Cold Water Apparel - Mountain Buzz

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Old 11-11-2013   #1
SpeyCatr's Avatar
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Aug 2013
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Cold Water Apparel

So as an owner of a "Mini-Cataraft" (Outcast Pac 1100 11' cat tubes) I'm slowly pushing the boundaries of what my cat and myself can do. Nothing crazy or insane, but just baby steps and I want to be prepared more so as I climb the ladder. So I'm at the point where I will consider buying personal protective gear that basically says I am prepared to really go swimming if something happens (flip, etc.). So I'd like your input. A Helmet, and Class 3 or 5 PFD is obvious (already own and use a Stohlquist drifter, going to buy a Helmet soon). But I'm torn on the drysuit versus wetsuit, as well as other things I should consider getting along these lines. I obviously also never drift alone either, and my drifting partner(s) will be prepared in the same fashion as myself. I usually only drift rivers to fish, so a drysuit might offer easier movement in this regard, but it's more expensive. I'm not talking a full drysuit, more like what your average Kayaker would wear made of Gore-tex. The only thing I don't like is they seem to have gore-tex feet which aren't as durable in wading boots. Also, I've talked to one guy I know who knows whitewater and he suggested a dry top over my waders. I may consider going this route as it should work if I go for a swim to keep me completely dry and allow me to use my waders with neoprene booties which stand up better in wading boots for fishing, plus allow easier movement as I cast/fish.

I've heard it suggested that some prefer wetsuits for the "bulkiness" actually offering a level of padding if you are in the river and bounce of rocks, etc. Thoughts? Also, if you get a wetsuit, do you neccessarily need to get a 7 mm? Would a 3 or 5 mm do? It would be colder water - potentially down to the Mid 30's at the worst, but usually late 30's to early 40's.

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Old 11-12-2013   #2
k2andcannoli's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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You cant beat a drysuit for safety from exposure related issues.

I use a farmer john style wetsuit, but never boat water below the high 40s. I do a.few things to prepare for cold day runs. First I wear shorts and a tee, drive without heat and a window down. Secondly, I dress for the river and go for a swim, pull you wetsuit away from your chest and allow the water to flow in. Finally, I get my boat ready and prepare to depart; by this time if you aren't cold you'll be fine.

Aren't waders a death trap in deep swift water. Won't they fill with water even if you've got a drytop over. Sounds risky!
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Old 11-12-2013   #3
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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Drysuit, drysuit, drysuit. It sounds like you plan on floating and fishing at many times of the year at different water levels in different weather, and if so the investment in a drysuit is absolutely worth it. Make sure to get one with a relief zipper. Are you planning to get out occasionally and fish from the bank? If so, then I don't see any reason why you couldn't wear rubber wading boots over the goretex socks. Otherwise just get a good grippy pair of water proof shoes. Just my .02 cents....
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Old 11-12-2013   #4
Colo Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1980
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As k2 and lmyers said, I'll say it, too. Ya gotta go with the best concept you can afford. Drysuit, not a wetsuit, with a couple of layers between it and your skin. Good thermal underwear and a fleece layer. This isn't where you want to penny pinch on your gear. Spend your dimes and get what will work good in a bad situation.
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Old 11-12-2013   #5
Portland, Oregon
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Here is another vote for a dry suit. Once you have one you will never go back. It also will extend your fishing season by months compared to a wet suit.
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Old 11-14-2013   #6
SpeyCatr's Avatar
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
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Thank you guys for your responses, that's what I thought. The only issue I have with a drysuit is a durability one (I looked at several different models) -specifically, the feet - the goretex feet. I own a pair of Simms Gore-tex Waders with Neoprene stocking feet (they only sell them with neoprene booties, no goretex feet/booties). The feet are neoprene for one reason - durability. When you wear wading boots, there is some very minor chafing that occurs overtime between the feet and the boots. Also, even though we wear "gravel guards," (to prevent most of the gravel intrusion into our boots) some gravel or sand always finds it's way into your boots and neoprene feet can easily stand up to it where as I'd imagine straight goretex feet won't. I am strictly shuttle type of river drifter, I don't usually fish out of my craft. I park the boat, get out, and walk/wade/fish a run, then hop in the boat and drift down to the next worthwhile looking run and repeat.

