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Hike and Packraft - Drysuit options?
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Andy Ward
(averylongwalk) - F

Locale: a bit nomadic!
Hike and Packraft - Drysuit options? on 11/25/2009 08:16:08 MST Print View

I've got a couple of trips planned with my new Alpacka in Scotland this winter and then a big trip in Iceland next summer.

The first mini trip basically involves a 100 mile hike over a few mountains to the source of a river then about an 80 mile decent to the sea.

Being winter and the fact its Scotland.. I am fully expecting horrible weather, big water and cold condition and currently have not managed to find a suitable solution to staying dry and warm (ish) on the river section while not having to carry a heavy dry suit for the 100 miles before.

Does anybody have any thoughts on my options or know any cheap drysuit manufacturers who produce lightweight dry suits that would fit the bill. I blown all my money on the packraft so its got to be as cheap as possible!

Any help would be much appreciated.


Phil Turner
Chilly...... on 11/25/2009 09:51:27 MST Print View

Andy - I've just started packrafting in Scotland, and I can confirm that it's COLD!!!! Take a look at my blog at for a video of our first attempts in the Cairngorms and the River Spey.

I'm guessing your trip is the Speyside Way and then River Spey to the sea?

I'm reasonably local to the area and I know a man who is VERY local, so feel free to get in touch with any questions.

**In fact, you have! Gotta love Twitter....**

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Hike and Packraft - Drysuit options? on 11/25/2009 10:19:29 MST Print View


For horrible weather, big water and cold conditions, the Kokatat GFER is the best functioning and most durable option I am aware of. My size L weighs 51 oz but is expensive at the suggested retail price of $899. For a stormy weather backpacking, I use a custom ¼” tubing neck ring to prevent neck chafing and partially open the front zipper to facilitate ventilation in combination with gap the neck ring provides.

The next viable option is much more flexible and comfortable when you aren’t on the water, is less weight, and considerably less expensive. Offsetting all of the positives, I normally get a little water inside (1/4 cup max) after taking a swim in big water with this combo. My inside base layer dries out quickly once I resume paddling. The bottom is comprised of the Kokatat Tempest WPB pants with integrated socks. My size L weighs 17.25 oz and the suggested retail price is $158. For the top, I use a double tunnel (maximizes sealing with the top) semi-dry top from either Montbell Japan (size L) at 19 oz or the Extrasport Flex (size XL) at 22 oz. The pants and the Extrasport semi-dry top can be found heavily discounted. The Extrasport Flex is available from the Sierra Trading Post for $112 and the Kokatat Tempest pants from Campmor for $138. This top uses the same stretch WPB material that Alpacka built their prototype 2-piece semi-dry suits from. It uses latex wrist gaskets and a Velcro adjustable neck gasket. The neck gasket can opened quite wide as can the double skirt. With the neck and tunnel loose, the chimney effect provides excellent ventilation when backpacking during stormy weather. The top’s inner tunnel is also WPB. It can be pulled below the jacket to largely negate the need for WPB pants when not on the water.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Drysuit on 11/25/2009 10:36:55 MST Print View

Alpacka Packrafts is working to develop a lightweight drysuit - I've been promised advance notice but have heard nothing since June. Likely to be very expensive

Andy Ward
(averylongwalk) - F

Locale: a bit nomadic!
Re: Re: Hike and Packraft - Drysuit options? on 11/25/2009 15:28:22 MST Print View

Richard thank you for your insights and suggestions. I've been eyeing up the Kokatat GFER on their website for the last few days but as you say it is a little expensive and currently way out of my budget at the moment.
Im going to get on the case with the Kokatat Tempest WPB pants with integrated sock and the suggested top layers. It sounds like the best solution for this season and ill do my best not to do too much swimming!

I'm looking forward to Alpacka finally putting their prototype into production.

Thank you also to all other suggestion. Keep them coming if anyone else has anything to add and its much appreciated.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Palm on 11/25/2009 15:35:34 MST Print View

I found a Palm drysuit on sale a while ago for just under $300. Normally they run around $400 and up. It's not exactly lightweight- but then, no drysuit is. It is also very basic- no sanitation zipper, plain rubber seals, etc. So it's inconvenient to take a leak, but it works.

Lord knows Kokatat makes great stuff, but you get what you pay for or, more acurately you pay for what you get.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
No dry suit? on 12/16/2009 13:38:04 MST Print View


We paddled open boats for decades in Alaska w/out drysuits on glacial rivers and in spring and fall (i.e. 0 C with snow and rain and wind; winter freezes solid). Here's what I learned:

First key concept is that water in your boat chills your legs, not your top. This means that you might look for high waisted (preferably to the chest) water protection. In cold water lining your boat bottom with a 3/4 foam pad helps keep the legs warm.

Second key concept is that feet are the cold temperature sensors, face and hands the warm temp sensors. This means that if your feet are cold you tend to chill (and that warming face and hands around fire "warms" body faster). Best to have some sort of attached sock to the water proof pants above. Ideally, Alpacka would make us a super light chest high pant with removable socks -- which they did for a year or so. No good for swimming but great for boating up to Class III with a spray deck. When you walked take off the socks.
Consider some neoprene or goretex fishing chest-waiders; also go with thin neoprene socks rather than SealSkins.

Third key concept is that water seems to crawl or wick up underneath your rain jacket, so overdress and wear your foam PFD under your rain jacket.

Fourth key concept is stopping and trying to warm up by walking around seems to send all the chilled leg blood circulating into your body and you get colder! I don't know about Scotland but in Alaska we have willows along rivers for warming fires, very nice every few hours.

Fifth key concept: Keep water out of your boat! How big is your "big water"? If you are talking Class III or below, then a spray deck with lots of backpaddling to maneuver around the big water will help keep you dry. Don't just power down the big waves; match your speed to the water so you do not take any on.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Drysuit on 01/11/2010 20:58:58 MST Print View

I feel there is no good choice as to what to wear when cold water packrafting.

Drysuits are heavy, unreliable, but are really the only option for very cold water.

Neoprene/wetsuit combinations are even heavier, less comfortable, but hold up better. I wouldn't want to backpack with the wetsuit layers required to handle water that cold.

You could always get rid of most all of your clothing except the drysuit and the clothing that goes inside and do the hiking in the drysuit, but that seems ridiculous and would probably cause more wear on the drysuit them it was meant to handle.

So what do you pack, one set of clothing for the backpacking part and one set of clothing for the paddling part?

I agree that a drysuit is required for the conditions you are talking about. So maybe have all of the clothing the same for the backpacking as the packrafting except the outer shell. Wear a backpacker outer shell, rain gear and wind gear for the backpacking part and stow this gear away and put on the drysuit for the packrafting section.

This is coming from a sea kayaker who also backpacks, but hasn't done packrafting so I'm only guessing, but that is my guess.

Many drysuits de-laminate and start leaking after a certain amount of use. Companies like Kokatat will replace drysuits
that stop holding back water. Palm does not and in fact, my Palm drysuit failed miserably after less than two years of use, totally falling apart.

I suspect that the lightest drysuit is also the least reliable, but I would love to be proven wrong.