What’s The Difference Between a Wetsuit And Drysuit For Kayaking?

The main difference between wetsuits and drysuits for kayaking lies in their purpose and the materials used in their manufacture. Wetsuits provide insulation and protection from hydrostatic pressure, enabling a kayaker to stay warm and comfortable in cold waters. They are usually made from neoprene material, giving them stretchability and some thermal insulation. On the other hand, drysuits are designed to keep the entire body and clothing underneath completely dry. They are usually made from waterproof and breathable materials, allowing ventilation and insulation.

In this article, we will discuss the key differences between wetsuits and drysuits for kayaking.


Wetsuits and drysuits are both made to keep the wearer warm and safe when kayaking. The main difference between wetsuits and drysuits lies in the type of material used. Wetsuits are typically made from a neoprene material. Neoprene is a form-fitting, insulating foam modeled after natural rubber that keeps the wearer both comfortable and warm in cold water. However, it’s important to note that neoprene does not prevent water from entering the suit – hence why it is called a ‘wetsuit’ – but instead traps thin layers of water within its cells which act as insulation against cold temperatures outside the suit. Drysuits, on the other hand, are designed with air-tight materials like nylon or polyester to keep cold water outside of the suit while keeping warmth close to your body as you navigate choppy waters. While a wetsuit is often more comfortable due to its flexible material, drysuits provide greater protection from extreme weather conditions since they completely block out moisture and wind chill.


Wetsuits and drysuits are specialized types of watercraft clothing designed to enable kayakers to remain warm, dry, and comfortable while paddling. While both suits offer roughly the same level of insulation and protection, their designs differ drastically in terms of materials choice, construction type, ventilation capabilities and mobility capability. Wetsuits are typically used in warmer climates or recreational kayaking trips where swimmers are likely to encounter shallow waters. They are constructed from a single layer of neoprene with taped seams that prevent cold water seeping into the wetsuit while allowing body heat to escape during strenuous activities. Wetsuits offer a good level of insulation but can be quite restrictive in their design due to the tight fitting construction which often affects agility and dexterity for certain activities.

Drysuits on the other hand are typically used on colder climates or aquatic trips wherein kayakers may encounter deeper waters where cold temperatures can penetrate quickly through wetsuit materials. Unlike wetsuits, drysuits come with two or sometimes three layers that allow great temperature regulation for activities like water rescue or ice fishing. Drysuit materials usually include neoprene inserts combined with tougher outer layers made from durable fabrics like nylon or rubber; waterproof seals at wrists and ankles also prevents any water from entering inside the suit when submerged in deep waters. This makes them ideal for kayaking trips in cold weather conditions due to their greater flexibility but they do lack breathability as compared to wetsuits which can be quite uncomfortable after a while if worn constantly without proper breaks in-between paddles.


When it comes to kayaking, the choice between a wet suit and a dry suit is based on factors such as environment, activity level and water temperature. Wetsuits are more flexible than dry suits, allowing for greater mobility. The neoprene material of a wet suit not only helps retain body heat by trapping warm water next to the skin but also offers protection from abrasions and punctures from underwater hazards like rocks or other debris. In addition, wetsuits come in multiple thicknesses providing varying levels of insulation.

On the other hand, dry suits provide complete protection from water while paddling on colder days. This waterproof membrane effectively keeps out water while also allowing perspiration and sweat to escape, so you remain comfortable as you’re paddling. Another advantage of a drysuit is that it provides increased buoyancy if kayakers are thrown overboard in cold water. However, it can feel restrictive due to its lack of flexibility and hinders reaching far forward or backward while practicing rolls or stunts with your kayak.


Drysuits provide the highest level of protection from cold water and keep you completely dry when you are kayaking. They are designed to be completely waterproof and are made from breathable fabric which allows sweat to escape. Drysuits are designed with a waterproof seal around the neck, wrists and ankles which helps to prevent water ingress.

Let’s take a look at how a drysuit compares to a wetsuit when used for kayaking.


The main difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit for kayaking is the materials used for their construction. A wetsuit usually consists of neoprene, a rubber with many small cells that trap heat. Although thinner and lighter than neoprene, Lycra is much weaker and does not retain heat as effectively. It is often used in sports apparel items, such as cycling or running logos.

The primary material used in drysuits for kayaking is Gore-Tex or another waterproof fabric combination like trilaminate laminates. The benefit of drysuits over wetsuits include their ability to effectively keep kayakers dry while providing more warmth in cold waters. Drysuits are also desirable due to their weather-resistant properties and lower risk of causing skin irritation.


