NRS Hydroskin Questions

Depending on water temps (and air temps,) I sometimes wear a farmer john wetsuit with both spray pants and spray jacket. Under the jacket I might wear a long-sleeve capilene t-shirt or lightweight R-1 fleece. I am considering an NRS hydoskin top instead of the capilene and/or fleece. Anyone know the strengths and weeknesses of hydroskin? When to wear it and when not to?

Interested to hear feedback too

In my view, good stuff. I use Hydroskin in between swimsuit weather & dry suit weather. I have bottoms, a top, and a vest. Mine are many years old. They don’t breathe so that may be a down side if you are not wet much. I’ll usually use nylon or polyester next to my skin under the hydroskin. Not for long immersion in cold water but a real improvement for your use case I think. For paddling OC1 Class III whitewater in shoulder seasons going to the hydroskin with the farmer john was a great improvement from a fleece sweater after a swim.

I have NRS hydroskin pants and a zippered top/jacket. I’ve been wearing them both on several two-hour paddles on flat water in a ww kayak with a spray skirt and a PFD.

They are .5mm thick neoprene and are supposed to be sufficient down to 65F water temperature and I believe designed to be used from 65-70F water temp. I have not tried immersing myself or swimming in them (I know, I should test them swimming).

I was reasonably comfortable and did not feel too hot with 67F water temp against my kayak and 73F air temp, 3-5 mph wind. I wear two short sleeve wicking shirts under the jacket. I don’t feel any chafing where the hydroskin is in direct contact with my skin. So you can better judge temperature comfort: I also wear a skull cap on my bald head under a brimmed sun hat to reduce heat loss. On my feet I wear wicking sock liners under wool socks and waterproof sandals. And I wear tropic weight scuba diving gloves which are about the same thickness neoprene as the hydroskin. The gloves are Henderson divewear—not NRS. I’ve tried on NRS gloves, but prefer my diving gloves because of the palms and the wrist velcro.

I did not feel restricted in my movement or paddling. I’ve been scuba diving in a 7mm wetsuit. There’s a big difference in mobility.

I have not been excessively rough with the hydroskin but do put them on at home, drive 25 min to the put in point, offload two kayaks, paddle, load two kayaks, drive home, offload boats, and rinse and store equipment and boats before changing with no damage to the hydroskin after three times. I’m about to do the same in the morning—66F water temp and 58F air temp.

I’ve washed them in a front loading clothes washer after each use in cold water and hang them to dry with no damage.

I’ve been pleased with them. Hydroskin .5mm will extend my paddling season in Maryland by 6-8 weeks in the fall and I’m guessing at least 4 weeks in late winter/early spring without adding a lot of bulk.

I’m thinking about trying a 3mm full wetsuit from NRS to paddle down to a water temp of about 50-52F.

For me: Bottoms good. Top bad. The hydroskin top is just too clammy and restrictive. The fix was either a real, gasket-ed dry jacket with hydroskin bottoms or just a drysuit.

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In the family of wet wear, I like the hydroskin way better than the basic NRS wet suits. Current hydroskin has layers in it that help block wind and generally are far more comfortable and effective to be in all day than my older Farmer Jane. I have a couple of tops I use for paddling when wet work is not too likely to be in play which also behave fine under a dry top if I find I need to add a layer once out. I only use hydroskin bottoms for swimming but they work fine there. These days I mostly go out to make sure I am still OK with PFD-less swimming in chillier water in Maine. The younger folks can do it is a regular suit but I need some thermal help.

That said, I went to dry suits some years ago for really cold stuff, plus portions of the season when others are not in dry suits yet. Until it is so stinking hot that being in the sun at all is unbearable, which I avoid as much as possible by spending half the hottest weather in Maine, in my case it’ll be dry wear for being out all day.

But if I was living in a world of just wet wear, for colder weather I would either go with hydroskin layers from NRS or take a hard look at the body suits for surfing like from O’Neill. They are pricier than the basic Farmer John/Jane, but are thicker and have much more refined approach to keeping you warm.

I treat hydroskin as a lightweight wetsuit. I use it similar to what @rival51 described - as an option for when a farmer john or shorty or dry suit would be too much, but swimsuit not enough.

I have used sometimes as a layer below a farmer john, but find I am not doing this any more. If I need that much, I instead would use a dry suit.

Outside of kayaking, I also find it very useful for when traveling for snorkeling. Got a lot of use back in January on a trip to the Big Island (so glad I got that trip in before the lockdowns)

I have the two pairs of the pants and one top. Here in Central Texas the pants and socks work great all winter long well into spring. The top is too hot for me above 50 degrees, better off with the NRS shell. All winter long when paddling that NRS Hydroskin top is in my boat, on that chance that I go over and need to get warm. I look at the top as a piece of safety equipment for cool weather paddling.
I have worn my Hydroskin pants 1 to 5 times a week from Nov to April for the three years, they have held up well, still look like new.

I am relatively new to this and folks here have really helped drive home the need to be cautious with water temps. Not sure I am ready to invest in full wet suit/dry suit gear, but like RaoulGunther i am in MD, and would love to add a few weeks onto either end of my season and had looked at hydroskin.

What difference does hydroskin make in terms of actually ending up in the water in a situation where the water and air temp are both say, low 60s or air temp even a bit lower? I am a calm water paddler and stay close to shore, but I assume I need to be prepared for time in the water and then time wet getting back to my starting point. When I look at the hydroskin, it is hard to imagine it would really make enough of a difference to really make it safe?

Not too bad in the summer at the Apostle Islands. Would paddle under water fall then let the breeze cool me down. Water varied by location. If wind cools you off too much use a splash jacket or light weight wind breaker.

Water or air temps in the 50’s and you need at least hydroskin to be safe in a swim. Look at any of the hypothermia charts, no disagreement here. I would say some amount of it for the 60’s myself.

Also be careful to notice the time is different between being dead and losing things like the ability to think clearly and use your hands well. The latter, which is the time during which you are able to help yourself, is a whole lot shorter. So that is the only time that matters. Once outside of that, the likelihood of your making it back into the boat is quite low.

Here is a chart that has a column for loss of dexterity in various temperatures. That is what I mean, when your hands no longer work you are sunk. For water temps between 50 and 60 degrees F you have only 10 to 15 minutes if not wearing clothing for immersion.

Also a hood for your head and gloves.

It literally makes a life or death difference for just about anyone with water temps in the 50’s. Low 60’s also quite risky if you are someone with lower body fat.

Celia - thanks for this info. Just to be clear, I was not thinking ‘can I be ok without the hydroskin.’ I was thinking that if something at the hydroskin level only really gets me a very small level of extra time/protection in that low 60s water/low 60s air situation, then for now perhaps it is better to stay on land for a while.

I appreciate how clear folks here are on cold water safety issues, it has been very valuable to me. By next year I may be ready to up my gear game to be prepared for a wider range of conditions.

Sorry if I misunderstood.

I don’t know what your longer term ambitions are. But if you want to paddle into really cold stuff I won’t be the first person to say that once you go to dry wear you may wonder why you bothered with the neoprene stuff. So probably best to asses your longer term goals over the winter.

Rex…I agree with you regarding Hydroskin. I really like the pants. I have two pairs(.5 & 1.5). I do not like the top at all. The tops do not breath and have you noticed how difficult it is to take that piece off with a sweaty back? I returned my Hydroskin top. I use Kokatat and/or NRS shirts with that are fleece lined. BTW, I do not think the Hydoskin shirt is warm at all. I used the Hydroskin top under a dry top in November and I was chilled.