wetsuit vs jacket and pants

-- Last Updated: Feb-14-15 3:03 PM EST --

I'm currently paddling with a waterproof jacket + pants, with some basic ~2mm synthetic insulation layer.

Since I'm often paddling alone in Mediterranean (which is currently 17°C) I was wondering if it gives me enough protection in case I go for an unplanned swim?

The charts state 2-3 hours survival time at this temperature. But how much my clothing adds to it?
And would wearing a wetsuit change these times dramatically? (I really don't like wetsuits by the way)

Drysuit plus plenty of insulation inside

For your conditions, less insulation,
but a drysuit beats a wetsuit for prolonged immersion.

17 C water and wetsuit
A 3/2 surfing wetsuit will keep you warm for hours swimming in water of that temperature. Water is colder than that here now and I use a 3/2 suit. I’m in the water a lot surfing. IF just paddling you may need to roll or cool off by splashing a lot of water on the suit. In high winds and cooler air temps you can wear your paddling jacket over the wet suit. A decent 3/2 suit costs about $120 US. If your water gets colder you might want to look at a 4/3 suit.

Farmer john type suits . No arms just suspenders are not as effective in keeping you warm if you have to swim.

17C air temp or water temp?
Is that 17C water temp or air temp or both? that would factor in quite a bit.

I personally hate full wet suits I can only stand farmer john types but can ad a thin short sleeve top like a NRS hydroskin on top which is only 1/2mm thick. If that doesn’t do it for me the dry-suit gets put on. I have seen some breathable dry-suits on sale as low as $450 range in the USA.

on a cloudy 70 degree day with a breeze gets cold fast in 17 water.

spray silicone on your body. You’ll forget the wetsuit is there.

I’m on the west coast of Florida. Every winter we read of fisherman disappearing. One winter Pro football players drowned of hypothermia.

Locator beacon ? signal mirror ? day glo banner ?

what type of insulating material?

– Last Updated: Feb-16-15 9:18 PM EST –

You say 2 mm of insulting layers. The only material I normally hear talked about in mm of insulating is neoprene (wetsuits) or comparable materials. Is that what you are using under the waterproof layers?

Even just waterproof layers and wearing a PFD will extend the average survival time. But averages are just that - averages. Keep in mind that you could be at one extreme or the other of the chart, so the time may not match what you would survive.

My rule of thumb (which I follow - others choose differently) is if the water temps are below 60F (15C), I always wear a wet suit or dry suit. If above 70F (21C), I generally won't wear a wet suit or dry suit. At temps between (as you are), I look at other factors to make the decision (air temperature, conditions and how they affect my chances of flipping, whether others are with me who know how to do rescues well, whether I am close enough to swim to shore, etc.). Oh, this is with my skills as a kayaking instructor (so well trained and practiced at solo and group rescues), so you have to take into account your skills and how well you think you could get back in your boat by yourself quickly.

My guess…

– Last Updated: Feb-16-15 11:38 PM EST –

I'm guessing that he means fleece maybe. I've seen it measured in mm before, but more to the point I think he is just saying ~2mm as a rough guide to how much/many insulating layers he is wearing.

I'm a little confused about what is meant by "waterproof" jacket and pants. Does that mean dry top and pants, or rain jacket and pants like those sold by Columbia and the like?

float test
go down to the water and dive in then float for 20 mins. See if you can get back in your boat after that or operate anything with your hands.

Be sure to get your head wet. Cold water in your ears can make you unstable enough it’s hard to stay upright.

Our local group has done this several times on new years day in 40-50F water. Someone new always shows up with a t-shirt on under their drysuit and finds out the hard way how drysuit do and don’t work.

both the water and the air

– Last Updated: Feb-20-15 2:25 AM EST –

Both the water and the air are about 17°C. Though it is unusual for our area - usually the sea temp is higher then 20°, as well as the air. That's why I'm not particularly excited about wetsuit.

Yes I meant a one or two layers of fleece. Also I got neoprene socks and gloves, and some ear plugs.
The outer layer are NRS endurance pants and jacket. They are waterproof, but will probably let water in if immersed.

I am on sit on top by the way, with 2 cell phones in my PDF. The problem is the sail kit I use - can never know when my kayak decides to sail away from me if I fall over :P

17C = 62F, downright balmy!
Looking at 20" of ice at the moment so 62 degrees F sounds downright summer like.

Personal tolerances will dictate but is dry suiting going to be a sauna experience for the OP on a sunny 62 degree day (17C)? If I’m paddling I’d be going the route of paddle jacket plus base layer, maybe 2mm neo for rolling. Continuous splash SOT sailing sitting stationary, perhaps the drysuit (or Kokatat GTX Lt. Wt. Paddling suit) would be an option.

Hell, I admit it, I’m downright envious of the OP’s terrain and quandary. No -20 windchill.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY



At summer
At summer both the water and the air are 30 deg celcius here. Need cooling solutions rather then warming ones.