Paddle Repair/Drysuit Warmth

Santa brought me a “new” paddle. It’s a wooden, Wilderness Systems model. There aren’t any other markings on it. It is as light as a feather. There is fiberglass in the middle where the 2 pieces fit together. I tried to find some info about it but was unsuccessful. I paid $58.00 for it. How did I do? I’m wondering what I should do, if anything, to protect the exposed wood on the edges of the blades where the varnish has been scraped away. It’s only slight, but the wood is uncovered.

My other concern was about warmth in a dry suit. We are experiencing quite cold weather here in the Pacific Northwest. If I bundle up warm enough, my dry suit is too tight. Has anyone out there ever put a jacket on over your dry suit?

First, what are you wearing underneath the suit? We don’t have radically different temps her in the NE, and the correct two layers are plenty for me right down to air temps in the teens while paddling.

As to over the dry suit, paddle jacket or cag(ule) is common. Most of us who paddle year round keep one in the day hatch all the time. There are a variety of options, materials and cost. Certainly there’s no law against it.

Correct Two Layers
There is where my problem most likely lies. What are those 2 correct layers?

That’s really up to you
What to wear under a dry suit is a function of how cold it is, how actively you paddle and how warm you want to be.

Start with a wicking base layer. Then fleece or wool over that. It may take you a few trips before you figure out a combination that works for you.

Caring for Your Wood Paddle
(copied from the Bending Branches website)

Your paddle won’t need any special care except to protect it from the elements between trips. If the finish of the paddle does become scratched or worn through, you can repair it. Rub the area with a fine grit abrasive until it is smooth and dull. Apply two or three thin coats of solvent (not water based) outdoor or marine grade polyurethane. Rub lightly with the fine abrasive between coats for a better finish. When the last coat is dry you are ready for the water! If the wood is damaged, sand the area aggressively with 100 or 120 grit sandpaper to smooth the wood and remove the discoloration. Treat the sanded area with 3 or 4 coats of polyurethane as described above.

Wooden Paddle Care/Dry Suit Warmth
Thank you for the information about cleaning up my wooden paddle and trying to find the correct cold weather wear.


Dry suit
Many different things will work under your “human condom”. Don’t forget about trying just a plan old, heavy wool sweater over a long sleeve wicking layer. I’ll bring a few different things along in a dry bag. If the wool sweater turns out to be too much you can then change into a fleece top instead.

Bottom layers - wicking layer and sometimes an insulated pair of wind pants works well if it’s pretty cold. Your drysuit slips on real easy too, with the nylon wind pants.

Body temp can usually be regulated by changing top insulating layer and not having to mess with bottom layers, which would be a real pain in a dry suit.

What I wear
Caution - exactly what works tends to vary between individuals. I settled on my layers by shopping a single garment of whatever blend seemed likely to work from places like Sierra Trading Post at steep discounts, so that I wouldn’t regret the bucks if it turned out to not be quite right. And that stuff works for working outdoors or just hanging around a drafty house, so I still get use out of it.

So for me - the base torso layer in winter is usually a really good midweight wicking layer - Hind has some tops that I’ve scored on sale which work very well - or a Polypro union suit. I top that with something in fleece equivalent to at least 200 weight, sometimes a fleece top that has a more wicking strip under the arms etc. Microfleece can be obtained in I think up to 300 weight equivalent these days if you want a thinner layer - I still have a good bit of the thick stuff in good shape.

Stricly speaking I miscounted - I also often put a thin capilene Tshirt under it all. But these are so thin I can’t see that they have an effect on the thickness.

I use the cag liberally in colder or wetter weather - I am not going to roll in 38 degree water for the fun of it so it’s not in the way.

And has been mentioned by others, I always carry a full bag of replacements for a changeout at break, and use them on a longer paddle. Even a little moisture in your base layers can leave you much colder in winter than in warmer weather once the wind start blowing.

For legs, I have a pair of heavyweight fleece that I might put a really thin wicking layer on underneath, or if in the union suit I’ll put a thinner set of fleece bottoms under the legs.

My feet have begun getting colder at the toes, even with lofted wool socks that have served me 'til now. I finally got mukluk type boots from a dive shop - 5 mill thickness.

You’ll find people here searing by a product that can be gotten at Walmart - I haven’t tried it but again it’s probably something you could pick up fairly inexpensively on sale to try out.

One thing that you may want to consider - I know some who have done this - is pick up used on sale a suit that is maybe slightly oversized for you but will really let you pack on the layers for winter if that’s what you need. I am not sure how tight you are in your drysuit, but if you have grown and it hasn’t you could ultimately be served by having a summer and winter suit.

Warm in Seattle
I’m over in Seattle going through the same thing paddling on Lake Union and Elliot Bay during this little cold snap we’ve been having…

I wear a basic polypro wicking layer (including socks) and add a set of hydroskin shorts-farmer john top (about 2mil), a pair of skiing socks (wool) and my drysuit over it all…

on windier days or last weeks 9-14* days I’ll throw on a divers skin/rashguard (about 1.5mil) over the inner layers before donning the drysuit…wetsuit socks, paddling booties and a synthetic watch cap from Duluth outfitters complete the outfit…

I also switch from my breathable skirt to a neoprene version and use poogies

Plenty warm after you actually get going

Put on what you think you need to wear
and then go for a swim. Stay in the water for 20-30 min and see how you feel. When you are staying warm in the water you then have found what you need to wear. Be sure to also wear your PFD.