Question for dry suit owners

-- Last Updated: Oct-31-06 1:04 PM EST --

Like many, you cannot start paddling with all of the goodies, so you gather them as you can afford them. For me, immersion gear was one of these steps. So now that I have a full on GoreTex suit, my thin 3mm neoprene farmer john just hangs there, unused. So, if you have a dry suit, would there be a time you would wear neoprene as opposed to your dry suit? I also have a long sleve NRS Hydroskin top that I just love and wear it sometimes when it is too hot for the drysuit, but usually with NRS Hydroskin shorts. In other words what conditions would you reach for neoprene farmer johns as opposed to Goretex? I have excellent self rescue skills and a reliable roll and do paddle solo on occasion.

Wet suit/Drysuit
I too have both, Farmer John and a Goretex drysuit. I like the dry suit much better. I still wear the farmer john, but primarily in the spring. I find it easier to layer than the dry suit. Easier in the sense that I can take things off without getting out of the boat. I’d rather not wrestle with the dry suit only twice a day, not 4 or 6 times.


Rocky river
A wetsuit gives some impact protection, and a hole or tear isn’t a total failure as it is with a drysuit. If I know I’m going to be swimming and banging into things – like in a swiftwater rescue class – I’ll wear the wetsuit.

prefer a wet suit with a tuilik , for rolling. I haven’t worn a Farmer John for about 5 years now. Much rather wear seperate pants and tops…easier to regulate for the water and for any bathroom type breaks. I have several bottom and top combinations. 3 mm pants , hydroskin, fuzzy rubber. I have everything from fuzzy rubber vests to full sleeved tops.

dri-suit is better for standing in water with (cold water) or paddling in extreme conditions, (except in WW or rocky surf)where the added padding from the neoprene might come in handy

Farmer johns get more neoprene on you for less money , but the flush thru and bottom fits but the top doesn’t causes them to be less effective as a layer than a two piece set-up in neoprene.(for me)

I also wear neo combinations in the summer when a dry suit is just too warm, but shorts aren’t warm enough

Best Wishes


Wetsuit is in the closet

– Last Updated: Oct-31-06 2:21 PM EST –

since I got a drysuit. When it is warm enough not to need a drysuit for a possible swim (not often here in upstate NY), I use a drytop or tuiliq.

Rock Gardening Etc

– Last Updated: Oct-31-06 3:38 PM EST –

As above, any place where you might be messing around in rocks and surf or milder WW combined where you might easily rip that very nice drysuit, the temps are OK for wetsuit layers, and the wetsuit offers a nice cushion against getting torn up by barnacles to boot.

Also for camping or long day paddles, the Farmer Jane went into the boat as backup paddling clothes until we acquired a different alternative. Much of our more serious paddling is in Maine, where the water never really gets toasty, and the drysuit is only as good as its gaskets. If you tear one while stopping for a lunch break on an island somewhere, or in changing out of it at the campsite, you could be good and scr'd for the trip home. We never go out without at least one full set of clothes to get us home again in the bigger water situations and a paddling wetsuit with rashguard and drytop is a pretty decent backup.

Keep the wetsuit.

– Last Updated: Oct-31-06 3:31 PM EST –

I have a drysuit for paddling, but am also a cold water deep diver, and use another for that. I've seen the effects first hand of what happens when drysuits fail, flood, and when it's not possible to get out of the water immediately. In the past I've tried to tell this here, and have been slammed from those who refuse to believe their high dollar piece of safety gear could have any flaw whatsoever. So I've been hesitant since then to mention it further.

It certainly appears that most paddlers take on the notion that if they jump in the water, and their drysuit doesn't leak, it must be safe. Never stopping to consider, and certainly not testing real world conditions if it fails. Same situation with other rescue skills practiced in unrealistic conditions. This leads to a false sense of security IMO, and I have no doubt that this leads to alot of fatalities.

