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Kayaking Wetsuit Vs. Drysuit: Uncovering the Best Choice

By: Dave Samuel
Updated On: January 31, 2024

Welcome aboard, fellow adventurers! If you’re keen on braving the waves, there’s no doubt you’ve asked yourself this burning question – “Kayaking wetsuit vs. drysuit, which is the best?” Firstly, it’s excellent news that you’re considering your safety and comfort while kayaking because who wants to be cold and uncomfortable out in the waters? This article aims to provide clear insights into choosing between a wetsuit or a drysuit for your aquatic adventures.

When it comes to deciding which is better for kayaking, a wetsuit or a drysuit, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. It heavily depends on factors such as weather conditions and water temperature while also considering personal comfort and fit.

If you plan on paddling in chillier waters or harsh weather conditions, then a drysuit might be more suitable due to its unique construction that keeps you warm yet completely dry.

On the other hand, if you’re looking at kayaking under warmer weather with moderate water temperatures, then opting for a wetsuit could be ideal due to its inherent ability to retain heat well despite letting in some water.

What You’ll Discover Here:

  • Deep dive into understanding what exactly are wetsuits and drysuits
  • In-depth analysis of the pros & cons of both suits specific to kayaking
  • Factors that dictate your choice between these two
  • Handy tips regarding sizing and fit when selecting kayak apparel
  • An overview of how varying weather conditions and water temperatures can influence your decision

Understanding Kayaking Wetsuit Vs. Drysuit

When diving into the thrilling world of water sports clothing, especially for kayaking, two central terms often come up: wetsuits and drysuits. The debate on ‘kayaking wetsuit vs. drysuit’ piques many kayak enthusiasts’ interest.

Understanding Kayaking Wetsuit Vs. Drysuit

What is a Wetsuit?

A kayaking wetsuit is a fitted garment worn by paddlers to stay warm when plunging into cold waters. At its core, a wetsuit’s primary function serves to provide insulation. But how does it really work?

  • Material & Design: Wetsuits are chiefly made from neoprene, which is a type of synthetic rubber that provides excellent insulation against cold.
  • Functionality: Unique among kayak clothing options, the suit allows a thin layer of water to enter and get trapped between your skin and the suit material itself—your body heat warms this layer of water, providing insulation.
  • Thickness & Protection: Ranging from 1mm to 7mm in thickness, the heavy-duty options are designed for colder temperatures, while thinner suits can keep you comfortable under milder conditions.

We are moving on to the second contender in our ‘kayaking wetsuit vs drysuit’ scene.

What is a Drysuit?

Standing opposite in the ring from our prior contestant — we have dry suits. Unlike its counterpart, everything about them screams protection against cold temperatures.

  • Material & Design: The typical drysuit will be made up of either nylon or heavy-duty rubber with built-in waterproof seals at vulnerable points such as the neck and extremities.
  • Functionality: As suggested by their name — they aim to keep you entirely dry within their confines (thanks to elaborate sealing mechanisms), offering an insulation method unique within ‘kayak clothing options.’
  • Roomier Fit & Layering Options: Unlike wetsuits, dry suits aren’t meant to fit closely. This creates room for adding layers of clothing underneath, which can provide extra insulation during extremely cold conditions.

From a distance, it might seem like an overwhelming decision to choose between the two prominent pieces of cold water kayaking gear. Fear not! As we dive deeper into their pros and cons in the following sections, you’ll hopefully find yourself better equipped to pick your weapon of choice.

Also Read: Balance Boards Unveiled: Why You Need One & How to Use It!

Pros and Cons of Using A Wetsuit For Kayaking

As a kayak enthusiast, I’m always curious about the best clothing options that can enhance my kayaking experience. This often means weighing the pros and cons of a “kayaking wetsuit vs. drysuit.” Let’s break it down!


Wetsuits have been my go-to gear for those middle-range temperature days. Here are some of their top benefits:

  • Heat Retention: Wetsuits are designed to trap a thin layer of water between the suit and your skin, which is then warmed by your body heat, creating an insulating layer. If you’re doing plenty of paddling (like I do!), this can keep you pretty comfortable.
  • Greater Mobility: Compared to drysuits, wetsuits usually give me more freedom of movement in my arms and shoulders– crucial for effective paddling.
  • Durability: When it comes to resistance against regular wear and tear, I’ve found my wetsuit faring quite well in various conditions during my kayak adventures.
  • Cost-effective: Usually, compared to dry suits, wetsuits come with a smaller price tag, making them an affordable option if you’re new to the world of kayaking.


While wetsuits do offer substantial benefits, like every piece of equipment, they have their limitations:

  • Wind Chill: One thing that bothers me about wearing a wet suit is that they are less effective in protecting against wind chill once out of the water.
  • Requires Warm-up Period: Also worth noting is when first entering cold water, there will be an initial shock – until your body warms up the sealed-in water layer inside the suit.
  • Potential Chafing or Rash Marks: Depending on how long you’re out on your kayak expedition, especially in saltwater environments, over extended periods might lead to skin irritation from chafing due to the tight-fitting neoprene.
  • No Thermal Layer: Lastly, wetsuits do not provide a thermal layer under the suit for adding or removing clothing based on varying weather conditions.

Understanding these pros and cons of using a wetsuit while kayaking will help you make an informed decision when choosing between a “kayaking wetsuit vs. drysuit.”

It’s always been about balancing my needs with comfort, practicality, and understanding how each may impact my adventure out on the water. All this while still being conscious of how weather conditions may dictate my kayak clothing options for the day!

