I need a wet suit for cold weather paddling. I have decided on an NRS Ultra-John 3mm neoprene.
My dilemma is that I fall in between sizes. I have purchased both a large and an XL and plan to keep one and return the other.
If in doubt, should I err to the side of too big, or too small?
The large fits, but is a little tight. The XL fits snug in the upper body and is a bit more comfortable there, but is too long in the leg and there are some big air pockets in the legs and groin. I am thinking that this is probably bad and will cause cold spots.
When layering other clothing with a wet suit, do you layer over or under it? I really have only used one once.
think the air pockets are a big deal as a wet suit is not water tight. Go comfortable for yourself. I use under armor under the wetsuit for chafe protection and wear clothes over top to hold in body heat even more. Seemed to work well last weekend, did a 4 hour paddle in 37-40 degree weather.
Even though a wetsuit is not water tight, it needs to be snug. If water comes in and then exits, it takes warmth with it. It should be as snug as you can stand it, without turning blue!
I bought an NRS farmerjohn and wetsuit jacket. I was able to get them in different sizes and they fit good and are comfortable. A wetsuit looses it’s ability to keep you warm if water can flush through it. Get something that fits good. I use my longsleeve hydroskin top for added warmth when it’s cold or I plan on getting wet.
2nd the snug fit.
Aside from looking like a super hero…or a retired super hero as my case may be, they work better if they can’t pull away from your skin. Try the XL with some rash guard undergarments. If it can still shift around, go with the large. Also check mobility in each. You should be able to go through your full range of paddling motion without much resistance from the suit. Otherwise, you’ll be fighting the wetsuit for every stroke and recovery.
Less water exchange is a big deal
Although the matter of water exchange is a much larger issue for divers who are swimming in their wetsuit and submerged the whole time, the biggest issue for kayakers is the sudden introduction of cold water onto the neck, chest and groin inducing cold shock, and fatal consequences.
If the shoulders are loose allot of water comes in stimulating uncontrollable gasping, etc. Also the two way convenience zipper will allow water into the groin, so if there is allot of space there, not just cold but dangerous.
Besides a tighter fit, you might consider a suit that has flex panels under the armpits and in stomach area so that is is more flexible and stretchy allowing you to get a smaller size and be comforatble. If is also a good idea to where a thin pair of hydroshorts to reduce groin cold effects. Wearing a neoprene hood that has a collar extension that fits onot your neck and top of shoulders will reduce cold shock in this important area and make you much more comforatble as well.
Remember there are limits to 3 mm neoprene in water below 55 degrees. Divers know that 7 mm or more is needed in these temperatures. Below 55 degrees really should be using a drytop, if stay in boat and drysuit in case exit of boat, something that happens to us all eventually.
By all means head out in cold water, it is some of the most beautiful conditions, however, knowledge is power here as it is cold shock that will do you in not hypothermia at first, even with a wet suit on. Pardon me if you are already aware of this, it is just every year a number of new paddlers visit these posts and do not know how amazing lethal cold shock is. And even the rest of us get complacent as we learn skills, seldom fall out of our boats and hate dressing like canned sardines. A final note, I myself have a bomber roll and have had trouble thinking straight dumped into 38 degree water, even in a drysuit, I got up, but it was a learning experience for me.
In this we are agreed
tight is right! If you are buying an off-the-shelf suit try different manufacturers and buy one that is snug. If you have major bucks henderson hyperstretch (not gold core just regular) is incredible but $$$. So stretchy you will not believe it.
Tight - poor posture
When I wear a suit that is too “tight”, it forces me into bad posture in the kayak (ie: slouching to relieve pressure at shoulders). Then the bad posture leads to poor paddling and back problems.
If you are in between sizes, take a look at the other NRS suits like the Grizzly/Farmer Bill that are cut a little fuller in the chest. This helped me in getting the right, snug fit.
My farmer bill ran a little small, and I fit all of the data, height, weight etc. The nice people suggested I might fit my big ass into a “grizly” and happily swapped my snug suit for the griz. I still need the sholder extenders.
