Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Should I Wear A Drysuit?

So I have been focusing some of the past few post on safety issues and equipment. There always is some interest in should I wear a drysuit, westsuit or dry top and dry pants. I am going to give my opinion on the topic and you can take from it what you wish. But please be clear that the information here represents my opinion only.

As always, it really depends on the region you are paddling. I paddle the Pacific Northwest most of the time, so my experience padding cold water is a reflection of my what I say here.

To be upfront, I paddle a Kokatat Gore-tex drysuit. I wanted to get that out in the open first. Before I started paddling in a drysuit I either wore a wetsuit or just clothes I did not mind getting wet.

When I got into sea kayaking and wanted to learn skills that require capsizing and being out of my kayak, I wore a wetsuit. For my daily pursuits I generally work some quick dry pants and polypro. Working rescue skills in the cold water was doable, but not much fun when in my wetsuit. Being wet and cold really start to set in after a good amount of practice.

Wearing no immersion garments in my daily pursuits now seems a bit careless after my years on the water. I would not recommend heading out on the water, in regions where cold water is an issue, without some sort of immersion protection.

Eventually a reached a point where I decided to try out a drysuit. Man did things start to change. When I wanted to go out and practice rescues there was far less hesitation is getting on the water. My drysuit seemed to afford me more time and comfort in the cold water. This enabled me to hone my skill more. I also could push the limit more in my practice as the psychological barrier of the cold water seemed to fade. My skills started to increase at a more rapid rate. I attribute this partly to the addition of the drysuit to my kayaking closet.

So what do I do now on a daily basis? Most of the time you will find me in my drysuit. When I am leading trips I almost always wear my drysuit. Even if the weather is warm. It is easy to cool off with a simple roll. But if I am out leading a day trip and its a scorcher out, which is may be 85F here, I will wear a shorty dry top by NRS and dry pants. My wetsuit days are in the past.

When I am asked should I buy a drysuit, here is what I say. First I ask what is your budget. If it is unlimited or your not concerned with price then I say get a drysuit. If you are a bit on the budget shopping side, I say get a good farmer john wetsuit and a nice drytop.

The wetsuit, dry top combo works well. The dry top will keep you dry while bracing and rolling and if you come out of you kayak, the neoprene wetsuit will aid in keeping you warm.

So you might want to know why I did not mention the dry top, dry pant combo. I usually do not mention the combo because I feel if you are going to spend that much money, you should just get a drysuit.

If you have a big budget and want the flexibility. Then get a drysuit and buy the dry pant, dry top combo as well.

My end advice is: If you are going to paddle cold waters and want to be safe. Then paddle in a drysuit. If a drysuit is out of your budget, get the wetsuit, dry top combo. Just as on land heading out for a hike you always hear, Cotton Kills. Well take some good advice. Not wearing the proper clothing in cold water paddling regions can kill as well.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

paddlingOTAKU said...

Our systems are pretty similar. I live in US southeast, but paddle all year - straight through the winter - and In the summer I paddle Alaska. I have been to BC, but haven't made it to the San Juans.... Someday.

For years I scoffed a the drysuit - too much money. a dry pant and jacket work just as well, they're overkill!

Then I got tired of a wet butt and wet feet. It was the single most expensive piece of clothing I have ever, and will ever buy! AND WORTH EVERY PENNY!

It makes everything easier, as you said. If I want to roll, I roll with no thought to 'i'll be wet' Practicing - or executing - rescues is a dream.

I can stand in the water to teach people to roll!. I love my drysuit.

I still carry a dry top and pants for really warm days in cold water, as you said but they dont get a lot of use.