-- Last Updated: Oct-22-13 12:16 AM EST --
Newer paddlers tend to go for the basic farmer John (or Jane) because they are inexpensive and obviously available from NRS. That is the suit that I got hypothermic in on a relatively warm day compared to winter, even with layers.
But - there are better suits used by surfers etc that have a more refined combination of layers and thicknesses and can have full length sleeves. These suits are a different story than the Farmer Johns/Janes of the world.
They also cost more, enough that depending on what the paddler will need long term it can be a close call on whether to go there or dry. Inland, and in the northeast, you are talking water temps that can be very slightly above freezing, which is warmer than most ocean bodies of water even in winter. Those who try and paddle thru the winter in that water and air temps easily in the teens can get a lot of use out of a dry suit - if you get chilled easily it can be 6 months out of the year. People who aren't going to get that extended of use out of a dry suit may find the cheaper cost of even a more expensive wetsuit to be the better alternative.
One thing that no one here has mentioned - hands that get into 38 degree water tend not to work very well unless you are wearing really decent gloves. Diving dry gloves are among the options, and are often cheaper than the fancy paddling gloves for cold water.
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