Wetsuit vs Drysuit – Which One You Choose | Best Fishing Views

How do we choose the right type of suit when kayaking?

If you are a passionate kayaker then you are well aware of the beauty that encompasses kayaking in the summer. It is simply surreal. Unfortunately, winter comes around and we need to be more prepared for the cooler conditions. The good news is, with the right preparation we can embrace the icier months too.

Kayaking does not have to stop. If you have the right gear you can kayak in a wide range of temperatures. The most important piece of equipment when kayaking is a life vest. A survey conducted by the Cold Water Boot Camp found that an astonishing 86% of deaths in cold waters have involved people who were not wearing a life vest. A life vest can significantly increase our chances of survival if we caught sight of an extreme situation.

Preparation is key. An unprotected swimmer is likely to endure the following if not sufficiently prepared for the extreme cold. The swimmer will experience a cold shock within a minute. Within 10 minutes the swimmer will begin to feel numb, and by the one hour mark, he/she will likely experience hyperthermia – if he/she hasn’t drowned by this stage. A life vest provides us with more than just buoyancy: it also gives us a means of insulation when the temperatures drop dramatically. Choosing appropriate clothing and equipment can be a life or death decision when kayaking in harsh conditions.

When it comes to suiting up for the tough climates, an important question arises: should I choose a wetsuit or a drysuit?

First, let’s identify the key differences between wetsuits and drysuits.

The distinguishing features of wetsuits are as follows:

Wetsuits are from neoprene and usually consist of only one piece. As the name suggests, the design of a wetsuit allows water to touch the wearer’s skin. A thin compartment of water forms between the skin and neoprene, and because of the tightness, the thin layer of water warm our body enabling the layer to function as insulation. The other benefit of neoprene is that make out miniature cells filled with air. This allows it to trap in more heat providing better insulation and keeping you warm.

It is vital to ensure that the wetsuit provides a snug fit. If it is loose-fitting you will experience the cold in a much more extreme way as its insulation method is dependent on the wetsuit being very close to your body.

The main types of wetsuits are as follows:

Drysuits, on the other hand, function as the name suggests: they keep us dry. The material’s design is to restrict water from getting into the suit. Between the suit and skin, a layer of air trapped and functions as insulation. Gaskets are used to tightly seal and waterproof the suit. They grip firmly around your body, around the wrists, neck, and often the ankles. Dry suits also provide a degree of buoyancy due to the air trapped inside the suit.

  • Long John Wetsuits: covers the ankles, torso, and legs.
  • Short John Wetsuits covers the thighs and torso.
  • Farmer John/Jane: Farmer John (male style) or Farmer Jane (female style). These are two-piece wetsuits with one piece covering from the waist down, and the other piece, a jacket covering the top half of the body. The benefit of this design is that it enables greater mobility for the upper body.
  • Shorty Wetsuits: covers the upper arms, torso, and thighs.
  • Full Wetsuits: covers the ankles, legs, wrists, arms, and torso.
  • Semi-dry suits: Unlike conventional wetsuits, semi-dry suits allow little to no water under the surface, however, they differ to dry suits in that you are not supposed to wear a layer of additional clothing beneath it. Drysuits, on the other hand, function as the name suggests: they keep us dry. The material is designed to restrict water from getting into the suit. Between the suit and skin, a layer of air trapped and functions as insulation (a layer of clothing is worn in between). Gaskets are used to tightly seal and waterproof the suit. They grip firmly around your body, around the wrists, neck, and often the ankles. Dry suits also provide a degree of buoyancy due to the air trapped inside the suit.

Advantages of Wetsuits

  • Availability: more likely to be commercially available to rent or buy
  • Less expensive than drysuits
  • Excellent for kayaking, surfing, and swimming
  • Better buoyancy than dry suits
  • One piece

Disadvantages of Wetsuits

  • Can be tricky to get in and out.
  • Don’t keep you as warm as drysuits
  • Advantages of Drysuits
  • Fantastic for extremely cold conditions.
  • Easier to put on and take off.
  • Keeps the body completely dry.
  • Long lasting. With adequate maintenance, a drysuit will outlast most wetsuits.

Disadvantages of Drysuits

  • Often don’t come with a relief zipper.
  • Drysuits require the replacement of seals.
  • Tears need to be repaired.

The Construction Of A Drysuit

drysuit

Inner Shell

The inner shell of drysuits is usually made of neoprene rubber, thermal fabrics, or synthetic material that have similar characteristics.

The inner shell should be in close contact with the wearer’s body.

Outer Membrane

The membrane is the external part of the drysuit. This part is a thin outer layer that is made of nylon or thin rubber. It is designed to be slightly looser, this is to enable greater movement in the water.

Seals

The seals for keeping water out are often made from latex, foam neoprene, and sometimes silicon. Seals at the wrists and neck keep water out by maintaining close contact against the skin. The seals are not 100 percent watertight so minor seepage can occur. Sweat and condensation can form, which can give the feeling of wetness from the outside water.

