Poor Man's Drysuit

As I’ve used it, the Poor Man’s Drysuit consists of:

1. Neoprene Chest Waders.
2. Belt.
3. Kayak drytop.
4. Shoes
(to protect wader feet).5. Usually a PFD, for river-running.

Chest waders are about $70; belt comes w/ the Hodgeman’s set. Drytop varies: the cheapest I’ve heard is one available on Sierra Trading Co for $100, but most are considerably more. Often, I’ll just wear my normal raincoat, and get cold & wet when I go in the drink. I just wear running shoes over the feet.

Various points about the “fisherman’s death suit” were raised in the “Packs for Packrafting” thread. To summarize (tell me if I get your points wrong, gents):

  1. “Fisherman’s Death Suit Lore” Theory: Air in the legs of set of non-neoprene chest waders holds your feet up & head under if you fall in; you drown.
  2. “Fisherman’s Death Suite Myth”: the above was debunked pretty clearly (do you have that link, andrewallen?)
  3. SDS: Roman brought up the point that anyone can hit the cold water, go into laryngospasm, and suffer Sudden Drowning Syndrome - perhaps part of where the FDS story comes from.

For my part, I wrote the material referenced by Andrew Allen on Beyond Spec (http://www.aktrekking.com/beyondSpec/) several years ago. I actually don’t have access to that material (the person who’s hosting it is somewhere in the Alaskan brush) and since it’s overly conservative, it hasn’t been a high priority to get access back and change it. However, now that it’s been pointed out there’s factual inaccuracy, I’d like to change that misinformation when I have the chance. I’d never heard the “Air in Legs Theory.” My own understanding the “Fisherman’s Death Suit” was always a lot simpler: Guy wears non-floating waders w/o PFD, falls in river, non-floating waders are heavy as he’s swept into deeper water, he’s not a strong enough swimmer, he drowns. I agree the “it floods and gets heavier” view makes no factual sense. I can’t get any heavier than the actual waders are.

Nonetheless, I think variations of the poor man’s drysuit are great for river-running, and I use it. Other thoughts?

Ah, so it was Shaggy who wrote about that ?myth…

The link I refer to where a mad English flyfisher tries to drown himself wearing waders is http://www.sexyloops.com/articles/killerwader.shtml.

I have re-read it, and I note that he appears to be wearing neoprenes, however I have tested out goretex waders in an unplanned packrafting swim in NZ last year, and I was able to swim along quite well, albeit with a PFD of sorts. Admittedly I did also have a rain coat on, which presumably restricted any incoming water from “ballooning” the waders, if that’s what they might do…who knows?

Even if using a waist belt, any air that happens to be caught up in the legs seems to escape pretty quickly up past the belt. I have been using a neoprene top over the waders, and this system seems to keep me reasonably dry, although a swim is a swim, and some water will get in if you do.

Perhaps we all need to jump into a pool as Paul Arden did on the sexyloops site, and test it out for ourselves, before each person is comfortable with their own setup? I’ll certainly continue to use the waders/neoprene top combo, however if there are no entries from me after late Jan 08, I think you’ll be safe to assume it didn’t work for me in NZ!!

Guilty as charged. I’ve never found the “ballooning” of waders to be a problem: if any air stays in them, it’s not a problem. Usually, it all just rushes out, and I find myself wearing a michelin man suit, with makes swimming slower and harder but that’s about it.

I like the neoprene waders because their insulated and float, so in some situations I’ll use them as my flotation source (ex: spelunking, etc.). Seems to me like, as long as normal waders didn’t weight a ton, they’d be find to swim in, just a bit more weight…

Has anyone used semi-dry tops? I’m looking a Peak UK one for an upcoming trip, to use w/ my raft + waders + PFD.

My Simms Freestone generic “goretex type” chest waders weigh in at 800g, which would be a lot lighter than neoprenes (and I accept that they wouldn’t insulate or float as well, but in Oz and NZ this isn’t such an issue - wrong…the floating is, but not the insulation bit). I normally use a 1/2mm neoprene top for the top half of me, which presumably equates to a “semi-dry” top, as it hinders water entry to the bottom bits, and stops “ballooning” - obviously this could be thicker in colder weather, although looking at some of the photos of rafting with ice on the river rocks, I think I’d be lashing out for a full Kokotat dry suit for these trips!

Mythbusting Wearing Waders in a Kayak Video


What a great video - he certainly tried to drown…!