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Wetsuit Poll: Sleeves or no sleeves?


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I'm interested in buying a wetsuit. I want to get something that I'll get the most mileage out of this year. There are two that I think will fit me (2 different retailers). One has long sleeves and one has no sleeves (but does have a "relief zipper").

I'm a beginner and want to start taking classes and going to lake sessions as soon as possible, & don't want to freeze when learning rolls, etc.

I can see how a shortie would prevent excessive sweating under a spray skirt, but I would think I wouldn't like that for wet exits right away. When it really does get warm, I'm thinking I may do without a wet suit this year. So I guess I'm thinking a full size one for the colder water, but not sure about the sleeves.

Which would be the best investment for now?

Appreciate your help!

Heidi

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Heidi,

Sleeves/no sleeves are a personal preference, although most I paddle with seem to have the sleeveless version. You can always layer if necessary to obtain the sleeves when you want to. As for the relief zip, I would say it's a must.

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>One has long sleeves and one has no sleeves (but does have a

>"relief zipper").

A relief zipper is a feature, not a requirement for a wet suit (for a dry suit you don't want to disrobe to commune with nature - most think a relief zipper is a requirement though there are those who wear adult diapers). Many flush their wet suits, you'll see them wandering off the beach at a break. Those of the female persuasion have trained themselves to use one of the variations on the freshette (sp?), otherwise the relief zipper is of no use to them/you.

>I'm a beginner and want to start taking classes and going to

>lake sessions as soon as possible, & don't want to freeze

>when learning rolls, etc.

>I can see how a shortie would prevent excessive sweating

>under a spray skirt, but I would think I wouldn't like that

>for wet exits right away.

>

>When it really does get warm, I'm

>thinking I may do without a wet suit this year.

You wear a wet suit and other apparel against immersion. Local ocean temperatures are never far above 60 so be careful what you wear at all times. Its easier to be overdressed and cool off than to be underdressed.

In lakes for practice the temperatures will soon be such that you'll be warm in most anything. So when you are learning rolls, etc. you might not need much.

> So I guess I'm thinking a full size one for the colder water,

> but not sure about the sleeves.

Farmer johns/janes (sleeveless) are popular for the improved dexterity. You also can layer the sleeveless suit with a paddle jacket or a "rubber shirt", both have better dexterity.

>Which would be the best investment for now?

That's really up to you. I paddle all year in one of two "suits", dry and full length farmer john. In the summer I have paddle jacket and rubber shirt in the hatch, in the winter I have paddle jacket in the hatch. In colder winter I wear heavy weight fleece, in fall/spring I wear light weight fleece (under the dry suit. For me, layers work the best and allow me to adjust once I'm on the water.

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Heidi:

Most paddlers find wetsuits with sleeves end up restricting movement and chafing in the armpits as 3 mm neoprene is just too stiff. Full wetsuits with long sleeves are used more by surfers and rafters. That's why most paddlers use "Farmer John" or "Farmer Jane" sleeveless wetsuits (with short or long legs).

I'll also echo Kevin that a relief zipper is a must. It's a pain to have to take off your PFD, Sprayskirt, paddle jacket, etc. to pull down the wetsuit, particularly in bad weather or exposed situations. Men's models need a zipper that goes down to the crotch. Some women's models have a crotch zipper that women find very convenient. NRS makes good versions of both. See http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?fid=2221&deptid=1163 for the women's model.

Most of us wear something under the wetsuit for comfort such as a polyester t-shirt or long sleeve poly top.

A key for good cold protection in a wetsuit is that it must fit snugly. If it gapes anywhere, you'll get cold water flusing inside, which defeats the point of the suit (which is to allow a minimal amount of water in that your body can warm). Sleeveless wetsuits are particularly vulnerable at the armpits and below the back of the neck where wetsuits don't fit well. Suits with sleeves don't have this problem as much.

A sleeveless wetsuit works well in combination with a some kind of top. The combination gives you the flexibility of layering as needed. Basically, you need to think about keeping warm when you get wet (the main point of a wetsuit) and keeping cool when paddling (all that work builds up body heat).

There there are several choices:

A paddle jacket or drytop which is worn over the wetsuit. A jacket or drytop does not keep you warm: it just keeps you dry. You'll need a polyester top or fleece under the wetsuit to insulate you. You can vary the thickness of the fleece under to adjust for temperatures.

Paddle jackets have tight but not waterproof cuffs and neck (neoprene or similar), with a cinching waist. If you roll or go for a swim, you will get seepage but mostly stay dry. They can be ventilated at the neck to cool off when paddling and are easier to put on and off.

A drytop has latex seals at the cuffs and neck which are waterproof but some find they take getting used to. If you roll, a drytop will keep you dry but if you swim, the waist usually leaks. Drytops are a bit harder to get on and off due to the latex seals and cannot be ventilated when paddling. Drytops are more common on whitewater kayakers than sea kayakers.

