Kokatat dry suit: Fleece advice?

-- Last Updated: Dec-04-07 2:12 PM EST --

Hello all.

You guys have been FANTASTIC for advice as I ramp up my paddling career, so I'm back.

I finally got a Kokatat Meridian dry suit--now I need advice on the best gear to wear under it. We're talking water in the 30s-low 50s F range.

So, any recommendatsion on manufacturers and models when it comes to buying fleece?

I tried on a polar fleece one piece, but didn't like two things about it: it didn't fit too well, and I would prefer a two piece option--more flexibility, for instance when the water is warmer then the above range and the air is hot: i can just where the top. This time of year though, we're talking about frigid water and winter air temps, plus wind.

An ideal option would be a farmer john fleece, with a fleece jacket, but I have not yet found any companies that make these items.

Thank you.

its a bummer to wear Polartec 300 and find that its too hot.

Sweat is bad as you know.

I go with a merino wool underwear against the skin and then layer up. I have some 100 wt polarfleece in two sizes so one will fit over the other.

So far 2 100s plus the drysuit does it for me to minus 10 F. If you want bring more in a dry bag. You can always go up. But dont bet on one bulky fleece.

Usually I would say cheaper is not better but make sure you arent buying something you dont need like a windbloc layer. Thats already in your drysuit.


– Last Updated: Dec-04-07 3:39 PM EST –

Thin wicking base layer - I wear rash guard and boxer briefs and then up to two additional layers of wicking insulating layers. These layers vary according to the conditions -water and air temps and wind.

I've got a wonderful Polartec union suit from MEC that I have worn as a layer, though I've grown to prefer seperates except when I know I'll be rolling.

Don't forget good socks under your dry suit booties.

I find most of the same underlayering for snow shoeing or winter hiking can be used for paddling.

thanks–merino and polartec…
are two good companies to buy from? (good gear, that is.)

Any fleese will do
You could spend a lot on this but any fleese will do.

You probably already own stuff you can use. You might prefer stuff that is close-fitting rather than loose.

I don’t like collars much.

Polartec Powerdry

– Last Updated: Dec-04-07 2:41 PM EST –

the key is not just warmth but materials engineered to wick perspiration from skin to next layers. Polartec Powerdry is ideal for this.

i was just on their site. apparently, they are in the business of supplying their material to clothing manufacturers.

So, no posting on it of all the various options. REI and local kayak shops don’t have a comprehensive list of polartec garments either.

So I’ll google up the powder dry and see what i find…

thanks. sounds like polartec is the way to go in any case.

in terms of using gear I already have–i layered with sweat pants and tops over the weekend, but those didn’t offer enough protection when I jumped in the water to test them.

Polartec is a registered name
of a patented fabric. Different from brand name like Columbia or North Face. Just so you know.

Merino wool’s very good. I wear a union suit w. merino and Capilene (another trademarked name) under the same Kokatat Meridian Tropos drysuit, female version. Patagonia makes them.

Whatever you choose go for light and breathable that wicks moisture away from your skin. You might already have something you wear for cycling or running, etc. In any case no need to spend a lot of $$ for brand names on that.

I like the one piece - less material bunching up at the intersection of your waist, drysuit waist, skirt and PFD (yeah I wear one)which in turn doesn’t inhibit torso rotation while paddling.

for me, with the backside dropseat relief zipper, the union suit lines up nicely. Male mileage may vary :wink:

And a darn good one…Polartec
Polartec is produced by Malden Mills in New England. Malden Mills is family owned with ethics well worth supporting.

Besides, Polartec fabrics are wonderful.

Polartec --> awesome
Unbeatably light and warm, very packable…Have a vest and zip up jacket, cap, gloves, scarf…use 'em all, time and time again.

The jacket and cap are a permanent part of my drybag for winter paddling. The cap is a 2002 Olympic beret (same as worn by the American contingent, a friend of mine on the ski team got it for me before they were released to retail!)

Knew they were a small mill in NE, glad to support an ethical operation as well.

not Windbloc
One type of Polartec fabric to avoid if you are layering it under anything else, is the Windbloc or Windpro.

Although it breathes fairly well on its own, it really accumulates moisture when worn under another material like a drysuit.

hey friendly–where did you…
get all that gear? What stores do i need to check out?

not exactly
Merino is a variety of wool, not a company. It’s expensive and doesn’t last as long as synthetics, but it doesn’t stink nearly as much and feels wonderful.

