Wetsuit vs Drysuit for Kayaking in Cold Winter Water

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most kayakers wear a drysuit in the winter and do not even consider a full wet suit, they believe wetsuits to be stiff, and to not provide enough protection. this video takes issue with that, ive been kayaking for years and have used both a kokatat expedition drysuit and an oniel wetsuit for the winter in this video i will compare and contrast the pros and cons of the wetsuit vs the drysuit specifically for kayaking
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Rating: 4.65

41 Comments
  1. William Vanderpool says

    thanks for the great Information will go with the wet suite .and the dry suit i plan on going from Alaska to the Philppines next summer so i think both would work thanks again

  2. newtrack0 says

    how hot does it get inside a dry suit when kayaking on a 80F day? At same time, sea water is still at 55F around here.

  3. jay love says

    Is wearing waders DANGEROUS while on a kayak

  4. Razor Rod02 says

    "Your gonna drown and you're gonna die." – keepin it real! Hahaha

  5. Felipe Behrens says

    Is there a non black wet suit? I don’t like to look like white shark food.

  6. Felipe Behrens says

    Would the bottom zipper on women suits be good for number 2?

  7. Rankin Darby says

    How can you do a nature call in a wetsuit ?

  8. Rankin Darby says

    Great vid Dude !!! Just what I needed. Question: Does a wetsuit keep you warm after you get back in the kayak and the ambient air outside is below 40 degrees? That's the deciding factor. I don't want to spend the money for a drysuit. I am a kayak fisherman with a very stable kayak, but I could fall off my kayak doing something stupid. So, I need protection from hypothermia if possible. What are your thoughts on how well a wetsuit would keep you warm out of the water after a spill. Thanks again and good luck!!

  9. alex Jackson says

    brilliant advice and told straight top guy

  10. Emily G says

    I have both

  11. Kevin Carpenter says

    What thickness of wetsuit do you recommend for paddling the water temperature like 55_60 that is still comfortable

  12. Dave Grainger says

    Another thing to consider is boat fit. If your boat fits you with a dry suit or dry top, it may be too tight with a wet suit, because the wet suit is much thicker and the neoprene is less compressible than a dry suit with fleece underneath. Be sure to sit in your boat with the wet suit on before purchasing. Also, be sure you can wet exit – the wet suit rubber is less slippery than the dry suit fabric, especially if the wet suit makes the boat fit tight.

  13. Dikili Lovez says

    Great video <3 its so informing… peace

  14. Dikili Lovez says

    Great video <3 its so informing… peace

  15. Marius Engelsen says

    Thanks 🙂 I have a few comments:
    1: Your latex seals are very easy to replace yourself, and cheap.
    2: If a seal tears you will get some water in your drysuit. If you use wool layers underneath you will still be able to be warm enough once you get out of the water. The suit will not fill up imediatley.
    3: A drysuit with neoprene gaskets are cheaper. The gaskets are more comfortable, much more durable and tougher. If they are too wide, you can cut and glue to the appropriate size, if the are too narrow, they can be streched.
    4. Latex seals are 100% waterproof if trimmed to the correct size. Neoprene seals are 98% waterproof. If you spend a lot of time in the water, you might get a little damp around the neck and arms. But just very little 😉
    5: If your drysuit has velcro straps over the latex, then your suit will become semidry if a seal tears.
    6: In case of major zipper failure, or a major tear in your drysuit. Stay in the boat, and get to shore! 🙂

  16. Sevag Boyajian says

    Matty I'm in the Arctic originally from Ontario Canada. water is way colder with ice burgs around.

  17. I just bought a body glove full wet suit this year it works awesome lots of movement snug fit

  18. Mike Hirst says

    fit the drysuit with a manual co2 life jacket inflator system. over board it becomes a full body life jacket thats why dive suits have inflators and dump valves

  19. seymore glass says

    a bit dramatic friend… a sudden tiny tear in a cuff while under water is not a death sentence unless you take 17 minutes to roll.

  20. Ancient_Mantis says

    Brilliant. Just the info i was looking for. Thanks mate.

  21. Feldwebel Wolfenstool says

    I got hypothermic one day in early May, wearing a drysuit in my inflatable…I was wearing a work parka over it, which got wet, and the cold N.Ontario wind sucked the heat right out of me…

  22. Matt Evans says

    I wear a wetsuit paddling because nothing on earth is sharper than barnacles. If I'm going to end up capsized or in the water it's where I'm surrounded by barnacle covered rocks because thats where water surges and haystacks. Better to get slammed onto rocks covered in the cushion of a wetsuit than in a ziploc bag of a drysuit because both are going to tear but the drysuit just became completely useless.

  23. Jack Snow says

    you must be joking. in england in AUGUST in the middle of summer a 5 mill wetsuit doesn't keep me warm at all.

  24. Jeff A. says

    Dry suit is very hot. Gaskets can be brutal. No free lunch. Very warm if you get wet

  25. Mark Abolofia says

    Great video. Love you Boston boys with your crazy accents. Be well and fish on!

  26. Scott Bailey says

    May I also add that swimming in a drysuit in class V rapids is very tiresome. It's like swimming in a sack. Also, If the neck gasket fails catastrophically in such a swim, especially in a powerful hydraulic, the drysuit WILL quickly fill with water which could be fatal. Not just because of the cold shock, but even in warm water the weight of the water in the suit, if it's enough before you're rescued, could certainly drown you (always carry a knife). For you kayakers that stay in class III and below, no worries. However, If you do swim in class IV-V rapids you will be more grateful for the wetsuit, as long as it is thick enough, because the buoyancy of your entire body in a wetsuit is unbelievable. Your entire body will float, not just you torso. I use both and, as the video suggests, there is pros and cons to both.

  27. Kirill Gusev says

    As a surfer, I cannot imagine myself sitting and fishing in a wetsuit. Just can't, sorry. Besides you can buy GoreTex Kokotat drysuit for 8 bills, "good" wetsuit is usually closer to 500+ and if you using wetsuit, you usually have more than one – different thickness for different water temperature (so not much saving s here). Another point you avoid in your review is that when you back on the shore you take off your drysuit and you are ready to drive home because you already have your layers on. with a wetsuit, you have to change to clothing (for those who are not aware – you don't have any clothing under your wetsuit, well some ppl have speedos) -not a most pleasant experience in winter. Not to mention that is actually difficult to take off a wetsuite if there is no water between your body and wetsute; properly sized WS kinda sticks to your body – that's why you want to take it off right after surfing session. Another factor against it that lifespan of good drysuit is longer that wetsute (rips and drying of neoprene). Please leave wetsute for activities where you immersed in the water an exttednded period of time.

  28. Genius by Design says

    so how many DRY suit deaths in the last 5 yrs ?

  29. Jim Kemp says

    The dry suit might be a little better after you have finished the paddle, if you intend to be on the shore for any length of time. The cold wind seems to chill the wet suit pretty quickly once you stop paddling to generate body heat.

  30. Louise Adie says

    Regarding the drysuit: I think it's important for people to know that the rubber/latex gasket at the neck should be cut down to size…one should almost never use the size it comes with. It's tapered and has tiny raised rings to guide where you need to cut it to fit your neck. You needn't suffer with choking until it 'loosens up' or you get used to it…that's not accurate. He also talks about the gaskets tearing. Here's a tip so you don't run into this problem: check the gaskets before you put the suit on by stretching them and checking for lack of integrity of the surface of the latex. These deficiencies will appear as tiny stretch marks. Trust me, the gasket will NOT tear while underwater…they're very tough and even if they're weakening they should hold up. But that's the time to replace the gasket. I've used drysuits while guiding in Antarctica for fourteen years and have found them to be the perfect gear. Drysuits are what most of the eco tourism companies use for our kayaking passengers in Antarctica.

  31. John McVey says

    nice review just bought 7 mm full suit $ 100 for NE winter caper cod kayaking

  32. jerkwang69 says

    With a 5/4mm wetsuit, say the water is freezing, 32F and/or below, and I fell in. How much time do you think the wetsuit would buy me? Without a wetsuit, you've got 30 seconds to a minute to get out and dry off immediately, but, how big is my window to get to shore with a 5/4 in those temperatures? I'm not trying to be cocky, but, say I was right in the middle of the river, and needed about 3 to 5 minutes to swim back, pending on the strength of the current.

  33. Blanko says

    Coming from surfing to kayaking. The new wetsuits are so much better than a few years back. Super flexible. A new 4/3 superstretch type is at least 25% easier on your shoulders than the older 3/2. Old suits chafe under your arms for paddling (not surfing so much, as you are wet, and that adds a little lube between the skin). If you haven't tried a new wetsuit (last year or two), that fits well, you might be surprised. Drysuit is more comfortable though. Good gloves and booties, as feet get cold walking on snow. Throw a dry top over a fleece over a 4/3 or 5/4 or 3/2 psycho freak zen. Works good. 3/2 you won't even know you have a wetsuit on – that thing is great! (but don't swim for too long in 40 degrees !!!! Gota get out quick if you swim!!).