Drysuits also have health risks associated with them that wetsuits do not. Watched a very good friend of mine die because he decided to leave his drysuit on through a dive interval instead of taking it off. The neck gasket interrupted the blood flow through his neck, and caused a heart attack. This guy was very fit, and in his early fourties btw.

I have nothing against drysuits. But every tool has it's appropriate place.

It is my conclusion from experience that overall, wetsuits are far more safe, dependable, and thus practical, unless ofcourse you are paddling in extreme conditions and/or water temps. The vast majority of paddlers ofcourse do not.

I reserve my drysuit for paddling to use when the water, and paddling conditions are cold enough to dictate using it. If I lived in the far reaches of the north. I would be forced to run the risk even more. So in essence it somewhat depends where you live, and whether the conditions you paddle in warrant it.

Hope this has helped. Splash

When its hot I wear a wet suit. I
use a wet suit as long as i can with the thought to keep my dry suit safe and sound in my closet as long as possible as i don’t want to rip a dry suit gasket which is going to happen sooner or later and i would rather it be later.

Immersion Wear…
2 shortie FJ, 2 long FJ, shortie full wetsuit, 3/2 full wetsuit, 4/3 full wetsuit, 6/5/4 full wetsuits, 2 short sleeve drytops, 2 long sleeve drytops, 2 drysuits, various .5mm to 2 mm neo tops, Hydroskin tops and bottoms, 4 surf hoods of various thickness. 3 pairs neo gloves, 1 pair neo mitts, one pair drygloves.

They all get used but, the last two years, the full wetsuits get used most.


duct tape
for gasket repair in the field. Works well for dryness (basically tape your skin and gasket together), but pulling it off your neck everynight gets old real quick.

I bring a set of replacement gaskets as a back up on longer trips.

Drysuit in the cold months, wetsuit in
the shoulder seasons. Shorts and wife-beater in the summer (so I can show off, and tan, those biceps and triceps I have built - LOL).

All plus PFD, of course.

It is beginning to look alot like dry suit time again.

Neoprene? Almost never for paddling
I have a 3mm wetsuit that I sometimes use for pool/pond sessions when I’ll be standing around in the water for long periods of time, but I never use it for paddling anymore. I have neoprene vest that I occasionally use when participating in pool/pond sessions. The only neoprene items I use regularly are gloves, boots and hoods.

OTOH, I use my dry suit 7-8 months of the year (I’m in New England). With appropriate under layers, it’s comfortable from below freezing to 70 degrees or so, depending on the water temp. When it’s warm enough that I don’t need the dry suit, I wear Hydrofleece long or short bottoms with a long or short-sleeve dry top. I have no use for a neoprene farmer John.

1- Dry suit failures when paddling are very rare. Most failures are in the form of torn seals that occur when donning or doffing the suit, so you know that there’s a problem. I’ve never heard of a seal failure that happened when someone was “just paddling along”. Fabric tears can happen, but again, they’re very rare. I’ve (ab)used my dry suit many times in barnacle covered rocks and it shows no signs of damage. The Gore-Tex fabrics used in dry suits are amazingly durable.

2- I’m sorry to hear about your friend, but the problem wasn’t something that’s inherent with dry suits (as you claim), it was obviously that the seal was too tight and he didn’t trim it to fit properly. There is NO reason to use a latex seal - neck, wrist or ankle - that’s too tight. In fact, the person who initially explained this too me was a long-time dry suit diver. His neck seal was so loose that I found it hard to believe that it kept him dry, but I followed his advice and he was right; you can trim a neck seal until it’s comfortable and it will still keep you dry. I’ve done it for years.

Or roll the collar
Inward, which allows for the neck gasket to be even looser than you might normally cut it. In fact that is what I am doing now - apparently the diving version of a “small” that was put in to replace the last torn neck gasket is still a little bit less small than my neck when I am twisting around under water. But I tried what I had heard as a diver’s trick, rolled it inward, and it’s not only dry but quite comfy.

And worked with many paddlers on it!


– Last Updated: Nov-01-06 7:56 PM EST –

On the subject of my friend who died due to the drysuit seals putting strain on his major arteries/heart I'll just say this.

