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 Post subject: Dry or wetsuit - Nahanni
PostPosted: June 28th, 2019, 9:00 am 
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We will canoe the Nahanni from Moose Pond (including rock garden) on a month long trip next July. I hesitate between two systems:

Farmer john wetsuit with optionnal gore-tex paddle top (not dry) and pants in case of bad weather. I need to replace my paddle top anyway so I could go with either the weather protection of an anorak or the slightly better (?) immersion protection of a semi-dry top with a latex neck gasket (but they don’t come with a hood…). This set up would be more adaptable for warm weather and quiet sections.

Full dry suit. I already have one but I need to replace the gaskets and it’s very bulky (Kokatat expedition model).

So far I’ve done northeastern whitewater trips (Moisie, Delay-Mélèzes, George…) with the first option but never had to swim.

What would you recommend? Thanks!


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PostPosted: June 28th, 2019, 10:07 am 
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Joined: July 21st, 2004, 7:58 pm
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Choices depend a lot on how cold tolerant a person is. However, it is easier to cope with being too warm than too cold.

We did the Broken Skull-Nahanni on a three week trip a couple of years ago and found that the weather above Rabbit Kettle Lake was a lot colder than below it. Like the difference between early Spring and Summer. We also suffered through about 4-5 days of bad weather at the top with rain, mist and daily highs about 10C. Needless to say, we were all very happy to have our drysuits on this leg. Coming from the Moose Ponds there is also a non-negligible chance of a swim before Rabbit Kettle.

Below there probably any type of thermal protection would work.

I don't think you'll save any space or weight by going with a drysuit over your other options.


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PostPosted: June 28th, 2019, 2:06 pm 
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I'd rather go "naked" than wear any type of neoprene!

Neoprene is helpful if you swim and while you swim but once you are out of the water wet neoprene will suck the heat out of your body, if you don't swim but it's wet weather the neoprene would be horrible (but better than blue jeans!).

If the weather is hot, the neoprene will be unpleasant for sure.

If it were me I'd take the dry suit even if it's with disintegrating gaskets.

FYI - On most of my longer trips were there is cold water and Class III rapids I take a dry suit and semi-dry bottom & top (semi-dry = no gaskets), most of the time I just use the semi-dry bottoms but on a day when the weather is bad and/or I'm running a lot of big rapids I'll put on the full suit.

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PostPosted: June 30th, 2019, 12:03 am 
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Joined: January 11th, 2005, 4:58 pm
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Location: Manitoba
I did the moose ponds down a couple decades ago. Wore quick dry canoe tripping clothes. Some others in the group wore framer john wet suit and or semi dry paddling tops.

Lots to consider. The simple answer is to dress for immersion.

Is there a water gauge that gives water temperature?

We had below temperatures at night a couple of times.

On continuous steeper gradient rmountain style rivers a swim can be longer and rescue can take time so even once out of the river thermal protection can be important to your comfort as well as safety.

I’d now consider a lightweight paddling suit sans neck latex gasket because it’s very packable and comfortable while offering good immersion protection, but I wouldn’t dismiss a paddling wet suit, nor fuzzy rubber shorts/tights and top.

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PostPosted: July 11th, 2019, 2:48 pm 
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Joined: April 8th, 2013, 8:11 pm
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I agree that carrying two kits (full dry and semi-dry) would be the best for the canoe portion but I’m afraid of the weight and volume in the barrels with food/hiking gear for a 4 weeks expedition. Wetsuits are bad for chaffing/eczema/smell on long-term expeditions, but I was able to use them (+semi-dry kit in bad weather) for 3 long expeditions by wearing them only on whitewater days. I still haven’t made my choice so big yellow drysuit was sent for repair. Thanks for your help!


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PostPosted: October 25th, 2019, 2:01 am 
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Joined: October 31st, 2016, 9:32 pm
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Location: Missoula, Montana
I recommend using a full drysuit. You will be dry and comfortable regardless of the weather, you can layer up as much or little clothing as you need to stay comfortable under the drysuit, if you end up in the water you are way less likely to become hypothermic, and you can wear the same clothing on and off the river.

In the past I did a lot of long trips in a dry top-dry pants combination and it worked well, but if you end up in the water, such a combination is going to leak. A full dry suit is better.

I would never wear a wetsuit even on a day trip. I find them to be hideously uncomfortable, and you can't adjust your warmth as the weather changes.


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PostPosted: October 25th, 2019, 12:36 pm 
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I find my farmer-john wetsuit very comfortable if I'm actively paddling; as it breathes. I wear neoprene shorts, merino wool top, and a polypropylene jersey under it, a ww bomber-top over it. As soon as I stop paddling though, a heavy wool sweater gets thrown over to keep the chill off. This is good for three seasons of paddling for me, and I like the durability, and layering on-the-fly option.

My Drysuit, also a Kokatat expedition, with wool underwear, and a polar-fleece bunny-suit, is my winter choice. I know I'll be more conservative in the winter, and I try to keep my in-water time to a minimum. Dry gore-tex doesn't have the wind-chill issues of neoprene. It can get quite clammy inside though when I'm actively paddling, more so in the rain. Unless I keep the under-gear dry, it's no better than neoprene when I stop paddling.


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PostPosted: October 30th, 2019, 9:59 am 
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We did a 4-week trip on the Nahanni about 15 years ago - 1 week on Little Nahanni/Nahanni down to Rabbit Kettle, then shuttled back up to the Moose Ponds and paddled all the way to Lindbergh landing.
Carrying 2 sets of paddle wear doesn't take that much space if you're always wearing one or the other. We carried whatever we weren't wearing in a dry bag in the bow or stern for easy access if we needed a change during the day. We also kept our bug jackets in this bag in case break stops were buggy.

For warmer days I used neoprene shorts and tank top (easy to get in and out of) under spray pants and jacket. The spray gear can double as rain gear in camp, although I had better rain gear in the barrel for camp in case the spray gear had been immersed, and that was also better for hiking. Additionally, I wore neoprene "spray leggings" that covered from just below the knee to the top of the ankle. These add warmth without bunching behind the knee and offer some protection from rocks when wading/lining or during a swim. I found my leggings in a store selling water skiing equipment.

On colder days (or days we knew would have more difficult whitewater) I used a 2-piece semi dry suit - Palm bibs and Palm paddling jacket with latex gaskets at wrist, neo/velcro at neck, mated to bibs with rolled neo band and velcro tabs. The Palm jacket has a hood and handwarmer pocket - both nice in cold wet weather. The neck closure isn't that water tight, but you're not likely to get thrashed or held underwater on the Nahanni. The 2-piece is more flexible, and easier to vent and get off and on. If you find yourself getting too hot in a dry or semi dry suit - just take a break and sit down in the river.

A few other thoughts:
- a relief zipper is REALLY nice to have. Just remember to close it after use.
- sock feet in a dry suit or dry bottom are MUCH more comfortable than latex gaskets at the ankle, and make putting the suit on much easier. They may require you to move up a size in your footwear.
- We used helmets a fair amount on our trip. Having a visor on them and a neoprene beanie to wear underneath was very useful on wet/cold days.
- If you're looking for a semi-dry paddling jacket with hood, check out the possibilities under sea kayaking/touring attire. Both Kokotat and Stohlquist have possibilities - although pricey. European manufacturers may also have options if you can get them. This time of year you may find some year-end close-outs, or check ebay or paddling group web sites for used gear.
- don't forget gloves. I carried a pair of fingerless paddling gloves for warm days and full neo gloves for cold days. Fingerless gloves in camp were also nice for bug protection.


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