Wetsuit, Polartec, Drytop...Order?

I wear a 3mm Farmer John (Kokatat), with a long sleeve Polartec (Power Stretch) and a Stohlquist drytop when paddling in winter.

I wear the Polartec OVER the Farmer John.

This made my friend think I was an idiot, as he swore that the Polartec should always be UNDER the wetsuit, against my skin. (which I agree would feel pretty good…those things are SOFT!! :slight_smile:

It’s probably just a matter of personal preference, but does anyone have any reasons that one should be worn under/over the other ?

At least I keep the drytop for last, on the outside!!

Ideally you should have something under the John so if you ever wet exit and the top starts to flood, the undergarmet helps seal water (or slow it down) from entering the under arms and the chest cavity. You may want other things outside the John to help insulate you from the cold wind. Depends on the conditions and your comfort level.

If you ever have to wet exit, the top will eventually flood so you will get protection from cold shock but you will have to get out of the water fast.

I wrote and article on this exact thing if you want to read it here:


Good article…
and I thank you for taking the time to write it…

I have taken a few intentional swims, and haven’t had any leakage from under the skirt. (Mountain Surf all Neo)

Also, you referred to leakage down your neck, filling the drytop. Does your neck gasket leak? That would be a problem.

I am not experiencing any leakage, and feel comfortabley warm with the fleece, farmer john and drytop. I am hesitant to add another layer, for fear of overheating, and freedom of movement.

Your points about the hood were excellent however.

I am just curious regarding where other paddlers wear their fleeces… over or under the Farmer Johns…

BTW- My avg air temps are in the 50’s and water temps about the same…


– Last Updated: Dec-29-06 5:28 PM EST –

I know it's common for people to wear thin polypro/capiline/rashguard under their farmer john (I've done it), but I know from experience that placing any non-waterproof garment between me and the suit to slow water entry into a ill fitting suit does not work. If the suit fits right, little or no water should enter; adding any cloth layer between your skin and the suit helps wick moisture in. Wearing a warming layer over your wetsuit as insulation for your drytop is perfectly valid. Remember however, that if your drytop is unable to prevent cold water from contacting your neck and armpits, you will be subjected to potentially dangerous heat loss.

I think the farmer john and wetsuits in general get such a bad rap is because most people never get one that fits right. It's highly unlikely that $45 WalM*rt special is going to fit correctly. Think about how many threads asking how to stop water from entering a wetsuit we've seen grace P-Net over the years. Heck, I posted one of them!

One of the first pieces of gear I purchased was a closeout NRS "Titanium" 3mm F.J. Even though it was annoyingly tight and stiff, it flushed water like mad. After much research, I came to the realization that no off the rack suit would fit my lanky frame and paddlesport wetsuits were generally technologically inferior to their Scuba/Surf brethren. I settled on a custom suit maker and had a 3mm FJ and matching jacket made for about half what the cheapest drysuit cost (yes, a drysuit is the ultimate solution).

My current F.J. is made of a much more supple neoprene than my old NRS, is antibacterial and seals to my body so well barely a trickle of water gets in anywhere. While wearing the full step-in jacket with it (for a total of 6mm protecting my core) even less water enters and the suit is still a quantum leap above my old NRS suit + Body Glove 1mm neo shirt in warmth, comfort and dexterity. I know some people hate wearing wetsuits, but I've spent 10 hours in mine with no discomfort.

Sometime in the next few weeks I plan on pairing my F.J.+ Jacket up with my drytop + fleece + hood and taking a dunk in the local lake which currently sits around 45F. Would a drysuit be better? Sure, but I don't own one. Will it keep me warm in sub-50F water for a reasonable length of time? We'll see. Sound cumbersome? Perhaps, but all that gear is pretty versatile and if pairing it all up gets me on the water a few more times a year, mission accomplished.

I think for many paddlers, a wetsuit coupled with layering gear and good judgment can be an excellent value.


Finally, an “off the shelf” that fits!!!
My Kokatat LARGE wetsuit fits PERFECT!!!

It was as if I had it tailor made… I got lucky with that…

Do drytops leak at the tunnel?
If you have a drytop with a tunnel and a neoprene skirt, will it leak when immersed?

No leakage,
with a (tall) neo tunnel (Mountain Surf), and the Stohlquist drytop, there is no leakage at the waist…

Over, not under, for me.

– Last Updated: Dec-31-06 4:49 PM EST –

I used to wear a poly top under the FJ. Now I wear the poly top over the FJ. I feel like I get less water flow up through the wet suit when swimming with the poly top over the suit. The wet suit if it fits well should seal best against skin, I would think.

Poly may be the worst case as the weave is fairly loose and it's very good wicking. Once the water get's to the waist under the FJ it would have very little resistance up the torso and into the DT. So if you lower the resistance in part of the path you should get more flow, which isn't desirable.

Edit: I would think something like a 1mm neo mystery top from NRS worn over the FJ would give you the best measure of protection once water fills the DT up through the inner tunnel. I have one but can't vouch for it as even the XXL doesn't fit me yet. Crazy tight through the shoulders and chest. Those things run small!

Paul S.

No, not when the skirt is attached

– Last Updated: Dec-31-06 4:42 PM EST –

to the coaming, and you're upside down in the water, it doesn't leak. My Kokatat Wave double tunnel and neo spray skirt seal well.

If you come out of the boat, water will go up under the inner tunnel of the dry top of course.

edit: I just read Jay's article. He's writing about this second leak path, when you're out of the boat. Water definitely leaks in between the FJ and the inner tunnel of the dry top. The FJ would need to be designed with an upside down overskirt that goes over the inner tunnel of the DT for that not to happen. I better hurry with the patent!

Paul S.

I knew what he meant… :wink:
If I snug the drtytop nice and tight over the skirt tunnel, I haven’t had any leakage in my short times in the water (out of the boat).

I know.
It was me who didn’t know necessarily which path was being asked about, until I read the article.

Paul S>