Winter wear suggestions

The wife and I are looking at cold weather wear for kayaking. We don’t do sub-freezing temps, but would like to be prepared for anything above freezing.

We’re thinking about 2-4mm shorty wetsuits, or "farmer John/Janes, as a first layer for cold temps, and they could also be worn alone in warmer temps. Any thoughts?

How Much Cash Ya Got?
The best gear money I ever spent was for a Kokatat Dura dry suit. Pain has provided me with all the motivation I needed to turn loose of the money. Being warm and dry at the end of the paddling day is wonderful.

consider two piece. a seperate wetsuit pant and a seperate or series of tops. Like a 3 mm pant and a sleeveless top. or some hydroskin in tops and bottoms etc…gives you more options than just a farmer john or a shorty…also it’s easier on the woman for bathroom breaks…gota love that getting the top down just to get the bottom down…its also easier to mix an match

just a thought

That was my thought…
But I haven’t been able to find that selection, any brands to suggest? That sounds like a perfect solution.

Too rich for my blood…
I looked at those, but for our paddling, it’s too expensive right now. Looked like they started at around $400 for decent stuph. The wetsuit would let me know that I’m gonna get wet, but possibly stay warm (?)

You Will
receive a lot of responses saying that a dry suit is the best and likely it is.

I did not want to tie up that amount of money and I don’t expect to be paddling in water or air cool enough to require a dry suit. I compromised and got a light gortex top and bottom. I also have layered fleese bottoms and tops when needed. I have sealskin lined gloves and socks. The bulkier divers sonic blue gloves are warmer but bulkier.

This approach keeps me OK between 45 or so and 65. It is rare that the temps get below that around here and when it does I likely wont be out.

Happy Paddling,


I would use a one piece wet suit
until you can afford a dry suit. One piece is warmer than a farmer jon when in the water. They start at just over $100. I used a the wet suit for years but the thing that I like best about the dry suit is when you get out of it are dry and still dressed in warm cloths.

Then stay off the water

– Last Updated: Dec-02-05 10:58 PM EST –

Dry suits are the only viable clothing when temps get below 50 degrees. Neoprene won't cut it. If you can't afford a dry suit, save your money until you can and stay off the water in the interim. There's no point in risking becoming a statistic.

try this

– Last Updated: Dec-02-05 11:51 PM EST –

or this

depends where you are paddling
How deep is the water where you will be paddling? How close to shore will you be? People say you can only paddle in a drysuit below 50 degrees. I’ve got two paddles in this season in below 30 degrees with a farmer john wetsuit and an x-c ski top. Is this dangerous? No. The water at it’s deepest may be 4 feet and that would only be in one small spot. Most of it is 1-3 feet deep. I’ve been in the water in my wetsuit in these temperatures before on purpose. After the initial cold shock it isn’t bad (i’ve been in waist deep for 15-20 minutes). I’m not saying that I want to swim around there for 15 minutes. But I certainly can stand to fall out and get back in. But I’m certainly not going to head out into deep water or fast, crazy rapids. I’m not going to head far from shore. I stay pretty close to the shore - so it would be a quick walk out. I’m not recommending that you head out into the wildnerness. In the winter, I stay more in the town type areas. I could always walk up to someone’s house if I fell in. So basically, if you don’t have a really nice drysuit - 1) stay in shallow water 2) stay real close to shore 3) don’t venture out to the middle of nowhere 4) don’t try to run crazy rapids 5) make sure have a change of clothes 6) avoid fast currents 7) probably some other things to. I never stray to far from my car, so I won’t have a long trip if I do get cold.

big mistakes

– Last Updated: Dec-03-05 12:38 AM EST –

Every year, you have people who go out on a nice day in the early spring into the middle of a pond, capsize and end up dying. If you don't have a good drysuit, like I said in my earlier post, then don't go out in anything other than shallow water (less than 3 feet is a good idea) and stay close to shore. Although honestly all I do is canoe. I don't know how easy it is to get out of your kayaks if you flip and can't roll well. Myself if I sense a flip coming I usually end up standing in the water.

Hey blackswamppaddler
The “they” that told you that a dry suit was only good below 50 degrees hasn’t paddled in a goretex dry suit. I spent 3 weeks in the late spring early summer paddling in Northern Colorado this year where the air temp was 75 to 80 degrees F but the water was snow the day before. The last day there I decided to use Hydro-Skin shorts and “T” (I thought it was warm enough)and was mildly hypothermic by the end of the run. My cold weather cut off temperature is 27 degrees F and thats just because ice starts to build up on the paddle.

Two Pieces

– Last Updated: Dec-03-05 5:38 AM EST –

I have been getting out recently and rolling in a dry jacket with Hydroskin pants. Water and air each at about 50 degrees.

The dry jacket is vastly more comfortable than a Hydroskin top.

