Wetsuit/drysuit for tall female kayaker?

Living in the PNW of Vancouver, Canada, I’m still not 100% sure on wetsuit vs drysuit at this time for the upcoming fall/winter paddling, but I may eventually need both anyway!

Does anyone have any recommendations for a farmer jane wetsuit for tall females? I guess in a crunch I could get away with a unisex/male wetsuit? Is there really even any difference?

The drysuit - I’m thinking I’d ideally be going for a semi-drysuit, but outside of custom sizing at an even higher cost… anyone know any brands who make them for taller females?

I am tall and slender, 6’ tall generally wearing size S or M depending on the cut/brand, and US size 10 (11 men) shoes.

My suggestion would be a men’s Kokatat drysuit with a lowered P Zip. and then also get a pair of Neo pants and a neo vest . Not a farmer Jane. When it’s too cold for a two piece Neo combo, it’s drysuit time. I suggest the lowered P zip in order to use a FUD. I also suggest the 2 piece neo combo for not having to strip so much for pee breaks and also ease of combinations as you encounter different conditions thru the summer. add a pair of neo shorts later. Add a pair of Reed pants later etc etc…mix and match.

I would suggest you contact Kayak Academy in Issaquah, Washington (a little southeast of Seattle). They are specialists in sizing and customizing Kokatat dry suits and would be able to get you a perfect fit. I have found them to be very helpful on the phone.


Drysuit go with semi dry suit. 90% of the protection (water can spill over neck slightly), 25% of the cost (~$500 instead of ~1,500 to $2,500), and 5% of the maintenance as you only have to grease the zippers once a season, make sure you store with paper towels in the wrist gaskets so the rubber isn’t touching itself and put talcum powder there once a season before you store it. That’s it.

Don’t bother “custom” semi dry suit for “taller females”. Just get one for someone who is your height as if you were really fat. Why? Because the semi dry suit is designed for cold so the truth is all it does is keep you from getting wet. In order to keep you from getting cold below certain air (And water) temperatures you will need layers beyond what the suit offers, as in dry land layers like thermal underwear, long johns, sweater, pants, jacket that kind of thing so you don’t want it to be form fitting. It has to be very wide on you to acomodate layers. So if the suit isn’t way oversized as if you were 75lbs heavier than you really are, it’s not going to be useful.

You dress for WATER temp not air temp but sometimes it’s warm and the water is still very cold. I have sweat so bad in my dry suit that I thought it was leaking, like 3-4 shot glasses of sweat in each “sock” or legging!

Any more than 65-70’ outside and you’ll be miserable in the dry suit. That’s where the wet suit comes in.

Wet suit get the 2 piece ones. We LOVE the NRS Hydroskin. The new ones are MUCH more comfortable, MUCH easier to put on and take off, and MUCH warmer. You feel cold for 30 seconds, the water absorbs your body heat, and the way the fibers interact with the water all of a sudden you start feeling like you have thermal underwear or that you peed yourself. I am 6’4" and 190lbs, but my wife is 5’6" and 145lbs. I will wear this one using shorts to carry my electronics under that I seal in a ziploc bag. I’ve fallen in before in a canoe and was able to quickly grab it out and stuff it into my mouth carrying it like a commando might carry a knife between their teeth while swimming.

Case in point my kids use my wife’s old wetsuit she had 20+ years ago and my wife’s hydroskin. She wears her mother’s are they are similar sizes now. Kids fight over the hydroskin as it’s warmer, easier to put on and way more comfortable. The 2 piece is also better because you’re sitting in your boat so your butt and back are more comfortable.

If you do go wetsuit, it is important to get one that fits well. Needs to be tight enough to trap water between neo and skin, which then gets warm. Not too tight, or it would be uncomfortable. But not too loose, as it won’t trap water.

Dry suit fit is not as important. In general, they are a bit baggy to allow you to wear different amounts of clothing below the dry suit (the clothing below is what actually keeps you warm - the dry suit’s main job is to keep you dry). Also a bit baggy to allow you to flex around to get the things on and off (usually they have a zipper across chest or across back).

If you get cold easily, I’d lean toward dry suit.

I prefer paddling suits (what the semi-dry version with neoprene necks are often called) over full dry suits. But what matters is how well you neck fits in the neo neck gasket. I have a large neck, so the neo fits nicely and very little water gets in when I roll or swim with it. But other people’s necks don’t don’t fit as tightly in theirs, so they can get a lot of water in during a swim. Best to try one on if at all possible. Might be possible to at least test out the neck gasket fit by trying on a semi-dry top from the same manufacturer, should the shop have that but not a paddling suit.

I would imagine Deep Cove Kayaks has some dry suits (or at least info on them). I would have also sent you to Ecomarine on Granville Island to check out, but I heard they just shut down.

Level6 (https://www.levelsix.com/) seems to be a common company carried by shops in Canada.

@Peter-CA said:

Level6 (https://www.levelsix.com/) seems to be a common company carried by shops in Canada.

Level6 is currently having a sale. https://www.levelsix.com/collections/types?q=drysuits

Kokatat has exact measurements for their suits on the web site. Inseam, arm length plus chest waist and hip. Other manufacturers may as well. Grab a tape measure and start there, works better than clothing sizes.

I’ll second the recommendation for NRS Hydroskins for more moderate temperatures if you decide to try a wet suit type option. I have the 0.5 mm separates for mild temps and the 1.5 ones for cooler.