Latex seals are sensitive and can be damaged by exposure to oxygen, oils, and other substances. They need to be replaced periodically, roughly every two years or more. Latex does have the potential to cause allergies for some people. Neoprene, on the other hand, lasts longer and is non-allergenic, but since it is less elastic it is not as watertight. Silicone seals are a recent innovation. It is supposed to be as flexible as latex but with greater durability.

Accessories

1) Thermal Undersuits

The majority of drysuits do not offer sufficient insulation without adequate undergarments. The type of undergarment necessary depends on the temperature of the water, the type of suit, and the dive plan. The main purpose of the undergarment to provide comfortable thermal balance as the heat losses the balance. The heat causes the diver’s movements. Additional insulation is required in colder conditions and for less physical diving activity. Thinsulate is a recommended fabric for undersuits as it doesn’t become clammy from moisture build up.

2) Gloves and Mitts

Many drysuits have wrist seals – removable dry gloves connected by attachment rings or permanently attached gloves. Permanently attached gloves are a little rarer. It is more common for them to be bonded using attachment rings. The benefit of the absence of a wrist seal is that it makes getting in and out easier as there is no need for the suit to be tightly bounded around the wrists. Dry gloves can be fitted over a wrist seal. This prevents leakage if the gloves are compromised.

The Construction Of A Wetsuit

wetsuit

Neoprene is a synthetic material to make the wetsuit that functions as a form of insulation and protection from cold waters. The maximum thickness for suits made from Neoprene is 10mm, however, they come in a range of sizes. In general, the thicker the material is (often including the density) the warmer it will be.

Many wetsuits are thicker across different parts of the suit. A 3/2mm wetsuit implies that it is 3mm around the torso and 2mm at the arms and legs. This is because it is more important to keep the torso warm, as our arms and legs warm up on their own as they move around. A 3/2 wetsuit made for mid-season warmth, somewhere in the range of 56 to 66 degrees. 4/3 wetsuits designed for winter temperatures, in the range of 53 to 60 degrees. The higher the rating gets the more appropriate the wetsuit is for lower temperatures.

Wetsuits design are from Neoprene and it is to use in warmer climates, somewhere in the range of 50 to 80 degrees.

Neoprene Wetsuit Thicknesses Recommended For Various Water

Temperature Ranges

6mm-7mm or ~¼ inch is ideal for 10-16 degrees Celsius or 50-60F

4mm-5mm or ~ 3/16 inch is ideal for 16-21 degrees Celsius or 60-70F

2mm-3mm or ~⅛ inch is ideal for 21-27 degrees Celsius or 70-80F

1mm-1.5mm or ~1/16 inch is ideal for 24-30 degrees Celsius or 75-85F

The rule of thumb when choosing a suit is:

If it is cold, use a wetsuit. This can include activities such as surfing, wake surfing, or even river surfing. If it is extremely cold, a drysuit might be a better option. If you are kayaking, whitewater paddling, or taking photographs in extremely cold conditions, you may choose to wear a drysuit.

A Few Tips When Selecting A Wetsuit:

  • Wetsuits with taped seams tend to leak less than the stitched ones. Rubber coated or welded seams are usually the best.
  • Don’t forget about the importance of using a wetsuit that allows for flexibility. The ones that are thicker than 3/2mm tend to be more restrictive. If you don’t need one that thick, then don’t buy it. Try to select one that is appropriate for your specific conditions.
  • Stitching that appears to expose, cheap or even dried out neoprene should avoid, along with ones that don’t fit properly, since they can cause a rash as well as discomfort. When choosing your final suit, it is a matter of personal preference. The important part is that you have some means of protection and comfort in cold conditions. A life vest is essential and should be a top priority for any kayaker no matter how confident you are as a swimmer. The next way to determine what suit is right for you is to figure out what activities you will be participating in mostly in your new suit.

Boating

A lot of boaters wear diving suits to protect from the climate whilst on board. Often, boaters appreciate drysuits because wetsuits tend to only keep the individual warm if it is wet.

Work: If you work in the water, doing jobs such as repairing boats, bridges, docks, or anything under the surface of the water. Then a wetsuit means a lot of protection from the cold. Some workers may need to be in the water for multiple hours, so a diving suit needs to be made from robust materials. For these types of jobs, a thicker material in the range of 4 to 6mm will be necessary.

Water Sports

Sports enthusiasts often require diving suits to stay warm in the water for extended periods of time. It is important to select a suit that will not restrict movement so that you can maintain your movement and agility.

Diving

Both wetsuits and drysuits are suitable for diving. For instance, sports divers and military divers will be in different conditions so each individual will have specific needs that should be provided for. Many suits are thin and sleek whilst others are only tough heavy duty, and resistant to abrasions.

Survival

Many diving suits are used solely for the purpose of survival. These kinds of suits are worn only in emergency situations, for example, keep on board ships that travel through cold seas, oceans, and lakes.