This guy was a Navy diver for 20 years. The most highly trained divers in the world. I think it's safe to assume that he probably knew a little more than you about proper seal fit.

I'll keep this simple.

If you're interested in the truth in here, talk is cheap, and I have no intention of joining the armchair experts bandwagon. I'm simply passing on my personal experience(s) to others who are concerned about their safety in cold water. This is a "No ego, nor testosterone zone."

Here's all you need to know to form you own conclusions:

- Drysuit failure in the sport of paddling "is rare" for the simple fact that the vast majority of paddlers don't capsize when they are out paddling in these conditions, thus are not put in life threatening situations to see if the suit works or not. And by the nature of this sport, MOST paddlers are EVER actually IN the water at all period, especially when it's near freezing temps.

- Jumping into the water to see if your drysuit leaks does not mean you're safe, nor does it adequately test a drysuit in real world conditions. And it's my experience that most paddlers with drysuit don't even test their drysuits each time they paddle anyway. Most just put it on, hop in the boat, and go.

- Cold water divers who use drysuits, use them 100% of the time that they are in (not on) the water. Since the vast majority of kayakers are almost never in the water with their drysuits, common-sense dictates that divers are far more likely to know, and understand the weaknesses of a drysuit.

- Ask any diver who regularly dives with a drysuit how often drysuits leak. Not just their own drysuit, but all drysuits. Asking about their brings the testosterone into play, and can lead to stretching the truth.

- All divers drysuits leak at some point, and to some degree. Some are just a light trickle through imperfectly folded seals, some are just pinholes, some are tears that weren't realized when the drysuit was put on, and the worst are quick floods, caused by even some of the most experienced divers who thought their zipper was all the way closed. But be informed that ALL drysuits leak at some point. Question here is, where will you be when you most likely find this out?

- With a diver, they know almost immediately of a serious leak, and can exit the freezing water usually very quickly. The few kayakers who discover this won't usually know until it's too late, because they are usually in the freezing drink when this is realized, far from getting out speedily, and most probably in dire straits..

- Last, and most important. Ask that cold water diver, rescuer, or whomever you talk to who is very experienced with drysuit ACTUALLY IN THE WATER what happens when a drysuit floods in 32-45 degree water. And especially in strong currents. I would tell you to go try it for yourselves, but would rather not be a participant in someones death.

Again: Drysuits serve a purpose, but those purposes do not come without inherited risks of their own. I still use one paddling myself. But reserve it only to the days were it's absolutely necessary to minumize the risk. I use my wetsuit as much as I can. I don't let the fact that I paid more for something dictate priority of use.


Seems like much ado about nothing

– Last Updated: Nov-02-06 9:35 PM EST –

Not speaking from experience here (go ahead, rip me a new one!), but it seems to me, floating at the surface for a short time during a self-rescue would be a far better time for a drysuit to develop a leak than when 50 or 80 feet underwater, not to mention that the pressure at that depth would probably magnify the problem. Seriously, what would cause a drysuit to undergo some catostrophic failure while you are just floating by your boat? I've heard of people having a bit of unexpected leakage when in the water after a capsize, and the suit still kept them quite warm and comfortable because the volume of water entering was not a big deal. A serous leak would require a catostrophic failure, and the only catostrophic failure of a drysuit I've ever heard of occurred while putting the darn thing on (torn gasket). Once you are wearing it, what stress is imposed on the fabric which will cause it to fail to such an extreme degree as you say is likely? Pardon me for being skeptical, but I need to hear an example of what could actually *cause* this, rather than take someone's word that it "just happens".

Also, sorry, but to say kayakers rarely go in the water in cold weather is exactly the opposite of what what I've seen, IF we are talking about the people who frequently go out in such weather. Even among the few serious sea kayakers I've run into on our annual New Years Day paddles, most seem to revel in rolling, practicing rescues, and laying on their sides and sculling for extended periods with nothing up but their head. Plenty of p-netters do that stuff too, but I haven't read any reports here about drysuits self-destructing for no apparent reason.

