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Author Topic: Wet suit vs. dry suit  (Read 14343 times)

FredF

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Wet suit vs. dry suit
« on: September 01, 2011, 09:17:15 AM »

I'd like to paddle a little later into the fall and begin a little earlier in the spring, which means that my farmer john wetsuit is not quite sufficient when the water temps drop into the 40s. The question is do I really need a dry suit? If you have seen photos of paddlers in northern Europe and Scandinavia, you'll see most of them wearing what appear to be thick wet suits and tuilik variations. You also see surfers wearing 5/3 or 4/3 full-body wets surfing in the winter. I can't find the link, but several paddlers claim that they find thicker, full-body wet suits fine for cold water paddling, combined of course with proper footwear, gloves, neoprene hood, and perhaps a paddle jacket or dry top.

The disadvantages of dry suits that these paddlers noted are cost, maintenance, and comfort.

Any thoughts about this?  :-\
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Tony M.

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2011, 06:12:34 PM »

Hi Fred!
     I use both a drysuit and a few wetsuits, depending on the time of year and type of paddling. To me, a thin wetsuit is more comfortable than a drysuit, so I get by with that until the water gets too cold to risk it. Once the water is cold, I will use a drysuit for touring (it is more comfortable than a heavy wetsuit), and a heavier wetsuit for surfing / rock gardening. I just feel a lot safer in a wetsuit while surfing or around rocks...a wetsuit breach is a minor affair, but a drysuit tear can be life-threatening.  There are several options for a heavier wetsuit. You can go the surfer-route, with thinner material for the arms (for paddling ease) and heavier material for the torso / abdomen. Another consideration is to maybe get a hyper-stretch neophrene, now offered by several manufacturers...but they are more expensive. My heaviest wetsuit combination is a 7mm farmer john with a 3mm jacket (both hyperflex), 5mm diver's-style hood-with-bib, 7mm diver's boots, and gloves (I have many thicknesses of gloves, up to 7mm mitts...I find that the air temperature is a big factor as to which gloves I chose). In this get-up, I have at least 7mm of protection, with 10mm over the torso and abdomen, but only 3mm for the arms, which stay warm while surfing or rock gardening anyway, since you are pumping. As mentioned before, if touring in the colder part of the year, I go with the drysuit, because it is more comfortable than the heavy wetsuit (but less comfortable than a light wetsuit).
                                              Tony
« Last Edit: September 01, 2011, 06:16:05 PM by Tony M. »
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Paul B

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2011, 06:45:22 PM »

Fred,

Many people wear wetsuits for cold water paddling.  I personally think a drysuit is much more comfortable than an appropriate thickness wetsuit but not everyone agrees.  (I'm sure Tony will weigh in on this.) Maintenance is about the same (You need to wash both types).  Drysuit cost is more and seals do occasionally need replacement. 

Whatever you wear in the winter you need to be willing to get in the water at any point of the paddle.  If you are only comfortable getting in at the end you are probably only marginally prepared. 

I don't do it every time but I do jump in before the paddle with at least some frequency.  I often go in after the paddle without gloves (and hood) just to remind myself how cold the water is so I won't become lax about preparing for immersion.  When the water is low 40's or less my fingers start to loose effectiveness in less than 60 seconds if I keep my hands in the water.

I own both.  Many years I don't use the wetsuit at all.  I go from drysuit with heavy fleese to drysuit with thin poly-pro to bathing suit.  The only time I grab the wetsuit is when I expect to spend time in the water while the water is in the 55-65 degree range. 

I'd recommend a breathable drysuit with sewn in dry socks.  If you decide to go wetsuit make sure it is very flexible in the upper body.

Although the vast majority of us use dry suits, if you are properly dressed in an appropriate wetsuit you'll be welcomed and percieved as safe. 

Paul   
 
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FredF

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2011, 08:00:59 PM »

Paul & Tony,

Thanks for the feedback. To clarify, I don't intend to paddle in the winter (at least not yet), but would like to paddle into mid- or late November and then begin again in April. I already have a 3mm farmer john, so what I'm looking for is for what type of wet suit might best fit late fall and early spring time frame.

