NRS Hydroskin?

I’ve always been a bit befuddled by this stuff. Since I’ve never worn any, that probably explains it. But how warm is it compared to 3mm neoprene?

The reason I’m asking is because I’m getting my boys some spring and fall paddling gear (not winter). I ordered a couple of Extrasport semi-dry tops from Sierra Trading post and now I’m looking at either 3mm farmer john or Hydroskin pants for the bottoms.

They would not spend much time in the water swimming. It would be small creeks, class II stuff. A couple minutes in the water max. While I’d maybe like to get the farmer johns, but if they are uncomfortable, the whole experience will suffer. And they won’t be inclined to want to go. Basically I’d like to keep them warm and safe with minimal comfort downside. If conditions warrant, I can easily pack other cloths to in a dry bag in case someone gets cold after a swim.

So, what do you think of NRS Hydroskin?

For your purposes there are a couple pros/cons. Hydroskins is not nearly as warm as 3mm neoprene. I’m comfortable wearing hydroskins in water that would be ok to swim in, but start to feel chilly after a while - maybe in the 60s is the optimal range for me? 3mm is comfortable for a long time in the 50s in my experience.

However, Hydroskins is much stretchier. It’s easier to get into, more comfortable to wear, not as restrictive, and (perhaps most importantly) they’ll fit into it for a lot longer, I’d guess.

If they’re going to be close to rescue and close to land all the time, and dry clothes and shelter are also packed, then maybe the hydroskins would work.

How cold is your water in the spring?

How cold is the water?
Good question, I’m going to guess it would be in the low high 50s to low sixties.

Actually I just called Nightsimmer who sometimes posts here. He wears the stuff and knows the water I’m talking about. He doesn’t think the Hydroskin is enough. His word on it is good enough for me.

The next option would be the 2mm NRS farmer john. That could be the ticket.

Farmerjohn is not that warm either
What about a one piece wet suit?

one piece with sleeves would restrict

… too much. I learned that with a 3/2mm shortsleeve shortie. Had to cut the sleeves off in order to paddle properly.

Try different makes and models
Fit and stretch vary tremendously.

You might also layer up. They could wear a stretchy 1 or 1.5mm neoprene sleeved shirt under the farmer john AND the drytop. I’ve seen a stretchy neoprene shirt made by Neosport; I think X-Span was the name of the neoprene.

I think the thin neoprene top would work

I can definitely see that. I’ll probably look into getting those after getting them started with the semi-dry top and some sort of neoprene bottoms, probably farmer johns. Can’t get everything at once though. Thanks for the suggestion.

common path
Lots of folks strat with a farmer john wetsuit and then add a dry/splash top to it for cold weather paddling. If you plan on spending time in the water you may be better served by getting a full wet suit. Don’t get one from a dive shop or a paddling shop as they will not be made with the most modern fabrics and designs. You can find very good wetsuits at surf shops and triathlon shops. Modern wet suits by body glove and others will have very flexible material in the arms and shoulders and will be much warmer for the same amount of thickness than what you’ll find from places like NRS.

Unusual Use of them
This may sound weird, but I like to use them in the summer. When wet, they keep my body cool, I get no sunburn, and those nasty biting flies can’t bite through them (they can get through a rash guard)


Surf suits, yes. Triathlon suits, no
Both are stretchy to allow good body movement, so that part is good.

The trouble with tri suits is that they generally have smooth outer faces–no fabric on that side. That leaves the outside extremely vulnerable to abrasion, something that swimmers don’t have to worry about but paddlers do.

I found this out myself. I bought a full 4/2mm tri wetsuit that I like the fit and flexibility of. But the smooth rubber outside is more prone to abrasion than regular fabric outsides, AND the sticky rubber…sticks. It sticks to smooth-surfaced seats such as fiberglass and minicell seats. Not good for paddling or rolling. Works OK with textured cloth seats such as Wilderness System’s seats, or Jackson Kayak’s beanbag seat. Mine is now used only with the Jackson Side Kick for this reason, and only for roll practice.

Next I bought a full 3mm wetsuit with standard nylon faces inside and out, and zippers on the wrists and ankles, plus a front offset zipper. These zippers are GREAT!!! The suit is a lot easier to don and doff than other full suits.

Is great for winter paddling if the risk is minimal that you will go in. I have a top, bottom, socks, and gloves. I step in near freezing water to get in my kayak. It will keep youre feet warm with wool socks underneath. I have submerged in near 40 degree water. I wouldn’t want to stay for a long time. I think it would keep one warm in 60 degree water as long as you could get out and keep moving. Definitely wear a rash guard under the top.

Ryan L.

not a replacement for 3mm

Hydroskin not for swimming
Most paddlers I know use Hydroskin as a garment to keep you warm in water sports where you can get splashed, damp or even wet. But never as a substitute for the apparel needed for swimming unless it’s summer. I have Hydroskin shorts and long pants and over the tunnel of my dry top, they will keep water infiltration out of my upper torso for rolling practice. For your kids for WW paddling in 50 - 60 degree water, you’re better off with neoprene farmer johns.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments
I think I get what Hydroskin is now. Like I said, I never had any. I will get the boys traditional neoprene NRS Rodeo Pants or farmer johns. It probably will turn on which might go on sale between now and May.

I did order the boys a couple of Hydroskin shirts (on clearance at NRS if you’re S or XS). Seems like a good layer for versatility. They can wear it under the semi-dry tops when it’s cold.

Now I just realized that they grew out of their 59-90 pound youth PFDs last year. Wow, this is a big year for gear!

hydroskin good for layering or for
splashing, but not so good for immersion, if you are talking cooler water…

once it’s wet, evaperative cooling WILL chill it quickly - be sure to have an outer layer over it.

I’ve found my hydroskin shirt good for layering and for late spring to early fall… Or cooler days during the summer… for cold water, forget it!

In my experience with hydroskin, it wouldn’t be enough for kids. I agree with Ed, you’ll need more than hydroskin. Personally, I think NRS vastly overrates their hydroskin products as far as warmth is concerned.

Clarion, I use both NRS Farmer John wetsuit. And the hydroskin as it gets a little warmer. I have taken a long swims in cold water in the farmer john. with splash tops over them your boys would be in good shape.

Before I got my drysuit
I would wear a long-sleeve hydroskin shirt under my Farmer John wetsuit with a splash top. Even in the winter, I was pretty warm - except for my feet which were always cold. You’re right - they will have layering options depending on the weather.


– Last Updated: Jan-12-11 10:25 AM EST –

Actually I have recently been using the hydroskin in the same way Eckilson has stated.
I plan on having drysuit by the end of Feb. But you are not going down that road yet for growing boy's.