Also Read: Unveiling What Paddle Boards are Made Of: An Expose

Pros and Cons of Using A Drysuit For Kayaking

In the lively debate of kayaking wetsuit vs. drysuit, it is essential to note that each suit comes with its own unique set of advantages and potential drawbacks. The right choice may differ based on various factors like personal comfort, water temperature, and weather conditions.

Let’s dive into the particulars of a drysuit for kayaking to help clear up this decision-making process.


When it comes to water kayaking gear, drysuits are often the top pick due to their ability to keep you significantly warmer and drier than wetsuits. Here are some key benefits that they offer:

  • Full-body Coverage: Unlike most wetsuits that expose some parts like your hands or feet, a drysuit provides full-body coverage, which makes them ideal for cooler water temperatures.
  • Dry Protection: As the name suggests, dry suits ensure you stay tight and completely dry even when fully immersed in water.
  • K-layer Insulation: Drysuits incorporate what’s known as K-layer insulation. This means you can layer up with thermals underneath for added warmth without compromising comfort or maneuverability.
  • Easy Access: Drysuits usually come with a convenient front-entry zipper, making them easier for you to put on or take off alone compared to back-entry suits.

Nevertheless, these remarkable benefits don’t mean that a dry suit is always the best kayak clothing option in every scenario.


Just as there are perks associated with using a drysuit while kayaking, there are also downsides worth considering:

  • Prolonged Wearing May Cause Gasket Wear Out: Regular use over time can weaken the watertight seals around the neck and wrist that keep you dry.
  • Maintenance Needed: These suits require more maintenance than typical wetsuits. They need regular cleaning of specific detergents, proper drying, and storage in cool, shadowy spaces to keep them functioning optimally.
  • Costly: Unfortunately, the advanced functionality of dry suits comes at a higher price point than your regular kayaking wetsuits.
  • Overheating: Since drysuits are HVAC systems by design (keeping you warm when it’s cold and vice versa), they might cause overheating during warm weather if they’re not correctly ventilated or adjusted.

Considering both the pros and cons of using a drysuit for kayaking can provide a balanced view of what it might be like to sport one on your next paddling adventure. Remember that choosing the right kayak apparel is about picking what best suits your specific conditions. Keep an open mind while making your decision!

Also Read: Winter Kayaking: Your Ultimate Guide To Master the Chill

Special Considerations While Choosing Between Wetsuit and Drysuit

While understanding the nuances of a kayaking wetsuit vs. a drysuit, it’s equally important to analyze a few special considerations that play into deciding which one to choose.

Special Considerations While Choosing Between Wetsuit and Drysuit

Water Temperature

The water temperature significantly impacts my decision when choosing between a wetsuit and a drysuit for kayaking. Here’s how:

  • Wetsuits are built to trap a thin layer of water between the body and the suit, which is warmed by my body heat and creates an insulating barrier against cold water.
  • Drysuits, on the other hand, are designed to keep me completely dry, even if I’m in frigid or icy water. They’re ideal for extremely cold kayaking environments.

So, in simple terms, If I’m planning to venture out in relatively warm waters, I’d likely go with a wetsuit. However, for icier conditions, nothing beats the thermal protection of a dry suit.

Weather Conditions

The prevailing weather conditions also play into my choice between wearing a wetsuit vs. a drysuit while kayaking:

  • Sunny days favor wetsuits due to their minimalistic designs that allow sun absorption and enhance warmth.
  • In contrast, stormy or windy weather is perfect for donning a dry suit because it insulates better against cold wind chills and icy rain that can lead to hypothermia quickly if I happen not to be protected properly.

It’s essential, though, to always apply common sense concerning unanticipated weather changes, which could drastically affect your comfort level during your sea voyage.


When it comes down to fitting these two types of kayak clothing options, comfort really matters.

  • Wetsuits — With this option, there’s less freedom of movement because they fit like a second skin but reward me with more agility underwater (if I tip over). They also need close contact with my skin for effective thermal insulation.
  • Drysuits — Contrarily, these are a bit bulky and provide a looser fit, which could feel initially cumbersome, but they afford immense freedom of movement. The comfort level remains unaffected despite layering clothes beneath for extra warmth.

I suggest trying different sizing options until you find your personal preference. Also, remember to cater for possibly adding or removing thermal layers underneath when picking the right suit size.

Choosing the right kayak apparel can have a significant impact on your paddling experience; hence, it’s crucial to weigh all factors before settling on either kayaking wetsuit vs. drysuit.


Does colder weather require me to use one over the other?

Yes, absolutely! When kayaking in colder water or during the colder months, a dry suit is recommended. This is because it offers better insulation and keeps you completely dry in extreme environments.

Can I use both interchangeably?

It depends on various factors, such as outdoor temperature and personal comfort level. Typically, a wetsuit can be used for warmer climates, while a dry suit is suitable for cooler conditions.

Do any brands specialize in designing these suits specifically for kayakers?

Yes, many well-known outdoor clothing brands cater specifically to water sports, including kayaking. For instance, brands like NRS, Stohlquist, and Kokatat are renowned for their high-quality wetsuits and drysuits designed specifically for kayakers.


After diving deep into the debate of kayaking wetsuit vs. drysuit, it’s clear there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Your choice heavily depends on several factors, such as weather conditions, water temperature, and fit preferences.

While wetsuits offer comfort and flexibility, dry suits provide superior protection from cold conditions. Prioritize your needs and safety for a more enjoyable kayaking experience.

Key Takeaway Points

  • Wetsuits offer better mobility due to their tight fit, but they may not keep you completely dry.
  • Drysuits excel in colder weather conditions, offering optimal water-proofing but may be heavier and more expensive.
  • Water temperature significantly impacts your choice between a wetsuit and a dry suit.
  • Weather conditions should guide your choice of kayak clothing options.
  • The right fit enhances your comfort when kayaking.

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