Re Non Breathable Drysuits....

-- Last Updated: Oct-25-04 8:41 PM EST --

I'm seriously considering purchasing a drysuit which is made of non-breathable fabric (NexGen). My major concern is with the issue of perspiration control. Given proper underlayering, are these suits useable for sea kayaking - that is, will one end up soaked in sweat until the water warms up enough to safely use a wetsuit (mid-summer or later in this neck of the woods)? I'd really appreciate it if anyone who has direct experience with this sort of paddling drysuit would post their experience or e-mail me at

OCT 25
THANKS TO ALL WHO'VE RESPONDED. We did order the MEC Ultras - while they may not be ideal, it's far and away the best protection we can afford. Various posters made some excellent points - the thread is well worth reading for good info on cold water, hypothermia, layering, head protection, and of course, the benefits/disadvantages of various drysuits. Isn't it great to be able to reach people with real knowledge and experience before you make decisions?

the quick answer to your question
is yes and once you stop paddling the wetness inside the drysuit helps to make you colder. My experience comes from having had a variety of non goretex dry suits. I now have a partial goretex dry suit and there are some improvements. I primarly mainly wear various layers of poly pro under the suit and fleece.

When the conditions call for a drysuit, you must wear one breatheable or not. I have a two piece Musto Non-Breatheable dry suit that I bought used (for $100) more than 10 years ago. I have used it and rolled with it in the winter on lakes and rivers in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The drysuit kept me warm and dry. I have replaced the ankle, wrist and neck gaskets several times. I do the job myself.

In a non-breatheable drysuit, there is a tendency for the wearer to overheat when not immersed in cold water. The reason for this is a drysuit does not keep you warm, it keeps you dry. Therefore you must wear a fleece underneath to keep you warm while immersed in winter water. When not immersed you become very toasty. I have never worn a breatheable drysuit, but I have been told that they are far superior and solve the toasty problem. I would like to have a breatheable, zippered, bootied drysuit but to date have not been abled to justify the expense ($1,000). So I just go on replacing my gaskets when they tear, taking off the drysuit to relieve myself, and sweating when not immersed in cold water.

wasted money
bottom line.

I owned a Kokatat nylon drysuit and it was really a waste of money. Have goretex now, and I am much happier, but very sorry I wasted the money.

I agree with Kwickle
Every new england paddler I know who spent money on a non breathable suit wishes they had spent the money to go full-out breathable first. If you don’t have it, then do what you can. The goretex is the better value based on durability alone. If you are really not working hard the breathability advantage is less important.

No matter what you do wear a light wicking layer, silk polypro lightweight capilene etc.

Wet clothing in a “dry” suit will quickly drain heat through conduction if immersed in cold water. Something to think about.

Get relief zipper and atttached socks.

Today was my first time out…
with my drysuit. I’m an open boater so I don’t have the option of rolling to cool down. I often paddle alone in remote areas and love to push the season so I need the time to swim or self rescue. I don’t do big water when it’s cold, though. After reading many posts on this subject and considering my situation, I went with the Kokatat GoreTex suit with relief zip and goretex socks. When I put in it was air:39F; 10-15mph wind; water 47F. Paddled for 2-1/2 hours, warm, dry, and happy. There’s a big smile on my face now for I know I spent my money well :slight_smile:




– Last Updated: Oct-30-04 5:02 PM EST –


If you know this already, pardon me, thought it was important to state:

With water getting into the 40's and downward, it is essential to have your neck and head protected by neoprene. You have hypothermia retarded well with the suit, but cold shock caused by head and neck plunging in can kill you. It can cause you to involuntarily gasp repeatedly, despite your resisting it, panic you, and even turn your blood PH off so that your muscles don't work properly and even stop your heart.

Nuff said.

It COULD happen, but hardly ever does.
I have experienced sub-40 face and head cold shock a number of times, flipping c-1s and kayaks. I have not experienced any kind of gasp reflex or shock. Still, if one can find a neoprene head cover which fits under a helmet, it certainly cuts down on the heat loss.

Turn your blood PH off?

You lost me there alright.

  • Tramper Al, MD

Overrated goretex
I do whitewater canoing and have one of each of Kokatat’s ‘top of the line’ goretex suit and their non-goretex suit. Both keep me dry when I dump over (quite often), but of course the suit itself doesn’t keep you warm. You still have to wear your silk and polypro and whatever else you fashion depending on how cold it is. Nevertheless whether I wear the goretex or the standard at the end of the day all of my layers are wet anyway generally the same from perspiration. I like the goretex suit better because it’s a nicer color combination and seems more rugged and when I have it on at least my brain ‘thinks’ it’s letting perspiration evaporate, but for me it doesn’t seem to work so well. But I vote with the others and say spend the few extra bucks for the goretex. I don’t even think they offer them anymore without the sewn-in booties and relief zipper, but if so make sure you get those, definitely. I see on eBay there’s another manufacturer “Palm” making a drysuit but I haven’t checked it out yet. Seems kinda inexpensive, but maybe Kokatat is just over priced. I don’t know.

