I would like to share my cheap solution for layers under the drysuit.
- Base layer: REI Co-op Midweight Long-Sleeve Base Layer Top - Women’s (I got it at $24.83 on sale)
- Insulating layer: HEATTECH Fleece Crew Neck Long-Sleeve T-Shirt ($24.9, not very recommend, it works ok, but not super warm.)
- One more layer: Columbia Benton Springs Vest - Women’s($19.93, wear it on top of the Insulating layer]
How I wear the top layers
- I almost always wear both base layer and insulating layer under the drysuit
- I only wear the vest when doing rescue practice, expecting swim a lot
- Base layer: REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Tights - Women’s Petite Sizes (I got it at $19.83 on sale)
- Insulating layer: REI Co-op Teton Fleece Pants 2.0 - Women’s Petite Sizes ($23.83 on sale now)
How I wear the bottom layers
- Hot & not immersion likely: base layer only (rarely)
- Not hot, immersion possible: insulating layer layer only (most of the time, I am in this case)
- Kayak surfing or rescue practice: base layer + insulating layer, this is super warm
Advantages of this system
- cheap: total price only costs $100 for 4 pieces (base layer and insulating layer) ($150 for 6 pieces)
- warm & comfortable: I feel toasty in 2-3 hour kayak surfing sessions (swim 2-3 time, combat roll ~10 times), and 4 hours rough water rescue practice sessions (swim 5 times?, roll 5+ times
- flexible: you can choose wear one or two layers
- better fit: there are many size choices for top and bottom, separately
- convenient: easy to pee, easy to take care of (machine wash & dry)
- multi use: you can also wear them for hiking, backpacking…
Disadvantage of this system
Last weekend, I went kayaking and camping for two days. I was wearing the same layers (base + insulating) under the drysuit for both days. On the second day, I felt much colder than the first day. Besides the windy conditions, I think there are two reasons that made me feel colder:
- The drysuit fabric itself was not complete dry. (inside was dry)
- The sweat/dirt on the layers made the system less warm.
So I am thinking, in the future, if I am planning on kayaking multiple days and wearing the same clothes, I need to expect that the clothes I wear will get less and less warm. Therefore, I might need to put on more layers on the second or third day.
Update 7/30/2023: I got the vest top this week and wear it on the two-day ACA L3 assessment. I did a lot swimming, but I didn’t feel cold.