Tony, as a sailor, I'm not fond of rocks, but am slowly willing to learn to play among them in a kayak. I also would like to play more in the surf, so I'm leaning toward a wet suit for those reasons.

The other alternative I'm considering is a breathable semi-dry suit for all-around touring, but for the reason Tony gave about a tear, I'm still leaning more toward a heavier duty wet suit.

Again many thanks to both of you,
Fred
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Tim

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2011, 11:01:34 AM »

Don't bother with neoprene.  It is not comfortable and really restricts your mobility in a sea kayak.  Neoprene will completely limit your paddling progression.  A semi-dry suit, such as a Kokatat Super Nova Suit with relief zipper and boots, would be perfect for you.  Check out the Kayak Academy dry suit store on-line for good deals on new suits.  Consider two piece (top and bottom), mid-weight smart wool with an expedition weight fleece top for your under layers with a good pair of mid-weight smart wool socks. 
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FredF

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2011, 06:12:12 PM »

Thanks for your input, Tim. REI has a sale on various items and the Kokatat Super Nova suit is the best price I've seen so far. I'll rethink....
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Peter

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2011, 05:17:23 PM »

I started out with a neoprene farmer John and a semi-dry top.
I prefer a wet suit over a dry suit at certain times but I wear a  poly-pro Farmer John - unfortunately Mountain surf went out of business - I even wear it under a dry suit from time to time.
In Maine earlier this year I used a dry suit for one day and switched it up for the next two days. My neck was chaffed from the first day. It looks like the neck gasket needs replacing.
The neck gasket can be uncomfortable - the latex ones anyway. I have heard folks rave or rank about various different gaskets. The neck gasket on my dry top is neoprene and reasonably comfortable.

You can get used dry-suits. I have one I "grew" out of. I am not sure of the state of the gaskets but you could try it sometime - kokatok Large.

If you buy a wetsuit I suspect you will end up moving up to a dry-suit anyway. Just my guess.
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FredF

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2011, 06:38:21 PM »

Peter, I suspect that your large will fit me fine...and I'd be happy to try it out before the snow flies!  8)
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Cat

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2011, 09:22:08 AM »

If you get a drysuit, be sure & get one with attached booties.  For feet, there is a huge difference between wet & dry. 

Also, the 2-piece getups are *just.awful.*  I used a bib & drytop for 9 years, finally got a full drysuit last fall, and the difference in comfort & dryness is like night & day. 
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FredF

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2011, 06:06:03 PM »

Thanks for the advice, Cat. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for Peter H. to make me an offer on a drysuit that he's "outgrown," which I can't refuse!  8)
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bob hogan

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2011, 10:34:20 AM »

Anyone looking for a used drysuit, men's L, should check out the Palm Aleutian drysuit on the Connyak classifieds.
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FredF

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2011, 06:05:51 PM »

Thanks, Bob, it looks like a good deal for the price, but maybe Peter can make me a better offer?  ::)
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Tim

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2011, 07:59:10 AM »

Fred,

It has probably already gone, but the suit Bob referred you to is only one year old.  If it fits you it is outstanding value at $500.  You absolutely get what you pay for in a dry suit.  Peter's suit is older and most likely due for some work.  I just purchased a new Immersion Research Double D dry suit.  My old Kokatat suit was 13-years old.  It went to the transfer station.  I don't want to be responsible for passing on an older piece of worn out gear to someone.  Especially, a piece of safety gear that is as important as a dry suit.  Please keep this in mind when considering dry suits.

Tim 
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FredF

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2011, 08:55:07 AM »

Thanks, Tim, I'm trying to get in touch with Scott L. about the dry suit.
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FredF

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Re: Wet suit vs. dry suit
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2011, 02:05:48 PM »

Thanks to all who've offered advice and recommendations. I picked up my drysuit today at Osprey and am looking forward to trying it out soon.  :)
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