Subsequently, that is why I threw the idea out there that a dry top over a set of chest waders might be a decent alternative to a full on dry suit (your opinion please?). Since the waders are effectively waterproof up to my chest (or at least being submerged to that level), if I wore a wading belt cinched around my waist, and then put a dry top over top of my waders which goes down to my waist as well, it should in theory act almost virtually the same as a drysuit assuming the dry top prevents water intrusion, in a satisfactory manner. The advantage of this arrangement being capital cost (I"d only have to pay for a dry top since I already have the waders), feet durability (neoprene), breathable (assuming I buy a decent breatahble, preferably goretex dry top). I would be wearing a proper Class 3 PFD (Stohlquist Drifter), and helmet obviously.

Another thing - for those of you that own Gore-tex Drysuits - what kind of construction do they have (I realize I may have to go look for myself too). My Simms Gore-tex waders have 5 layer material in the main wear areas around the knees and lower portion of the legs (which is damn near bullet proof), and 3 layer material everywhere else.
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Old 11-15-2013   #7
Jackson, Wyoming
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I cant see a functional difference between drypants/bibs and a drytop and waders and a drytop (with the exception of something like the kokotat whirlpool bibs that improve the waterproofness of the pairing). People who have used the combination, then switched to a drysuit overwhelmingly say the drysuit is far superior, but I have a hard time seeing the waders as being a huge safety risk- no more than a combo using dry pants.
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Old 11-15-2013   #8
Louisville, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
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Dry pants usually don't have sealed feet, wader's do which ups the "water anchor" factor when they fill up. Neoprene functions poorly in the wind. In a cat you will be wet constantly. I vote dry suit with appropriate foot wear. Also as you push the limits of the mini cat - make sure you have extra oar locks. A friend with a dave scadden sheared several of the smaller NRS oar locks in class 3/4 water before finally reaming out the hole for bigger oar locks.
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Old 11-15-2013   #9
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Coquitlam, BC, Canada
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WILL a decent quality Dry top effectively prevent water entry at the neck, cuffs and waist, if it fits and is worn properly, should I go for a swim?

Catwoman, can you elaborate on the "water anchor" factor a little bit - how does water weigh more if it enter my waders,, than the water that would be on the otherside/outside of my waders?
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Old 11-15-2013   #10
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BZN, Montana
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Originally Posted by SpeyFitter View Post
WILL a decent quality Dry top effectively prevent water entry at the neck, cuffs and waist, if it fits and is worn properly, should I go for a swim?

Catwoman, can you elaborate on the "water anchor" factor a little bit - how does water weigh more if it enter my waders,, than the water that would be on the otherside/outside of my waders?

Drytops will form effective water barriers at the neck and wrist. I've never experienced a drytop that doesn't allow some water to seep through the waist when dunked. Adding a bib and understanding a swim will mean you get wet but probably not soaked will allow you to make smart decisions about other layers. A dry suit stays DRY and you can dress much more comfortably since during and post immersion layers are dry.

I think it's been shown a snug fitting pfd is enough to keep massive amounts of water out of waders. Nevertheless there is group think that waders are dangerous full stop. That said assuming you have gaping waders you essentially have a parachute allowing for moving water to act on a much larger surface area without any added buoyancy. Eddy line whirlpools, down currents in holes and underwater pillows all become much more dangerous than swimming without the waders. Also that aside even if you are in lake like flatwater the added water in your waders is water you must move. Though it won't pull you down it will prevent you from moving forward. In a whitewater swim scenario that means swimming up after a dunking happens slower, and getting out of the water/danger happens slower.

All that said, the 2 garmet systems work but the drysuits are excellent. Addressing the durability question Kokatat offers factory servicing at reasonable prices and the gore-tex portions are covered in a lifetime warranty.
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