neoprene or not

First I want to greet all Forum members as I just became a member, too. :smiley:

I just finished my first combined packrafting and hiking trip in the northern Yukon Territory. I paddled the Blackstone from the Dempster Highway for two days, then went over to the Hart River which I paddled to the Peel confluence and a little further. After about 6 days of paddling I hiked for 10 days over the Richardson Mountains back to the Dempster on the Polar circle.
As these rivers are swift and cold I weared a drysuit with tight Neoprene on neck, wrist and ankles. This was fine on the river and for the hiking it was o.k ( Out of weight reasons I carried no other rainjacket and trousers), but surely hiking in neoprene is not ideal. On the river in the boat I just weared neoprene socks, which were also useful in hiking on the cold wet days. But the disadvantage is, that they don’t dry out easily. Same goes for the neoprene mittens.

So my question is what do you wear on combined hiking/ paddling trips which includes cold rivers?
I am curious to learn about your advanced solutions :wink:


I’m personally a big fan of the neoprene socks in conjunction with wool socks. I’ll sometimes use just one pair, and other times I’ll wear the wool socks under the neoprenes, so that I get extra loft & insulation. When everything is dry it’s great, but it works well even when wet. I recently spent probably 8 hours on soft, wet snow with these set-up and shoes, and was pretty comfortable the whole time, despite having soaking wet feet.

When hiking in good conditions, I’ll take off the neoprene socks, so I’m just hiking in wet/damp wool socks, letting my feet breathe and giving them a chance to dry out on my feet some. I’ll hang the neoprenes on my pack. Other times, do the opposite, hanging the wool socks on my pack to dry. My basic strategy, though, is that the neoprene socks are for the cold and the wet, and the wool socks alone give me a chance to get away from the neoprenes.

Personal preference, I like the most basic just-neoprene socks. I don’t go for the insulated ones, because I feel the insulation absorbs water & stays wet forevere. I feel like, by using the wool socks as modular insulation, I get more versatility and can dry my gear out better while on the move.

For what it is worth I had some problems with neoprene booties on a longer trip. After six days of constant cold rain in temp varying from the mid 30’s to the low 50’s my wet cold feet were shot. I am still looking for the right solution. I had tried hard to keep the feet dry, rotated socks and dried off my feet at night with a pack towel every day. I think the problem was that the neoprene booties never dried out and were wet and cold when I put them on, also I think the rubbber gaskets on my Kokatat dry pants were too tight and limited blood flow which added to the problem, additionally my dry top did not have a hood which was a mistake as my head was pretty wet in my windstopper balaclava. Since this I have thrown away the neoprene booties and bring extra socks (fleece and wool), chemical footwarmers, and have stretched out my gaskets by storing them with cans of beans in the gaskets. I have not done any extended trips since but am struggling to determine what the best footwear solution for longer trips might be. I don’t think it is neoprene.

I actually got trench foot from this trip, which is very similar to frost bite…nerve damage, swelling, tingling, very difficult to impossible to walk (I’ll save the pictures :slight_smile: Luckily I was already to a safe spot but if I had still been in the wilds and it be critical that I move, I don’t know what i would have done. The good news is my feet have come back completely but I try to baby them when skiing and the like. I have yet to fully buy new footgear for packrafting this season so I’m curious what other folks have had good luck with for extended trips. Issues of concern are warmth, drying of the footwear at night and maintaining good bloodflow while keeping the feet warm.


There are two options that I use to prevent “Trench Foot” in sustained cold wet weather. The first option is more comfortable to wear and less expensive than the second. Pair the Kokatat Tempest Pant with Socks in combination with your existing dry top plus and add a fuzzy rubber surf cap as a head base layer. Use a neck ring on your dry top, when hiking, to prevent neck chaffing. As an aside you will permanently damage a latex gasket by trying to stretch it out. If it is too tight, then trim the gasket length slightly to fiacilitate a more comfortable fit.

The second option is a Kokatat drysuit with built in booties. Also use a neck ring, when hiking, to prevent neck chaffing.

I’ll call bs on that one. :wink: Stretch that sucker over a traffic cone, basketball, pasta pot, whatever, just be careful doing it that you don’t nick it in any way. I’ve stretched EVERY neck gasket on the 3 drytops and 2 dry suits I’ve had over the last 17 years of kayaking and have never once ended up with a permanently damaged gasket as a result. In general I get 3-4 seasons out of a neck gasket and have yet to need to replace any wrist gaskets. (these too have sometimes been stretched) My current neck gasket on my dry suit is starting it’s 4th season and it spent 2 weeks straight stretched over an All Clad pasta pot before finely being remotely comfortable. For reference most of those drytops would get 60+ days a season on them. I’ve found the key is to not get crazy with the 303. It can be a case of too much of a good thing with 303 for sure. I use it once a season. Typically at the end of the season.

Dear Aklaskabrett,

I speak only from the medical point of view ( my basis for this being that I actually am a doctor…surprise!!!)…the gasket around your leg will not reduce blood flow to your foot unless it is extremely tight, and by that I mean “extremely”. You have 3 little arteries that take blood down to your foot, and they run with a fair degree of pressure in each. You can actually block off 2, and, in a healthy person, the other one will carry enough blood for your foot to survive.

On the other side of this coin is the fact that if your core (torso) temperature is low, then the body responds to this by constricting the arteries in the limbs so as to maintain “core” heat. When this happens, this initially means that people get cold white fingers and toes, and as the core temp drops progressively, the limb becomes colder. At whatever temperature it is (ie I don’t know), this protective mechanism prevents blood flow to the degree that the blood flow to the periphery is insufficient for the digit to survive, and that is where frostbite cuts in.

Additionally, if you are wet, the evaporation off the skin drops the skin temperature further , and adds to the whole exercise.

SO…to have warm feet, the bottom line is to ensure that your core (torso) temperature is normal (most heat is actually lost through the head, leading to the well respected adage of “wear a hat if your feet are cold”), meaning that you should also concentrate on keeping your torso temperature higher, and try to ensure that your skin stays dry. Therefore better to wear some head-covering at night, a duvet, and some quick drying thermal socks, than to sit around wearing neoprene socks , through which moisture doesn’t evaporate.

There is a complicating issue here with vapour barrier clothing, which works by preventing vapour (and therefore heat) loss, although these only work in particular temperature ranges, where you aim to prevent yourself sweating. I live in Australia, and it just isn’t cold enough for vapour barriers to work here most of the time, so I should digress to one of our US experts about this.

Hoping that some body physiology is useful…

Andrew Allan

Regarding neck gasket sizing, please refer to Kokatat’s FAQ #10 or talk to their gasket expert at 800 225 9749. In summary, their neck gaskets are shaped like a cone and have concentric rings molded on the inside; they are specifically designed to be cut between the rings as apposed to being stretched. By contrast their wrist and ankle gaskets are designed to be stretched.

Fair enough. As with anything on the internet, take it with a grain of salt. That said, I can further my experience with saying I’ve tried that. Cutting that is with a kokatat gasket. After cutting it was still snug, but tolerable. 2 months later I had to replace it as it had stretched enough to allow ample water to enter. All the kayakers I know stretch. Well maybe not all, some just put up with the pressure in the head until they either get use to it or until it stretches out on it’s own.

do you know where you crossed from the balcstone to the hart?