Polartec is a very reputable manufacturer of polyester fleece and various fleece hybrids (fleece with membranes to block wind or water). If you’re just looking for plain fleece, you can probably find cheaper than Polartec. If you want the membranes, I don’t know of cheaper sources.

– Mark

so many retailers
so few dollars

The cheapest online store I know is SierraTradingPost.com. Their cheap stuff is seconds and overstocks, so kind of catch as catch can. But definitely inexpensive.

For fine merino wool, the brands I know are Ibex (ibexwear.com), Smartwool, and Icebreaker. I find Ibex the least durable and am a Smartwool partisan (just bought my first Icebreaker piece for comparison). Others find Smartwool the least durable and say (correctly) that it tends to be a little baggy (as do I).

A lot of insulation that’s appropriate for underneath a dry suit isn’t kayaking specific, and you may be able to find better deals at biking or backpacking stores. Some brands off the top of my head: Patagonia, Arc’Teryx, Mountain Hardwear, REI’s house brands. The first two are the most expensive. You’re looking for “light [but not ultralight] synthetic insulation,” probably, and most manufacturers have something to offer. For me, what they call “midweight” is usually too warm.

For water-specific stuff, try nrsweb.com – often has good deals.

I recommend you get the cheapest stuff you can find in 100 weight (which is like a thin sweater) and test it out, both in the water and at a realistic paddling speed. That will help you calibrate what level of insulation you need, and then you can turn your eye to more expensive stuff. If you accept this plan, check out local, non-web discounters. I’ll bet cheap fleece can be had at big-box stores.

Lots of other sellers and brands – google around.

– Mark

my own 2 cents
Kayakmedic has it right. Remember that you’re going to be generating heat. Your drysuit will help hold that in. It will also hold in extra sweat.

Unless it’s sub-freezing, I like to wear my running gear: hind dryfit top and semi-tights, with a layer of silk long underwear underneath. The silk stuff is great because it takes up so little room. Ditto for the running gear, and it’s multipurpose. I don’t like to wear fleece unless it’s sub-freezing; it’s too bulky for me.

On top of that I have a hydroskin mystery hood - but most of the time it’s off and my wool hat is on.

I have tried various layers: rashguard, different weights of capilene, and others but the best I have found yet is Merino woool…better than all the high tech synthetics (really). It wicks and keeps you warm when wet (which it will often be wet with perspiration).

I would also tell you that less is more. I use the thinest weight Smartwool Merino top and bottom and always sweat even when below freezing, windy and rolling.


STP - and campmor.com

mark–thanks. so in terms of…
non-kayak-specific insulating layers, so in general am i looking for items made of syhetic fibers and labelled as “fleece” or the other tags you named?

That’s a good point you made–i was limiting myself to kayak specific items.

so, what stores carry merino…
wool. The usual suspects (rei, etc.)?

gear sources

– Last Updated: Dec-04-07 9:06 PM EST –

drysuit from Kayak Academy - but you have one already ;-)

I didn't want to list shops as others have given you some great referrals. Here is how I approach it.

First, read more on the topic of layers & dressing for cold water immersion. Atlantickayaktours.com is a great site for that.
Also the archives here. Helps you understand fabric characteristics and what you're really going for - and why. This will also save you $$ down the road.


Check your closet and see what you already have. Take measurements of what fits you.

If you're game to go online for deals, just google what you are looking for, example "Mens wool union suit sale" or "patagonia fleece vest" and see where it takes you - retailer sites, eBay or craigslist.

If you like to "reach and rack it" in person, check a good local ski shop (or cycling or paddling shop). Discount clothing stores: hit their racks for good socks, caps, vests, glove or glove liners, even union suits.

Exercise wear is at all price levels and is often found deeply discounted at discount clothing stores. Hit that well before Xmas - the rush is on in January as people vow to lose weight!

Places that sell stuff for hunters - they favor light, warm layers too. Just make sure it's loose enough for your paddling motion.

My best advice (little good will this do you now) is to buy winter clothing as winter is passing. Also, when it comes to safety clothing (PFD, skirts, drysuits ) it's good to buy from knowledgeable paddle people - your first time around, anyway.

If there are specific things list 'em and people here will help you out. The websites and retailers I see listed so far are excellent.

Think thin, light and layered from your scullcapped head to your mukkluk soles and you will be on the right track!