wetsuit suggestions anyone?

-- Last Updated: Jan-04-05 10:50 AM EST --

I'm an avid "paddle the local creeks after a hard rain" kind of lady with little experience in cold weather. My adventures are usually short (3-4 miles)and I use my sit-on-top (no skirt) that can take the abuse of uncharted territory. Occasionally we encounter short falls, slightly demanding rapids, and typically a portage or two...so I need more protective clothing. I have a helmet and gloves and usually layer with rain gear over long johns. I would like to purchase a wet suit but have yet to find a comfortable style for the quick adventure at a reasonable price. Also, portaging through briars and typical Ozark terrian can be disasterous for clothing. Any suggestions?

Feathergrove, I get a lot of my
wetsuits off ebay;I go through about 4-5 wetsuits a year in my work so buying expensive suits aren’t an option. On ebay I get suits at about 20% what a new one would cost. Of course I know exactly what brand and size I’m looking for so thats a huge plus. Body Glove has an exellent product , but you might want to look for something more kayak friendly with a fly. NRS carries wetsuits with that accessory. good luck

3mm Farmer John
A 3mm Farmer John type wetsuit is very versitile. It looks like overalls. Easy to get into and out of, and offers protections for ankles and legs in the woods. Not too hot with a light top, more protection with a heavy fleece top like mysterioso, and/or a neoprene vest.

That is what I wear for 50 degree ocean temps here in NORCAL, but inland freshwater can get a lot colder than that…

NRS makes a good one at a reasonable cost.

Ocean surfers (and myself, as a kayak surfer) use multiple thickness wetsuits (ei. the torso may be 5mm, the arms 3mm) which allow for good arm / shoulder mobility while keeping the torso warmer. This may be a good choice for you. Also, have good hand / feet / head protection…I use a diver’s winter hood (especially if capsize is likely, as in surfing), 5mm gloves (7mm mitts if it’s really cold), and 7mm diver’s boots (particularly important to keep the feet warm in an SOT).


Expedition Jane
NRS has this year to year with some minor modifications like inner layers that reflect heat better etc, so prior year models are often on sale for a very healthy discount (www.nrsweb.com). It’s 3 mill with reinforcement added to the front of the leg at thigh and knee. Should help with brambles. Sized and cut to handle wider hips than the guys (I like that), and has extra thigh and knee padding that should help against brambles.

Two zippers in well located places, one for the obvious and another that allows you to unzip the top for cooling once you get to land if if feels too hot.

You definately want to get a thin rash guard top or similar - hydroskin/neoprene layers directly against your skin can make for rashes.


check these out:

(I was just there). If you can fit one they are a great deal.

NRS Farmer John or Jane
are extremely good.

My wife just replaced my two 7 year old NRS Farmer Johns. One was a shorty and the other was full length.

I use these almost every weekend and have found that the NRS qualityis is fantastic.

As somebody else suggested, get a rash guard to wear under it.

Hard to understand
I remember my former self, bursting with enthusiasm, willing to overlook danger, thought skills were the same as safety…

Last week, 33 degree moving water, saw 4 racing canoeists out on our 9 mile lake outlet, ice on sides, blue jeans flannel shirts sneakers. Talked to one person who asked me first if my dry suit was hot, if he felt that his skills prevented him from ever capsizing. He said no, he had gone in recently and almost dies. Got caught under the ice, gasping for air, had to push down on mud to break the ice and get out. Yet still out there with nothing.

The two Jay Babina articles are the most personal and least patronizing references I know to give us a perspective on our personal choices.

The fallacy of the insufficient wet suit set up:


And how to stack the odds for winter paddling in our favor as also the gasp reflex in real life.


different strokes
Yup, I saw a bunch of 'em last year, january and ice on both sides of the river. As I was sweating around a bend in my drytop, came across a group of apparent novices in kayaks. Ski coats, no drysuit or wetsuit, no skirt and some had PFDs strapped to the deck.

Keep in mind though the original post came from the ozarks. A bit warmer down there.

good reminder, different conditions different levels of what we all consider acceptable risk, better insurance policies, etc.

maybe a thin
wetsuit (3mm) with clothing over top to protect from briars? I use clothing over top for warmth in winter paddling, its not too bad to paddle in.

Don’t Agree
I find my 3mm wetsuit and NRS Reactor gloves to be fragil and easily damaged. I’ve often caught them on metal sharps in my Grumman which resulted in holes.

I paddle year round in Northeast PA, so maybe I’m just overly sensitive to tiny holes.


not many
metal sot’s out there. Also thats why I recommended wearing clothes over the wetsuit. I like to protect mine too. But we are climbing over downfalls and brush busting to clear paths sometimes.

thank you thank you
Thank you so much for the suggestions…I’m still debating, but the web sites were a great place to start. I think I’ll just have to “jump and the river will catch me” and I’ll figure it out from there. Can I at least say that “paddling.net” people are the friendliest, most genuine paddlers I’ve ever been able to talk with…thank you again…and paddle on!!!

For cold weather or cold water paddling
I would recommend at least a 5mm wetsuit from NRS or Kokatat. I would also recommend non-cotton thermal base layer protection under it. Neoprene is not a particularly great insulator in cold conditions, and the body core needs extra protection.

If freedom of movement in the arms is what you want, then try wearing layers of Capilene, silk or nylon thermal underwear, a Farmer Jane wetsuit and a Kokatat GoreTex Wave Drytop. That will give you maximum protection along with freedom of movement.

I also wear either 5mm or 7mm NRS gloves and the heavy NRS Workboots with either wool, Capilene or GoreTex socks to protect my hands and feet. Some of those Arkansas streams can be very cold, and added protection is well worth the investment. If you are worried about tearing them in brush, then take along an oversized pair of jeans and denim jacket to wear during portages to protect the Neoprene.

Definitely pay the extra money for the
relief zipper. It’s worth it. Stripping down to pee in cold weather is a drag!