Wetsuit vs Drysuit For Kayaking

Since body temperature quickly drops when in cold water, exposure suits such as wetsuit vs drysuit allow you to maintain your body heat for longer so that you are warmer whilst underwater.

Which can be essential to your survival if in any case – but specifically talking about kayaking – could save your life.

Ultimately, Giving you that much-needed time to make an essential decision that could play part in saving your life.

Without it, we risk placing ourselves in a situation where we rapidly lose to much body heat – that’s why personally I recommend always wearing one no matter if its a little warm outside.

Now we’ve established that what is it that drysuits and wetsuits do. We are going to discuss what are the differences when we consider drysuit vs wetsuit – and are they essential when we think about what to wear kayaking?

What is a wetsuit?

kayak wetsuit

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A wetsuit operates on the principle that your body heat is the best heat source which you can come up with, the thermal protection works as follows;

Made with closed-cell foam materials, which is filled with very tiny – impossible to see gas bubbles trapped within the weaves of the suit.

Only you enter the water the material which has been constructed allows for a thin layer of water through your suit – this may seem silly, especially if the water is freezing but let me explain why…

The thin layer of water between the material and your body actually heats up after some time – so initially it may still be cold. This causes the water to heat up and serve as a warm blanket for your body – causing you to stay warm all throughout your water activity, which makes it perfect if you submerge into the water when kayaking – for whatever reason.

You’re going to want a tight-fitting wetsuit since it’s essential to the practical use of the suit. If you have a loose-fitting one for example; the water will get trapped and untrapped constantly, meaning that you will use up precious energy in trying to get the new water to become warm – constantly repeating the process simply because your suit isn’t tight enough.

The thickness matters as a thicker suit provide more protection and insulation – perfect for cold waters. A thinner suit is better for warmer waters.

For kayaking, you’re going to want a thick suit all year round – even in the summer. Especially if you’re located in the UK, there is almost never a time where you’re going to feel too uncomfortably warm in your wetsuit to the point where you can’t carry on.

What is a drysuit?

kayaking drysuit

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As the name indicates, if you were to compare it to a wetsuit, a drysuit does the opposite job – it keeps you dry. it does this by ensuring the water gets into your suit due to the materials which they are made with, typically from foam neoprene, vulcanised rubber or heavy-duty nylon.

It uses a combination of wrist seals, neck seals, and waterproof zippers to keep you completely, ensuring that any entry point is completely tight so that water – whether that’s due to being submerged or from rain and your paddle shaft – do not get into your suit.

Dry suits are typically fit more loosely in comparison to its wet suit counterpart. This is because all of its function is in the material sued and the clever zippers they have been made with; unlike a wetsuit where it needs to be tightly fit to function properly.

You are able to wear clothes underneath which is perfect if you’re wanting to add some extra warmth to your body whilst out on your personal boat.

A lot of air is trapped between you and the suit, because of this you do actually have some form of added floating ability – extra buoyancy which can take some time getting used to.

This would negatively impact you if you were diving and can take some getting used to. But when we talk about it in terms of kayaking, this is more than fine since we have our PFD around us anyway, which would do a similar and even better job. I thought I’d let you know any way in case you do other water activities beyond kayaking which may affect your capabilities due to you floating more.

Wetsuit vs Drysuit

If you’re trying to decide which one is the best for you and your money, then I’m going to compare the two for you now (I’ll let you know my personas choice at the end if that’s something you’re interested in)

How do they keep you warm?

Wetsuits: They use a layer of water, which seeps in as soon as you enter any body of water (or over time due to rain) and this water is then heated up thanks to natural body heat to keep you insulated.

Drysuits: Drysuits use a layer of air between you and the suit which allows you to comfortably wear extra thermal clothing underneath.

My Thoughts: Here I believe it depends on what you’re doing, if you’re only in your kayak, then a drysuit is going to be superior as you’re never going to come in contact with enough water to have that extra layer of heat – unless you’re planning on going for a swim during your trip.

How do they affect mobility?

Wetsuits: Because of their skin-tight fitting, wetsuits typically make it easier to move around, no matter what you’re doing

Drysuits: on the other hand, drysuits are much baggier in comparison so your movement is a let less favourable.

My Thoughts: In my opinion, I have seen no difference between the two, drysuits are baggier in comparisons but both are skin-tight when you consider your day to day clothes, so either in this case is a fine choice.

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How long do they last?

Wetsuits: Typically due to their low-quality design (in comparison to dry suits) you are looking at about 3-5 years life span of your suit – which isn’t too bad of an investment if you get plenty of use from it.

Drysuits: With proper care and maintenance, a high-quality dry suit can last you up to 15 years – but will more than certainly set you back a lot more than a wetsuit would

My Thoughts: They are both equally great choices when looking at value, and it all depends on your budget. I think both lifespans are honourable and it all depends on how much money you’re wanting to spend initially.

Where should you put your money?

As of now, entry-level drysuits can cost just as much as high-end water suits. So if you’re looking it from this point of view, and ignoring all previous points, your money is best of with a wetsuit – when you talk about value.


If we had to look at everything but money, drysuits seem to be the winner here when considering wetsuit vs drysuit. Although overall, it does depend on what activities you’re getting up to. Since kayaking necessarily isn’t just being in your raft, you might do some other activities throughout the day. So take these into account.

As for myself, I always use a wetsuit as I just prefer their low-end cost and their tightness on my body. And if I were to ever go overboard I know that at the very least it would be beneficial for me since I could use the water I have added to my suit as a way of heating my body up.

All I would have to account for is the lack of heat initially, so If you’re going to do what I’m doing, I’d recommend adding a few extra layers to make up for the lack of heat at first.

That will be all for today,