I also live in western NC

– Last Updated: Dec-03-05 6:25 AM EST –

and these are what I wear: although I own a two piece dry suit, I very seldom wear it in this neck of the woods, (it is too hot).
I layer the clothes so I can put on and take off depending on the weather.
Thursday we paddled in Lake James and the air temp was in the mid forties with the water temp about 50.
I had a nylon bathing suit with light weight gortex cycling pants over it.
My top was a long sleeve zipper front light weight poly pro shirt with a polar fleece top over that and then a light weight water proof jacket over that.
After the first mile I removed the polar fleece top because I was sweating.

As it gets colder, I'll use light weight "hot chilies", (long johns) instead of the bathing suit, and substitute my waterproof ski jacket for the light weight jacket.

This has worked for me for a long time including four months in Alaska.

If you do rolls (which I have no desire to) than the one piece dry suit is a must.

I also try to keep within a hundred feet of the shore, but that is because I don't wear a PFD, and want to be able to ge into the beach quick if I tip
If I am going to be way out I will wear the PFD and be prepaired for a self rescue.
If you are not a good swimmer or don't have confidence of your ability in a cold water dump, than always wear your PFD.

These are my suggestions and others will differ.


Good Morning, Jack
I’m finishing cup #5 or so. Fixin’ ta get on the bike for a few hours.

I recently bought my first dry jacket and I’m really happy with it so far. It’s mid weight so it’s not too hot. Under layers deal with the temperature and the jacket primarily keeps you dry. I’ve been putting cheap Walmart wind pants over the Hydroskin pants in order to stay dryer also. Getting the neoprene skirt matched up well with the jacket helps a lot also.

(Hope my buddies remember that we’re starting the bike ride at 7:30 instead of 7:00)

lots of good thought here
best to dress for the water temps your may be in. Also consider the longest /worst case for immersion , then dress accordingly. Finally , test out your gear BEFORE ya need it to protect ya.

Another thing to try.
and people will think I am crazy for saying it, but it might be a good idea to immerse yourself in water that you will be paddling in, so you will know what to expect in case of a unexpected misshap.

Keep a bunch of good warm clothes handy and go in the water from the shore with just your bathing suit on. You have to keep going once you take the first step, and then dive in. Make sure it is not over your head.

I have done it a couple of times in water that was in the mid thirties and the temperature about the same.

I swam a few strokes underwater and a few above and then needless to say got the heck out real quick.

I did not incur the gasp reflex that people talk about and realized that I did in fact have time to either do a self rescue or get to shore if I am close enough.

If You are going to be paddling all winter it might be a good idea to try it.

Not recommended for people with heart problems, bur very very invigorating and a good conversation topic.



Dress to swim and test your gear
Just want to add my voice to Northman and JackL.

Everybody responds to cold differently. Consider where and in what conditions you will be paddling in. Small rivers with the shore a few feet away are a lot more forgiving than lakes or even ponds where the shore can easily be further.

Test your gear in the conditions you will be paddling in! Better a cold swim with the warm car right there than realizing you are under dressed and ten miles from shelter or worse.

If you use a wetsuit consider wearing wind or raingear over it when the air is cool.

The closest I ever got to hypothermic was on a fall whitewater trip wearing a full 3mm farmer john and drytop. There was no swimming but the air temp was about 40 and it was breezy, water was about 50, I was damp from splashes and my legs were cold so that by the end of the trip I couldn’t stop shivering. I’ve been in similar situations but added a pair of rain pants and have been much warmer.

Enjoy and be safe,

Tommy (4 season swimmer)

Neoprene and wind chill
Good comment about neoprene being cold when wet and OUT of the water. When neoprene gets damp, evaporative cooling can make you miserable unless you have a windproof layer on the outside.

Wetsuits are for keeping you warm while you’re immersed - not necessarily before (when damp) or after (when soaked, then out of the water)

I understand the problem of finances - when I started, I got a Farmer Jane wetsuit (with crotch zip for relief) and used polypro under layers and a semi-drytop that mated with my sprayskirt. NRS Boundary shoes (knee-high mukluks) keep the feet dry while getting in, and that setup I would have to recommend as the minumum for cold water / cold weather dress.

Here in the PNW the water is ALWAYS cold - and I always dress for the possiblity of immersion - if I get too hot paddling, I borrow a friends bow and do a partial capsize and hipsnap (I can’t roll quite yet) and cool off that way.

Some of our lakes do warm up some in the summer, and then I wear hydroskin long pants and top.


JackL where’s the consistency?
Hey, just takin a fun shot at ya here, and mean no offense. BUT, you rail me for using a down bag, but choose not to wear a PFD, or practice your rolls every time you paddle??? Dude, your dangerous man, not to mention a terrible example. What if you tip and hit your head? :slight_smile: