Wetsuit or Drysuit for Winter Kayaking – 2020 Buyer’s Guide

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Have you been planning to go for kayaking? The threat of cold shock, frostbite, hypothermia, and drowning is real and tangible when the mercury starts dropping.

Did you know that it is said that paddlers of any skill level should dress for immersion and not for success?  

A wetsuit or a drysuit can mean the difference between life and death while kayaking in the cold.

But what is the difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit?

Which one of these lifesaving gears works the best?  

Let’s find out! 

What is a wetsuit? 

A  wetsuit  is a safety gear that is worn by divers, kayakers, and surfers engaged in water sports. Its primary function is to provide insulation to the wearer.

The same wetsuit also provides buoyancy and protects from chaffing, ultraviolet radiation and also from stings of marine wildlife.  

It is typically made of neoprene which traps the body heat in a thin layer of water. Most of the wetsuits do not have arms.

And very few of these suits have full arms. Some wetsuits also have shorty designs which do not cover the legs below the thighs.  

Wetsuits are widely available and easy to find. However, putting on a wetsuit, especially a wet one, can be a big struggle.  

What is a drysuit? 

A  drysuit is a safety garment that is worn by kayakers, surfers and divers who are engaged in activities in and around the water.

The primary function of a drysuit is to prevent insulation from the cold. It also prevents the water from entering the suit.  

Drysuits are generally made of a watertight material and latex gaskets at the wrists and the ankles. They are full-body suits that cover the whole body except the extremities and the head.   

Drysuits do not require much effort to put on when it is dry. Of course, this is entirely different when the suit has been in contact with water.  

How are they different? 

The difference between a wetsuit and drysuit is that a drysuit keeps out the water completely, but a wetsuit does not.

The gaskets on the wrists and the ankles prevent the water from entering the body.

However, a wetsuit does not have the provision to keep out the water, especially if the suit does not have arms.  

Some other differences between a wetsuit and a drysuit include: 

  • A wetsuit can be worn in cold as well as warm temperature conditions. It is mainly because there are different types of wetsuits for different types of weather. However, a drysuit is best for use in cold weather temperatures. In warm weather, a drysuit can get uncomfortably hot. 
  • A wetsuit offers better arm mobility, especially if it does not have arms. A drysuit requires some getting used to as it restricts the arms and legs.  
  • A wetsuit is typically not easy to put on. On the other hand, drysuits are easy to wear, especially when it is dry. 
  • A wetsuit does not offer any protection from contaminated water. Drysuits, particularly hazmat suits, are worn as a protection against contaminated water and air.  
  • Wetsuits do not have an expensive price tag. Drysuits, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive.  
  • Wetsuits are much easier to care for and maintain. Drysuits require more maintenance, especially around the gaskets to keep them in pristine condition and functional as well.  

How are they similar? 

The similarity between a wetsuit and a drysuit is that they are both safety garments that provide insulation.  

What’s better about a wetsuit? 

Reasons that make a wetsuit have the edge over the drysuit include: 

  • A wetsuit is more versatile and can be worn in different types of weather.  
  • It also offers more mobility to the wearer.  
  • It also comes in different types including full-body wetsuit, shorty and those without arms.  
  • They are available in different sizes, so finding the right size is not difficult. 

What’s better about a drysuit? 

Reasons that make a drysuit have the edge over wetsuits include

  • A drysuit prevents water from entering the body, which makes it great for use in cold weather.  
  • It also works better at keeping your body warm.  
  • A drysuit is also more comfortable to put on, especially if it is dry.  
  • Finding a drysuit of the right size can be a challenge.  

Who should get a wetsuit, and why? 

You should get a wetsuit if – 

Reason? 

It is because a wetsuit offers excellent mobility, comfortable and is more flexible.  

Who should get a drysuit, and why? 

You should get a drysuit if –  

  • The plan is to go out paddling in the cold water conditions or 
  • You have reason to believe you will come in contact with water that is contaminated.  

Reason? 

It is because a drysuit has provisions so you can comfortably wear layers underneath. It is also excellent at keeping out the water.  

Now that we have covered the nitty-gritty about wetsuits and drysuits, welcome to the section of the ultimate battle of wetsuit and drysuit. We put to test 5 of the best wetsuits and 5 of the best drysuits.  

Don’t have the time to go through the whole review? Check out the comparison table below. 

