Professor Paddle: "Dry" Pants and Long-Swims...
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JayB
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  Quote JayB Replybullet Topic: "Dry" Pants and Long-Swims...
    Posted: 29 Sep 2010 at 10:41pm
Hey All:

I've heard a murmur or two about dry-pants taking on more than a bit of water during long, punishing swims before now, but recently "flooded" dry-pants have been brought up as a possible contributor to Jim O'Brien's death via flush drowning on Hubbard Brook (Western Mass) back in March/April.

Just for the sake of background, if there was one guy who was "The Man" when it came to creeking in the greater Western Mass area it was JIm, and the fact that he died in a hydraulic on a run that he'd done at least a few dozen times before, that was waaay below his top-end abilities, despite the best efforts of two equally rock-solid boaters to save him shook up everyone in that scene pretty badly.

Anyhow - now that the details associated with Jim's death have begun to emerge, and flooded dry-pants have emerged as one of many potential contributors to his death - along with extreme cold and a number of other factors - I thought I'd cross post the thread here and ask anyone with first-hand knowledge if they've ever experienced anything like a bad swim made worse by drypants taking on excess water or have heard of anything along those lines.

I converted to a drysuit a few years ago and don't see myself ever going back, and this could be a one-off event, but if this is a potential downside of this piece of gear, it's worth talking about IMO.

http://www.npmb.com/cms2/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?157626.0
-Jay
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Jed Hawkes
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  Quote Jed Hawkes Replybullet Posted: 29 Sep 2010 at 11:01pm
This is not a from-the-horses-mouth story, but a friend of mine told me he took a bad swim on the Wind river where he actually had enough time to cut his pants off with his river knife. He said that every time he went deep it would take forever to come back up and he couldn't swim to shore, so he opted to use his river knife for something other than sandwiches. I've been guiding in an IR pant with a neoprene gasket and they haven't given me any issues, but any swims I've taken in them have never been any longer than 30 seconds, and never in a hydraulic that would bugger them around enough to fill them. I have never heard anything good about the dry pant.
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  Quote Blair Replybullet Posted: 30 Sep 2010 at 12:36am
I have dry pants with ankle gaskets that I've never had problems with. Never had a lick of water get in them. Will only get damp around my stomach/waist if I swim. I always push the air out of them as much as I can. I've never been caught in a hydraulic when wearing them, only when wearing shorts.
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Courtney
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  Quote Courtney Replybullet Posted: 30 Sep 2010 at 7:39am
I've been paddling for 18 years and taken my chare of swims in my dry pants.  I've never owned a dry suit so for most of my years of paddling I wore dry pants with latex gaskets.  I never got a lick of water in them.  The only place that would get a little wet was around my waist.  Personally I've always liked dry pants because I stay dry and they're easy to get on and off and go to the bathroom.
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huckin harms
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  Quote huckin harms Replybullet Posted: 30 Sep 2010 at 8:13am

That's some tragic stuff...  RIP Jim O'Brian

I wear dry pants all the time mostly as an extra layer of warmth.  I have swam in these and can't say that they were dangerous, but then the swims were short and not life threatening. 
 
I will add that often I guage whether to wear a dry suit vs pants on a couple elements:  weather and water temps,  the potential to swim,  and IF swimming- is it class V.  OF course you never want to be swimming around in V but it happens. 
 
So, a drysuit (in my opinion) can be one of the most important pieces of personal safety a paddler can own, not necessarily for warmth and comfort but more for the bouyancy it can offer. 
 
Don't wear it out so get a pair of pants for the cool weather class III runs where swimming is more unlikely. 
 
Kokatat does make a version of dry bibs which most have probably seen at some point.  I've never owned any, but hear they do well.   
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  Quote dragorossinw Replybullet Posted: 30 Sep 2010 at 8:49am
These never seem to have issues
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Tobin
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  Quote Tobin Replybullet Posted: 30 Sep 2010 at 9:00am
Originally posted by dragorossinw

These never seem to have issues


I have a pair of these and spend a lot of time wading / swimming in them teaching and I stay very dry.
On a really long swim I did get a little wet around the waste but no accumulation.
Wading teaching rolls up to my waste and bone dry - good pants!
Sure?
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  Quote JayB Replybullet Posted: 30 Sep 2010 at 12:37pm
Sounds like it might be a rare event - but could be the sort of thing that doesn't matter until it does.

It's probably not wise to read too much into a single potential factor in a tragedy that was caused by any number of them, but it might be worth registering as one more variable to keep in mind when making decisions about gear.
-Jay
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  Quote franzhorner Replybullet Posted: 30 Sep 2010 at 1:07pm
I had a gnarly swim in my early days that I am convinced was made worse by not only drypants but also a low float jacket.  It was guide training and I was wearing some fleece pants and tops with dry pants and a splash top.  Our trainer was guiding for Boulder Drop and we hit the biggest rock in the entrance, way left of where you would normally go in what some people call the "lemming chute".  We flipped on that rock and eventually I was flushed over the ledge that goes back into the bubble pool above the picket fence.  Everyone else got out river left.  After I swam over the picket fence I did not come to the surface until AFTER flypaper rock.  At times it felt like there were rocks above me and below me and it never seemed like I had enough float to surface.  When I did make it to shore my drypants were full of water up past my knees.  All my fleece was soaked and i was sure I needed more flotation in my life along with less water in pants....
MORE RAIN PLEASE
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dave
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  Quote dave Replybullet Posted: 30 Sep 2010 at 10:31pm

After 21 years of kayaking I still havnt ever owned a pair of dry pants...because I DONT want to die...They are only good for light rafting on a sunny day. If you swim in heavy hydraulics bad things will happen.

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  Quote Blair Replybullet Posted: 01 Oct 2010 at 4:57am
Originally posted by dave

After 21 years of kayaking I still havnt ever owned a pair of dry pants...because I DONT want to die...They are only good for light rafting on a sunny day. If you swim in heavy hydraulics bad things will happen.

 
Hahaha
 
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  Quote Fish Replybullet Posted: 01 Oct 2010 at 10:00am
I've had a bad experience with dry pants and swimming as well.    Bottom line,  they are great for rafting and kayaking on easier whitewater with a lower potential for swimming.

Most dry pants have latex ankle gaskets, and a velcro or cinch waist.  This will not allow for drainage in the event they fill with water on a longer swim, and they do fill if u swim for any distance.  With a cinch or velcro waist, water will get in, and if you swim long enough,  the potential for negating your PFD's bouyancy  is very high.   I never creek in dry pants,  for this exact reason.  If its cold out, i wear a drysuit.
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  Quote irenen Replybullet Posted: 01 Oct 2010 at 10:23am

Really useful thread, I never heard anything before about the possibility of dry pants filling up. I know some people have had no problems and I'm sure some of it depends on the type of pant and even your body type, but if you think about it, even if there's only a several percent chance that your pants would take on water in a bad swim, when it does happen it's so bad that you'd never want to risk it.  (Life in a hydraulic is hard enough already, right? ;)

It's all fun and games until someone loses a paddle.
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  Quote GHannam Replybullet Posted: 02 Oct 2010 at 8:18pm
Wow, I'd never heard of people drowning because of dry-pants. What a scary thought... I agree with Irene though: useful thread. Guess I'm really glad I went straight to the full dry suit to begin with! *HAHA*
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  Quote scottrichardson Replybullet Posted: 02 Oct 2010 at 8:49pm
follow up to harms' post about kokatat bibs...

they work great. they have a tunnel that rolls up with your drytop tunnel then gets sealed by being compressed by the tunnel of your skirt. used the same set for six years while i've replaced drytops three times. even used them during the all day swims of rescue class. no water, plenty warm.

