Wetsuit info needed

I am wanting to do longer kayak trips over more open water and thinking of wearing a wetsuit for that and training purposes also—rolls and reentry training…How do i balance overheating (pour water on me?)LOL vs saving my life in an extended swim in 56 degree water? What is flatlock wetsuit and 4/3 sealed? I understand the mm thing – 4 mm on torso but what is the ‘sealed’ label mean? My scuba diving wife says to get 5mm minimum while some sites say 3/2 for kayaking is fine?

I have never dumped my kayak by accident yet have only been in 4’ waves & confused waters. If you want you can answer at freeski6@msn.com thanks from snowy montana

3mm Farmer John
3mm is typical for kayaking.

5mm you’ll probably find too hot and bulky.

Get a farmer John style ie. no arms but full legs

This one is the best suit for the $, imo. But there’s lots of options:


Getting a wetsuit is a very good idea.

scuba and kayak have different needs
SCUBA and kayakers have different needs.

First, exposure to water draws heat away from a person some 25 times as fast as air does. SCUBA folks are immersed in water full time, so require heavier wet suits and fuller coverage. Full wet suit of 5 mm plus would be common for water in the 50s.

Paddlers are generally wearing a wet suit in case they go in. We also use our arms and shoulders more. So we generally get a lighter wet suit that doesn’t cover our shoulders (like a 3 mm farmer john wet suit).

Flatlock is a type of seam sewing. It produces a (mostly) flat seam, as opposed to a typical clothing seam where there is a ridge of fabric on the inside. It is less likely to chafe.

Sealed means that the seam are sealed, so they don’t leak (too much, at least when the suit is new).

If you’re hot, dumping water on yourself is a perfectly acceptable way to cool off. Once you get that roll down, roll.

This has been discussed before …
… in the great debate about wet suit vs. dry suit. Do a search if you want to know all the gory details. But if you decide to get a wet suit a good choice is one made for surfing. They give you full coverage but are still flexible enough for kayaking. I have one I bought from: http://www.oregonsurfshop.com/. If you decide on a farmer john, which I also have, it is really better to have a jacket. You can either get a neoprene jacket made to go with a farmer john or get a dry top. I chose the latter and it works well. NRS has both good farmer john wetsuits, jackets, and dry tops.

Ditto Disco

– Last Updated: Apr-22-11 11:31 AM EST –

Your scuba diving wife is correct if you were diving - but you could never paddle comfortably in anything that thick. It's a toss up whether overheating or chafing would get you first, but one would.

The other problem, not mentioned above, is that a traditional wet wetsuit in the air is a fast path to hypothermia. I had early stage hypothermia to prove it, on a late summer afternoon with air temp at 67 degrees C. Some of the surfing suits have a wind blocking layer built in, but a jacket is an easy piece of certainty about that.

So for paddling you need a wind blocking layer, and if you are going to be in slop like you describe I would suggest a jacket that has latex gaskets for neck and wrists. That'll help keep water from getting to your core easily, until you swim. Everything gets wet then and you need to be covered against wind. I'd suggest you spend the bucks to get a jacket that is decent wicking material, especially if you are wearing a wetsuit under it. It's pricey but you'll get a lot more wear out of it than something that doesn't breathe.

Disco is also right about the wetsuits. The most comfortable will either be the good surfing suits like he mentions, or a Farmer John type thing (NRS's paddling suit) that leaves the shoulders and arms free.

Paddling suits have a backing between you and the zipper. But you probably want to pick up some thin layer to protect against rash. This is more of an issue for paddling with wetsuits than you'll find in diving. Most manufacturers of paddling clothes call this stuff - once in a while it is easy - rash guard.

As to cooling - if you can't roll yet just dump water on yourself. If you paddle with a companion, take a dunk off their bow.

I started paddling with a surf wetsuit and ended up with a rash in my armpits from chaffing.

I burn easily, so I like to wear a long-sleeve sun-blocking rash guard, even on the hottest days.

There’s lots of options for paddling jackets. A dry top generally has latex wrists and neck to seal out water even if you go for a swim. A semi-dry top usually has a neoprene neck seal, which is more comfortable and durable, but less waterproof. A splash jacket is cheaper and will keep out wind and water while you’re paddling, but not if you go for a swim.

A rashguard, farmer john wetsuit, and paddling jacket (and a fleece insulating layer when cold) is a typical paddling combo.

There’s no question a drysuit is better if you have big $$$ to spend.

wet suit info redux
Thanks; all great advice; the issue is not dry suit vs. wet–I can’t afford full dry suit; I was looking for advice on wet suit types and you’ve all been really helpful; now just wondering if their are specific water skiing wetsuits or are they using surfing wetsuits? I could be in 56 degree water for an hour; so I guess the min is 3mm? and I do have semi- dry top --a very good semi-dry jacket…

??Why in the water for an hour?
That’s a very bad idea. You should make sure you have at least a couple of self-rescue options that will work before you end up in that very bad spot. Re-enter and roll using the paddle float if you don’t have a roll yet, cowboy etc.

Frankly, if you really think you’ll be in the water for an hour you shouldn’t be trying this without a dry suit. Thta’s pretty much the water temp in Maine where we go in the summer, and one hour is ten minutes too long.

NRS Farmer John with rashguard is the
way I go but also add a 2mm neo jacket. Call NRS on the phone and talk to them about sizing. Great folks with real world experience who have lots of time to talk to you.

56 degree water
IF you have a semi dry top and a 3/2 suit, you will probably be fine in water at 55 degrees, I surf for hours in 55 degree water in a 4/3 suit air temp in the 40s, no semi-dry top. Everyone is different, I have a fair layer of fat, you might not.

If you buy a surfing suit with stretchy arms, a full suit will keep you much warmer than a farmer john.

Look at brands like Excel, ONeil, Rip curl.