Wetsuit or drysuit?
The NRS neoprene clothing is supreme in its simplicity, bottling in the body heat while still leaving room to layer jackets and other insulation on top. The neoprene acts as an evaporation barrier, allowing a thin layer of water to seep in between your skin and the neoprene and trapping it there. That water retains your body heat and, since cold water can’t circulate into its place, adds to the natural insulation properties of the neoprene to keep you warm. That’s all well and good in moderate weather, when the water temperature may be around 15 degrees, but what happens when there’s snow on the ground? When the water goes beyond being just uncomfortable and becomes downright dangerous? Those lightweight, neoprene suits just aren’t going to cut it; you’ll need more insulation.
That’s where the drysuit comes in. These Gore-Tex wonders do more than just keep the heat in; they also keep the water out, the truth is that a drysuit allows you the flexibility to wear whatever insulation you need and stay dry in the process. That means that a well layered drysuit will generally keep you warmer than a similar wetsuit. If you’re a regular winter paddler that needs to paddle in winter conditions, get a Kokatat drysuit, no question; but if you know you will only paddle in the shoulder seasons a NRS neoprene will do just fine.
Neoprene booties give you some traction in case you swim, and are generally an all-around good idea. As a side benefit, they do a great job of keeping the feet warm by trapping a thin layer of water and holding it against your skin, just like a wetsuit. With the water staying in place, your natural body heat does the rest.
Wet hands are an inevitable part of paddling, and regular knit gloves just can’t handle those kinds of waterlogged conditions. There are two options for cold hands: NRS Pogies neoprene mitts that wrap over your fingers and around the paddle shaft, leaving you skin-on-plastic contact with the paddle; and full neoprene NRS Gloves that offer more warmth but less “feel.” It’s really up to you which tradeoff you prefer, but Pogies have proven a popular option for many paddlers over the years, and are generally warmer than they look.
Always wear a hat, wool is best and we have Icebreaker beanies to keep your head warm at our retail location Coast Outdoors.
Check out our line up of Hats, Gloves, Booties, NRS neoprene and Kokatat Drysuits at CoastOutdoors