Wet Suit vs Splash Gear w layers

Already have a bunch of capilene and fleece that I believe I could layer under Goretex rain gear or slpash jacket & pants.I don’t like wet suits because they are cold and uncomfortable out of the water. Thinking this will be fine in cold weather where I am paddling on flat water,close to shore and have dry clothing to change into.

We used to wear wool under rain slickers with rubber wellies on the Colorado.Water was 48 degrees and the air was cold enough for ice to form in the am before the sun could get to the canyon floor about 10 am.This was before any high tech gear was available.

The question is…
Unclear if there is a question in here. It reads like a report of a decision already made. Or is there a request for feedback in this post?

That is exactly what we wear, and here…

– Last Updated: Oct-09-11 8:35 PM EST –

in the high country of NC, we have broken a thin layer of ice on several occasions.
We have dry suits and hate them. They are way too warm.
Like yourself, when the water temp is dangerously low, we just stay fairly close to shore, and we always have a change of clothes in a dry bag, just in case.
We layer, with a splash jacket over everything. We also use light weight water proof cycling rain pants over tights if it is cold.

Think safety, and then use your own judgement.

Jack L

Jack L

Cold and Uncomfortable?
You should check into modern gear. A decent surfing wetsuit is neither cold nor uncomfortable out of the water, and you can stay warm for hours in 45 F water and 32 air. Get too warm, just tip over and do a brace back up. WIll cost about $160.

Without a wetsuit or drysuit, If you do fall into to cold water in the fall you are going to be very cold and very uncomfortable, hopefully it will end well, but if you are not used to getting wet you run a big risk of gasp reflex, lots of old kayakers have died using your strategy.

Tested my theory today.
Water temp 60 degrees,air temp 64 degrees.Wife and I decided to practice wet exits and self and assisted rescue wearing splash gear and capilene #3 base layer.After about 30 minutes my wife got pretty cold and I was pretty uncomfortable. Any colder and we could have had trouble. So now the search is on for a breathable dry suit that is still comfortable in relatively warm conditions of spring and fall.

Dry suits and warm weather
I personally don’t find my drysuit uncomfortably hot. Saturday I went for a paddle among the rocks and ledges of the Porcupine Islands. Although the air temp reached 70 degrees I chose my drysuit (gore tex Kokatat) for comfort. With a midweight bottom, and silkweight top, my underlayers were dry after 5 hours of fairly vigorous paddling. (water temp is probably about 55 now).

When temps are 75 or higher, I’ll wear a shorty-john wetsuit and hydroskin top, but otherwise I’m just more comfortable in a drysuit. Personally, having soggy fleece sleeves under a rain jacket would be a deal breaker for me. I’d rather wear immersion gear and be both safe and comfortable.

Granted, in May, when it could be 70, and the water 40, I’ll be a little sweatier because I’m wearing more layers underneath, but with good wicking layers, I generally don’t feel the moisture until I take off the layers afterwards, and can tell that they’re a little damp.

Wet Suit vs Splash Gear w layers
both drysuits and wetsuits can be cold out of water, particularly if you’re wet. on land with either, put a warm coat on over your paddling clothing, warm hat, stand on a block of foam, etc.

your warmest paddling clothing will be a dry or wetsuit. i prefer a wetsuit. today’s surfing wetsuits are very warm, flexible, affordable, low maintance, and will keep you dry if you get the right ones. add a drytop over or capeline layer under if you need an extra layer or it’s really cold.

look at brands such as xcel, patagonia, o’neil, mateuse, etc.

Advice then

– Last Updated: Oct-11-11 12:01 PM EST –

It seems that this has turned into a request for advice given your test.

You don't say where you are, but the temps you cite are consistent with the northeast this last week. So I'll wager that your paddling conditions are similar to ours.

First, capilene and splash wear is not adequate for most people in a good wet session like you name, at those air and water temps. You'd have needed it to be wet wear under a wind blocking layer to have a shot at being comfortable, or maybe a wool-based under layer that can still hold some heat when wet.

But if you are looking at 60/60 now, your spring temps are going to have water in the lower 50's until well after that first sunny day where you want to take the boats out. So you need a decent bit more than you had.

