Wet Suit vs Dry Suit: Which Is Right For You?

Wet Suit vs Dry Suit: Which Is Right For You?

When it comes to kayaking, paddle boarding, rafting, surfing - or any water activity for that matter - you need the proper attire. This isn't just to help you look the part - it's to help you stay safe and comfortable. The proper water attire helps you perform your best, too.

Two of the most common types of attire you'll hear about when it comes to staying safe and warm during those cold water days are wet suits and dry suits. What is the difference between these? And, which of these is right for your next outing? Understanding the correct usage for each of these is really important.

Whether you're a beginner at cold water surf sports or you're just looking for a quick refresher, you have come to the right place. Because today, we're going to dive deep into the wet suit vs dry suit debate. We're going to settle once and for all which one is right for you, and when you should go about using each.

Let's start with some basic information.

Why Do You Need A Wet Suit or Dry Suit?

The importance of wearing either a wetsuit or drysuit when dealing with extremely cold conditions cannot be stressed enough. You may be thinking to yourself, "I don't mind very cold water temperatures, or the frigid, windy air outside! I can tough it out".

But, this is not just about your comfort. These crucial pieces of thermal protection keep you safe from cold temperatures. Once the water temperature reaches a certain level, it becomes unsafe to enter without the wetsuit. In fact, certain conditions are even too cold with a wet suit! It's important that you research the water you're going to be entering and determine whether it is safe or not.

Even if you don't necessarily need a wet suit or dry suit for safety reasons, there are all sorts of advantages to them. For example, you're able to swim faster in a wetsuit with less restriction. You're more buoyant, too, making floating or treading water easy. Another example is that in a drysuit, you will stay warm - which keeps you performing at your best, and prevents injury to muscles. Exercising in freezing cold temperatures can be really hard on your joints, muscles, and heart.

Now, let's take a look at some definitions to help you gain a better understanding of the differences between wet suits and dry suits.

What Is A Wet Suit?

When it comes to staying warm in the water, you'll commonly see people wear wet suits. These are not waterproof, contrary to what some beginners may think. You will still get wet, but you stay warm. They're made of neoprene rubber and offer thermal insulation to keep your body heat trapped inside. They fit pretty tight, which allows for greater movement compared to other types of cold water attire. 

What Is A Dry Suit?

A dry suit, on the other, is completely waterproof. But it's not necessarily designed to keep you warm. You'll need to put on layers underneath the drysuit to provide actual warmth. One thing is for sure no matter how many layers you put on - you'll stay dry! Dry suits are more loose-fitting and generally regarded as more comfortable than wet suits, too.

Ok, now that you know a bit more about what wetsuits and dry suits are, which is right for you? Do you need both? Let us explain when we recommend you use each one.

Wet Suit vs Dry Suit - When To Use Each One

While both wetsuits and drysuits are likely going to be necessary pieces of attire in your wardrobe, the instances in which you would use each differs. There isn't necessarily a "winner" in the wet suit vs dry suit debate. Rather, there are best practices you should follow in determining which one you're going to wear for specific conditions. Let's take a look.

When To Wear A Wet Suit

Anytime you're entering extreme cold conditions in the water, we recommend you wear a wet suit. The wetsuit will actually keep you warm in the water. Think about it like this - wet suits protect from cold conditions, while dry suits protect from water. So if you're going scuba diving, swimming, surfing, or any other activity where you get in the water, and it's cold, think wetsuit.

The other advantage of wearing a wetsuit in extremely cold water temperatures is the lack of restriction. You're able to swim, paddle, or otherwise move about more freely. If you were to purposefully wear a dry suit into the water, you'd end up with all sorts of restriction due to the bulkier, looser fitting material. And you'd still be freezing cold since the suit keeps moisture out - not temperature!

That's not to say you don't also need a dry suit in your arsenal, though. Let's examine when you should wear a dry suit.

When to Wear A Dry Suit

If you're heading out for a day of paddling in extremely cold conditions - but you won't necessarily be entering any water - the dry suit will be your best bet.

You can layer up with a bunch of warm-weather clothes underneath your drysuit, such as pants, fleece sweaters or jackets, and gloves. Once you put your dry suit on, you'll enjoy the best of both worlds with warmth and dryness. The extra layers provide warmth, while the dry suit provides protection from the water itself.

