wet suit dry suit?

plan on paddling Niagara River, Lakes Erie and Ontario this winter. Can I get away with a wet suit and overclothes or do I need a drysuit? asking because money is an object this year and I find that wetsuits are cheaper

Our Experience

– Last Updated: Oct-06-06 3:00 PM EST –

We started with wetsuits - and quickly discovered their limitations. They tend to be hot while paddling in warm weather but with fairly cold water, and they also caused some chafing problems. They do protect against hyrothermia for a very short time; however, since they work by trapping water against the skin and heating it, they do cause some heat loss. We also found that they tend to admit water if you're moving around much - cold gushes down the back and front, which isn't nice. In really cold water, those problems become much worse.
We finally bit the bullet and bought the Kokatat SuperNova semi-dry suits - paid about $525 Cdn for them, and they are well worth the money. We stay dry, the fit is really comfortable, and they work well in the warm weather/cold water situation which is the norm here. In really cold water, they keep you dry, which is the key to staying warm. Once you get ashore or back in the boat, a wet wetsuit is a real danger if it's cold and/or windy. We haven't used our wetsuits in a couple of seasons, and keep 'em around for guest paddlers in good weather or for chilly water swimming.
BTW - if you know anyone who'd like to buy two almost unused Bare farmer John wetsuits....:->))

Brrrrr…Go Dry
Try a Stohlquist Body Pod. Nice dry sealing neoprene neck, latex wrists, vapor breathable fabric and booties, yest the mens has a relief zip. Yes, $575 (mens) and $529 (wmns) is much more than a wet suit but for the safety, comfort and convenience, go dry.

See you on the water,



Think dry suit.
If you do go in, a dry suit is the way to go. If you can afford it go goretex as nylon is sorta like paddling in a plastic bag.

A one piece wet suit will
keep you warm in the water if you are not in it for long. Think about divers they wear them in the water for 30-60 minutes at a time. If you wear one in the winter you will get cold water in it when you tip in the water. The body will warm that water up and you will be fine til you self/assit rescue. If you wear a dry top over it you will be warm from the winter air. Now all that being said I did the wet suit route until I could afford a dry suit and the dry suit is much better. I love the fact that I can wear street cloths under it paddle take off the dry suit and just drive home.

You could rent a wet suit and see how it works for you, Take a swim and paddle with it and then decide.

Those 1 piece wet suits used for
winter diving or surfing are just too thick to paddle with.

On The Contrary…

– Last Updated: Oct-07-06 6:23 AM EST –

The newer surfing wetsuits are very pliable. I have two. Right now, given the dropping temps -- air/water -- I am using a Quicksilver 4/3 -- I surf for straight hours on the waveski with it. Obviously, surf paddling is about sprints -- getting out through the breaks and catching the waves. I don't feel at all restricted, nor do I feel any chafing. My BodyGlove 3/2 is even lighter and more flexible.

I actually prefer my surfing wetsuits far more than my drysuit for surfing. But this is a case where if you don't have the skills to stay upright ot to get back onto the boat relatively fast, the drysuit will provide a better margin of error. If you can't roll, you also can't cool off as well with the wetsuit either (roto-cooling).

By late November, I'll be back into my drysuit. I just don't want to spend another $350 for a decent 6/5/4 wetsuit. My 3/2 costed around $250 and my 4/3 costed $300. But I know several surf paddlers who prefer a winter wetsuit than a drysuit. Given the higher chance of ripping a drysuit on some of the more rocky breaks, their decision is based on a perception that it's actually safer to use a winter wetsuit than a drysuit. Having been trashed through and bottom scraping some rocky points, I agree that a wetsuit is far safer for that environment with respect to not having to worry about a possible catastrophic rip in the drysuit.

Also, for me, the claim that one can unzip the drysuit after a paddle and get in the car totally dry is just NOT true. Even when I do a touring paddle, I am pretty damp under the drysuit afterwards. Damp enough with sweat that I want to change out of it before driving off. So, wetsuit or drysuit, I always strip down and change into my dry street clothes before leaving. This points to the need to have a big long hoodie fleece pull over garment for the winter that can be used to cover yourself up while taking off the wet stuff.


PS. Anyone who does this long enough will acquire a wide array of immersion gear. Heck, I have two long, one piece surfing wetsuits, 1 piece shorty surfing wetsuit, 3 or 4 farmerjohns, 3 long drytops, 2 shorty drytops, and two drysuits (Kokatat and Palm). The only stuff that I come to use less and less off is the farmer johns. Even this, if I were to do more white water than surf, I would be using a FJ/drytop combo much more.

Forget The Wet Suit
I snorkel in Michigan waters until mid October. Then I give up until spring because the water is just too cold.

I wear a 7mm farmer John, with a 6mm long jacket over it. Also boots, gloves, and hood. It would be almost impossible to paddle in that, yet it is more than you’re likely to wear.

