Wetsuit Vs. Drysuit For Kayaking – What Is The Best?

It’s perfect for kayaking in the summer.

After reading this sentence, many of you might be wondering “How about in the winter? Can I kayak in the winter?”

The answer is totally yes, but only with the right equipment.

You guys have probably heard of wetsuit and dry suit but don’t actually know the differences between them, then this article is for you.

We know how confusing it could be when choosing the best suit, which is why we have decided to put together some information we’ve gathered, hopefully give you a better idea of what the difference is.

But first, let me tell you why you might want to wear a wetsuit or a drysuit.

wetsuit vs drysuit for kayaking

Some of you might be wondering why need the suit when we are always sitting on the boat, not touching the water. However, you might fall into the water at any time during your journey. That can cause cold shock and hypothermia.

Cold shock can happen when you suddenly fall into the water where have the temperature around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. It might cause several problems in breathing such as gasping for air, swallowing water, hyperventilation or other issues such as mental, heart and blood pressure.

Moreover, If you soak your body for too long under cold water, you may also experience hypothermia, and that will be a serious problem.

Therefore, to ensure your safety in cold weather harsh conditions, a suit is indispensable.

What Is Wetsuit And How Does It Help?

A basic wetsuit is made from neoprene, a soft material which is capable for stretching.

There is a small gap within the neoprene which allows a thin layer of water to get next to your skin, therefore your body can heat it up and keep you warm.

Wetsuits are often used for surfing in cold weather because materials and designs allow flexible movement. They are designed to fit the body, if the suit is too baggy, you can get cold.


Wetsuits have numerous styles and thickness levels, here is the full list of them:

  • Full Wetsuits: These wetsuits are one piece suits that cover nearly entire your body included torso, arms, and legs, up to your wrists and ankles.
  • Shorty Wetsuits / Springsuits: Also is one piece suits that cover your body and upper arms. Best used for warm weather.
  • Short John Wetsuits: One piece suits that cover your torso and thighs. Ideal for warmer climates and waters.
  • Long John Wetsuits: One piece suits that cover your torso and legs, down to your ankles (no arm coverage). This is the preferred choice of triathletes and surfers.
  • Tops & Bottoms: You don’t necessarily have to use an one piece. You can purchase neoprene tops (vests)  in both long and short sleeves as well as full and short length bottoms.


What thickness level should you choose is depends on what water temperature you will be encountering.

That means the colder the water is, the thicker your wetsuit should be.

On each wetsuit, there is a label, it shows the thickness level by displaying three separate numbers.

These numbers represent the thickness level of each part in millimeters sequentially: Torso, legs and arms. Only a few labels only have two numbers, these related to the torso and legs.

To protect you from cold water and prevent hypothermia, the suit usually thicker around the torso. The thinner neoprene will be placed at your limbs, which allows flexible movements.

In addition, you can use boots, gloves and hoods to protect your extremities such as fingers, toes, ears …etc.

Advantages of Wetsuits:

  • In addition to kayaking, this suit is also suitable for many other sports such as surfing, swimming or paddle boarding because it provides mobility.
  • Depending on climate or water temperature, you can choose a long sleeve or short sleeve suit to cover as much or as little of your body as you want.
  • Wetsuits also tend to have more buoyancy than drysuits.
  • The suit makes you look like a professional.

Disadvantages of Wetsuits:

  • The wet-suit is a bad idea if you’re willing to keep dry. You’re going to need a shower then dry your clothes off before getting back in the car to home after a day of paddling.
  • It’s also quite tricky to wear on or take off this outfit, especially when they are wet or damp.
  • This suit can only keep you warm when the temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, below it, you’ll freeze to death even when you wear the thickest wetsuits.

What is Drysuit?


The name says it all. A suit which is made from waterproof materials, sealed around the neck and wrists by gaskets.

With this design, the suit can keep you completely dry in the water where you will be encountering.

However, the suit is just an outer layer, and you still need to wear appropriate clothes underneath to stay warm.

Like wetsuits, drysuits have many types and each one designed to be used in different sports and different environmental temperatures

There are also two types, one piece and two pieces.

The Kayakers usually use the ‘baggy drysuits’ so they can move more freely while paddling.


Gaskets keep water out of your drysuit by sealing around your neck and wrists. It can be made of many different materials, but the most popular one is natural latex.

You can also consider two other types of gaskets which is made of silicone rubber and neoprene. Both types have higher durability than latex.

However, the silicone rubber one is a lot more expensive and often require particular installation. And the neoprene one might make you feel a little bit less flexible.

Moreover, with gaskets seal at your ankles, you can wear your socks or boots to keep you warm, but they will not stay dry.

Relief zipper

Peeing in a drysuit is quite tricky. You can’t go out kayaking all day without peeing, did you?

That’s why a relief zipper is considered to be a solution. It can be attached on both wetsuit and drysuit.

With the zipper, going to the bathroom will be more comfortable for men and possible for women if they use a “she-wee” or similar device.

The woman also can use ‘drop-seat’ zipper. It’s longer than the standard one, which curves in a way that allows women to squat to pee. Note that it helps you at peeing but also mean the rest of the time you will be sitting on a big zipper.

Advantages of Drysuits:

  • Compared to a wet-suit, it is always easier to get in or out of. And also because the suit is intended to keep dry, you won’t need to take shower and dry off your clothes after a day of paddling.
  • You can wear as many layers as you want underneath the suit to stay warm in frigid weather.

Disadvantages of Drysuits:

  • The drysuits only designed to keep you dry, you must have other appropriate clothes wear underneath to keep you warm.
  • As we know, there are two types of drysuit, one made of breathable fabric, the other made of non-breathable waterproof fabric. You might get wet inside with your own sweat when wearing non-breathable clothing.
  • Every time going to the bathroom will be tough when you wear this outfit without a relief zipper.


There is no best choice in the two types of suits, and the decision will depend on what activity you are involved in and the temperature of the environment.

At times when you participated in paddling, swimming, surfing and other activities with the temperature ranges from 45 to 70 degrees, a wet-suit should be the preferred option. With this suit, you’re able to move more maneuver.

In opposite, when the air temperature below 50 degrees or water temperature under 45 degrees, you should consider wearing a drysuit instead of the wet one. However, wearing drysuit alone is not enough, you must wear inside it a bunch of clothes to stay warm in icy weather.

Be comfortable, be safe on the water and happy paddling!

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