Changer in PH well documented

– Last Updated: Nov-02-04 10:29 AM EST –

Sorry for the typo, meant to be thows it off, as in marked change in PH. The following shows severity of these changes. Despite some of our experiences in which we did not have these reactions they are not rare, as statistics show that 80% of all cold water deaths comes from cold shock and not hypothermia.

Cold shock occurs when rapid cooling of the skin triggers a cluster of heart and breathing responses. The cardiac responses include an increase in heart rate of 40 -50%, and an increase in cardiac output of 60 - 100%, which combined with vasoconstriction of the extremities results in an average blood pressure increase to 175/93. Although a substantial strain on the heart, these changes are not likely to be a problem for a healthy, fit person but may be dangerous for those with underlying heart disease or hypertension (there have been cases of apparently near instant cardiac arrest on cold water immersion).

The respiratory effects of cold shock have been estimated to account for a third of cold water deaths, including many extremely fit and healthy people. Review of reports of kayaking deaths by Charles Sutherland and others suggests to me that a much higher percentage of paddlecraft deaths are caused by cold shock. This has not been a favored topic of medical research, but study of work done The following may help to clear this up. (by Dr. Michael Tipton and others makes it easy to understand the high level of risk that cold waters bring to the unprepared in our sport(details below).

Sudden immersion in cold water results in an involuntary(that means you can not stop it, and yes, that means all of us) gasp, followed by 1 - 3 minutes of involuntary (yes, that still means all of us) hyperventilation. Specific data are: 2.0 liter gasp in 82o water and 3.0 liter gasp in 50o water (i.e. nearly your entire lung volume), and in 50o water a 600 - 1,000 percent increase in ventilation(air in and out) in the first minute. This hyperventilation results in a profound lowering of blood carbon dioxide levels and raising of blood pH levels, which causes a large risk of ventricular fibrillation (“cardiac arrest”), muscular tetany (cramps), and cerebral vasoconstriction which starves the brain of oxygen, causing disorientation and confusion.

These effects, coupled with changes in lung mechanics caused by the pressure of water on the abdomen and chest result in subjective feelings of inability to breathe and panic typically lasting 1 - 3 minutes. Most importantly for survival of a capsized kayaker is a sharp reduction of maximal breath holding, for example - in one study from a mean of 45 seconds pre-immersion to a mean of 9.5 seconds on immersion in 41o water, with one subject averaging less than one second breath holding upon immersion. It is easy to see how these effects of gasp, hyperventilation, and impaired breatholding would result in prompt catastrophe upon a fall into choppy water or a capsize.

Palm is known to make exceptional drysuits for the price. Many whitewater kayakers swear by them and their breathable fabric is supposedly performs pretty well. Only thing is that their Stikine dryseat is a rear zip which some people prefer and some people hate.

It can happen when you least expect it
I’ve been there and know what it’s like. I happened to me in water in the 50’s. According to one study I read, the gasp reflex is actually strongest with water temps around 60 degrees.

NE drysuits
BTW, the Kittery Trading Post had several Kokatat gore-tex drysuits on sale for $499. But alas, they lacked booties and a zip.

buy the best…
Buy the best suit that you can afford. If that happens to be a non-breathable suit with no relief zipper or booties, whatever. You’ve still kicked it a huge notch from a wetsuit.

And, though you see there are many opinions on the topic, whether you have Goretex or not, you still have to dress properly underneath and can still expect to get damp or wet.

One thing I don’t recommend is trying to keep dry with a roll-togehter 2-piece system. They just can’t seal at the notch of your spine, at least not if take a long swim.


I would go with ericnyre’s combo recommend. I had used a goretex kokatat full drysuit for about 10 years until I read about a drysuit failure somewhere. Last spring I started to go out and the zipper broke just as I was getting ready, curses. That cancelled that days paddle. Now I mostly I use a 4 mm wetsuit bottoms locked in with a semi drytop. If you put on a combo vest/hood underneath, the semidrytop works real well. The interlocking tunnel for the wetsuit bottoms and top likewise. This is a cheaper alternative and ultimately probably more safe as wetsuits can’t fail. I still have not had the kokatat repaired, if anyone wants it and wants to repair it, I will let it go a fair offer. It has a relief zipper and goretex booties.

Buy it anh have outerwear repair
add them that’s a deal! Put on the zip now na go for latex booties yourself, the go for goretex when you have the bucks!

Dry suit failures

– Last Updated: Oct-25-04 10:04 PM EST –

Your experience highlights something that's important to point out. When dry suits fail, it's invariably when you're putting them on or taking them off. While it ruined your day, it didn't put you in any danger. Dry suits don't fail while you're paddling.

probably true
I guess once you are zipped up, you are pretty much safe. I wouldn’t venture what % that is, but the odds are good.

The booties are a definite plus as keeping your feet dry is one of the best ways for staying warm.

I’ve been using a Palm drysuit for a year now, and am happy with it. Its not their top of the line model, but their less expensive waterproof/breathable. I don’t know how it compares to gore-tex drysuit, but most of my experience with gore-tex was discouraging. I wound up wearing almost everyday for almost two weeks straight of kayaking and deer hunting, it was extremely wet out. Anyway, I’m happy with it, especially for the $400 price.