Tight is good, but only if you wear it.
If your wetsuit is so tight it is uncomfortable, you will be less likely to wear it. If it is uncomfortable, I would go with the larger size. I generally wear some kind of shirt under my wetsuit (I wear Kokatat’s Inner Core) and then fleece over it.
guess I stand
corrected. sorry Bowler1.
I’m 5’6" and 194 lbs. with heavy thighs and leg calfs. The Grizzly wetsuit is the best fit that i’ve found so far. You want as tight a fit as possible without feeling uncomfortable. I also had to get the shoulder extensions because without them the under arm chafing was a bit uncomfortable. I usually wear long silk underwear which helps putting the suit on and provides a comfort layer between the suit and you. I bought a one pc. lycra/spandex dive skin recently on ebay which i have yet to try so i donot have any comments on how it fares. Good luck with your search.
If you can zip it up
wearing the rash guard, underwear etc you plan on wearing, it is probably the right size. When you get in the water the suit will loosen up. A wet suit should be a good snug fit like a second skin, Make sure you can move your arms comfortably and that it does not squish anything vital that you don’t want squished when sitting down or getting thrown around in your boat.
Not sure where you live but
I have spent a good deal of time in wet suits diving. I own three of them of different weights.
I just started kayaking but would recommend you look at a dry suit if you can afford it. Diving for 20 minutes to an hour is one thing. Paddling in the cold for 3 to 5 hours is another. There are some nice ones that friends own that cost about 400 to 500 bucks if thats in your budget I would go that route!
Grizley definitely the way to go
If nature and time have caught up with you and you still have the same inseams but the stomach/chest area has gone’condo’. There’s a point where skin tight goes over the limit. I’m getting both the hydroskin and the grizley bill wetsuits along with the hydroskin jacket and a drysuit top…simply to cover the bases…Figure it’s a one time purchase and I’m not going to shrink (or hopefully expand)in the next couple of years.
Wet Suit or Cold Suit?
A loose wet suit is GREAT at making you cold!
If you’ve never worn a wetsuit in the water, you might be curious to know what it feels like. Most people are quite surprised to learn that you don’t really feel “wet”. It’s more like the feeling you get when its cold outside and you’re properly dressed for conditions. You know; you feel a bit on the warm side, just about to perspire but not quite. That’s how I feel in a wet suit; and I often go snorkeling for hours at a time. I’m only wet and cold when I take it off!
But, if the suit is loose, then MOVING water hits your skin. It’s like taking a cold shower! Even a suit that fits great in most spots is a poor choice if its so loose around the neck/chest area that water flows in. That’s why proper fit is so important. Oh, and take it from me, if you lose weight, you’ll find that your well-fitted wetsuit has turned into a cold suit!
Also, some suits have baffles in the arms and legs to prevent water from flowing along the skin. This is generally found in the thicker weights.
They loosen up
over time and wearing, a bit. My Farmer Jane, which has gotten more wear than the Expedition Jane, shows the diff. The Farmer Jane is much more flexible.
You definately want to wear tops etc under the wetsuit, for quick rest stops. Over really gets inconvenient, so reserve it for things like drytops where you have no choice.
As to what to wear under it, I have lately been pulling on a short sleeve hydroskin top and a long sleeve Mystery top under it. (I have been getting cold more easily this fall.)
Have said this before, will say again…
…this “shock” effect seems to be so rare, those of us who have been tossed suddenly into very cold rivers in wetsuits have just not experienced it. I think you can INDUCE it by hypnotic suggestion, if you keep posting about it. Or, drink a couple of beers, and then hit the cold water.
LONG TERM will tighten, because of
loss of nitrogen bubble gas. I had a custom made wetsuit which became unwearable after five years, although it was used little, stored in a cool, dry place, and protected from temperature extremes.
This suggests that starting out with a suit just a little tiny bit loose is a good idea.
But I would not buy another wetsuit for paddling. Even a non-breathing drysuit is better.