Both a wetsuit and a drysuit are purpose-designed garments that allow users to stay warm, dry and comfortable in cold water. Drysuits are made from thicker, rubberized, waterproof material such as neoprene or a combination of neoprene and other fabric materials, while wetsuits are made from thinner neoprene-like material with micro-pores that allow some water to get in. This layer of water helps to trap body heat which is needed for insulation and comfort. While a wetsuit fits more like clothing, the drysuit usually fits snugger since it is designed to keep all moisture out. It has built-in gaskets around the neck, wrists, and ankles which form seals when they come into contact with your skin in order to block out any external moisture. A typical drysuit also features a flexible protective closure (usually zip up) with adjustable straps at the waist designed to give you a secure fit without compromising movement or comfort. Additionally, some drysuits have latex inner wrist seals as well as adjustable suspenders/shoulder straps for extra stability within the garment when taking on heavier whitewater conditions in big open boats.


The wetsuit vs drysuit kayaking debate is an interesting one, and ultimately you’ll need to decide which type of suit works best for your environment, the activity, and your skill level. Generally speaking, drysuits offer many advantages over wetsuits especially for kayaking in cold water or frigid weather. Here’s a look at some of the primary benefits of a drysuit over a wetsuit when kayaking:

– Greater thermal protection: While both a drysuit and wetsuit protect from hypothermia in cold water conditions, drysuits provide greater insulation. This means that you’ll stay warmer for longer periods during colder outdoor excursions such as winter or night kayaking sessions.

– Protection from the wind: Drysuits are better at helping maintain warmth by protecting against the wind keeping air layers sealed inside the suit. This can help prevent evaporative losses through convection.

– Comfort and mobility: A properly fitted drysuit is more comfortable than a wetsuit due to its looser fit. It offers more freedom of movement too because it doesn’t have compression sensations on body parts like thicker wet suits do when they get submerged in water currents or waves while paddling.

– Dryer experience: For cold weather and cold water paddling conditions most people prefer to remain drier rather than skirting along with their suit full of icy cold water, or having to layer multiple neoprenes against their skin during multi-day trips exposed to rain or splashing through waves from other vessels on lakes or oceans.

Wetsuit vs Drysuit Kayaking

Wetsuits and Drysuits are two popular types of suits for kayaking. Both of them provide protection from temperature, abrasions and UV rays. However, they have some distinct differences that need to be considered before you decide which one will work best for your kayaking purposes.

Let’s take a look at the differences between the two.

Thermal Protection

One of the main considerations when deciding between wetsuits and drysuits for kayaking is the thermal protection that each provides for its wearer. Wetsuits are designed to keep a thin layer of water trapped inside, next to your skin. The body then warms up this layer of water, providing some insulation. However, water conducts heat away from the body much faster than air does, so cold water from outside can also enter the suit and cause a significant drop in temperature. Drysuits, on the other hand, provide much better insulation than wetsuits. A drysuit seals off the body completely (except for controlled entry points at wrists and neck) and provides a pocket of air between the surface of your skin and the material of the suit. The atmosphere inside this pocket stays warm enough to provide sufficient temperature protection in cold water temperatures. Additionally, most drysuits have built-in insulation like fleece or neoprene that helps insulate even further against colder temperatures.

Comfort And Mobility

When comparing wetsuits and drysuits, comfort and mobility are two important factors you should consider. Mobility in this context refers to the ease with which a person is able to move about or move their arms and legs within the suit. Wetsuits generally provide less overall restriction than drysuits but also allow some water to enter at times. The neoprene material used in wetsuit construction allows for more stretching and bending, making it easier for users to move around without feeling excessively restricted. Additionally, the slightly elastic material of a wetsuit helps retain body heat by compressing against the user’s body when wet. However, the small amount of water that is allowed in can cause users to become chilled after prolonged use or if submerged completely.

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In comparison, drysuits are made of non-elastic materials that are waterproof and not permeable by air or water. This eliminates any risk of becoming chilled while kayaking due to sudden immersion into cold water. The non-stretchable fabric won’t constrict a user’s movements either, allowing for full unrestricted movement both above and below the surface. While there is no risk of sudden coldness from immersions, many users complain that wearing a drysuit restricts their overall mobility compared to a wet suit as there is no extra “give” when moving around inside it—so paddling can be slightly restricted in choppy waters if more force needs applying than usual on your stroke.


