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Testing a workable alternative to a dry-suit?

dug dug Follow Oct 25, 2020 · 2 mins read
Buffalo Systems Special 6 Shirt. A design classic developed with the Special Forces. Tested over 30 years in the most hostile conditions.
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Special 6 Shirt

A design classic developed with the Special Forces. Tested over 30 years in the most hostile conditions. Used by Military, Police, Mountain Rescue Teams.

I’ve been considering ordering a dry-suit for winter paddling. They are seriously expensive so am having second thoughts.

Having worn one on a sea-kayaking trip last fall I was impressed by the dryness and warmth but less about the comfort. The scenario I’m planning for is doing a self-rescue in a deep-water situation like Loch Tay or Loch Lomond where the distance to shore can be long enough to make swimming not necessarily the best idea.

Based on experience, I’ll be in the water 2 to 3 minutes, at which point I’ll be back in the boat, knee-deep in water but afloat and paddling to shore. If it’s not too cold and if I’m near the middle I could be bailing for about 5 minutes to clear the boat.

Long story short, I need to avoid being hurt by the cold, but I’m not sure I need a full dry-suit when working in water in the 6 to 10°C range.

So after reading rave reviews on Song of the Paddle, I thought I’d try some “double-P-system” clothing from Buffalo Systems for use as winter paddling clothing.

Video above is me jumping into Loch Lubnaigh on a reasonably cold day (8°C air temp, 11.6°C water temp). The routine was:

  1. Jump in and wade out to neck depth
  2. Simulate self-rescue - swim around for 2 to 3 minutes
  3. Get out and run up and down the shoreline

The idea was to simulate falling in, doing a self-rescue, then rowing vigorously to safety to gauge whether the Buffalo clothes would do the trick.

Conclusion at this stage is that the Buffalo kit will work well for winter paddling as long as the water temp doesn’t get too close to five degrees (I’d defo think about a dry-suit in water below 6°C).

In terms of wicking/drying, the clothes really do shed moisture quickly.

Only reservations were the fit. As the garments have no stretch, if you have a tummy (I’ve got a bit of a spare tyre) and you have to size up a bit this will mean sleeves and shoulders have a teensy bit more fabric than they should.

That’s problem with my diet of course, not the good people at Buffalo.

Last thing worth noting, the clothes are made in Sheffield which is pretty darn fantastic:-)

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Written by dug Follow
Hiya, life goes like this. Step 1: Get out of bed. Step 2: Make things better:-)