I would get a dry suit but... - Mountain Buzz

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Old 12-15-2013   #1
Western, Maryland
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 10
I would get a dry suit but...

I can't afford a decent goretex suit at this point. If I'm going to spend that much money, I figure it's better to get the best material money can buy.

So, the cheaper alternative is for me to do the drytop-farmer john combo. How low temperatures can be withstood while swimming (you should be dressed for the swim, or at least I should be!) when wearing a 5mm farmer john (sealed, but not taped) plus a decent NRS drytop?

Alternatively, I could always go the path of getting a high quality surfing wetsuit (the mobility in the shoulders is great actually - I have tried them before); however, these suits are about $400 and only last 2-3 seasons max. Furthermore, a good taped 5/4 wetsuit can only be used up to about 55-60 degrees, and after that point, it will simply become too hot. On the other hand, I already have 3mm farmer johns I can switch to when the water hits the 55+ range if I use the drytop combo.

Any experiences with either setup?

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Old 12-15-2013   #2
Jackson, Wyoming
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 338
When I started, I used a 3mm FJ with an NRS drytop with water temps in the low to mid forties, and swam comfortably. A neoprene cap or hood is pretty important. I wouldn't do that on anything at all remote. Park and play right by the car? Sure. Non-roadside canyon? Don't think I would. Once wet, I dont think the a walk out would be comfortable/safe (depending on air temp and wind I suppose).
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Old 12-15-2013   #3
lmyers's Avatar
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 4,817
You would be better off going with a lower grade drysuit than either of those setups. Sure the Goretex GMER is the bee's knees, but a second hand GMER or a Hydrus or even Tropos suit would be a far superior choice to a farmer john or a wesuit. Kokatat has one of the best warranties in the business and even if you buy a used suit you can send it in to them to be pressure tested, patched and have gaskets replaced for minimal cost.

Here are a couple examples in the $500-600 range:

Kokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian Drysuit

Kokatat Gore Tex Drysuit Men's Large Front Entry with Booties | eBay

Kokatat 3 Layer Hydrus Meridian Drysuit Mango Men's Small 2012 Model New | eBay

Immersion Research Double D srysuit - Mountain Buzz Gear Swap

kokatat gmer limited edition - Mountain Buzz Gear Swap
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Old 12-15-2013   #4
rivervibe's Avatar
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 384
I love my Level 6 Emperor, not Goretex, but breathable in the same way and I think it retails in the 800 range.

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Old 12-15-2013   #5
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,344
Another place to look. Kayak Academy has a few new closeout suits, and some used suits on sale. Worth a look to see if any of the sizes & styles would work for you.
Kokatat Dry Suit Sale | Kayak Academy
"We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love....and then we return home."
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Old 12-15-2013   #6
duct tape's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1974
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 794
While I'm an admitted gear slut now, it really all depends on your desire to be on a river and your comfort level. When I started at Ledyard in 1976, we kayaked the Mascoma, Swift, Pemi, et al in wool sweaters and homemade paddling jackets. And made yearly spring break trips to North Carolina. It never occurred to us that there could be something better. Neoprene at that time was too expensive and pretty thick and uncomfortable. Stood around a lot of campfires warming up.

I guess I've really dated myself now as a cranky, reactionary dinosaur from somewhere just short of the Jurassic period. For full disclosure I now own a very well used Bomber Gear dry top and a new Kokatat GMER suit!

- Jon
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Old 12-15-2013   #7
duct tape's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1974
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 794
PS. You're much better of with a farmer John, a paddling jacket and some other insulating layer if necessary. Don't go the surfing wetsuit route. I'm assuming these are long sleeve models which most are. I have several and none would be very comfortable for long distances paddling.
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Old 12-15-2013   #8
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 731
Cheap drysuits are okay

All I've had is non-Goretex suits, first from Kokatat back in the mid 90's and now I have an 11 year old OS systems that needs gaskets. Literally all of my kayaking buddies are running Goretex kokatat suits, but I've never had an issue with my cheaper suits. I think the next one I get will be a breathable OS system, and luckily I live close enough I will probably get it custom sized since I'm an odd body type. (Tall, short legs, long torso)
A drysuit is the way to go. If you have to find one discounted or even used, I'd totally go that route. Kokatat has a great warranty that is well known. I have had enough winter swims that I just won't boat without one in the winter. (And I do have an NRS Grizzly wetsuit / jacket combo)
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Old 12-15-2013   #9
rockinRio's Avatar
Thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 231
Alternatively you could go with the drytop and dry pants/bibs route. I too couldn't afford the drysuit for quite some time and this did well for me.

Kokatat | Bibs & Pants - Products, Activity - Whitewater Kayaking

I liked the bibs because it created a drysuit like seal with the drytop. Be careful if you just buy pants. Make sure you have a way to cinch up at the waist tightly. If they are loose and you swim they could fill with water and you will sink like a rock. Also you can send the bibs back to Kokatat next winter and have them add a pee zipper and/or socks for like $200 or something like that. Kind of like a modular drysuit.

I did the exact thing you are describing. Drytop with FJ. It work for my first couple of seasons. But at the beginning of my third season it was May and I had a long swim. It was roadside so I was able to get off the river quickly but I was very cold and likely hypothermic.

For the cold Colorado air and water your best bet is to do what you can to stay relatively dry. Wetsuits only really work when the are wet. As soon as you are wet and out of the water that cold air can zap the insulating ability of the wetsuit pretty fast.
You ARE a soul, you HAVE a body.

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Old 12-15-2013   #10
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,777
a vote for what lmyer said.

Like ducktape, I am a long time boater.

back in the day we were out in air temps at or slightly below freezing. There was ice in the creek's eddies we were boating on. One of the guys took a swim in the current dry top farmer jon setup. Took us a while to get him to shore and he was in bad shape. we built a roaring fire, got his wet stuff off and with pooled group dry clothing got him dried off and back semi clothed. Took a while and a lot of firewood but he got back able to paddle and we finished the short time we had to the take out.

My take on these dry top / neoprene setups are in really cold water, during the swim cold water gets into the wet suit and dry top and just flushes out body heat. Bottom line this is a decent setup for cool to cold water, but down around freezing it can be iffy. Whereas a decent (even non goretex) drysuit with plenty of wool or fleece layers inside will keep that cold water flushing effect down. You still need a neoprene divers helmet and good hand protection and foot wear - but the dry suit will help reduce the cold water dangers to what is usually manageable but a swim in very cold water can be life threatening goretex dry suit or not.

Sometimes the shock of freezing cold water on just the exposed face and throat can be life threatening as well.

Bottom line, many good boating trips only happen in cold weather conditions and if a person goes they need to make a personal decision as to consequences of a swim and their personal gear selection.
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