With a neck seal along with wrist and ankle seals throughout the suit, water cannot get in - whether you get splashed by the water or accidentally step off your paddleboard.

What To Look For When Picking Out Wetsuits or Drysuits

Whether you ultimately decide to get a wetsuit, drysuit, or both, there are some things you should keep in mind. These tips and tricks will help ensure you get the best possible fit. The last thing you want is to invest in a drysuit or wetsuit only to have it underperform. Here is what you need to know:

Sizing Your Wetsuit

When sizing your wetsuit in particular, it is important to get it as tight as possible. A loose-fitting wetsuit won't provide the warmth you need in the water, as your body heat is able to escape with ease.

A loose-fitting wetsuit also sacrifices maneuverability and swimming efficiency. The normal wetsuit movements should feel free and unrestricted. If your wetsuit is too loose, you'll find that it drags in the water - making you work harder than you need to and causing you to leak speed.

Some scuba divers, in particular, will also report that an incorrectly sized wetsuit can cause rashes and overall discomfort from the extra material rubbing on skin. All of this is to say when in doubt, size down! If you're not sure which size is right for you, you can always consult the OutdoorPlay team.

Materials and Stitching

On both wetsuits and drysuits, you should pay close attention to the seams, stitching, and zippers used. Not all wetsuits and drysuits are created equal - you'll want to find one with solid seams. Otherwise, you'll leak body heat (in the case of a wetsuit) or allow water in (in the case of a dry suit).

We've seen that taped seams are superior to traditional stitched seams. That's because they leak less. But if you want the best of the best, stick with a rubber-coated/welded seam.

It's also worth noting that your wetsuit should be free of exposed stitching - this can rub on you when paddling or swimming and cause rashes. Also, pay close attention to the material used. Your wetsuit should be constructed from a thin layer of high-quality neoprene. Cheap neoprene - or dried-out neoprene - will cause a rash.

Some Wetsuits and Drysuits Are Better Than Others

You may be inclined to shop based solely on the price of your new wetsuit and/or drysuit. And we don't blame you - when we were first getting started, we did the same thing. After all, there is so much gear you need to truly enjoy the water safely and comfortably. But trust us when we say you get what you pay for.

For example, you may actually save money by buying the pricier options. Some drysuits come equipped with dry socks built-in, which saves you from making extra purchases for socks. Others are built from a premium Gore-Tex material, which will far outlast cheaper materials. This saves you money in the long run, as you will get much more use out of the premium option.

Final Thoughts On The Wet Suit vs Dry Suit Debate

Well, now you know everything you need to determine whether you should buy a wetsuit, dry suit, or both! Allow us to quickly summarize as we bring this discussion to a close:

When you're entering extremely cold water, think wetsuit - it will keep you warm, but not dry. This is the right choice for wakeboarding, surfing, scuba diving, swimming, etc. But if you're just on the water during cold weather, a drysuit is the best approach. This will keep your body completely dry while you paddle, row, or float around. You will still need additional layers under the dry suit to keep you warm, though.

At this point, there is just one thing left to do - head over to OutdoorPlay and shop for all your water play essentials!

Find The Best Wet Suits and Dry Suits Online At OutdoorPlay!

OutdoorPlay has come to be known as the one-stop shop for all things outdoor adventure. From camping to hiking, kayaking to rafting, and everything in between. We've got the top products from the best brands to help you enjoy the great outdoors as they were intended!

As lifelong paddlers ourselves, we've spent our fair share of time searching for dry suits or wetsuits. So, we know how hard it can be to find quality options at fair prices. We decided to change that.

Now, it's easier than ever to find the perfect fit for your next outing - just head over to our site and take a look at our collection of drysuits for sale or wetsuits for sale! We've even got dry tops, dry pants, and every other type of paddling apparel you could ever need. You'll find top brands like NRS, Kokatat, and more to help you withstand cold water temperature or frigid air conditions.

If you need help selecting the right product, don't be shy. As lifelong water sport enthusiasts ourselves, getting to help others enjoy it as much as we do is the best part of our day. We're available via phone, email, or chat. And, all orders are backed up by a money-back guarantee. Shop today and enjoy free shipping over $49!