Remember, wet suits are WET! And even the best fitting wet suit doesn’t fit skin tight everywhere. As soon as frigid water soaks through the suit, you will feel it, big time. Any loose water will run across your back like an icicle. Jump under a cold shower for a second to feel the effect. And remember, you will be in the water up to your neck until you get back into the boat. You would be amazed at how cold you get how fast! Especially your hands. Even with gloves on, you will be amazed at how fast your hands become numb and useless at winter water temperatures.

As an educational experience, rent a wetsuit from a dive shop and go to the local beach (not alone). Then, wade into 3 feet of water and sit down for several minutes. That should give you time to think about it. Now try getting back in the kayak, and paddle for a while. Then, think how different you would feel in a drysuit.

Cold water is a killer. A fast killer. And I wouldn’t trust my life to my heavy wetsuit in winter.

Funny but I used a one piece for

– Last Updated: Oct-07-06 10:20 PM EST –

two seasons of paddling it worked fine. I wish I had known before that they don't work. If you notice I suggested that they rent one to try it. The reason is that one poster said he used a 7mm FJ with a 6mm jacket and the water was to cold for him. I dive with a 5mm and have no problem at all with the water temp and I am in the Northeast. Every one is different. If they opt for the dry suit they still need to take a swim in it so they know what works for them. For paddling I used a one peice 3mm and it was fine me while yaking.

Can’t Speak For Diving Suits…
but 1 piece surfing wetsuits are very piable. I paddle surf year round up here. My boardie compatriots seem to do fine with their wetsuits. They have to paddle with their arms (more motion than with a paddle) to get through the break and to catch a wave. They also have to squat and then stand pretty fast on the board to get onto to a wave. Can’t do that with a suit that’s not pliable.

As I said, I am in my wetsuit and on my waveski probably 'til after Thanksgiving. One kid that I surf with is on his waveski and in his wetsuit the whole winter. I wimp out and get back into my surf kayak (easier to handle than the ski) and drysuit.

The trick with a good surfing wetsuit is that one needs to go into a shop and try on different ones with the help of the store staff. Different brands, e.g. ONeil, Quicksilver, Ripcurl, BodyGlove, etc. are cut differently, favoring some body types over others.


Under 50F, you’re playing with fire
I agree that everyone is different as to their tolerance of cold water. However, many “experts” recommend that, once you’re down to the 50-60 degree range, you should probably be thinking dry suit. For sure, below 50, if you expect to be floating in the water for any period of time. On the other hand, if you’re in shallow rivers or not likely to be in the water for any length of time, you may be able to get by.

Here is a link regarding water temperatures and use of wet and dry suits for surfing.


But, I do agree that the best thing you can do is to go in the water with your wetsuit/drysuit, at the water you expect to float in, and float in it for at least twice that amount of time. If you’re out on open water, and the boat gets away from you, you could be in the water a long time.

I suspect that even if you think you feel “good enough” in a wetsuit, you’d have a definite preference for the drysuit. It’s like the paddlers who get by with cotton clothing…

To each his own.

Here we go again …
“Below 60 F a dry suit is reccomended” This is total crap.

I’m not suggesting someone use a wetsuit on the Niagra River in January but get out in the real world in winter where people are in the water all the time surfing. Surfing wetsuits of the proper thickness, cut and fit will keep you warm for several hours in very cold water.

For most folks a 4/3 wetsuit with a hood and a paddling jacket, booties or semi dry top is going to keep you warm enough in 45 degree water. Below that I have a hard time wanting to be out anyway. But people do it in very frigid waters, surfing in freezing water temps and 10 degre F air temps.

Another fallacy is that the dry suit is automatically going to give you much extended survival time over a proper wetsuit for the existing conditions. The dry suit gives you inital convenience and comfort. Have you ever tried swimming in surf or breaking waves in a dry suit? Once there is the smallest leak in a dry suit in cold water you are hosed. Your clothing wicks in the water and all insulation is immediately lost.

so different answers,end reslt;
paddle naked

would be good to remember that without a neoprene hood on, for cold water…Most if not all mental functions become impared, including balance. A drysuit only keeps the core dry…can be false security in cold water…but it will help keep the organs good for a donor. Try paddling in a surf hood for a while if you want to talk about imersion protection…then the drysuit would help…

I like a drysuit for standing in cold water , working with people on rolls…but do not consider them the end all for protection that they don’t actually give. They don’t pad the paddler against impact, and if not burped they cause you to become physically impared like a michlin man…if too fully burped, they feel like you were cyo-vacked (squeezed)even when properly used and burped…you must have enough insulation on under them to guard against the existing water temp…

They are not a panacea/cure all like some would like to believe…if paddling in cold unforgiving water, you must learn to roll reliabily…that is your best line of defence.

Not a drysuit

sorry for the rant…done now

Best Wishes


our boats and all our gear…we all paddle naked


Best Wishes


"Playing With Fire…"
if you go out in the winter and don’t have the skills for it. I don’t care if the person has a drysuit on. If s/he doesn’t have the skills I don’t want to be out there with him/her in the dead of winter.

WHen folks ask about going out in the winter, the first question that comes into my head is whether they have the skills for it. Not what immersion gear they have.