wetsuit or drysuit?

-- Last Updated: Aug-08-09 3:45 PM EST --

hi all, i have a OK prowler 13 SOT i will be using this winter for striper fishing. water temps will be 40 degrees or warmer, air temps 20-40 degrees. i know nothing about cold weather kayak gear, so im really not sure what i need to be warm and safe. i need something what will keep me warm sitting in a yak for several hours at a time, but will allow me to self rescue my self should i flip or fall out. im really not sure if i could use i a wetsuit, or if a drysuit is the only way to go. thanks.

Drysuit w/fleece under will be warmer
A drysuit will keep you warmer and more comfortable–especially since you’ll be sitting “out in the air” on your SOT. Actually, it’s not the drysuit alone that will keep you warm, but the insulating layer(s) you’ll be wearing underneath, while the drysuit keeps everything dry (and works well as a wind breaker).

Wetsuits have their place, but mostly in cases where you expect to be totally wet much of the time, and really, only in “moderately cold” waters for any length of time. 40 degree water is pretty cold, so even a wetsuit wouldn’t keep you very warm for very long. If you do get wet in the wetsuit, then spend the rest of the day on your SOT in your wet wetsuit, you’ll really freeze.

Some might say that a full drysuit is overkill, and perhaps a “semi-drysuit” might be more comfortable (no neck gasket for “semi-dry”, for instance). Or, a wetsuit with a dry/semi-dry top. If you doubt that you’ll be spending much time totally immersed, going “semi-dry” would probably be just fine.


Dry suit
without question. You mightlook at the Kokatat nova series or a Stohlquist “B-pod” They have more comfortable neck gaskets and are a little less pricy.

nova suits
i was actually looking at the super nova semi dry suit, if i did go in the water, i would have my head well above the water with the pfd, so the “semi” part wont be a prob. thanks for the replies.

Dry suit
Not cheap but hands down my choice would be a dry suit.

As a scuba diver I was surprised to find that a wet suit works by letting in water, a thin layer of water that your body heats up. Then the suit helps to insulate you from the cold. Or course Neoprene can be quite hot at times without the water too.

I found a killer deal last year on a Kokatat (never can spell it) Semi drysuit and I simply love it. It is way more comfortable than a wet suit and if I were going to be fishing that is what I would have.

A common wetsuit misconception

– Last Updated: Aug-09-09 9:38 AM EST –

"As a scuba diver I was surprised to find that a wet suit works by letting in water, a thin layer of water that your body heats up. Then the suit helps to insulate you from the cold."

This myth is still being widely spread, so it's not surprising that you heard it, but it's absolutely false. For the most warmth, a wetsuit should let is as little water as possible. If it fits properly, the only water seepage should be a tiny amount at the neck, wrists and ankles. Water conducts heat away from your body 25 times faster than air and water in a wetsuit is no exception. Water is NOT an insulator. A wetsuit will keep you warm IN SPITE of water that gets in, not BECAUSE of it. A suit that lets water in will also let it out, creating a flushing action - however slight - that removes heat from your body. A wetsuit that's dry inside is always warmer than one that's wet inside.

As for the OP's question, a dry suit is the only thing that will keep you warm, comfortable and safe at those air and water temps. Don't even consider a wetsuit.

I’d try a Dry top with neoprene waders
I had the seals of my dry suit fail many years ago. If you have neoprene it may not keep you as warm as a dry suit but it will give you some protection if it leaks.

that initial freeze
should be a clue, you step in the water and get an instant chill as the water seeps in between skin and suit.

more poor phrasing than flat wrong
When most say it ‘lets’ water in they mean the nature of it can’t totally prevent water getting in. But because it’s very little water AND doesn’t easily flush out (replaced regularly by freshly cold water) then the small bit of water at least does have a chance to warm.

When diving I would often get an initial cold shock when I first went in from some water down the neck to my back (was a good proper fit, just impossible to totally prevent water). While it would be just fine in a few minutes I used to help things by first pouring a small amount of very warm water down the suit from my neck. This warm water filled some tiny gaps and no real fresh, cold water came it. Very comfy.

Well, actually…
"For the most warmth, a wetsuit should let is as little water as possible. "

Actually, that’s not exactly true either.

It’s not the AMOUNT of water it let in, it’s how much water EXCHANGE it allows to happen that really matters.

Remember the 3 ways heat exchange happens:

– radiation (insignificant in this case)

– conduction (any layer of clothing, rubber included, would cut it down)

– CONVECTION! The free flowing of water, exchanging warm water with cold one!

Water don’t “conduct” heat that much more than air. But it TRANSFER heat very efficiently by COVECTION: cold water change place with warm ones!

By restricting the flowing of water around the body, any clothing will have some effect. Tight fitting wetsuit will significantly slow the rate of water coming in and leaving the body. So the water next to the skin will indeed be warmed by the body and stay near body temperature.

How much water a wet suit eventually let in is not all that important, as long as it prevents free flowing (cold) water flushing through.

Agree however…
There are some west coast surfers - both board and kayak that use wet-suits. I think it’s the high level of aerobic activity that keeps them warm and perhaps some feel a little more abrasion resistant in wet suits. They wear one piece full suits with arms that gets wet and prevents them from over heating. Some beginner paddlers try a farmer John and thats just a joke for any kind of immersion protection. And a full wetwuit jacket with a farmer john is unbearably hot.

depends where you live
for the OP’s location clearly a dry suit is best. But as for farmer john style being worthless I disagree for many places. In much of California a farmer john style along with a good paddle jacket (not necessarily a dry top) works very well in winter. I often add one or two layers of fleece under the jacket. The jacket doesn’t completely stop water, but slows it and the fleece further slows it. So only being submerged to neck for long periods would be too cold. I like it because it’s easier to add/remove layers as the day progresses. Gloves and hood complete the easy to add/remove layering to hit the perfect coverage for many situations.

go with a drysuit and insulating layers
Anything below about 45 degrees and you would need a wetsuit that is so thick it would prohibit your range of motion – it’d be hard to swim and remount the SOT.

A drysuit is what you really want and you’ll need some warm clothes underneath. Easy to test drysuits in a safe environment – just walk down into the water and see how long you stay warm and dry.