Top 5 wetsuits for paddling. 

Name Pros  Cons  
O’Neill Men’s Epic Back Zip Full Wetsuit Very-stretchy, wind-resistant. Little tight around the neck 
Seavenger Navigator Short Sleeve Wetsuit. Stretchy armpits, anti-abrasion pads. Sizing issues 
Lemorecn Men’s Wetsuits Very flexible, and comfortable  Neck latex is a bit thick  
Synergy Triathlon Wetsuit Great protection and buoyancy  Not ideal for icy waters 
O’Neill Men’s Reactor Back Zip Spring Wetsuit Non-irritating materials, very durable   Sizing issues 

O’Neill Men’s Epic Back Zip Full Wetsuit. 

You will love this wetsuit for a number of reasons.  

One, the neoprene that constitutes this wetsuit is ultra-stretchy. Restricted mobility is not a question when you have this wetsuit on.

The full-body wetsuit ensures that you have full freedom of movement all the while keeping you dry and comfortable.  

Two, the rear zippers allow effortless entry and removal of the suit. It is also waterproof and robust, which ensures its smooth function and durability.  

Three, it has a proprietary material called the O’Neill FluidFlex. It keeps the suit wind-resistant so you will have no issue wearing it while it is windy.

The suit is built using the triple gluing process and the bind-stitching method, which keeps it tight and long-lasting.  

In fact, it performs so well, and you might have a feeling of tightness around the neck.

Individuals with thicker necks might have an issue with this, so give it a try before you buy this one.  

Seavenger Navigator Short Sleeve Wetsuit. 

This stretchy and comfortable shorty is the perfect wetsuit for everyone in the family who are old enough to partake in kayaking.

The Nylon II neoprene materials are snug and allow excellent movement.  

The armpit panels are particularly stretchy which you will love. Another excellent feature of this wetsuit is the anti-abrasion shoulder pads.

The unique flatlock stitching also prevents chaffing and irritation, which is incredible. 

A notable feature of this wetsuit is the YKK zipper which is not only a sign of quality but of durability.

This suit also withstands wear and tear from straps from pieces of equipment and bags which is great.  

This excellent wetsuit is available in a number of sizes for anyone who is 158 cm to 207 cm in height.

The different colors in which this wetsuit is designed will elevate your fashion credentials while keeping you safe and protected.  

Lemorecn Men’s Wetsuits. 

If you are into water sports or any activity in and around the water, this is a wetsuit that will meet all your needs.

The premium neoprene that makes up this wetsuit is comfortable and fits like a charm.  

A notable feature of this wetsuit is the spot tape at the stress points which ensure its functions as well as its durability.

The flatlock seams on the suit also make it flexible and comfortable to wear. The YKK zippers not only ensure easy entry and exit; it is robust and will last a long time.  

This wetsuit is available in two ratings, 3/2 mm and 5/4 mm. Another reason to love this wetsuit is that it comes in a number of sizes that are perfect for both men and women.

All these reasons make this wetsuit the ideal suit for kayaking, surfing, and paddle-boarding, among others.  

Synergy Triathlon Wetsuit. 

This award-winning wetsuit is just about the perfect safety gear. It is made of unique Hydrodynamic neoprene and silicone coated SyPrene.

It is not only lightweight and buoyant, but it also offers a full range of movement to the wearer. 

The core buoyancy of this wetsuit is 5mm which is the maximum number that is allowed in a wetsuit.

You can be sure that this wetsuit will keep you afloat and safely come what may.  

It is thick to keep you comfortable and warm. A notable feature of this wetsuit is its softness and flexibility.

This makes the suit the ideal one for water activities such as kayaking, triathlon and many more.  

The YKK rear zipper ensures durability and easy use. It comes in a wide range of sizes which is another bonus.

The only downside to this fantastic wetsuit is that it is not suitable for use in cold water conditions.  

O’Neill Men’s Reactor Back Zip Spring Wetsuit. 

This is another excellent wetsuit from O’Neill. It has a shorty design which guarantees freedom of movement and a full range of mobility.

Wearing this wetsuit or taking it off is a piece of cake.  

The FluidFlex keeps the suit wind-resistant and protects you from the sun as well. The neoprene keeps it comfortable, stretchy and flexible.

The right collar on the outside is made of 100% polyester while the rest is made of nylon.  

This wetsuit is 2mm thick which will keep you warm and protected from the elements.