The women’s NRS Hydroskin Farmer Jane is VERY long in the body and legs. I got the XL since I am 5’ 5" and a top heavy size 12. But the body and legs are proportionally long and would probably easily fit somebody several inches taller than me. I just checked the measurements on my Jane and it is 33" in the inseam, 32" from back neck to crotch, and the body unstretched is 36" at the chest, 27" at the waist and 34" at the hips (thank heavens it is stretchy because I am 4" to 8" beyond those dimensions).

I also have the 1.5 cm pants and found that the cut of the men’s fit better than the women’s version. Since you are slender you would likely find the same to be true.

I wear the 1.5 mm zip front jacket over the Farmer Jane and am quite comfortable in chilly water (down to mid 50’s F). Below that I opt for dry wear.

Oh, with your location, to get some better local info (shops that carry stuff and the like), you may want to check out http://www.westcoastpaddler.com/community/. They are a PNW community, with focus around Victoria and Vancouver. Not as active as this site, though.

In my travels folks around Vancouver mostly use dry suits, but I’ve used a wet suit and works just fine. You might look for a surf shop (yes people do surf on Vancouver island.) I would look at O’Neil, Excel and Rip Curl brands. Cost would be ~200 -400 US$. The Front Zip suits are the way to go if you can find the right size. Back zips are a bit more clumsy to deal with. I believe women’s suits are in dress sizes often like a size 8, Oneil makes suits in Tall and Xtra tall, you might need to order from them directly, as these sizes sell out early in the model year. Ask locally what folks wear in the winter I would assume at least a 4/3 and more likely a 5 mm suit. Get one with stretchy arms. Skip the farmer john suits, they let water flush through and are cold, some people link them with semi dry tops, I did this for whitewater or paddling in cold climates for several years, but just go with wetsuits now.

I’ve got an Excel 3/4 mm full surfing style wetsuit (long sleeves and legs with back zip and knee pads) that I got used on Ebay for under $40. While I like it for whitewater canoeing and SCUBA, not so much for kayaking because the zipper digs into my back under the kayak backband and it’s harder to vent with that back zip.

I found the Excel was much more true to women’s standard sizing than other brands of wetsuits I had tried, many of which (O’Neil, Camaro, Roxy) seem to run extremely small. I’m a size 12 and had ordered that size women’s O’Neil which I could absolutely not get into. I offered it to my size 8 friend and it fit her perfectly. Looking at the sizing charts my measurements would have put me into their size 16. Makes me wonder if they use British sizing rather than US (I am a 16 in the UK). They (O’Neil) do make talls but only up to their size 10 (which is actually US 6 with body measurements of 34" - 26" - 36") and that is for 5’ 10" height.

Wetsuit Warehouse is one place that could probably help you get the best fit if you want to go the full neoprene route…

Surf wetsuit sizes do run small in almost all brands. The suits are marketed to young, very fit, active people with 3% body fat. I wear a large shirt top and buy XL wetsuits.

I, too, found that wetsuit sizes run small, even factoring in the need for a very snug fit. With Roxy, O’Neill, Camaro, and RipCurl, I go up one size. With one Camaro suit, I even had to go up two sizes.

I like the longleg Farmer Jane from O’Neill and pair it with a neoprene longsleeve shirt for cool but not cold water. In my experience, a 4/3 full suit is good for shoulder seasons but not warm enough for repeated immersion during a PNW winter. I would use a 5mm suit for that, OR a drysuit with appropriate wicking underlayers.

My drysuit is a Kokatat GMER with a lowered men’s pee zip. Get a FUD to use with the pee zip. The Ktat drysuits are baggy and sized well, in my experience. In your case, you might need to order longer custom legs (very small extra charge).

Oh…don’t forget about hand and foot wear!

I use a combination wetsuit/semi drysuit during the cold months and it has been a fantastic set up for me over the years. I highly recommend.
I use a soft material, low profile, high mobility race-specific wetsuit underneath a semi-dry suit.
If a little water gets in, the wetsuit provides a bit of added protection and it also makes layering and getting ready to paddle much easier.
I think in the long run it costs far less than buying a bunch of layers for underneath the drysuit. You also kind of get a two-for-one; when the cold season is over, you can just start using the wetsuit.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you might be able to find semi drysuit on clearance for pretty cheap. I got mine for a little over $200.
One caveat: I generally paddle surfskis and racing kayaks. I don’t ever find myself completely upside down in the water. Water would not rush in through the neck of a semi–but if you intend to do a lot of rolling, you might need that neck gasket to be latex.

I long scoffed at the high end $500 wetsuits, but scored a great deal ($150 for a like new suit off Craigslist) on a Oneill Psycho Freak 3/2 in last year’s technobutter2 neoprene. I have to say, compared to the older, mid-end Oneill 4/3 I had, the Technobutter2 neoprene is almost water tight. It was so warm the first swim I took in it, I hardly noticed I was wet. Now they have TB3 neo which is probably a little better too. Im in SoCal so have warmer water than vancouver. You’d probably want a 4/3 in a high end suit or thicker in a low end suit.

Just saying, whatever suit you get I highly recommend higher end neoprene from any major brand, and Craigslist hunting for a good deal. The high end neo is much better, warmer, and strechy than low end stuff and neo of years past.