Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Favorite Piece of Gear - NRS Hydroskin Review

This past weekend, I went on a really fun paddle down Walker Creek and Tomales Bay with a friend of mine (Matt P who also has a blog).  We were talking about how we need to be more active with our blogs and started talking about ideas for a blog post.  I immediately thought of a "favorite piece of gear" post.  The moment I thought of that, I knew that I would have write a little about my beloved NRS HydroSkin shirt.  This is my favorite piece of gear.  Why is it my favorite?  Keep reading.

When I first started getting into SUP, I knew I would have to get a wetsuit.  In the bay area, the water rarely gets over 60 degrees.  For most of the year, it's in the low 50s.  This means, you have to have a wetsuit if you are going to spend any time in the water.  My first suit was a farmer john style that I picked from the boys down at  Clavey.  The suit by itself was not quite enough, so I got the HydroSskin shirt to go with it (also from Clavey).  I figured this would give me the most versatility for the least amount of money.  Here's what usually works for me:

  • Cold Day/Cold Water = Wetsuit and HydroSkin
  • Warm Day/Cold Water = Wetsuit and rash guard
  • Warm Day/Warm Water = Hydroskin and board shorts
I have used this shirt while touring, teaching, surfing, downwinding, racing, even snorkeling in Hawaii.  When I'm not wearing it, I usually keep it in my drybag in case I need it.  It is compressable, and doesn't take up much room.  Last Spring, after reaching the end of my run, I gave my wife a call for a pick up and within minutes, the temperature started to drop as the sun went down behind Inverness Ridge.  I was tired, wet, and hungry and started to shiver.  I reached in my bag, ate a Cliff Bar and put on my HydroSkin.  I warmed right up.  I had to wait an hour or so for my wife.  I was happy to have that very dry and very warm shirt!  It's only .5mm but feels a lot warmer than that due to the construction.  Go to the NRS site to learn more about this amazing material.

I like Pros and Cons lists, so here goes:

PROS
  • Simple - It's just a shirt.  No zipper, no pockets, no weird collar, no buttons, nothing to snagged or caught.
  • Versatile - Wear it with farmer john, or by itself.  Wear as an outer layer or as a thermal layer under a rain jacket or paddling jacket.  Great sun protection too.  
  • Packable - It's a lot of warmth in small package.  Roll it up and put in a drybag or in your cockpit.
  • Warm - It's warmer than you would think.  The neoprene is only .5mm but it's as warm as 2mm in my opinion.
  • Flexible - stretchy and fits well.  I am 6'5" 235 and the XXL fits me perfectly. The neck is great, it does a good job of keeping water from flushing but is not too restrictive. See the pictures below.
  • Outer Skin Texture - Slick but not grabby like neoprene.  Allows easy entry into my pull-over PFD.  Never had any chafing or blistering. The texture of this material allows my PFD to "float" over it.  It's almost like they were made to work together.  My PFD is an Astral Greenjacket, btw.
  • Value - Even at full price ($95), this piece of clothing is a great value.  Often, you can find the long sleeve version on sale for about $60.  
CONS
  • Flushing - If you wear it for surfing and you fall often like I do, you will get water up this shirt.  It is a shirt after all.
  • Stays Wet - This thing takes forever to dry.  If planning another session for later in the day or first thing the next morning, get two shirts so you always have a dry one.  
  • Honestly can't think of anything else to say.
So yes, the NRS HydroSkin shirt is my favorite piece of gear, EVER.  There, I said it!  NRS is having a sale right now so I might buy myself a Christmas present.  Oh, I'm not affiliated with NRS in any way and I get no discounts or special considerations from them.  I pay full price or look for sales like everyone else.  I have the blue and gray already, but I like the red and gray too.  Get one.

BAM! - My favorite piece of the gear, the NRS HydroSkin shirt.

Holds up to abuse.  No torn seams or holes.  The center piece of fabric in the collar is very thin and flexible.

Form fitting but not too tight and offers good sun protection.

As you can see here, extremely flexible, more than any wetsuit.

You can see texture of the inside, comfortable, not itchy.

Here is the main material.  I am using my LED flashlight to try to show the thickness of this material.

Here is the thin material (HydroSilk?) under the arm to add in comfort and flexibility.

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