Kokatat dry suit: Soaking underneath

-- Last Updated: Dec-07-07 12:27 PM EST --

you guys helped me figure out what to use for insulation under my new meridian suit: polartech fleece or merino wool.

Now what for the wicking base layer? Here's the problem: i did a moderate 4 mile work-out paddle last night, and was troubled to find my layers were soaked underneath my dry suit when I got it off. I didn't roll or go in the drink; it was sweat.

The problem, I think: i didn't have an approbriate wicking base layer. What do you guys use for this? Would any polyester/rayon tee-shirt and long johns work, or do I need to get something more specialized? Would any man made material work for this?

On expeditions: what do you pack? It would not be fun to wake up, crawl out of your tent, and donn a cold, clamy underlayer, still soaked with sweat from the day before, to resume your trip. I'd almost be better off in a wet suit. The only solution i can think of is to take two complete, quick-drying sets of wicking and insulating undergarmets for under your dry suit, alternating them on opposing days. Any other solutions?

Thanks again.

Are you overdressed?

What was the air temperature? What where you weareing?

wool works…
Previous thread also discussed wicking layers, as well as insulation. Merino wool works very well.

Carry extra. On a recent Iceland circumnavigation I carried three full sets of midweight fleece and rotated them. On long paddle days you might not find time to do laundry and let your insulation dry. One tip, if your fleece doesn’t have flat seams, turn them inside-out (much more comfortable).

I used separate tops/bottoms, but after several weeks of 12-16 hours days in the cockpit I developed painful rashes at the sides of my midsection where all of those layers press together, including the skirt, PFD and drysuit. My next garments will all have flat seams and I’m going to experiment with a union suit to see if this resolves the problem for future trips.

Greg Stamer

It sounds like
you might have had on too much clothing. My Kokatat breathes everywhere except for the sprayskirt area but if you are dressed too warm and sweating a lot it can’t release all of the moisture. I try not to overdress and wear a fuzzy rubber hood for added warmth. When I start to get hot I either roll up the sides on the hood or take it off. You can always carry more clothing in your hatch if you need to add some more on.

Let me add…
I have an NRS union suit too as my base layer. And depending on the temps, I’ll put fleece pants and top over it and then the drysuit. I have a kokatat GMER goretex suit.

What I’ve found is that, with a PFD on and a neo spray skirt, the area that’s left to breathe are your arms and legs. That being said, I’ve experienced dampness not only within the suit, but the entire interior of the cockpit (after a strenuous paddle). What I’ve learned to do is open up the spray skirt every once in a while and let the dampness out. Goretex works, but in a sealed cockpit, the dampness has no place to go.

In your case it sounds like you were over dressed. Dress in layers so you can add or remove layers. Also take a spare pair of gloves along.


That is the very reason my wife and I
stopped wearing our NRS dry suits which we got exclusively for paddling in AK.

They are now an expensive spare set of clothes that we always take in the winter months in one of our campartments.



Overdressed for “dry” suit?
Air temp=40s, water temp=high 40s. Paddle hard=sweat. But if you go over, you need the insulation.

The balancing act in other words. I don’t think I wast overdressed–in fact felt on the edge of chilly when i headed out.

But then the sweat started, so I took off the skull cap and gloves to shed heat. I sweat a lot, just the way I’m built.

What i need to do I think is follow the advice here and get one of these high-end wicking garments.

I Mentioned In Another “Drysuit”

– Last Updated: Dec-07-07 2:57 PM EST –

thread, that with my Kokatat Goretex (and Palm Stikine), the only time I able to stay dry is when I am out lily dipping in winter.

I sweat quite a bit once I get going. So, the choice for me becomes how to stay warm when I stop in my drysuit, or how do I cool off in my wetsuit. Since I have other considerations which the wetsuit addresses better, I feel the wet suit is far more appropriate for my use of winter surfing on my waveski.


in the 40’s and 50’s
paddling ww or poling I wear shorts and a t-shirt underneath. No sweat, even though the t-shirts cotton. Dress for the occasion, you’ll be fine. I always pack half/poly sweatpants, sweatshirt, and a spare t-shirt when doing river runs, just in case. Stepping out of the suit into the sweats is so much more convenient than sitting in a wetsuit for me at the end of the trip.

Sing and his wetsuit
Are not alone atop his wave ski. Assuming that a wave ski and surf ski are the same thing. The pictures I took recently at the Deception Pass Dash (Winter paddle race) shows many of the fastest racers also choose the wet suit over a dry suit. Strange thing however, the majority of sea kayak racers chose the dry suit route. Can anyone explain that? I would think that a kayak paddler would be less likely to get wet…

So: Poly or Rayon for Wicking garmet?

– Last Updated: Dec-07-07 3:45 PM EST –

that what seems to be way to go...

Wicking undergarments work by
having a surface treatment on the fibers that has a high affinity for water. Just take any wicking fabric and dunk it in water, and see what happens. Now take a NON-wicking polypropelene undergarment and dunk it in water. It will gain much less water weight, proportional to its own weight, if the weaves are similar.

