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Cold water Safety-Immersion protection

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  • April 08, 2018 10:51 AM
    Message # 6052921
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A conversation about different viewpoints regarding appropriate thermal protection.

  • April 08, 2018 11:02 AM
    Reply # 6052931 on 6052921

    Since we have this forum, I will include my initial response to Ed, along with a good friend's addendum.

    If you do enough research, you find that dressing for the water temperature can be critical to survival. However, there are a number of ways you can manage your heat level above the water. 

    • Many people do a little maneuver in which they grab the bow of a friend's boat, flip sideways to immerse themselves, and flip back up, using that bow they're holding for a great roll-up platform.
    • Moulton has suggested saturating a cotton T-shirt on the OUTSIDE of your drysuit to enjoy the evaporative cooling effect.
    • I often plunge my arms into the water and splash the water onto my shoulder and chest while wearing a wet or dry suit just to keep cool above water.
    • You can wear a hat...dip it in the water occasionally and put it back on your head.
    • You can do the same thing with a kerchief....wrapping it around your neck.

    That's just a few suggestions. I'm sure that this great group has many that have yet to occur to me.

    If you are wearing a Gore-tex dry suit, Once you get it wet on both sides with a dip, the fabric breathes and facilitates evaporation and thus cooling. Fabric has to be wetted thoroughly via a good dip with a buddies bow.

    Last modified: April 08, 2018 11:03 AM | Anonymous member
  • April 08, 2018 11:22 AM
    Reply # 6052945 on 6052921
    Deleted user

    Thanks again for all the replies on the email list.  I've decided to find a dry suit (don't want both that and a wet suit), boots, and gloves.  I have some neoprene gloves but I don't know if they would protect from the wind, once they get wet.  And I certainly don't have boots.  After all that I'll still most likely paddle in warm water!  

    Ed Miller

  • April 08, 2018 12:15 PM
    Reply # 6053035 on 6052921
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A member,  Azure has asked these questions:


    I am a new OOOPS member and I have some questions about cold water gear. 

    When you say 'minimum immersion equipment: drysuit,' is a two piece drysuit okay?

    With a drysuit does the drysuit need to have built in socks? If not, then what is okay for foot coverage?

    Thanks much,

  • April 08, 2018 12:25 PM
    Reply # 6053072 on 6052921
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A two  piece dry suit is ok, if it keeps you dry.  You are probably talking about a dry top and dry pants. Depending on how they mate is how dry they will keep you in the event of immersion. There are a few dry suits that zip together with a "dry" Zipper. This is dry, dry.

    Socks or no socks? It is probably better to have socks, just because you are simplifying thermal protection. If you do not have socks then the dry pants obviously must have ankle gaskets.

    If you do not have socks, then the same careful attention of thermal protection of your feet must apply. eg: adequate neoprene to keep those fragile toes warm.

  • April 08, 2018 1:20 PM
    Reply # 6053124 on 6052921

    Hi Ed,

    I think OOPS guidelines on drysuit use are a great place to start for most paddlers & trips.  I also like the "120 rule". If the water temps and air temps add up to less than 120, dress for the water. For me I do similar to what Tim Mattson posted on the OOPS list-serve.  That said, I know Tim's skills.  I also know mine and know that I would wear a drysuit in conditions that he wouldn't because I haven't been paddling enough lately and I know my skills aren't as sharp as they were a couple years ago.

     For me, a drysuit was a great investment and actually helped me improve my skills much more rapidly than would have happened had I continued to use a wet suit and various iterations of dry tops, smash tops, etc. I found that when I wasn't as concerned about getting in the water I'd practice rescues, rolling, etc more often. I wasn't scared to try new strokes in dynamic water because I simply wasn't concerned about getting wet or cold. 

    In regards to the question someone posed regarding a two piece drysuit, it all comes down to whether it's actually dry.  If you're curious, try it out in conditions where you have a safety net. I have bibs and a couple different tops. Even if I'm really careful rolling them together, I still get a bit of water entering the suit, though I don't think it's enough to be more than an annoyance unless it was a really long swim, and odds are, if I were in conditions where a really long swim was a possibility, I'd probably be in my full drysuit.  My own opinion is that used correctly, a two piece drysuit should suffice on an OOPS trip as the odds of a really long swim aren't that great.

  • April 08, 2018 3:45 PM
    Reply # 6053212 on 6052921
    Deleted user

    I too appreciate that this topic is being discussed.  I'm saving to buy my first drysuit, and had a couple of questions/concerns, one of which has been addressed here (that being: will I be too warm in a Gore-tex drysuit on days when the water is very cold and the air is warm?).  I asked this question of a local Kayak retailer (and an OOPS sponsor), and the answer I got was similar to the answer that sparked this discussion (something like: "your decision about whether to wear a drysuit in those conditions should factor in your skill level").  That answer made me uncomfortable, given what else I know about this topic.  

