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Old 03-23-2016   #1
GWS, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 486
Best (and cheapest) Options for Kid's Warmth

I am debating the best and most affordable option for how to outfit my son for warmth.

In past years we have waited until later in the summer (after peak) to paddle and therefor have been able to go with 1mm bottoms and a splash top. This year he is ready to start kayaking now (or last week). I am trying to determine the best and most affordable route to go with warmth. This is for a growing kids so likely the gear will only fit one year.

Here are my thoughts, please add any additional ones.

Cheapest is a full 3/2 wetsuit with a splash top to keep the wind off. The downside is that a full wetsuit is restrictive.

Next would be a famer john with a fleece top and a drytop over. This gets more expensive as the drytop costs $$.

The best (and most expensive) is a full drysuit. If he was done growing I would drop the cash but it is hard to buy a drysuit for one year only...

I would be adding booties, gloves/pogies and a cap to any of these options.

Are there any options I am missing? What has been your experience with cheap and warm?

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Old 03-23-2016   #2
DanOrion's Avatar
Indian Hills, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,448
Warmth = happiness on the river. On the cheap, find a used women's dry-top and replace the gaskets yourself if needed ($100). Under the fleece, wear cheap long underwear and a fleece sweatshirt. Wear heavy-weight long underwear bottoms with cheap splash pants. That combo will probably run $200 total, but will be a good investment in smiles on the river.

Here's a dry-top on the swap that would work nicely:
Immersion Research Dry Top - Large - Mountain Buzz Gear Swap

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Old 03-23-2016   #3
Grand Junction, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 339
lol cheap I wish Ive tried most options if you're really wanting to be warm you know what you need (drysuit) if you want a slightly less expensive option drytop/drypant combo the any other option will be ether uncomfortable/restrictive
buying used will also be a great idea my 2cents
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Old 03-23-2016   #4
FatmanZ's Avatar
NOCO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 582
My experience

Warning: Long and detailed response

I have four kids ages 8-16 and they all started rafting and kayaking very young and over the years I've experimented with different ways to keep the warm on a budget, and it's definitely possible. Here are some ideas:

Buy used and resell when your kids outgrows the gear. Keep your open on ebay, Mountainbuzz, Boatertalk, Craigslist, year end close-outs on rental gear (shops, outfitters) and more for used gear for youth and small adults - farmer johns, neoprene (hydroskin) tops / bottoms, splash tops, drytops, booties, gloves, etc. I have bought 90% of the gear my kid's gear used, or on closeout for big discounts.

With all three options below, make sure to add neoprene head gaskets (or swim cap at minimum), neoprene booties and/or socks, and even gloves.

Good Option for Warmth:
Paddle Jacket / Neoprene Top / Farmer John wetsuit combo:
My kids spent many years in this combo. They hated drytops when they were younger, the tight latex neck can be very uncomfortable. My 11 year old still hates latex neck gaskets. This setup will keep your kid reasonably warm for several hours or longer, especially if they are actively moving (vs. sitting in a raft). My kids spent a lot of time swimming and cliff jumping in this setup both early and late season when the water and airtemps were cold. I always liked the padded knees of the wetsuits as the local river is shallow/rocky.

Better Option for Warmth:
Drytop / Neoprene or Fleece Top / Farmer John wetsuit combo:
This was the next step up for my kids, once they really started kayaking they learned to like the full drytop as it kept them dry when rolling. When my older two were comfortable rolling they'd usually opt for 1mm neoprene pants instead of the Farmer John wetsuit as the pants were easier on/off and more comfy. I would skip paddle pants unless they're sitting on a raft all day.

Best Option for Warmth:
Drysuit: difficult but not impossible on a budget.
You can usually get most of your money back on kids gear as long as you don't overpay to begin with, though it takes longer to sell than adult gear. There are some deals to be found if you're patient and have time. I have collected three for my kids. Two used ones I paid under $175 for each, including replacing several gaskets myself on each. I bought one new, a Kokatat Meridian (new old stock - T3 material) on closeout for $300 (less than 1/2 price) in adult size Small. Fits my 13 year old just right. Even on the cheap it was hard to justify buying the drysuits based on the dozen or so times they're used a year. But nice to have when needed.

Note: As I have upgrade my kids gear over the years I've held onto their paddle tops and dry tops. They gravitate towards those when the weather/water is warmer and/or depending on whether they are rafting or kayaking, etc.

Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions.

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