  34. klimm01 says

    I never had a dry suit. From the very beginning I wore only the wet one, summer , winter. My 2 cents. In sommer is all clear, rolling all time even with a shortie. After abt. 4 years of winter kayaking ; after about 3 hours of ww , you're at hypothermia limit (add or subtract 1 hour depending on your specific and wind) Still, for short outings like I do, max 2 hrs on the rivers next to me(I paddle in Transylvania, in rocky rivers) is the best I can use with way less money than I need for a dry suit. As my roll is quite ok, I now use a drytop and guess what; the first thing I broke was the neck seal. At the beginning, the choking sensation was real so I cut out 2 rings but didn't do the cut proper so, I got a 5 cm crack . Rolling with this as is for about 20-40 rolls per session didn't do any harm but about 10-20 liters of water in my kayak. Admitted, if it was a dry suit, all water would have been in the dry suit, so, if not drowning, the water would have filled my dry suit. Hard choice! Best!

  35. Joe Fico says

    Great topic and presentation. It obviously gave us a lot to talk about. My wetsuit with zippers on ankles and wrist is easier to get in and out of than my drysuit. The zippers also allow for venting. I highly recommend the zippers.

  36. Lee Martin says

    Your comments on gasket tearing is WAY over the top. The odds of water rushing in is outrageously low. The evaporative cooling of neoprene makes it totally improper for kayaking. If one is submerged in water the whole time, wind rushing over your body is not an issue. In a kayak however, it is a complete different matter. There's a reason you're the only one in your group in a wet suit, lol.

  37. Nikolaus says

    Frankly, I have heard stories of rescuers in heavy duty drysuits falling into the water and the suit withstanding direct propeller contact. Granted, it was a professional grade suit, not your average glorified shopping bag, and the guy was quite badly bruised, but I'd wager he'd have looked a lot worse with neoprene. A good drysuit well cared for can take an awful lot of punishment.

  38. dave cadwell says

    I scuba dive as well as Kayak. I have both wet & dry suits. If a dry suit seal leaks, your undergarments get wet and that weighs you down greatly. Think of swimming in your jeans and a sweat shirt. A dry suit will keep you warmer but there is a down side. My 2 cents worth. dave

  39. Trail Hound says

    Glad I saw this video before I made a decision! Thanks for making it! Great points

  40. Nomad says

    What I found was that after a few hours of paddling in a wetsuit ,it can 'chaff' under your arms ! Baby powder stops this but only until you take a dunking ! It also depends on the time you are paddling . When I fish off the kayak I rarely get any of this because the distance I'm doing is a lot less than when I'm out for a good 'nose' around an area ! I cant say I have ever had water come into a dry suit in any amount ,but then again when I'm out and if I fall off then I try to get back on ,'Pronto' ! I know a bit of chaff sounds minor but walking around looking like a gunslinger after kayaking isn't great  : /

  41. Frank Twist says

    Video is correct on most points, and is true as he is mostly talking about winter paddling, but keep these points in mind for summer trips.
    Dry suits are great for winter paddling and for surfing or rolling. But for kayak touring or long distance paddling in the summer, when most paddling is done, dry suits are brutal to paddle in. They are hot, you loose energy because you are so hot. You will be splashing water over your self or rolling to cool down, you suffer.
    You cannot open up zippers for ventilation because if you tip your suit fills with water and becomes a anchor and you cannot climb back into boat because of the weight. Same is true if you rip suit or get a big hole in it.
    Dry suits work best when you have a fleece layer underneath which makes the heat problem even worse. If you wear nothing underneath, they do not keep you warm for long.
    This video did not talk about the farmer john style of wet suit which is what most touring kayakers use. It is not as warm as a long sleeve wet suit, but is fine if you dump in the summer, it will keep you warm enough as you climb back into your kayak.
    For me if you like kayak touring in the summer, the farmer john wetsuit is the way to go. Have used one for paddling outside route Alaska to Vancouver and around Vancouver island and many other trips. Full length sleeve wet suits are warm but again hot and uncomfortable for long distance paddling in the summer.

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