I'll add this too: Do a Google search with the words "heart attack" and "definition". Every definition that comes up says a heart attack involves insufficient oxygen to cardiac muscle, often causing tissue death within that muscle. How constricting the arteries in one's neck with a drysuit gasket could have any affect on the blood supply to one's heart certainly escapes my sense of logic (and it also sets off my bull__t dector).

“No ego, nor testosterone zone.”???

– Last Updated: Nov-03-06 7:30 AM EST –

Yeah, I can tell by all the bluster. Gimme a break!

Just so you know:

- The person who I spoke of has been diving in dry suits for at least as long as your friend had been, so I guess we'll have to call it a draw.

- I spend quite a bit of time every spring swimming around in 40 degree water in my dry suit, while training other paddlers how to do rescues. I spend a fair amount of that time in surge/surf zones and rocks. I've dragged myself across a lot of kayak decks and have been forcibly dragged around when simulating injured paddler scenarios. My dry suit doesn't lead an easy life, yet I've had zero fabric or seal failures and only a few small seepage spots in high-wear areas, which posed no danger and were easily repaired.

- A diving dry suit sees stresses on the fabric that a paddling dry suit never does, since it's only used at the surface. Consequently, paddling suits are far less prone to failure.

- Do I test my dry suit every time I put it on? Of course not, as it's not necessary. The fabric isn't going to spontaneously fail and if the seals fail, it will be when I'm putting it on or taking it off and consequently, I WILL know about it.

- Everyone I paddle with regularly owns and uses a dry suit frequently. There are probably at least 100 dry suit owners in the club I belong to, several of whom use theirs harder than I do. While I've seen some torn seals - ONLY when donning or doffing the suits - I have yet to witness or even hear of any catastrophic seal, zipper or fabric failures. Pardon me while I paraphrase: "Any paddler who actually paddles in a dry suit knows how often they leak, which is very rarely."

- If you think this is about money, you're woefully misguided. If I could paddle as comfortably and safely in something that costs a fraction of what my dry suit cost, I never would have bought a dry suit in the first place. However, I frequently paddle in conditions where wearing anything less than a dry suit would be seriously unsafe. Since I have one, I use it a lot, as it's far more comfortable, versatile and protective than neoprene. Add to that:

- I don't freeze my a$$ off getting out of it after paddling in cold weather, since I'm dry underneath and tossing on a wind shell and shoes after shedding the dry suit is the most I need to do in order to be ready for the drive home.

- I can easily vary the layers in the dry suit to accommodate temps from below freezing to 70 degrees.

- It never smells like something crawled in it and died, at least not once I'm out of it. ;-)

I don't care what you choose to wear for paddling, as it's your choice and I'm not responsible for you. What I don't understand is why you find it necessary to justify that choice by throwing out a bunch of "red herrings" about dry suits.

Dry suits are safe, protective, comfortable, versatile and durable. That's the bottom line.

Good grief . . .
“talk is cheap, and I have no intention of joining the armchair experts bandwagon”, give me a break, for some of us our arm chair is a Crazy Creek and we spend 9 months a year making $$$ in a drysuit. Drysuits are fine and are an important piece of comfortable cold water safety equipment. Seems like this discussion is a little over the top . . .

I use a foot test
If mesh-and-neoprene booties are no longer adequate to stand in the water for a couple of minutes, I wear the drysuit.

Otherwise, I wear fuzzy rubber in the shoulder seasons (but drysuit if I am going to practice rolling).

The above are slightly subject to whim. So sue me. I paddle alone about half to two-thirds of the time and it’s good to know that I won’t cause anybody’s panties to get in a bunch over my attire.

Summer is so sweet…I miss it already…triathlete’s lycra unisuit or lycra t-shirt with bike shorts, or a mesh shirt with Supplex shorts…when it’s hot out, thinner materials with less coverage allow skin to dry immediately after immersion, in our ultrasunny climate. It sucks that we did not have a real autumn this year.