Close banner

Support Outside Online

Love Outside?

Help fund our award-winning journalism with a contribution today.

Contribute to Outside
Gear Guy

What’s the best clothing for cold-weather paddling?

Hi, I want to get my husband some cold-weather gear for paddling (wet suit, paddle jacket) so he can kayak year round. What products would you suggest to keep him warm? Casey Fayetteville, AR


You’re on the right track, Casey. A wet suit or good paddle jacket is probably just the thing your husband needs.

The Mission Drysuit

Of course, if you really love him, you will get him a dry suit, not a wet suit. The difference is articulated in the name. A wet suit lets water seep into the suit, trapping a thin layer of water next to the skin. Body heat then warms the water, the neoprene of the suit provides insulation, and you stay warm...for a while. In time, cold water will circulate into the suit, and the wearer gets chilled.

A dry suit, on the other hand, is waterproof by design. You put on long underwear to fit the conditions (if it’s colder, wear more), put on the suit, and you are good to go. This kind of suit offers a big comfort boost over a wet suit, and if you’re in the water or getting splashed a lot, you stay warmer much longer.

The trade-off, of course, is cost. A good dry suit, such as the NRS Mission Drysuit (made with waterproof/breathable eVent fabric) runs $850. Models made from Gore-Tex are about the same cost.

Wet suits are much more affordable, and really very effective as protection against occasional spray, and can act as an emergency flotation/heat-retaining device if your husband goes into the drink. The O'Neill Epic II 4/3mm wet suit, for instance, is only $160 and is a very good-quality suit.

Paddling jackets are designed to provide sort of half the protection of a full dry suit. Worn over Farmer John wet suits or other lower-body protection, they work great. A real good one is Kokatat’s GTX Paclite Jacket ($175), and is made from waterproof/breathable Gore Paclite material. A nice piece.

Support Outside Online

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.

Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Clothing and ApparelPaddling
Lead Photo: courtesy, NRS