always wondered about the drypant holding water issue...thanks jay.
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  Quote dave Replybullet Posted: 04 Oct 2010 at 3:12pm
Actually, these "Dry pants" may be perfect for sea kayaking if they come with the dry socks. That way my feet and legs will stay dry when I get out of my boat when beaching and launching.
I knew I would get something out of this post...
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  Quote dave Replybullet Posted: 04 Oct 2010 at 3:20pm
http://www.kokatat.com/product_detail.asp?code=ttp
Even Kokatat mentions safety with the description of the pants....but, I think I found my answer to geting rid of wet feet while sea kayaking and still be comfy without getting to hot while paddling.
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  Quote carterj1 Replybullet Posted: 05 Oct 2010 at 11:48am
If there are any holes in the dry pants, then water will get in and accumulate. I have an old pair of dry pants with a 1 inch tear in the ass. It always amazes me how fast the pants fill up with water when I just stand in the river.
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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 05 Oct 2010 at 1:18pm
I had this old dry suit with a big tear in the left ankle and I would just piss in my suit because I figured it would drain out. I found it odd that it always funneled down my right leg instead, pooling up and slowly getting cold. After several months of doing headstands to drain the piss out of my suit I finally sold it too Dave and bought a new one... best dang investment I ever made.
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  Quote Courtney Replybullet Posted: 06 Oct 2010 at 7:46am
I agree about the bibs Scott.  That's what I use now and I love them.  I only wish they had a relief zipper.
 
Courtney
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  Quote GHannam Replybullet Posted: 07 Oct 2010 at 1:36pm
Originally posted by James

I had this old dry suit with a big tear in the left ankle and I would just piss in my suit because I figured it would drain out. I found it odd that it always funneled down my right leg instead, pooling up and slowly getting cold. After several months of doing headstands to drain the piss out of my suit I finally sold it too Dave and bought a new one... best dang investment I ever made.
 
LMAO!!!
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  Quote huckin harms Replybullet Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 9:51am

Well, a very recent incident has provided me with some new insight to this topic.  It is not the kind of story I like to share, but offering it for what its worth....

Paddling Tumwater this weekend with lots of folks and sunny skies.  There were many incidents/accidents (most that I am aware of were on Sat though Sunday had a couple as well). 
 
For my part, relevant to this post:  I was wearing dry pants when I swam at the final ledge @ Exit.  I went first and no one was around at the bottom to see or set safety.  The swim was pretty exhausting... several recerts.  Most of my concentration was focused on staying relaxed and just trying to remain patient (not panic).   Many thoughts flashed through my mind and one that continued to resurface as I struggled is "why am I not at the surface" or "this lifejacket doesn't seem to be doing a very good job".  At one point the thought crossed my mind that taking it off may help in allowing the body to go deep and flush as bouyance seemed to keep me in the recert pocket.  But that would be a very bad idea and pretty unrealistic. 
Finally flushing downstream I realized belatedly what the real issue was- my drypants were full of water making for a difficult swim to get out of the current.  By that time Rob was at the bottom of the rapid and assisted in my rescue.  Once on shore I opened the cuffs around the ankles to release a bunch of water accumulated in pant legs. 
Now,  I am not positive, but maybe the extra bit of water in the legs helped flush me out downstream as opposed to recerting over and over.  What I am sure is that having that water in the pants certainly made it much more difficult to stay on the surface when coming up for air.  
So, as pointed out earlier, dry pants are NOT good for lifethreatening swims.  I recoginize all you folks reading this already knew this... but thought it might help to just reiterate the obvious. 
For my part, the real lesson isn't about what I wear... but staying in the boat as long as it takes to avoid that potentially lifethreatening swim.  But hey, were all in between em...  so here's to the booty beer :) 
   
 
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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 10:20am
I'm glad you are ok Mike!  
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  Quote JayB Replybullet Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 3:07pm
Worth noting that Jim O'Brien was wearing bibs along with a skirt designed to improve the seal between the top/pants.

Seems quite possible that something that catches as much water as a skirt could be displaced during a particularly violent and sustained trashing, and compromise the integrity of the seal between the two.
-Jay
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  Quote PowWrangler Replybullet Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 4:26pm

If I ended up going, I woulda had a bag for ya Mike since I don't run that rapid anymore.  Glad you persevered.  Reminds me of Lotson's "pee zipper incident".

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