Cold on the Cheap: Winter Gear

Drysuit prices out of range? Consider classic budget options for cold-weather insulation

winter gear

Willy Dinsdale, preparing for a frigid hike in to Oregon’s daunting North Fork Clackamas

BY JOE JACKSON

Can’t afford a drysuit? Or, don’t think you’d use it enough to make the purchase worth it? You can always pair up a wetsuit and drytop. As long as you always remember to go to the bathroom before putting this duo on, it is an excellent option. If you want to go new, NRS always has good price-point gear with the 2.0 Farmer John for $100 and Revolution Drytop for $330—keeping your setup down to about half the price of a budget drysuit.

[Want to drool over the latest innovations in drysuit technology? Click HERE to watch C&K’s test of six of the best options for high-end drysuit performance.]

If $430 is still too steep, you can find used wetsuits on Craigslist or at any used sporting goods store near a beach, and as long as a used drytop is water-tight, it will keep water from seeping into your kayak just as well as a drysuit. Hunt out drytops with blown-out gaskets; people will often sell them cheaper. Then replace the gaskets yourself for around $30. Don’t be intimidated if you haven’t done this before. It is easy and there are plenty of tutorials online.

And while having a drysuit is more comfortable—to be more accurate, game-changingly more comfortable—it’s not a necessary piece of gear when running difficult whitewater. Case in point: Last spring, Ben Dinsdale ran one of California’s classic Class V-plus, multi-day expeditions (the Fantasy Falls section of the Mokelumne, pictured below) wearing a wetsuit he purchased for $10 from a Newport, Ore., surf shop. Dinsdale ran the Sierra classic with his brother Willy, pictured above, in two long days, putting on his frosty cold wetsuit each morning. Willy explained that when the brothers started kayaking in the Northwest, they only had minimal farmer johns and fleeces to keep warm. “We were very cold and believed it to be a necessary evil while kayaking,” says Willy, “often stopping every 20 minutes to do pushups and plyometrics to keep the blood circulating to the extremities.” The brothers have updated since then, and Willy often wears a drysuit, but he still believes in using a wetsuit in the right conditions: “Here’s what you get out of the wetsuit: effortless thermoregulation, much greater freedom of movement, ample buoyancy and no concern of moisture incursion soaking clothes you might like to wear in camp.”

winter gear

Sweat it Out: The Dinsdale Bros. tackle the High Sierra’s Fantasy Falls multi-day run. Photo by Darin McQuoid, who caught up to the Oregon brothers on Day Two of his own spring descent. “They’d read up on the beta for Fantasy and drove down to do it in two days,” McQuoid recalls. “Indeed one was in a wetsuit (we were all in drysuits) and one did have a touring PFD on. They completed the run in two long days, ran shuttle on a Honda 70 scooter and returned to work on Monday in Oregon. If that’s not the spirit of kayaking, I don’t know what is—probably the toughest whitewater anyone has run in a wetsuit in quite a few years!”

READ MORE WINTER GEAR TIPS
Keep your hands warm (Click HERE
Advice on staying warm (Click HERE

winter gear

Willy Dinsdale putting the neoprene to work for the put-in drop on Oregon’s Natural Bridge section of the North Fork Rogue.

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