kayak wetsuit recreational - Fall

-- Last Updated: Aug-12-14 11:56 AM EST --

What wetsuit would be reasonable to dress for accidental immersion in Fall?
I live in Quebec so water temps can get prett cold in October/November before the river freezes up in winter (probably 10 celsius in October, 5 in November average).
I would likely not fall in often but would 3mm be enough (and warm enough or too warm when paddling)?

Drysuit, not wetsuit. I started with a
quality wetsuit and found it too restrictive, whether for swimming or for portaging and scouting.

I have a 3mm farmer john
I paddle in similar conditions and tested mine out at 5 or 6 C air temperature. I don’t know what the water temperature was but I had a 3mm wetsuit, ankle high booties and 3mm gloves as well as my PFD. I swam around for a bit and it was damn cold. My kids have similar gear and I wanted to make sure I could help them with rescue if required. So yes it works but no it’s not comfortable in the water.

This year I bought a drysuit. I walked out into the river with ice on the edges to burp the suit. I was dressed underneath so I could feel the pressure of the water but not the cold right away. It ended up being a warm day so I was dipping my hands in the water (same 3mm gloves). It felt fine with the 3mm gloves and burning cold without them.

Summertime though the drysuit is too hot. Hope that helps.


– Last Updated: Aug-12-14 1:30 PM EST –

Farmer John wetsuits are not very warm, they allow cold water to flush around your torso.

You can be comfortable down to about 45 F in a 4/3 wetsuit. Down to about 55 F in a 3/2 wet suit. Those are water temps. Don't take advice from people who don't have a clue what water temp is.

4/3 means 4 mm body, 3 mm arms.

If you are paddling in a wet suit buy a good quality surfing suit from Excel, Oneil, ripcurl. You can get a decent 4/3 on sale for about $160-180

Wetsuits are fine for kayak paddling, since you get some cooling by immersion or splashing if you want it. In a canoe you likely will overheat in a 4/3 wetsuit depending on the air temps.

The guy who runs this business can likely tell you how good a suit you would need on the St. Lawerence.



– Last Updated: Aug-12-14 3:46 PM EST –

Each of us has our own risk level we are able to tolerate. Others have automatically said get a dry suit, and if I was paddling in the colder tempos, I would too. But you should choose for yourself.

If you wear no thermal protection at 5-10C, you will have some 10 minutes of use our of your arms in a swim, and maybe an hour before hypothermia sets in (assuming you have a PFD on - if not, you will likely drown shortly after the 10 minutes). This is not being comfortable, but surviving.

Wearing anything that provides some thermal protection will extend these times. A 3 mm farmer john with paddle jacket will provide additional time. How much - hard to say. I would guess that you could easily double those times. Maybe triple. You likely wouldn't be comfortable in the water, but you will have longer time to get yourself back in or get rescued.

That all said, even a dry suit with appropriate clothing under it (dry suit keeps you dry, but doesn't actually insulate much - that is the job of base layers) will only add more hours to this, not make it so you could survive indefinitely. So even a dry suit puts you at risk for extended swims.

Hey Seadart
Good point on the water temperatures, sometimes you don’t see you left something out until it’s pointed out to you. I tested my gear in March, the air temp after looking back at my pictures was 6 C according to the car’s thermometer. The water should have been the same or colder than the air temp but I don’t have an exact number. I spent 5 minutes in the water, it was coldest on the unprotected armpits. I the dried off, put on a dry hoodie and loaded the boats to go home.

I have a Peak UK wetsuit, hindsight I wish I’d bought a MEC Fusion since it has relief zip. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for others. I suggest everyone test their set up to ensure it works when needed.

It’s nice to be able…
…to adjust the layers under a dry suit for the expected temperatures. Also when you end up back on land, you will love having dry feet. I’ve used mine in a wide range of water and air temps with excellent results as I always get in the water when I’m boating around.

So if you can swing the $$$, really consider a dry suit

since you asked for advice…
In those temps, in that season, where you are? My answer to your question is dry suit.

In general, wear a DRY suit if you plan on staying dry. Such as when you are kayak or canoe touring with no plans on going in the water. Wear a WET suit when you plan on going in, such as surfing or white water.

Contrary to popular belief, going the wetsuit route can be at least expensive as a top of the line gore-tex drysuit.

Any wetsuit will have a limited range of WATER temp for which they will insulate. So unless you want to limit your wet suit paddling to one or two weeks each fall you will probably want to get two suits of different thicknesses. That is at least $400 for two decent quality suits and maybe as much as $600 for two.

Wet suits do not last. With regular use and good care you might get 4 or 5 years out out the suits before they stretch, compress, stiffen up and are otherwise degraded to uselessness.

