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I would like to share my cheap solution for layers under the drysuit.


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


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

Socks: Smartwool Classic Hike Extra Cushion Crew Socks


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

top layers are not super warm, they get less warm after continuous multiple day paddling (see below)

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:

  1. The drysuit fabric itself was not complete dry. (inside was dry)
  2. 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.

Reference: REI - Expert Advice - Clothing: Layering Basics

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  2. 2. Bottom
  3. 3. Summary