What do you wear under there?

-- Last Updated: Apr-02-06 9:56 PM EST --

OK, I am breakng down and ordering a Gortex Meridian dry suit this week. It will have attached booties and the spray skirt tunnel.
I realize it will not keep me warm, just dry. Do you vary what you wear underneath with water or air tempature? Can you give me some ideas based on tempatures? Thanks.

I have the same questions… I learned a bit from a post/thread that yielded some info on this from last week:


Polypropolene longjohns usually

– Last Updated: Apr-02-06 9:04 PM EST –

If air is going to be colder than 50deg or windy, I will add more layers of polypro underwear or upgrade to expedtion weight fleece. I usually paddle pretty aggressively, so I get pretty warm when paddling and cold when I stop for food. So I sometimes ditch the pfd when paddling, and I pack some thick fleece pants and top to put on (over drysuit) during lunch breaks. I also keep a hooded windbreaker/rain coat accessible to put on when I'm paddling (in case I'm getting cold from wind.)

Conditions can vary so much during the day (wind, sun, rain, energy levels, exertion.) I have found that the best way to handle changing conditions is to have multiple layers of back-up clothing that I can add or subtract (on or off the water--including extra hoods and gloves.)

From the name of the thread
I was sure this was going to be about underwear

What I wear
but everyone is a little different in what works for them - just don’t buy any of your under layers at full price so you can avoid kicking yourself if you get a couple wrong. And make sure they’ll work as pajamas if not under the dry suit. Below are my favorite combinations.

Water and air in the 30’s, up to low 40’s or higher 40’s with a lot of wind or rain:

Base layer is polartec union suit (from MEC) with microfleece, or lighter weight polypro separates with polartec 200 or better.

30’s and windy on the air, add a very breathable third layer up top. Maybe powerstretch if it is grey and windy.

Water and air in the 50’s: same base layers as above, add a lighter weight top like a duofold or polatec 100 up top

Water in the 50’s, air in the 60’s or above: Just the lightweight polypro separates.

Also, on a long enough paddle you’ll sweat thru layers. Bring a change of underlayers to be able to get into something dry at lunch or at a break. Nothing worse than coming home cool and soggy because everything inside is wet.

Icebreaker, Ibex, Smartwool all make various weight undergarmets that can be layered just like fleece. I’m a recent convert; no itch at all, nice silky feel and fit. Now’s a great time to stock up on sale items.


Always polypro
I always wear a wicking base layer, even on warm days. It feels better than the goretex on the skin and keeps skin oils from getting into the drysuit fabric.

After that it is usually a Polarfleece 100 union suit and maybe more fleece if it is really cold water or air. The union suit is a bit of a pain but doesn’t separate at the waist - cold on the kidneys feels really cold. Regular hiking socks.

Similar to hiking, other outdoor activit
Layer up with breathable synthetic or non-itching wool underneath.

Specific clothing will vary according to your cold tolerance and water/air temps. Also according to your likely “scenarios.”

I use a thin wicking long underwear set under my drysuit. I have two slightly different thickness of “thin” (equivalent to Capilene’s thinnest and medium fabrics) to choose from. The only other layer I’ve added underneath was a pair of bike shorts, used only when I paddle the SOT in cold water; it’s not necessary in either of my SINKs.

Many posters here have mentioned added a fleece layer over their base layer. I have not needed to do so, but that’s because there is no really big water here, at least not during winter. It’s extremely unlikely that I would be stranded in the water for more than a few minutes.

I wear Smart Wool
I paddle in 50 degree water and 50 degree air. On top I wear a capilene shirt, and a smarwool mid-weight shirt. If it’s really cold I add another mid-weight smartwool layer. On bottom I wear smartwool pants and 100 weight fleece pants. On my feet I wear Wool socks. goretex booties and Crocks. I’ve never been cold in or out of the water. Rarely have I been too warm.

wear a wicking base layer,
I want to reinforce this…it makes a real difference no matter what the air and water temps.

I cooler conditions it helps keep you warm. In warmer conditions it is a hwll of a lot more comfortable than Gore-Tex against the skin.

Campmor and Sierra almost always have a lot of good wicking stuff cheap.

I am a fan of wearing a union suit under dry suit. It is nice not to have the gap. I particularly like my MEC Polarstretch/Polartec. I also have an NRS union suit, but find the MEC more comfortable and it also has the advantage of being machine washable.

Take what you have go the the water
put it on and swim. Everyone is different. Be sure to wear your pdf as that will provide some warmth also.