When it comes to wetsuits and drysuits for kayaking, durability should be one of your top considerations. A wetsuit is made of thin neoprene, which provides some insulation but does not hold up well over time or in rough conditions. The seams may split and the material can become torn from contact with rocks or other debris on the water. However, if you plan to use a wetsuit in calm waters, it may last several years with proper maintenance.

A drysuit, on the other hand, is much more rugged and durable than a wetsuit. Most modern drysuits are constructed of a combination of thick neoprene insulation and thicker outer fabric—sometimes several layers—which provide a layer of protection against abrasions while still keeping you warm and dry. Depending on how often you use it, your drysuit could easily last 10 years or more with proper maintenace and storage.

Which is Better For Kayaking?

Deciding between a wetsuit and drysuit for kayaking can be a tough decision. Both garments have their pros and cons, which depend on the water conditions, the type of kayaking you are doing, and your personal preferences.

In this article, we’ll look at the differences between a wetsuit and a drysuit for kayaking and discuss which is better for each type of kayaking.


Choosing between a wetsuit or drysuit for kayaking ultimately depends on individual preference and environmental conditions. But as a general rule, it is important to consider the temperature of the water and how much you will be exposed to it.

Temperature: In cold climates, water temperatures can drop to 40 degrees or lower at times. If this is the case, a drysuit is essential to retain body heat. It creates an impermeable barrier between you and the water unlike a wetsuit that allows some water to enter the suit. A drysuit also offers more insulation options than a wetsuit for those who don’t want to wear multiple layers due to weight restrictions in their kayak. However, if temperatures are warmer, say 68 degrees F or slightly cooler with no wind chill factor, a wetsuit will keep you sufficiently warm while out on the water.

Exposure: One of the greatest differences between these two types of suits is how exposed your body is while wearing them. Wetsuits can be quite revealing because they are cut to cling tightly around your body providing less coverage than most people would like in cold weather. Drysuits generally provide more coverage thanks to their loose fit allowing you to layer up underneath. Moreover, if you plan on doing any swimming during your outing, you should opt for a drysuit as wetsuits are not designed for swimming because when moving through different water depths (also known as “threshold dives”) warm pockets of stagnant water can enter and chill your body even in what appears like an unaffected layer further down from your skin level — depriving from warmth that your core temperature was once protecting itself with by having kept the air pockets snug against its surface until movement had disturbed them!

Pros And Cons

Wetsuits and drysuits are the two main types of clothing worn while kayaking. Both types of suits have their own pros and cons. To help you decide which one is best for your kayaking needs, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the features of each suit.

Wetsuit Pros and Cons

A wetsuit traps a thin layer of water between your body and the suit that is then heated up by your body heat, keeping you warm even in cold water conditions. The biggest benefit to wearing a wetsuit is its flexibility; it allows for full range of motion with little restriction. Wetsuits also tend to be less expensive than drysuits, providing great value for the money spent. On the downside, wetsuits provide only limited protection against cold water immersion and provide little protection from abrasions or punctures.

Drysuit Pros And Cons

A drysuit completely seals you off from contact with the water around you, keeping out moisture and protecting from cold water immersion or draining temperatures in a shorter time span than a wetsuit would allow. Drysuits also offer much greater abrasion resistance than most wetsuits; they are often made of polyester or other non-porous fabrics that can protect against tears or punctures better than neoprene materials used in many wetsuits. However, drysuits limit flexibility in movement due to their bulkier construction materials, meaning that they may be more difficult or uncomfortable to maneuver while kayaking compared to a lighter wet suit material alternative. Additionally, they also tend to cost more than most wetsuits are priced at retail stores.

Final Considerations

When considering the best choice of wetsuit vs drysuit for kayaking, the main factors to consider are budget, comfort, and insulation. While a drysuit may be more comfortable for some, its higher cost and sealing difficulties can be a downside. Similarly, wetsuits tend to offer good insulation values for their lower cost but can become uncomfortable when wet. Depending on your particular needs as a kayaker, one option may be better suited than the other. No matter which type of apparel you choose for kayaking—wetsuit or drysuit—it is important to make sure it fits properly. Poorly fitting clothing can create gaps in insulation or leaks due to footwear that are not correctly sized. Additionally, make sure your suit has the correct thermal protection rating (i.e., temperature range) needed for your activity level and temperature of water you’re kayaking in so that you stay both warm and safe during your paddling adventures!

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