There are also hybrids: my favorite is a Kokotat GoreTex jacket that has latex cuffs and a neoprene neck. The wrist gaskets keep my arms dry when paddling but I can ventilate at the neck if needed.

A consideration with either paddle jackets or drytops is the material. Waterproof versions for occasional use can be inexpensive but can be sweatly and uncomfortable when paddling much distance. Breathable jackets and drytops are vastly more comfortable, but more expensive. The most breathable are Gortex but also the most expensive. Less expensive breathable fabrics work well at a lower price. Good, inexpensive non-breathable paddle jackets can be had for well under $100. A GoreTex paddle jacket is in the $200 and up range. Drytops start around $125 and go up to quite expensive.

Another direction for tops are lighter weight neoprene. NRS makes a series of thin stretchy neoprene tops (long sleeve, short sleeve and vests) called Hydroskin that are plenty flexible to paddle in but provide some warmth. (Many manufacturers have their own versions). They are very popular because they are comfortable. In fact, they come in bib versions much like a regular sleeveless wetsuit. However, the material is not nearly as warm as the standard 3 mm neoprene wetsuit material. They do complement a sleeveless wetsuit well: many of us wear them under the wetsuit. They are typically very snug which helps control flushing.

Another material with similar uses is a "fuzzy rubber" top: a material made of a rubberized skin and fleece lining. Again, waterproof and more comfortable than 3 mm neoprene but not as warm. A variation has a smooth knit nylon layer with fleece lining (Henderson was the first with this product) which is very comfortable but not waterproof and is more like super fleece.

Hope this helps.

Scott

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Now that the boys have chimed in on their personal preference for or against relief zips in a woman's wetsuit, I will tell you from a woman's perspective.

All fine peeing in your wetsuit when you are wet and in and out of the water and can "flush" by allowing water to move through the suit. BUT when you are dry and planning on staying that way, the alternative is to remove your jacket, skirt and pfd, then get bare in public by pulling down your wet suit to pee. So I suppose Bob is right, you could say a relief zip isn't mandatory but I find differently.

Woman's wet suits come in two ways, one with no crotch zip or with a a full crotch zip which allows for squatting to pee. Contrary to Bob's suggestion that you will need to use a female urinary device to pee, all you need to do is unzip and squat.

Suz

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LOL! What a wealth of knowledge!!! Thank you so much for helping me making a informed decision! I think the NRS Ultra Jane sleeveless with relief zip & a long sleeve hydro shirt is the way to go! :)

I wish I had had the foresight to join & learn from the messageboards before buying the Kayak itself!

Looking forward to meeting you all on the water in the near future!

Thanks again!

Heidi

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Yikes, I'm with Suz . . . Bob I don't know what a freshette (sp?) is but is sounds scary and I hope I never have to use it :) Heidi find the biggest relief zipper you can - you won't be sorry!! :)

I have the NRS Farmer Jane wetsuit which I've really liked - I know a number of the other women in the club have the same one so it seems to be a popular choice.

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>Now that the boys have chimed in on their personal

>preference for or against relief zips in a woman's wetsuit,

>I will tell you from a woman's perspective.

There's noone here but men!

>

>All fine peeing in your wetsuit when you are wet and in and

>out of the water and can "flush" by allowing water to move

>through the suit. BUT when you are dry and planning on

>staying that way, the alternative is to remove your jacket,

>skirt and pfd, then get bare in public by pulling down your

>wet suit to pee.

If I were planning to be away from the water for any amount of time I would not want to be in a smelly, sticky, hot wet suit. But that is another personal preference.

>So I suppose Bob is right, you could say a

>relief zip isn't mandatory but I find differently.

>

>Woman's wet suits come in two ways, one with no crotch zip

>or with a a full crotch zip which allows for squatting to

>pee. Contrary to Bob's suggestion that you will need to use

>a female urinary device to pee, all you need to do is unzip

>and squat.

I wasn't aware they had something so "drop seat like" and am glad that gear manufacturers are seriously addressing the needs of the chromsomely challenged.

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Just wanted to say thanks to everyone in the club who have been incredibly helpful in our first 2 weeks of being members!

Everyone we've encountered in this club has been extremely knowledgable, friendly, generous with their time and immediately willing to take us under their collective wing to be sure we have an enjoyable, safe and effective learning experience.

Thanks for all the invaluable advice to help us start out on the right feet and sparing us having to learn some things the hard way! Benefiting from other's 20-20 hindsight is an amazing part of this club.

We just got our wetsuits! Hope to see you out on the water soon! (lake sessions & classes for now) Its quickly just becoming only a matter of scheduling!....

Sincerely,

Heidi Hall

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