    The other question I still have is this: after spending over $1000 on a drysuit and a base layer, am I still going to want to buy other immersion protection gear for situations where the water/air temperature are not quite 'drysuit worthy', but still requires some other immersion protection like a wetsuit or dry top?  If so, I may need to reevaluate whether I can really afford to participate in this hobby that I love.  Thanks, Jon

  • April 08, 2018 5:16 PM
    Reply # 6053266 on 6052921
    Deleted user

    I am a new OOOPS member and I have some questions about cold water gear. 

    When you say 'minimum immersion equipment: drysuit,' is a two piece drysuit okay?

    With a drysuit does the drysuit need to have built in socks? If not, then what is okay for foot coverage?

    Thanks much, Azure  

  • April 09, 2018 8:53 AM
    Reply # 6079045 on 6052921

    A few quick comments.  I have an odd body size. I have never found a dry suit that fits.  Wet suits don't fit either.  Immersion wear is fundamentally uncomfortable since the industry ignores the fact that many people with the resources to buy expensive kayaking gear don't have the body's of a 30 year old.

    But I found a combination that works well enough.  I can wear comfortably an Immersion Research XXXL dry top with XXL gaskets (bought separately and installed on my own) coupled with a kokotat bib/pants; not the one with the zipper but the one that connects by rolling material from the drytop and the bib together as you would with a dry bag.  This keeps me plenty dry even when doing extensive swims during rescues practice. And its comfortable enough to actually where.

    The other HUGE advantage is in the summer when its hot, I can wear the bib with an Immersion Research semi-dry shorty.  This uses neoprene gaskets at the neck and upper arms.  It's not adequate for extensive swimming, but it keeps me covered for warm weather paddling where I want a dry lower half of my body for wading.

    As for the cost of immersion wear; it is scary.  You can sink a lot of money into immersion wear.  But properly cared for it lasts many years. If you buy Kokotat gear, they stand by their equipment better than ANY vendor I've worked with.  They replaced a drytop after the fabric started wearing out after 10+ years of use.  No questions asked, they just sent me a new drytop.   They are incredible and worth the high prices they charge.

    The point, though, is the high price of immersion gear isn't that bad if you take into account how long it lasts.  Start with a 2 piece dry suit and buy a shorty paddle jacket of some sort for summer paddling and you're pretty much done.  Boots will wear out now and then and gaskets need to be replaced from time to time (every 2 or 3 years for me ... but I use my equipment very heavily).  The overall expense isn't that bad though.

    Oh and one last thing.  Buy the drysuit with built in socks.  You want a gortex suit (don't even waste your money on non-gortex) and gortex socks.   I had one dry suit years ago with latex socks.   They just were not durable enough and constantly needed replacing or emergency duct tape repairs every few outings.


  • April 09, 2018 9:33 AM
    Reply # 6079165 on 6052921
    Deleted user

    My thoughts regarding drysuits:

    1) My bottom line is they're a great investment and can make you comfortable in a much wider range of air and water temperatures than any other configuration

    2) If you swamp out the inside of your drysuit with sweat, you significantly decrease its ability to protect from hypothermia because you lose heat rapidly via conductive transfer once you're swimming. It's important to stay cool enough that the insulating layers between your skin and drysuit can do their job.

    3) Especially with a PDF and spray skirt tunnel, it's difficult to get much cooling benefit from evaporation. If you've been maintaining the DWR on your drysuit, the water just beads off anyway.

    Better to just flip the boat and hang out upside down for about 10 seconds. Conductive transfer (i.e. that same effect that gives you hypothermia) will cool you off much faster. If coming back up is a concern, just dip yourself while hanging onto the bow of another group member.

    4) It is possible to dry out once you've sweated inside a drysuit. Gore-Tex works because of vapor pressure. This means if your body is hot and you're effectively in a Gore-Tex glove fully immersed in cold water, vapor pressure will help push the moisture through the suit into the surrounding water. 

    5) It takes just a little accident to rip your drysuit and fill it with water so be equipped for repairs. Gorilla tape can help you limp in. Also, test your drysuit before every paddle -- I like to go for a short swim. This gets the air out and verifies beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have no significant leaks and didn't accidentally leave a zipper open.  You do not want to discover during an unplanned swim far from any takeout area that you accidentally left a zipper partially or fully open.

    Last modified: April 09, 2018 9:35 AM | Deleted user
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