So now you are looking at $800 to $1200 over 12 years. Plus as a “bonus” you will never be comfortable in one and may even find yourself making excuses not to paddle because you don’t want to put on the damn wet suit. This is especially aggravated if you do any multi-day trips and have to put on a cold, wet wetsuit on the morning of days 2, 3 etc.

On the other hand… A $900 gore tex drysuit will keep you dry and comfortable all year long, in any temp (with the appropriate insulation layers witch you certainly already own). With proper care it will easily last 10 or 12 years.

I live in Alaska, paddle year round
and will wear neoprene layered at 5-7 mm. I do wear a drysuit but if a drysuit rips, it is useless.

Keep a change of warm dry clothes with you, and take a swim before paddling.

Great if you have extra $900
Dry suits are very nice for those who don’t want to get wet and have disposable income. A lot of folks getting into paddling just don’t have that kind of money to spend. Those of us into active paddling know that it’s all to easy to rip or puncture a dry suit and then you are SOL.

You can paddle safely down to 45 F water temps with a $160 4/3 wetsuit,and air temps in high 30s, and if you get too hot, go for a swim. It’s a water sport.

need to be blocked for a wetsuit to be useful in cold air. Air passes through the pores of a wetsuit quite easily and a good shell is required.

I often wear a capilene shirt under my wetsuit and a spray jacket over both. A wetsuit against the skin is poor insulation in cold weather.


I see some have said thicker wetsuits like 4/3 or even thicker. Sure they will keep you OK in 50F/10C water but for me anything thicker than 3mm is just to restrictive for paddling. But it would depend on how hard or easy it would be to get to shore once you go in. If hard to get back onto land get a drysuit. This brand sells for much less, no idea if its any good,http://www.mythicdrysuits.com/

But if its easy to get back on land then a wetsuit of3mm would work. Now full wetsuits are warmer than a Farmer John style but a Farmer john is much less restrictive. I have a farmer john 2mm for warmer water and a Kokatat drysuit for anything colder than say 60F. Right around 60F I will also ad a NRS hydroskin short sleeve top to my farmer John wetsuit. Still less restrictive than a full wetsuit. I cant image paddling a 5mm or thicker wetsuit, heck no, especially a full wetsuit.

I always hate seeing this question because it’s so personal. Your skill level and wher eyou’re paddling all play into this. I avoid my drysuit like the plague but was lucky enough to be able to afford both.

That’s why board surfers have motors
Yeah wetsuits are just too restrictive.

Try paddling a surfboard out through 12’ surf … surfing actually requires a lot more flexibility in the arms than kayak or canoe paddling.

A lot of people try a cheap wetsuit that does not fit the conditions and then say they are not good.

You’re making my point
"A lot of people try a cheap wetsuit that does not fit the conditions and then say they are not good"

Exactly! And conditions change from month to month and even day to day. That’s why I said you really need to own at least two wetsuits and you have to buy good ones.

Wetsuit vs. Drysuit
Been using a drysuit for more than 5 years, and got curious last season about wetsuits. Bought myself a nice Excel 3/4 suit for SUPing and kayak surfing. Very impressed with the materials, build and design. Stay comparatively “dry” in this suit compared to older wetsuits of my youth, everything is taped, sealed and has tight closures. Much easier to move through the water with the wetsuit than the flappy drysuit, a lot more comfortable once on, great range of motion. Actually ditched the life jacket for kayak surfing, easier to move out through the waves without one, and plenty of buoyancy in the wetsuit. Harder to change out of than the drysuit though, and if you start to get cold in the wetsuit, it’s seems harder to warm back up. Wouldn’t want to tour in a wetsuit, but for park and play wet paddling, they’re great. Wouldn’t mind playing with an electric vest to see how far I could extend the season on the 3/4.

Fall in Canada is a dry suit for less than experts or everyone paddling onto water far from…variable water conditions…rips…strong tides…

The dry will keep you warm with warm underwear adjust to the late day low sun conditions.

In a dry suit floating off into the Atlantic looking for a rescue is no problem. You are dry !

for a few hours

Extending temp range ….
I’ve used a hydroskin top under my wetsuit and neoprene shorts under a wetsuit when I’ve wanted to do much colder water up North. Also a paddling jacket works for “cold” mornings. That means right around freezing here. Probably not much use where you live.

Not really , but if you did
3/2 Suit $120 bucks

4/3 Suit $160 bucks

Total $280 bucks ( you might need to do this again in 4 or five years) You might be wealthy by then or old and have the dough for a dry suit.

$900 -280 = $620 bucks to buy a used kayak and paddle.