Wicking garments work, and stay relatively dry, only when there is a VERY marked gradient of temperature and water vapor density going outward from your body. But if the temperature drops markedly as you go away from your body, and if there is a semi-permeable barrier in the way such as a “breathable” dry suit, then that water is going to sit right on top of those “wicking” fibers.

I prefer non-wicking polypropelene next to my body. It has much less tendency to feel sodden. To the extent that water vapor gradient and temperature gradient permit, water vapor will move outward just as efficiently through polypropelene as it will through the wicking garment, and you’ll just feel better.

(Sometimes I think the fabric companies have conned people into thinking that there is an ACTIVE process wicking moisture outward on those wicking fibers. Not so. It is no more active than the wicking that occurs in a candle wick.)

Wet zones
Certain areas will get damp no matter what. Anything where the skin is blocked by nonbreathable material will be damp: under the wrist, ankle, and neck gaskets. Under the spray skirt tunnel. Under the PFD if you wear one.

Normally with me, only these areas are merely damp after a paddle. But IF I am either working really hard OR overinsulated for the conditions, they not only become damp but fully saturated, which means that the excess moisture condenses and spills into larger areas. For example, the drops of sweat under the neck gasket drip or roll onto formerly-dry areas of my shirt.

However, I have never been entirely wet wearing a Gore-tex suit as I have been wearing other laminated or coated fabrics. It works well for me. I don’t always wear a PFD, either.

Maybe you need to experiment with different fabrics. I’ve found that Capilene, Thermax, Thermastat and other polyester-type fabrics breathe well. The champion of breathing AND wicking, IMO, is Craft’s ribknit stretch material (the kind they use in their crew shirts). The ribs provide more surface/evaporation area than a flat knit does. The fit is made to conform tightly to the body, which also promotes evaporation.

Another great insulating material is Mysterioso’s plush knit with matte outer face and thick fleece inner face. (NOT the NRS Mystery fabric, which is nonbreathable!)

Think you are overdressing…

– Last Updated: Dec-09-07 7:17 AM EST –


In those conditions you really only need a light base layer under the dry suit. Otherwise you will sweat badly and saturate whatever you have on regardless of how well it wicks.

In the winters here I paddle in high winds and temps around freezing...water in the 30s and I still sweat with a dry suit and just a thin layer of merino wool. I have NEVER felt the need for any additional insulation.....and I have jumped in the water just to test and I feel plenty protected from the cold of immersion.

I find that I have to roll to regulate my temperature even in these conditions until my body provides a light coat of sweat to my baselayer which then helps my temperature to even out.....unless I stop.

If you paddle hard wearing a base layer AND fleece under a dry suit...in 40 degree weather....you are going to be miserable.


I agree
I paddle hard when I go solo (most of the time), so I work up a good sweat. PFD alone provides a good deal of insulation. And whatever is in the cockpit stays pretty warm too. Key is keeping the feet warm.


You’re talking to Learner, right? (nm)

Yes…I think

Yes, I was talking to Learner about the overdressing bit.

I will also agree with Andy above about the PFD. I think people overlook the insulative qualities of the PFD, especially since it is one of the last things you put on.

I find that it provides sufficient insulation for me in most conditions…and too much insulation in many!

The other issue with the PFD is that it does prevent your breathable dry suit from breathing. Given the fact that it is pressed up against the fabric of your drysuit it prevents a vapor seal that does not allow moisture to escape through the brethable fabric. Since it is located on your core where you are the warmest, it can contribute to your layers getting quite damp if you are working hard.


Let us know
what you learn about wicking base layers under a drysuit.

As soon as I feel warm in the slightest I take off my hat. This makes a big difference in overall body temperature. One that stops working I soak my hat in the cold water and put it back on, repeating as needed.

Eventually I reach the post that rolling is the only other option. Hanging underwater for 15 seconds in 32 deg water rapidly brings my entire body temperature down. Good earplugs are a must this time of the year as cold water in the ears effects my equilibrium in a bad way. I wear Doc’s Proplugs.

I suppose an alternative would be to change the workout. Maybe going further but at a slower pace will accomplish similar results without all the sweat.

Temperature Regulation
I think this is the most important issue. Depending on your metabolism and your degree of exertion, the point at which you will sweat will be different for you.

However, the key is not to start sweating too much in the first place.

If you overheat and sweat profusely it does not matter how good your wicking layers are, nor how breathable your suit is. Your layers will become saturated, and your suit will not be able to move the excess moisture out quick enough.

For me when this happens, I end up sitting in a puddle of seat that gathers around my seat. When I get out of the boat it runs down into my booties and then I have wet feet.

With only a very thin baselayer of merino wool I will sometimes sweat enough to have to wring water out of my socks at the end of the day and turn my suit upside down to let the water drain out of the booties…and no my suit has no leaks as I send it to Kokatat for testing every year.

Don’t over dress and make sure you roll a lot to regulate your temperature…or at least do some side sculls as this helps regulate your temperature well in cold water without having to get cold water in the ears/nose/eyes.