Wetsuit vs Drysuit │ Which One To Pick?

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: February 19, 2021
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

So, you are an avid kayaker. Kayaking in the summer is surreal. But, what will happen when it ’s no longer any summer. You sure want to kayak in colder months too. You can enjoy kayaking in all kinds of temperatures as long as you have the right gear.

Believe it or not; a life vest can prove crucial when it comes to the right gear. You will understand it when it’s cold out and water temperatures start to drop drastically. Dressing for the cold water than might make all the difference between surviving a swim and making it to the shore unscathed.

Therefore, dressing to survive a swim of any length is a must for kayaker or canoeist. When it comes to being suited up for the condition, one question that will inevitably hit you is: should I opt for a wetsuit or a Drysuit?

In this article, I will answer the difference between a wetsuit vs. drysuit for kayaking. But, let’s define the condition that requires the suits: cold weather paddling.

What Is Cold Water Paddling?

A cold water situation occurs anytime the temperature of water drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius). The cold water situation can occur when the combined air and water temperature is less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, given the water temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

When cold water condition occurs, paddlers need to suit up for the water temperature. It’s because an accidental swim could cold shock, eventually death!

Here’s how an unprotected swimmer is likely to suffer from an accidental swim in cold water:

  • The unprotected swimmer will suffer cold shock for one minute
  • Within 10 minutes, the swimmer will feel numb
  • Then, within an hour, he/she will succumb to hypothermia if he/she doesn’t drown before then

Lifesaving Society Facts

According to a survey conducted by the Cold Water Boot Camp, it is found that 86% who died in cold water didn’t wear a life vest. The rest who wore either didn’t wear a life vest properly or were further away from the shore or safety.

Therefore, it is clear that wearing a life vest can increase your odds of survival against cold water significantly.

Dresses for Immersion

The water temperature can drop drastically during the cold weather. Therefore, you need to dress up especially in order to handle the temperature. The practice is known as the dressing for immersion. Water temperature is deadly, it can drain warmth away from your body.

However, a wetsuit or a drysuit is what stokes up the debate. Actually, which type of suit you will require is dependent on several factors. Today, we are going to learn about the factors. And, I will discuss each of the suits in detail. So, keep on reading.


Wetsuits are one-piece suits. The suits are designed to allow a thin layer of water to come in contact with your skin. The wetsuits are quite a snug fit, therefore the water is kept in contact within your body. The secret to the storage is neoprene. Yes, neoprene is the material that forms the construction of a wetsuit.

By keeping the water in contact, the suit, in turn, gets your body warm.

Wetsuits are historically used for cold water surf sports. The neoprene material allows flexible movement, and is quite snuggly as well!

Be aware that your wetsuit remains snug. If it gets too loose, you are likely to get cold.

How Do Wetsuits Work?

A wetsuit uses neoprene to trap and hold a thin layer of water next to your body. Your body heats up the layer, and the paddler can keep warm in turn. The thicker the neoprene, the less flexible it tends to be.

Types of Wetsuits

  • Full Wetsuits

Cover your torso, arms, wrists, legs, and ankles

  • Shorty Wetsuits

Cover your torso, thighs and upper arms

  • Short John Wetsuits

Cover your torso and thighs

  • Long John Wetsuits

Cover your torso, legs, and ankles


A drysuit keeps the water completely away from your body. To achieve such quality, a drysuit combines a waterproof fabric that covers your neck, wrist, and ankles. Drysuits have gaskets to ensure that your body remains waterproof.

Gaskets seal tightly against your body and prevent the water from coming in. Gaskets seal your body around the neck, wrists, and sometimes-even ankles. A drysuit is an outer layer though. You have to wear a base and mid-layer to stay warm.

Wetsuit vs Drysuit: Which One Should You Choose?

Wetsuits could be the best option for paddling, surfing, swimming, and other activities in waters between 45 and 70 degrees.

A drysuit could be the best option when you are kayaking in water temperature under 45 degrees or in air temperature under 50 degrees. Therefore, whether you will need a drysuit or a wetsuit is dependant on the activities and temperature you will be kayaking in.

Wetsuits Drysuits
Great for surfing, swimming, and kayakingGreat for extremely cold conditions
Keep a thin layer of water to heat up your bodyKeep your body completely dry
A bit difficult to get in and out ofEasier to get in and out of
One-pieceRequire several other layers of clothing underneath
Better buoyancyMost don’t come with a relief zipper

Final Thought

Many ignore the importance of a cold-water suit, they eventually succumb to cold shock, which could lead to cold incapacitation, even hypothermia. Hopefully, you won’t be one of them. Learn which life vest should you invest in – wetsuit or drysuit.

Leave a Comment

5 × five =

1 Share
Share via
Copy link