Dry Suit for Kayaking: A Buying Guide

August 20, 2023

Dry Suit for Kayaking: A Buying Guide

Everything you need to know about the essential piece of kayak clothing - dry suit for kayaking. Learn what to consider before buying, what features make up a good one and our top picks!

Kayaking is an exhilarating water sport that offers endless opportunities for exploration, adventure, and connection with nature.

Whether you're navigating through calm lakes, tackling whitewater rapids, or exploring coastal areas, having the right gear is essential.

In colder climates or seasons, one of the most important pieces of equipment to have is a dry suit. A dry suit for kayaking can make all the difference in your comfort, safety, and overall enjoyment of the sport.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know to pick the right dry suit, dry bag, and other kayak clothing.

My Understanding of a Dry Suit

As someone who loves outdoor adventures, I can tell you that a dry suit is an indispensable piece of gear when it comes to facing cold and wet conditions.

The Purpose of a Dry Suit

A dry suit is essentially a full-body outfit crafted to keep you dry. It's like your personal shield against the elements, designed to ensure comfort and safety during water-based activities. Dry suits do not offer warmth themselves; rather, they serve as a waterproof barrier to protect the insulation garments underneath. The actual source of warmth lies in the insulation garments. This distinction is crucial to clarify as it is a common misconception among newer buyers.

  • Waterproof Barrier: Unlike a wetsuit, which lets in a thin layer of water and relies on your body heat to warm it up, a dry suit takes a different approach. Its mission is to keep water out entirely.
  • Material and Design: Dry suits are typically fashioned from waterproof materials, creating a robust barrier between you and the cold, wet world outside.

Key Features of a Dry Suit

When I wear my dry suit, I feel almost invincible against the cold, and here's why:

  • Gaskets: These suits feature gaskets to seal at the neck, wrists, and ankles. These are the areas where water would typically find its way into clothing, but the gaskets form a tight seal to prevent this.

In essence, a dry suit and under layers are like a personal cocoon, keeping me warm and dry amidst cold and wet conditions. Whether it's while kayaking, diving, or participating in other water sports, it offers a level of protection and comfort that enhances the whole experience.

Why I Recommend a Dry Suit for Kayaking

As an avid kayaker, there's nothing I value more than safety and comfort during my adventures. This is where a dry suit comes into play, especially in colder weather or cold water conditions.

Staying Dry to Stay Safe

The importance of staying dry while kayaking can't be overstated. Hypothermia - a real risk in cold conditions - occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it.

Getting wet accelerates this heat loss, making dryness a key factor in preventing hypothermia.

  • Capsizing Risks: No matter how skilled you are, there's always a chance you could capsize when you're out on the water. In such situations, a dry suit acts as a shield, keeping you dry and reducing the risk of hypothermia.
  • Splashing Water: Even if you don't capsize, water can still splash into your kayak. I've found that even minor splashes can make for an uncomfortably wet journey without the right gear. A dry suit helps ensure that I stay dry, warm, and comfortable, regardless of the water conditions.

The Comfort Factor

Beyond safety, a dry suit contributes significantly to comfort during kayaking.

  • Staying Warm: The purpose of wearing a dry suit is to ensure that the insulating layers underneath remain dry. By keeping them dry, the insulating layers are able to function properly as intended.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing that I'll stay dry even if I capsize gives me the peace of mind to fully immerse myself in the joy of kayaking. It's a reassurance that lets me push my limits, explore new waters, and make the most of every paddling adventure.

In conclusion, a dry suit is more than just a piece of kayaking gear. For me, it's an essential tool that ensures safety, enhances comfort, and enables more enjoyable kayaking experiences.

Key Features to Consider When Buying a Dry Suit for Kayaking

Selecting the right dry suit can make all the difference in your kayaking adventures. Here's what I've learned to look for when shopping for a dry suit:

Material Matters
The material of your drysuit plays a significant role in its performance. Most dry suits are crafted from either Gore-Tex or nylon.

  • Gore-Tex: This is a high-end material renowned for its superior waterproof and breathable properties. From my experience, a Gore-Tex drysuit can keep you dry and comfortable even in challenging conditions. This is an incredibly significant point that often goes unnoticed. It's worth mentioning that during physical activity, one can sweat up to 3-4 liters per hour. Additionally, when utilizing breathable materials like GORE-TEX, you can avoid the discomfort of sitting in your own sweat.
  • Nylon: Nylon suits are also waterproof and usually come with a more affordable price tag. However, they might not offer the same level of breathability as Gore-Tex suits.

Seals/Gaskets: Your Barrier against Water

The quality of the seals or gaskets at the neck, wrists, and ankles is crucial.

  • Fit and Comfort: The gaskets should be tight enough to prevent water from seeping in but not so snug that they cause discomfort.
  • Latex Gaskets: In my experience, latex gaskets are very effective at sealing out water. However, be aware that some people may have allergic reactions to latex. We do offer a selection of suits with neoprene neck gaskets, but it's important to note that these suits will still come with the standard latex wrist gaskets.

Zippers: The Unsung Heroes

Dry suits usually feature heavy-duty waterproof zippers, an aspect that deserves attention.

  • Robust and User-Friendly: In my opinion, the zipper should be sturdy and easy to use, given that you'll be opening and closing it every time you wear the suit.

Fit: A Balance between Comfort and Functionality

A good fit is vital for both comfort and functionality of a dry suit.

  • Room for Layers: From my experience, the suit should be spacious enough to allow for layers underneath, keeping you warm in colder climates.
  • Freedom of Movement: At the same time, it shouldn't be so loose that it hinders your movement while paddling.

Reinforced Areas for Longevity

Look for suits with reinforced knees and seats, as these areas tend to wear out faster.

  • Durability: I've found that these reinforcements can significantly extend the lifespan of a dry suit, making it a worthwhile feature to consider.

Remember, the right drysuit for you will depend on your personal needs, preferences, and the specific conditions you plan to kayak in. Happy shopping, and here's to staying dry on your kayaking adventures!

How to Stretch the Latex Gaskets?

Latex gaskets are an integral part of dry suits and tops, providing a watertight seal that prevents water from entering the suit. However, new gaskets can often be uncomfortably tight and may require stretching or trimming for a proper fit. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to stretch latex gaskets effectively and safely.

Understanding the Basics

Before you start, it's essential to understand that latex gaskets will naturally loosen up slightly after 5-10 uses. If the gasket is only a bit too tight, wearing the suit or top multiple times might solve the problem without the need for additional stretching or trimming.

Steps to Stretch Latex Gaskets

  • Choose a Suitable Object: Find an object that is slightly larger than your neck or wrist, depending on which gasket you're stretching. This could be a plastic jug, a coffee can, or any similar item.
  • Stretch the Gasket: Carefully stretch the gasket over the object. Ensure the stretch is even and the gasket isn't overly strained at any point to prevent damage.
  • Leave Overnight: Allow the gasket to remain stretched on the object overnight. This should help it loosen up a bit.
  • Repeat if Necessary: If the gasket is still too tight, repeat the process as needed. Remember, gradual stretching over several days is safer and less likely to damage the gasket than trying to achieve significant stretching in a single session.

Trimming vs. Stretching

While stretching can effectively loosen a tight gasket, some situations may call for trimming. However, trimming should be approached with caution. Over-trimming can lead to a loose seal that allows water in, while under-trimming can result in a gasket that's still too tight. Always cut a little at a time, and consider seeking professional advice if you're unsure.

Other Kayak Clothing

Apart from a dry suit and dry bag, other kayak clothing items can enhance your comfort and safety on the water.

These include base layers to wear under your dry suit for added warmth, neoprene gloves and booties to protect your hands and feet, and a hat or cap to shield your face from the sun.

In particular, union suits are considered to be the preferred insulation choice under drysuits. They are one piece and do not leave any chilly gap between the bottom and top layers.

One of the advantages of wearing a union suit is that since it is one piece, it prevents the insulation layers from getting pulled apart when putting on a dry suit. Moreover, union suits provide better mobility as you paddle.


A dry suit for kayaking is a worthwhile investment for anyone who enjoys kayaking in colder conditions.

By keeping you dry and warm, it allows you to focus on the joy of paddling and exploring. Remember to consider factors like material, seals, zippers, fit, and reinforced areas when choosing a dry suit.

And don't forget a dry bag to keep your valuables safe and other kayak clothing for maximum comfort and protection. Happy kayaking!

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Stacey JohnsonCustomer Experience ManagerStacey has been with Outdoorplay for over 17 years, sharing wisdom from her years of experience and passion for all kinds of kayaking (whitewater, recreational, and touring), stand-up paddle boarding, and rafting. When she's not out on the water, Stacey also enjoys camping with her family and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the Cascade mountains.