Wet suit advice

As the water temps are going down I pulled out my farmer john wet suit and 2 things happened. I am fatter and my velcro straps are wearing out, time for a new suit.

In cold weather boat rides I do not intend to get wet, the suit is only for safety. my usual attire is the farmer john, Muck boots, under armor top with wool sweater and cap. (and pdf)

I am looking at NRS ultra john, or the NRS steamer full suit. I was thinking that with a full suit I could lighten my clothing a little. I am not sure about if a full suit will bind me up, or be less restrictive than heavy winter clothing. A dry suit is out of the question due to cash.

Look at surfing wetsuits
They are warm and flexible. You can get full wetsuits and shorties in a variety of thicknesses. I got mine at https://www.oregonsurfshop.com/. But there are other dealers.

Full wetsuit
You can wear it without underlayers at all. That’s what I do, though once in a great while I add a 1.5mm neoprene vest underneath for added torso warmth. Anything that goes inside had better fit tightly, because it’s going to get clammy from sweat which would be nasty all bunched up if not a tight fit. Also, you want to avoid gaps that let water come through.

When warmer water and air temps permit, the shorty wetsuits (short sleeved, shorts bottom) are nice because they are easier to don and doff than full suits.

Surfer-oriented suits are stretchier than paddler-oriented suits, in my experience. They must use better neoprene and/or facing materials, though trying to sort through the plethora of proprietary names can be a turnoff. The fit will vary between makes and models, so try to buy one where you can actually try it on in the store first. If not, check out The Wetsuit Warehouse and Sierra Trading Post. The latter, in particular, has routinely had big discounts on some wetsuits. Just be aware that it’s a mishmash of good stuff mixed in with crappy stuff.

From what you described (varying body mass), a drysuit would be easier to fit. You can vary the amounts of underlayers (which in this case ARE necessary) because they are cut baggy. Really baggy. But if budget doesn’t allow it, that’s the end of it, unless you find a good used drysuit for sale. It might be worth checking your local Craigslist and paddling-club classified ads for one before you buy a wetsuit.

It will bind you up a little
Even the nice ones will feel a little restrictive. The farmer john definitely leaves you feeling less restricted. I have to go to full coverage for the winter months. I’m usually planning to get wet though.

I am staying away from rear zipper suits
I really like the front double zippers for relief as my current over the shoulder velcro is a huge pain, having to strip down. Does anybody use a farmer john with a separate full top for windy days when spray is an issue?

Rear Zipper Suits Much Nicer
Having the zipper right over your crotch in cold weather and cold water leads to unpleasantness if you are in the water or cold windy conditions.

The back zip is no big deal, if you buy the right suit. Some zippers are quite hard to get up and down especially if you are a very tight fit.

Farmer John and paddling top
My experience is that a full suit is too restrictive through the shoulders, and gives me a rash in the armpits, which is why a farmer john is more appropriate for paddling. For $100 or so (if you wait for a sale) you can get a paddling top to go with it, which is a good combination that will also give you protection from the wind.

Some have other zipper placements
I have a 3mm suit that uses a diagonal front zipper, plus short zips at the wrists and ankles. All of these make it easier to put on and take off than some other types.

The rear zippers are not too bad if they’re long enough, but always make sure that any internal flaps don’t get chomped, because you can’t see the zipper’s progress. And don’t get the zipper’s pull cord get trapped between the coaming and skirt. I’ve done this a few times; maybe there’s a way to loop the cord and tuck it under the neck tab.

3/2 farmer a polypro or fleecey (dependant on cold) then a paddle top. I also pair neo socks with 4-5mm booties.

another vote for surfer wetsuits
The new stretchier soft neoprenes are way nicer than the old slick rubber diving wetsuit fabric that made you feel like you were stuffed in sausage casing.

I lucked out on Ebay and got an un-used Xcel full 3/4 surfer’s wetsuit for $30 plus shipping and it is very comfortable for paddling. The neoprene is stretchy, it doesn’t bind at the neck or restrict arm and shoulder movement and the back zip is easy to operate. The kneepads make it nice for canoeing too. Xcel sizing is very generous – not so with some other brands (I think Body Glove and O’Neill are sized for anorexic elves – don’t believe the measurements on their size charts).

If you aren’t squeamish about used stuff you can find some good deals on Ebay. Only problem is you have to take a chance on fit. I bought a couple suits before snagging the Xcel that did NOT fit but I got them cheaply enough I was able to resell them to smaller fellow paddlers and break even.

Also picked up a front zip Camaro surfing shortie for my BF to use kayaking (I believe it’s a 2/3) and he loves it – Camaro sizing seems true to their charts also. Got that one on Sierra Trading Post for around $50. Finding a model in a particular size on STP can be challenging, but they seem to have a regular stream of wetsuits from Camaro.

Another vote for surf suits
I like them much more than NRS or similar “paddling” wetsuits (sorry NRS). I’ve had O’Neill, my current suits are Aleeda.

“In cold weather boat rides I do not intend to get wet…” Uh huh. $hit happens. Be well protected if/when it does.

Highly recommend

– Last Updated: Nov-01-12 9:13 AM EST –

new full surfing suit.

I use one into late dec.

or at least 4/3

Couple of thoughts I put together a year or so ago. http://gokayaknow.com/index.php/gear/drysuit-vs-wetsuit-for-kayaking/

Farmer John
The Ultra John is very comfy and I’ve used my NRS brand suit for years with no problems. If you are planning to be in the water a lot, a surfing suit is fine, but for those who plan to be in their boats and just want protection on their core, a Farmer John or Shorty John is good down to about 40 degree water temps plus or minus depending on your build and tolerance for cold – and your ability to self rescue in a timely manner.


I use a 3 MM Farmer John and 2mm Jacket

– Last Updated: Oct-30-12 8:27 AM EST –

The neo jacket is easy to get on and off. Neo gloves, neo booties and a hood. I jump in water with ice floating in it, I'm good for 10 minutes. I used to go with nothing under but the neo bothers me now so wear a thin, nylon full-body suit under.
A good fit will depends on getting the right size. CALL NPS and talk to them. Let them tell you what size to get.

My wardrobe
I have a full wetsuit that I bought used of a surfer, no shortage of them here in San Diego. Its a good all around suit. But as winter approaches and I am paddling longer distances, I don’t want binding in the arms.

I think a farmer john with a hydroskin top underneath. This will allow me long survival in immersion but no biding while paddling. Layers above this would be added based on weather.

wet suit
So I’m on the wetsuitwarehouse site and looking for winter wear. Never wore a wetsuit before.

Question: what do guys wear under a full wetsuit: speedo or just go commando?

Rash guard top- no bottom
You’ll get all kinds of answers but most people I know don’t wear anything below the waist. Speedos are really uncomfortable in a wet suit- sack attack if you follow my drift. I use a rash guard top because it stops chaffing where the arms rub while paddling. Other people claim it chafes more, so you need to experiment. If you do use a rash guard top, make sure it fits very snugly, so you don’t bunch up material to rub. Some people in cold weather use polypropylene underwear - long johns. It makes getting into the suit much easier, but I don’t think it did much for warmth.

If there is chafing…
Smear on some BodyGlide stick “lube.” It’s like a giant Chapstick. It works. Plus it makes the suit go on and come off more easily. I bought it from a runner/triathlete store.