under shells for snowshoeing, hiking etc. I like polypro a lot as a base layer, others find it not so great. The neat thing about a drysuit is that the clothing you get for under it works as well for other sports or cold nights when you don’t feel like helping pay for salary of the CEO of your local power comapny.

Newyears Day
air temps in the high thirties water a little cooler. Me paddling OC1 and getting splashed quite a bit.

I started out in 200 weight fleece bottoms an REI long sleeved T and a 200 weight fleece vest. I very quickly shed the vest and was pretty comfortable. By the end of the run the T was pretty sweaty while the bottom was not so I’m happy that I was dressed right. If I’d done much swimming or rolling or if the wind had come up I might have put the vest back on.

In the spring when the air is warm but the water cold I’ve been known to wear tights and a tanktop under the suit.

Paddling New England white water I’m never far from the shore. On bigger rivers the ocean or big lakes you may have to consider longer immersion times and dress acordingly.


get in the water,practice rescues
If the water is really cold you’ll discover the next weak link in the chain. Don’t forget to zip up completely. Get your head wet. See what it’s like to have a warm body in the dry suit but have an icecream headache or frozen fingers.

repeat,get in the water and use it before you assume anything.

Thanks everyone
for your help. I have yet to get any of my NEW paddling toys wet(Kayak/Paddle, etc.). I have to get a rack for my truck now so I can get to some H2O and learn to paddle.

thanks again


Inside and Outside the booties
Outside I wear your standard 3mm dive boot. Something like the Wetshoes shown here. http://www.paddling.net/buyersguide/accessories/showProduct.html?prodID=157&manfID=47&cat=

inside I wear a thin polypro sock and if it’s cold like Sunday a rag wool sock over that.

I’m thinking I need a larger wetshoe when I wear the extra sox though. Things get pretty tight and I’m sure that hurts the insulation factor.


Please be a bit conservative this year
if it’s really cold. Out with friends your mistakes might cost you some respect, (with better friends a laugh at your expense a year later). Alone in winter the costs could mount. Do you know about burping a suit; how are your er-entry techniques? Currents in your area area; you going alone? How far from shore; got radio? Know how to use it? etc etc.

Good paddling to you!

be careful about not walking around in your latex or goretex booties outside of the shoes. I knew a fellow who wore Tevas over latex booties and they got tore up. Another time he went swimming without zipping up the pee zipper.