Thicker wetsuit or hydro-skin under thinner wetsuit


I have a 3/2 wetsuit, and want to buy something for colder water (around upper 40˚F). One option, of course, is to buy a thicker wetsuit. But how about buying a hydro-skin to wear under my thinner wetsuit, if it’s feasible? Any comments on the pros and cons?




  • What are you paddling?
  • Do you paddle alone?
  • What are your skills: Can you roll, brace? How fast can you re-enter you SINK and or scamper back onto your SOT?

For example, when I surf in the winter, the water temps do get to 40 and below. I am on a waveski, exposed to the water and air constantly but am not in the water all the time like a board surfer. I do a lot of intermittent sprinting and do get hot. But I can roll to cool off. Generally I am okay for several hours, non-stop, in my waveski with a 5/4/3 wetsuit. However, if I were in SINK and can’t roll, I would probably overheat if I did anything more than lily-dip.

In a SINK, I probably would go down to a 4/3 wetsuit which can give me a good 15-20 minutes of immersion in 40 and below water, allowing plenty of time to re-enter or re-mount on my own. But, I can still roll to cool off. Frankly in the same water temp, I am willing to go down to a 3/2, with a drytop over that (as opposed to a hydroskin underneath which would be too binding if your 3/2 fits snugly as it should. The 3/2 is not recommended unless you have good skills and/or partners with assisted rescue skills.

If you can’t roll, I would say go with a 4/3 and with the option of a drytop over it if air temp is nearing freezing with wind. Again, I assume you are paddling with a partner skilled in assisted rescue.


For a wetsuit to work well it needs to be a good tight fit. If you can get hydroskin under your full 3/2, it’s probably not a good fit. I use a hydroskin farmer john suit and 2 mm neoptrene top when water temps are around 60 f, but its not the best insulating material. I don’t think I could get a full hydroskin top under my 2mm top. Personally I use a 4/3 wetsuit in H2O temps down to to upper 40s; when it’s cold from wind, cold air temps I have an old NRS Powerhouse semi-dry top I put over the top. I used that combination in very cold water a few times while traveling in UK. it was not comfy but good enough to stay in the water for an hour or so to swim to shore . A lot depends on your own physical make up, I have plenty of excess body fat and my ancestors came from really cold places, YMMV.

I think you’d be much more comfortable paddling in water that temperature with a dry suit. You can make a wet suit work, but it works best when you’re wet and you probably don’t want to be wet all the time in those temperatures.

Dry suit for sure. I was out on Sun in exact same temps, was very comfortable in my layered suit. I my opinion 3/2 is too thin for this temperature, 4/3 is also too light. Going thicker may make it too restrictive. Plus, not a fan of getting out of a wetsuit in warmer weather…anywhere in the 40s forget it.

EDIT: I should say that I am in a surfski and get a lot wetter than sea kayakers do.

Thanks all for your comments.