Paddling clothing

I am new to kayaking. I don’t own a boat yet, but I’m in the market. Along with the boat, what type of entry level clothing should I be looking for? I know that i want to dress for the water temp, not ambient temp, but I’m not sure what the means in terms of actual gear. Is there any place I can get a good “buyers guide” to essential cloting?



could you give more info please…

– Last Updated: Jul-29-04 1:42 PM EST –

in terms of your particular situation? Will you be paddling a sit on top or sit inside kayak? What sort of water temperature will you be paddling in? What sort of paddling season do you have where you live?

edited to add:

I just noticed that your profile says you live in Michigan. I would say at the very least, a nice farmer john wetsuit is in your future! I'm in Wisconsin so the climate and water temperature are relatively close.

depends on where you paddle and how
into gear you are. I bought some stuff off ebay and have never used it. a long sleeve paddle jacket and splash pants. too dang hot-natured to wear the stuff.

I prefer to paddle nekid… :slight_smile:

now if you are paddling lake superior in spring…that’s another story.


Remember - Not Cotton
When cotton gets wet it stays wet, and cold next to the skin And Heavy. Start with wicking, fast dry undies. Worth the extra price.


– Last Updated: Jul-29-04 2:56 PM EST –

meant to include more about that.

I intend to paddle open water in an enclosed, touring kayak, eventually including the great lakes in spring through fall. I'm inclined toward dressing warm in any case, so I'm looking for a few essential pieces that will allow me to dress for cold water temps. I'm think this means a wet/dry suit, but I don't know the differences.

Thanks again.

that goes without saying.
I was recently unfortunate enough to forget my bike shorts and jersey on a mt biking ride. I did have a pair of street shorts and a cotten tshirt.

It was only a 1/2 hour ride, but but did it remind me why I pay more for breathable riding clothes!

So I’m hoping to make sure I stay as comfortable while on the water…

well for now…
you need a wetsuit (farmer john 3mm is standard kayaking wear), insulating layers (synthetics of course), and a paddle jacket/dry top. if you plan on doing Superior in spring/fall you may want to invest in a dry suit down the line.

Core body temp.
The main thing is to keep the main part of the body at a temperature that will keep you alive in cold water. Rember the “100 rule”. If the water temperature, added to the air temperature add up to less than 100, a wet suit can be a lifesaving item. Also water temperatures too low will cause you hypothermia.

NRS makes a “short” wet suit for the times that you want to be safe, and are “not sure”. It is a one piece “Farmer John”, with short legs. This comes down to mid thighs, and extends upwards like a mens sleeveless undershirt. This is designed to keep the main part of your body warm, figuring you will only be in the water a short time. I have a “Farmer John” wet suit with full length legs for early spring, and late fall kayaking. Check out NRS on the internet.

In any event, better to be safe, rather that sorry.

thanks, that sounds like a good short list to start with. I know an instructor selling some farmer john suits… I’ll start with that.

So does a dry suit actually keep you dry? I presume that’s why it’s better in colder water?

well sort of…
a dry suit will keep you dry from any outside water due to gaskets on the wrists, feet (unless it has attached booties), and neck. Of course any perspiration that builds up can leave you nice and damp. That’s why so many people swear by Gortex or other “breathable” materials for drysuits. Remember a drysuit is only as warm as the layers worn beneath it (neoprene, fleece, capilene, etc.). I’m actually going to have to seriously consider a dry suit this fall but for now, as it’s august, i’ll try not to think of that as it’s pretty pricey.

you’re right…
I don’t want to make the mistake of not respecting what getting dumped in the water can do to my body, even on a mild day.

under or over
do you also wear neoprene or other wicking layers under your wetsuit?

depends on the clothing
A wetsuit should generally be tight fitting and worn next to the skin. Of course if you have a neoprene top, that would be fine to wear under the farmer john as both are neoprene and you would just be adding to the thickness of neoprene. I sometimes wear a rash guard as my base layer under all the neoprene to prevent chafing. For me personally, when it is a bit chilly out (55-60 degree water, 60-75 degree air temp), I wear neoprene socks, nrs hydroskin neoprene shorts, rash guard top, nrs hydroskin neoprene top, farmer john over all of that, and a semi-dry top/paddling jacket over everything. If it’s really cold and still not dry suit temps, I would wear wool socks under the neoprene socks, a fleece under the semi-dry top, neoprene gloves, and a wool hat.

Core Body Temp
I’ve heard some about keeping your core body warm, but growing up in northern states, we were told that most heat is lost (radiated out) through the feet, hands, and head. It is important to keep your torso warm, but I would think that it would be more critical to make sure that your hands, feet, and head are protected. Logically, it seems it would be easier for the body to keep the torso warm than the extremities due to more mass and less surface area?

Knowing what I know now, I’d skip the paddle jacket and go for a dry or semi-dry top. If a neck gasket seems intimidating, a breathable semi-dry top(wrist gaskets but no neck gasket) with a double tunnel would be my suggestion. The wrist gaskets keep the drips from running down your arms, and the double tunnel makes a big difference in keeping water out of your boat.

Dry tops/suits are pretty comfy once you get the neck gasket trimmed right – I’ve prefer to wear my drytop for rainy-day fishing from my kayak. The first time I rolled and came up dry it seemed almost miraculous…

both are important
but your core and head are definitely the most. The blood draws inward to protect your heart and other vital organs. Your body basically is saying the extremedies aren’t important and it’s going to try to keep you alive.

Let me add a recommendation
for a Survival hood fron rapidstyle of any other lightweight equivalent. One should always be on you unless the water is bath warm.

If you are sure you will keep at it
Buy a dry suit first! Yikes! So much money – especially because there’s no point in getting one that isn’t breathable and has feet, not ankle gaskets. Dry suit is far more versatile and pleasant to wear under most conditions.

You will be warm and comfy as long as the air temperature isn’t too high. My cut-off seems to be 80 F. The water here doesn’t get above 60 F until late June so the dry suit gets me through 3/4 of the year. I wore my wetsuit yesterday and one friend was hot but managed in her dry suit. Last weekend I wore shorts to paddle the Hanford Reach at 100 F air temp. I had no intention of falling out but would have been ok in a group and water up to about 65 F.

If you go the wetsuit route, I like a long sleeve hydroskin top under the farmer john. It provides some more warmth but mainly it really slows water entry to your core and that is nice.

that’s asking a lot though.
i know that it’s the prudent thing to do if he is committed to the sport given his locale, but that’s an awful big step. he doesn’t even have a boat or paddle yet and to think about dropping 600-800 dollars for a nice breathable drysuit is a hard thing to get around. i’m glad other breathable fabrics have finally got out on the market. when i go dry suit shopping this fall i’ll be checking out bomb gear’s offerings as well as the standard gortex ones by kokotat, stolquist, nrs, etc.

Forget the 100 rule, it’s utter nonsense
First off, it’s a ridiculous oversimplification. Secondly, it WAY underestimates the need for immersion protection. Cold water can kill you regardless of the air temp. Cold air can chill you regardless of the water temp. If you still think this stupid “rule” has any credence, consider that more people die of water related hypothermia in Florida than in any other state. Interesting, eh?