Cold water paddling: Dry suits

Paddling & COVID-19: Getting outside and active, even for short periods, is good for your mental and physical health. That said, we’re all in this together, and we must be responsible — avoid crowds, stay close to home, be prepared and be respectful of other people. The team at the Northern Forest Canoe Trail can’t stress this enough: now is not the time to take unnecessary risks while engaging in outdoor activities. Our the healthcare sector is under enormous stress, and we must be responsible.

A note from the author: So many “educational” reads end up really being an opinion piece. So, Danny wanted to be up front: this is another opinion piece. Many paddlers have a system that works for them and they are entitled to their opinion as well. There is no one method that works better than another. This piece will draw from Danny’s lengthy, 30-year experience in the paddle sports industry and as a paddler. So, we feel there is some good stuff in here to make you a more informed paddler on this topic.

Dry suits

You’re by no means going to win you any awards for fashion and at the $700-$1,200 price range are not too inexpensive. However, you will stay dry and depending on the investment you can make, can be highly breathable.

A dry suit uses a combination of different materials to create a highly water resistant seal against your neck and wrists. (Waterproof feet are attached to the suit, so no need for a seal there.) Using a waterproof zipper, you close the suit to keep water out. (Most suits also offer a waterproof “relief zipper” as well, allowing you go number one, without taking the entire suit off.)

Underneath, you layer for the temperature of the water. This can be done with higher-end fabrics, or as simple as cotton, depending on how well you want to manage perspiration. As summer approaches, air temps rise but water temps are still cold. You may wear just a very thin silk weight layer — for winter paddling, full on wool or expedition weight pieces.

The suit will be made of some level of breathable fabric and depending on if you want to invest in a 2.5 layer material or 4 layer material, and will be the deciding factor in how well the suit manages perspiration for you. Due to the looser fit of a dry suit, paddling is not inhibited in any way.

In the end, the dry suit does perform the best for an active paddler, provides the driest safety option and gives lots of options depending on the water and air temperature combo. Yes, it’s expensive, but as many of us are snow sports people as well … what did your pants and jacket cost you? And they wear out far faster than a dry suit.

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