Dry suit -
This can be simpler once you put together the bucks for it. You can use the same layers as you would for any cold weather activity with it, so that ends up being the only kayaking-specific garment you have to buy outside of gloves and boots, maybe hood depending on your preferences between neo and wool caps. The one consideration for under a dry suit is that the base layer should be very, very wicking. That'll help both in the coldest weather, so that the wet layer isn't against your skin, and in warm weather where that super wicking layer can be all that you use under the suit.

That said, come a cold water/hot sun day in early spring, it is still easiest to control the temp via getting wet. You don't have to be able to roll to do this, since you are paddling with your wife. You can just grab the bow of the other boat and drop your torso into the water, lay there for a moment and come up again. It is helpful to have started learning a roll and a good deep brace to do this, both to give you more confidence and to make it a less bouncy moment for the other paddler when you come up.

Wetsuit -
Your most protective bet is going to be one of the surfing wetsuits rather than the basic paddling wetsuit. It'll probably take some research and advice from those on this board who know those garments well, but that can be had. It would be pricier than the regular paddling drysuits, but would more likely do the job for cold weather with one base garment rather than layers of neo vests or jackets over the base paddling wet suit. Paddling wet suits tend to be less worked up and thinner than some of the other specialty wet wear.

You have the same overheating issue with wet wear, maybe more so depending on what thickeness you get, but you have the same option as with a dry suit. You could dunk off your partner's bow.

The one consideration here is that a wet wetsuit up in the air needs a wind blocking layer to prevent your becoming chilled - something that is built into a drysuit. It can be a splash jacket rather than a full dry top, but you need something up on your torso.

So - how cold is the water you'll be paddling in? For example, any New Year's paddles on the horizon?

Finally, don't assume that you and your wife will need the same. I chill a bunch easier than most of the guys with whom I paddle.

4/3 surfing wetsuit
A good quality 4/3 full surfing wetsuit O’neil Heat - will keep you warm down to ~ 45 F water - last years models go for about $160. Look for brands like Oneil, Xcel, RipCurl and look for sales on last years models.

I use a NRS powerhouse semi-dry type over the top on coldest mornings which means, air temp just above freezing.

water temp/paddling location
Thanks for the input.

We live in Northern AZ and will paddle from May through November,avoiding avoid sub 60 degree water. Lakes Pleasant,Meade,Powell and Mojave are all withing 2-3 hours drive.Local lakes are at 5000 to 7000 ft elevation and are above 60 degrees only in the summer.

What about Splash Jacket and layering with NRS Hydro Skin or a Neoprene top and Hydro Skin bottom for these conditions and staying close to shore with a dry change of clothing when paddling in water in the 60 to 70 degree range?

Works for my husband but…
not for me. Hydroskin is thinner than a paddling wetsuit by at least half a mill.

This is how I acquired a raft of wet wear that I rarely use though. Just kept adding layers to get the mills’ up.

fuzzy rubber!
I’m a big fan of Mysteriso and the like.

It’s “almost” as warm as a thin wetsuit. And A LOT more comfortable!

And in spring, when you get a bit too warm, it just feel…warm. Not that yucky clammy feeling of a sweat soaked wetsuit.

Should be fine down to 60F water.

wet suit
i used to ware poly long johns under the wet suit to be warmer. even went for a swin w/this on and didnt notice problem w/ the suit working o k

Carry a poncho or similar item
With cool water like 60 degrees and cool air (not cold water and air), immersion in wetsuits can be OK, but bring a windproof cover for when you get out of the water. That is when you will feel any wind chill. The fabric face of neoprene causes evaporative cooling.

There are smooth-faced neoprene wetsuits, but I found that these stick to kayak seats and outfitting–not good. It’s too bad, because other than that I really like my 4/2mm triathlon fullsuit during shoulder seasons. It is actually too hot when out of the water! Just cannot get around the fact that the smooth face grips outfitting.

Covering yourself with windproof barrier such as poncho or cag makes a huge difference in comfort.

shorts on top of wetsuit

Why don’t you try wearing a pair of board shorts on top of your wetsuit. That should prevent the wetsuit from sticking to your outfitting.


Hmmm, worth a try
I never thought of that. It’ll look dorky, but that’s alright. Just need to make the shorts long enough to cover all leg and butt contact areas.