Wetsuits are the staple of rafting companies to provide cost-effective warmth to ill-prepared commercial customers, but do they have a place in your river bag?
As great as the drysuit is, it's hot, and I feel like I am going through birth again every time I have to squeeze my head through gaskets. Nothing like the feeling that you are being choked by a three-year-old all day!
I spend about as much time on Rafts/Shredders as I do on small craft like SUPs and Kayaks, and I really don’t need the drysuit all the time. There is a time and place for drywear, and the more you use it, the sooner you have to fork over the dough to replace it.
I love wearing my NRS Hydroskin layers and I use a formula to determine whether it makes sense to wear a drysuit or my Hydroskin. If the air temperature + water temperature have a sum of over 110, it's 0.5 Hydroskin time! (Example, water is 47 degrees, air is 80 degrees, Sum is 127).
So what’s so great about NRS Hydroskin? It wears like normal clothing, or closer to it anyway. It’s pretty tight fitting, but that’s to be expected with any wetsuit.
Ever had a friend that’s just getting into boating that picked up a full wetsuit off of craigslist and ends up stripping half naked during your run to survive the hyperthermia, suit dangling around like a cape everywhere they go? Not with NRS's Hydroskin!
If you get hot, just take the shirt off and throw on a rashguard. Cold? Throw on a hydroskin zippered jacket, or NRS Endurance Splashtop.
The ability to layer and de-layer with hydroskin is the key to why it’s earned a place in my river bag, especially when layering for specific activities. When I ride my SUP, I ditch the top and just wear full-length pants. When I kayak, I go long-sleeve top and wear shorts under my skirt.
It's pretty impressive how many products NRS makes with Hydroskin:
- helmet liners
- short sleeve shirts
- long sleeve shirts
It comes in several thicknesses as well. No matter your personal preference on your layering situation, Hydroskin has you covered.
Let’s talk nerdy for a second... The features of hydroskin are the most advanced of any wetsuit I’ve come across. Hydroskin isn’t neoprene at all, in fact it’s not even oil-based like all other wetsuits.
Hydroskin is made of a material developed by NRS called “Terraprene.” This is going to sound crazy, but it actually is made of limestone! Terraprene is thinner by a longshot than a traditional neoprene suit; a 4/3mm thickness neoprene suit is fairly equivalent to the 0.5mm Hydroskin. Give NRS's hydroskin a stretch, and you’ll see it shining back at you.
NRS adds a titanium micro-weave into the terraprene to reflect body heat and prevent conductive heat loss. This is one of the major reasons that you can get away with a much thinner layer than traditional neoprene and still have similar warmth. I know a few people that get skin rashes from using neoprene often, but have no problems with Terreprene.
The thermoplush liner on the inside of hydroskin garments may have something to do with this, as the Terraprene material isn’t in direct contact with your skin.
There is something particularly grimacing about putting on a wetsuit that is still wet from the day before, especially on a river trip: it stinks, its sticky, you have to dance around like a crazy person to get it on, and it’s usually like 15 minutes of misery before your body heat warms the suit up.
Not with hydroskin! The 0.5 Hydroskin dries pretty quickly when you take it off, ready to serve you again the next day dry and easy to put on. Just leave it in the sun for about a half hour and your good to go!
I’ve noticed that NRS hydroskin tends to take awhile to start getting river funky. All the items in your bag are eventually going to smell like low tide mixed with a high school mens locker room, but it seems to take hydroskin awhile to get to that point as long as you give it a bit to dry out after use. I can’t say the same about polypro or fleeces that I wear under my drysuit...
I feel like Warren Miller here, but if you don’t add hydroskin to your river bag this year, you’ll be a year older when you do. This stuff is worth it, very worth it! Stay toasty, my friends!