It is an excellent wetsuit for warmer days but is not recommended for paddling on the ice.  

Top 5 drysuits for paddling.  

Name Pros Cons 
Stohlquist Amp Drysuit Non-abrasive, excellent performance Not very durable  
Level Six Emperor 3.0 Ply Drysuit Shockwave protection, double zippers  Expensive 
Kokatat Men’s Gore-Tex Meridian Drysuit Overskirt, lifetime warranty  None so far 
O’Neill Boost Drysuit Puncture-resistant, very lightweight  No pockets 
Stohlquist Women’s Amp Drysuit Excellent quality, arm pockets  Sizing issues  

Stohlquist Amp Drysuit

This is a fantastic drysuit from one of the leading brands in the industry. It is one of the few drysuits that come with twin sensors inside a four-layer premium quality fabric.  

The suit is not only comfortable to wear, it offers top-notch safety, and the fabrics are also breathable.

The gaskets feature soft latex which is not only waterproof but is UV resistant. One of the advantages of this soft latex is that it prevents abrasion.  

It also comes with dry socks that have a universal fit. Other notable features that make this drysuit a winner are the wrist over cuffs neoprene, cross pocket entry, and relief zippers.  

You will love the reflective panels as well as the contrasting colors. The reinforced knees and seat with mesh design also ensure functionality and durability.  

The only issue of contention is that the durability of the suit falls a little short of expectation. This, however, does not affect the overall performance of the drysuit.  

Level Six Emperor 3.0 Ply Drysuit. 

This is a premium drysuit that comes packed with features that make it a top contender.

It has reinforced seats, knees, arms, shoulders and elbows, which is 100% waterproof and functional.

Another fantastic bonus of this feature is that it protects against shockwaves.  

A feature that you will find most useful is the dual zippers – relief zippers in the front as well as a backside zipper for convenient use.

The dry seal has double clinch management which is an added bonus.  

Another feature you will love is the chest and lower pockets that you can use to keep your hands warm in the cold.

Emperor 3.0 drysuit comes in three sizes – small to XXL, so it is excellent for the whole family.  

The only downside is of this drysuit is its premium price.  

Kokatat Men’s Gore-Tex Meridian Drysuit. 

The Gore-Tex from Kokatat is a three-layer drysuit. Its performance on the water is stellar.

The fabric is not only waterproof. It is breathable and comfortable. A feature of this drysuit you will love is the dual-adjustable overskirt which enhances its waterproof properties.  

But of course, it is nylon, so if you are allergic, you might want to consider the suitability before you buy this one.  

The seat, as well as the knee patches, has Cordura making them robust and durable at the same time. This drysuit comes in a lot of colors so you can pick your favorite color. 

If you still have any doubts about this drysuit, the lifetime warranty from Kokatat should buffer you perfectly. 

O’Neill Boost Drysuit. 

This drysuit does not offer much in terms of aesthetics, but it performs like a champ which makes it to our list. It is also one of the most lightweight drysuits you will find.  

The tri-laminated nylon is not only waterproof; it can take some severe beating. Another feature that you will love is the puncture-resistant property of the outer shell. This ensures that the drysuit is unrivaled in durability.  

It also has a lot of space for layering underneath so you can stay warm and protected irrespective of the weather. A built-in suspender inside this drysuit comes in very handy when you have to dry the suit after use.  

As you would expect from one of the best drysuits for kayaking, it comes with a robust rear zipper, watertight latex, and waterproof seams. 

Although this drysuit is advertised as a men’s drysuit, it comes in different sizes ranging from extra small to extra large, so it shouldn’t be a problem finding your perfect fit.  

Stohlquist Women’s Amp Drysuit. 

This drysuit is for the ladies who love venturing out in the cold with their boats.

The Women’s Amp drysuit will keep you dry and comfortable without sacrificing your mobility or your safety.  

With four layer twin sensor technology, this drysuit is waterproof and breathable as well.

The latex gaskets come with a neoprene coat which will keep you comfortable and dry.

Similar to other drysuits from the brand, it has universal dry socks, Cordura seats and knees, and reflective panels.

The zippered arm pocket is a feature that you will find most convenient.  

It also comes in a number of sizes, so finding your fit will be easy. The only issue you might have with this drysuit is it is not true to size. You might need to order a size up from your regular drysuit sizing.  

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