Wetsuit vs Drysuit for Kayaking | Kayaks Hub

Explore the ultimate guide comparing wetsuit vs drysuit for kayaking. Learn which suits your needs best with our detailed analysis, expert tips, and essential safety considerations.



Kayaking enthusiasts often find themselves at a crossroads when choosing wetsuit vs drysuit in kayaking. Both garments offer unique advantages and cater to different conditions. This comprehensive guide delves into the nuances of each, helping you make an informed decision for your next kayaking adventure.

What is a Wetsuit?

Definition and Function

A wetsuit is a close-fitting garment typically made from neoprene, a type of synthetic rubber. It’s designed to provide insulation and protection for water sports enthusiasts, particularly in cooler water conditions.


  • Material: Neoprene, known for its excellent insulation properties.
  • Construction: A wetsuit is crafted to fit snugly against the body. This close fit is crucial for its effectiveness.
  • Style Variations: Available in various styles, including full-body suits, spring suits, and vests.

Insulation Mechanism

  • How it Works: Wetsuits work by trapping a thin layer of water between the suit and the skin. This water is then warmed by the body’s natural heat, providing a layer of insulation.
  • Warmth Factor: The thickness of the neoprene plays a significant role in how warm the wetsuit is. Thicker suits offer more insulation but can reduce flexibility.


  • Flexibility: Wetsuits are designed to offer a range of motion, crucial for paddling and maneuvering in water.
  • Affordability: Compared to other water sport garments like drysuits, wetsuits are generally more affordable.
  • Suitability for Warmer Conditions: Ideal for use in environments that are not extremely cold, such as temperate seas or during warmer seasons.

Types of Wetsuits

Full Suits

  • Best For: Cooler temperatures where full-body coverage is necessary.
  • Features: Long sleeves and legs for maximum insulation.

Spring Suits

  • Best For: Milder conditions. They offer a balance between warmth and flexibility.
  • Features: Shorter sleeves and leg lengths, making them perfect for late spring or early autumn kayaking.

Thickness Variants

  • 2mm: Suitable for warmer waters. These suits prioritize flexibility over warmth.
  • 3-5mm: Ideal for moderate water temperatures, offering a balance between warmth and mobility.
  • 7mm: Designed for colder waters, providing maximum warmth.

Additional Features

  • Seam Types: The construction of seams (flatlock, sealed, taped) can affect both the durability and flexibility of the wetsuit.
  • Zippers: Placement and quality of zippers can influence how easy it is to put on and take off the suit.
  • Additional Protection: Some wetsuits include UV protection and abrasion-resistant panels for enhanced safety.

What is a Drysuit?

Definition and Function

A drysuit is a specialized garment designed for water activities, particularly in cold environments. Unlike wetsuits, drysuits are designed to prevent water from reaching the body, hence the term “dry.”


  • Material: Typically made from waterproof and breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex or neoprene.
  • Construction: Drysuits are constructed to be loose-fitting, allowing wearers to layer clothing underneath for insulation.
  • Seals: Features watertight seals at the neck, wrists, and sometimes ankles to prevent water entry.

Insulation Mechanism

  • How it Works: A drysuit itself doesn’t provide insulation but rather acts as a barrier against water and wind, keeping the wearer dry. Insulation is achieved through layers of clothing worn underneath.
  • Layering: The ability to layer clothing underneath allows for customizable warmth, adapting to various temperatures and conditions.


  • Versatility in Cold Conditions: Ideal for very cold and icy water conditions where a wetsuit’s insulation might not be sufficient.
  • Customizable Insulation: The amount and type of clothing worn underneath can be adjusted based on the water and air temperature.
  • Protection: Offers protection from the elements, including wind and cold air, and reduces the risk of hypothermia.

Types of Drysuits

Paddle Suits

  • Purpose: Specifically designed for paddling sports like kayaking.
  • Features: High mobility in the arms and shoulders for paddling; often equipped with features like relief zippers and reinforced areas for durability.

Dive Suits

  • Purpose: Built for diving but can be used for kayaking in extreme conditions.
  • Features: Heavier and less flexible than paddle suits; designed to withstand higher pressure and colder temperatures.

Additional Variants

  • Surface Drysuits: Designed for surface water sports. They are lighter and more flexible than dive suits.
  • Hybrid Drysuits: Combine elements of both wetsuits and drysuits for a balance of warmth, flexibility, and dryness.

Features to Consider


  • Types: Latex or neoprene; each has its own benefits in terms of comfort and waterproofing.
  • Maintenance: Regular inspection and maintenance of seals are crucial to ensure the suit remains waterproof.


  • Waterproof Zippers: Essential for maintaining the dryness of the suit. Require careful handling and maintenance.

Buoyancy and Safety

  • Buoyancy Control: Drysuits can affect buoyancy; users must be familiar with buoyancy control techniques.
  • Safety Features: Some suits come with built-in safety features like reflective tapes, bright colors for visibility, and pockets for carrying safety gear.

Comfort and Fit

  • Custom Fit: Some drysuits offer the option of custom fitting, which can greatly enhance comfort and effectiveness.

See Also| Best Wetsuits for Kayaking


In conclusion, the choice between a wetsuit and drysuit for kayaking hinges on several factors, including water and air temperatures, the duration and intensity of your kayaking activities, personal comfort preferences, budget considerations, and local climate. Understanding these factors is essential for making an informed decision that ensures both safety and comfort during your kayaking adventures. Whether you opt for the flexibility of a wetsuit or the complete dryness of a drysuit, prioritizing safety, and being prepared for the conditions you’ll encounter on the water should always be your top priority. Ultimately, the right choice enhances your kayaking experience and allows you to fully enjoy the beauty of nature from your kayak.

Wetsuit vs Drysuit for Kayaking

Temperature SuitabilityIdeal for temperatures above 60°FBest for conditions below 60°F
Mobility and ComfortMore flexible, better for active paddlingBulkier, but offer more freedom in layering
Cost ConsiderationsGenerally more affordableHigher initial investment but durable
Maintenance and DurabilityEasier to maintain, but susceptible to tearsRequire careful maintenance, especially of seals
Insulation MechanismTraps a thin layer of water, heated by body temperatureRequire careful maintenance, especially of seals
MaterialTypically made from neopreneOften made from waterproof materials like Gore-Tex
DesignTight-fitting to the bodyLoose-fitting, allowing room for undergarments
SuitabilitySuitable for warmer conditions and active sportsSuitable for very cold conditions, customizable insulation
Types AvailableFull suits, spring suits, varying thicknessesPaddle suits, dive suits, surface drysuits, hybrid suits
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The main difference is that a wetsuit traps a thin layer of water against your body to provide insulation, while a drysuit keeps you completely dry and relies on layers of clothing for insulation.

Wetsuits are known for their flexibility, affordability, and suitability for warmer conditions. They provide insulation by trapping a layer of water against your skin.

Drysuits offer superior warmth in colder conditions, customizability in terms of insulation, and protection from cold water and wind.

It’s not recommended to layer clothing under a wetsuit as it can reduce its effectiveness. Wetsuits work best when worn directly against the skin.


  • David Graham

    Meet David Graham, an avid kayaker based in Florida, USA, who has been mastering the art of kayaking since 2013. As a former trainer with three years of experience, David has shaped the skills of numerous kayakers, sharing his passion for the sport. Living in a state known for its diverse waterways, his expertise and commitment to kayaking go beyond personal pursuits, making him a valuable contributor to the local kayaking community.

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