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Cold Water Clothing Choices

Gear Buzz (what to wear)
Reivers Dustin

May 5 #26674

Back in the day, we only had spandex and polypro. It was uphill both ways through six foot breaking waves. oops, mixing up my b.s. stories here.

Some rules of thumb: If it is windy, it is cold. If it is cloudy, it tells you nothing about the temperature. Legs don't overheat. If you can go hard, you can make almost anything work. However, I have been truly shut down due to being cold. Any windbreak material is usually too hot. Hands are first to go cold and they are precious. If you get cold, look for an exit because your recovery options are closing off. If you are too hot, you blew the race so ease up (no willpower or tough guy stuff will matter).

for legs/butt: first and foremost: Faster/Farther Men's Alpha Compression shorts. I used to use the JL Racing unisuit. Before that I used Keith Keillor's of Valhalla kayaks shorts. The idea here is to prevent rotation rash. It can be very hard to heal. Hilde used to call me “scarbutt”. not romantic. These compression shorts are the best thing I've found and good luck to you finding better. They do not have significant heat value. Next: either 0.5mil NRS hydroskin or 1.5 mil hydroskin. I've tried other brands, would love to find something better. Note: do not wear baggy neoprene. the point of neoprene is to have smallest amount of wetness against your skin so that heat energy is retained inside the neoprene. That is also the problem with neoprene: you need very good fit. I'm a cheapskate and hate only getting a couple of seasons out of these pants.

For top half: mysterioso type long sleeved shirt with zipper at the neck. I can regulate temperature a lot by zipping up or unzipping my neck. If it's cold, put another layer of synthetic underneath. If it is really cold, put on the paddle jacket. I usually overheat with the paddle jacket on.

Pogies: I have four different types and use them all. For myself, this is the big chink in my armor. If I dump in cold, there's a limit to how long my hands will work. I need to stick a remount in the first two or three tries and I need to get my hands out of the wind.

For really rough, really cold: full wetsuit, mine is 3mil. Even blowing and snowing this usually works for me. Maybe because this suit fits really well. It's an Excell Infinity zip 3.2 . I paid a huge wad of money for a Promotion 5/4 and can't handle it. Too bulky and hot. I also have a full drysuit. Can't stand it. If it's that bad, stay home and couch surf instead.

OK, your turn. It's fashion statement showdown.

Dennis Mowry
May 5 #26683

One thing that is good to have in you paddle wardrobe is a vest. It keeps the core warmer which also helps the hands from getting cold and adds a layer without restriction. A Farmer John wetsuit can be used as pants & vest and unzips from the from so you can regulate the temp.

Wear loose shorts outside your pants, or inside if they are tight.

Reivers has a pretty cool hat.
A beanie or neoprene beanie are good to have. It can be worn under a baseball or truckers hat and can also can be taken off if to hot.

If it's warm, especially in a race, tear the sleeves off a jersey.


Jason Tedrow

May 7 #26710

I agree that a 3mil farmer john works in many conditions. I vary the base layer with temperature and add a rubberized neoprene top made by Stolquist as a shell in cooler weather.

Editor's note: Farmer johns have been the source of some disagreement in various discussions. My own personal experience in wearing farmer johns over many years on many rivers leads me to this - be very careful in relying on them for immersion protection. They may work quite well in making you comfortable in your boat and allowing some heat regulation while you are not IN the water. But that may lull you into overestimation of their performance during immersion. The farmer johns I have worn over the years always allowed significant water circulation once i was immersed and provided little long term protection for extended immersion in water as cold as we have in Bellingham Bay. You don't agree? Please prove it with carefully safeguarded timed immersions (not just 30 seconds - how does 5 minutes, 10 minutes… feel?) - I would love to be given the specifics of exceptions to my opinion that we can publish here on And we really, really do not want to hear about mishaps that prove my opinion about farmer johns to be correct. If you have a tight enough top you can wear over a farmer john that significantly mitigates water flush thru during immersion and you have tested and proven this - we also want to know about it….D.Hooper reports testing and using a full wetsuit over a farmer john in the winter…

Tyler Irwin

May 7 #26711

My base necessity is a pair of 7mm booties. If my feet are warm, I can handle the cold better. I'll wear these puppies from November until mid-May.

Calm weather: 2mm neoprene pants, tech shirt + light neoprene jacket and I'll usually throw on a wind breaker to break the wind.

Windy cold weather: 2mm short sleeve full wetsuit w/ windbreaker. I've huli'd in the bay in the dead of winter in this wetsuit and I stay toasty warm.

Warm weather: no shirt, no shoes, no problems

cold_water_clothing_5_2020.txt · Last modified: 2020/09/18 15:45 by preavley