Appropriate clothing for paddling during the summer months is pretty easy to find, because both air and water temps are usually warm enough for you to get away with just some normal moisture wicking apparel that can be found in any major sport store. Finding clothing that is appropriate for colder weather months however can sometimes be a big challenge. I am always looking for new ways to dress for paddling in these conditions as a lot of the options out there are either too warm and too heavy or do not provide enough protection from the unplanned early spring swim. I recently decided to try the NRS HydroSkin 0.5 pants and I will be breaking them down from the first couple of weeks of use to help others looking at these as an option.
These pants typically run in the range of $90-$100 depending on the online retailer you choose. The 0.5 stands for mm thickness of the neoprene which is what these pants are made out of. Neoprene for anyone that is new to cold weather paddling gear is the material that is used for wetsuits as it helps retain your body heat by blocking passage of water through the neoprene. Usually the thicker the neoprene layer the warmer it will be. The issues with thicker neoprene wear are that they will be much heavier and could also be too warm for paddling when air temperatures are higher because of the effort we expend while paddling. Thicker neoprene though will be better immersion protection. For these pants they also come in a 1.5mm thickness. Normal farmer john wetsuits can be typically found in the 2-7mm range. I chose the .5mm version as I have other apparel for colder conditions and was really looking for something for the times when air conditions call for lighter gear but water conditions call for immersion protection.
My initial impressions of these pants are good. These pants are very stretchy and are pretty comfortable. I have worn them mostly when air temps have been in the high 40's to low 60's. I did not feel as if they were too warm on the day that I wore them when the temps were in the low 60's. On that day I ended up going for a swim and after I got back in the boat I warmed up pretty quickly and did not have to cut my paddle short due to swimming. These seem to be a good match for the what I was looking for. I do believe that these will not be warm enough for true cold weather paddling however. The thicker version might be better suited for the colder conditions but as I have yet to use the thicker pair that is only speculation at this time.
Overall I think that if money is not an issue these will definitely be a good choice for the spring/fall paddles. I do however have an suspicion that there are other neoprene pants out there that can have similar benefits with a much lower price tag. If you have any experience with some of these other brands please let us know in the comments below.
not too hot
not adequate warmth for truly cold days