Finding The Best Dry Suit For Kayaking

For anyone who loves kayaking it can be hard to turn down the opportunity to go paddling. But when the weather is less than ideal and the temperature drops. Luckily, a dry suit can help to keep you paddling all year round, regardless of what else is going on. But it is important to know what you need in a kayak before buying. Not all dry suits are created equal and knowing what to look for to guarantee you get the best quality for your money and keep you safe.

Finding The Best Dry Suit For Kayaking 1

ImageProduct 
Stohlquist Amp Dry SuitStohlquist Amp Dry SuitCheck Price
Level 6 Emporer Dry SuitLevel 6 Emporer Dry SuitCheck Price
Stohlquist EZ Dry SuitStohlquist EZ Dry SuitCheck Price
Kokatat Front Entry Dry SuitKokatat Front Entry Dry SuitCheck Price
Kokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian Dry SuitKokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian Dry SuitCheck Price
Stohlquist Shift Dry SuitStohlquist Shift Dry SuitCheck Price
Kokatat Radius Dry SuitKokatat Radius Dry SuitCheck Price
Kokatat Idol Dry SuitKokatat Idol Dry SuitCheck Price
Crewsaver Cirrus Dry SuitCrewsaver Cirrus Dry SuitCheck Price
O’neill Boost Dry SuitO’neill Boost Dry SuitCheck Price

When Do You Use A Dry Suit

Dry suits should be worn whenever you are kayaking in air temperatures under 60 degrees Fahrenheit or water temperatures under 70 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also great for long distance trips and windy days to provide an extra layer of protection while out on the water.

What Should You Look For In A Dry Suit

Some of the most important things you need to consider before buying a dry suit include:

Breathability

If the material your dry suit is made of isn’t breathable you can end up overheating and sweaty, even in the coldest temperatures. Air flow is important for your body to regulate its temperature so always look for a breathable fabric.

Durability

You want a dry suit that is durable enough to prevent rips, tears and anything that could compromise the effectiveness of the dry suit. So consider the materials used, the stitching and, most importantly, the seams to make sure they will be strong enough to hold up to your needs.

Fit

The fit is the most obvious thing to check out, but also one of the most difficult aspects to figure out when looking for the right dry suit. The dry suit needs to be tight enough to reap the benefits of the insulation provided, but also loose enough to fit layers of extra clothing underneath to help keep you warm. If the fit of the dry suit is too tight it can be difficult to get on and to move in. But overly baggy dry suits can get caught on things and feel uncomfortable.

It is also important to consider the gender sizing to find the best possible fit. Women’s sizing and men’s sizing can have clear differences in them, while gender neutral sizing tend to fall somewhere in the middle. This is why it is important to always measure yourself and look at sizing charts to get the best possible fit for your body and your needs. If you are between sizes you should always go up one rather than down.

Material

There are several materials that can be used for dry suits, but there are some that stand above the rest.

  • Laminated Material

Laminated materials can be either a bi-laminate or tri-laminate and are one of the easier materials to move around in. This is because the material is far less cumbersome and dries extremely quickly, but the material does not offer any thermal protection.

  • Coated Material

Coated materials are fabrics that are not waterproof on their own, but sprayed with a waterproof coating. This coating is applied to the exterior of the fabric rather than both the exterior and interior. But the coating can wear over time so you will need to reapply the coating down the road or risk your dry suit not being completely water proof.

  • Neoprene Material

Similar to wetsuits, the neoprene material is thinner for a dry suit but has similar benefits. The neoprene offers higher thermal protection and insulation so you don’t need to worry about wearing layers underneath if you don’t want to. But the neoprene material is typically heavier than other dry suit options so you may feel more weighed down.

  • Membrane Material

Membrane materials are three thin layers of rubber connected to one another making it extremely lightweight and flexible. But with such thin materials, the membrane material offers very little insulation. So you will more than likely need to wear something underneath the dry suit, unless the weather is warm.

Entry Type

Knowing how to get into and out of your dry suit with the least amount of struggle and effort is always important when you want to get out on the water. So it is important to choose the right zipper entry option to keep things as simple as possible.

  • Front Zipper Entry

Front entry dry suits have a zipper going across the chest from one shoulder diagonally to the opposite hip. This allows the wearer to get the dry suit on and off more easily than other entry options, but the zipper’s placement can sometimes be uncomfortable for a wearer.

  • Back Zipper Entry

The back entry zipper design is a vertical zipper from the seat to neck of the dry suit. This keeps the zipper out of the way and prevents irritation, but can be more difficult to zip up unless you have someone to assist you.

  • Switch Zip Entry

Switch zipper entry allows you to essentially turn your one piece dry suit into two because the zipper encircles the waist. This means you can put the top and bottoms on separately without having to try and pull everything up from the bottom over your whole body.

Seal

A seal separates your body from the rest of the world, including wind, water and cold temperatures. So it is crucial to choose the right one for your needs.

  • Neoprene Seal

The most durable of the seal options, Neoprene won’t tear easily and is thick enough to keep you warm. But Neoprene will stretch over time and lose some of its shape after many uses.

  • Latex Seal

Latex seals allow you to customize your fit by trimming the seal to your desired length and fit. The latex material is much more flexible than other seal materials allowing for the greatest flexibility and stretch. But with the added stretch comes an added chance of ripping.

  • Silicone Seal

Silicone is the newest seal material on the market and offers the greatest combination of flexibility, fit and resistance to tearing. But silicone is the material that will wear out the quickest.

Foot Options

Dry suits come with three distinct foot options you will have to choose from based on what you prefer.

  • Boots

Eliminating the need for separate footwear, boots or booties allow you to stay dry while protecting your feet from the cold or debris and supporting them while on land.

  • Socks

Sewn on the bottom of the dry suit, similar to footie pajamas, the socks will keep your feet dry. They allow you to put another pair of socks on underneath to keep your feet extra warm without being too tight and restricting. But you don’t want to walk around on dry suit socks, so you will need to put shoes on when out of the boat to keep from hurting your feet due to the lack of support.

  • Ankle Gasket

Ankle gaskets allow you to keep your feet bare so you can choose to go completely barefoot  or wear your own waterproof shoes.

Color

Color is much more than just what looks good on you or what colors you prefer.  The color of your dry suit also serves an important purpose, whether it is to promote higher visibility, or to help you retain heat. Going with a bright, high visibility color will help keep you in sight and able to spot more easily in case of an emergency and need to be rescued. The color black is a great heat absorber, so if you are kayaking in cold weather this can be a fantastic way to gain extra insulation. While it can make you harder to see, you can always wear a high visibility vest over your dry suit so you don’t need to sacrifice your safety.

Features and Accessories

Different dry suits come with different features you must consider when purchasing. What features do you really need out of a dry suit and what do you want as bonus accessories.

  • Pockets

Pockets allow you to keep valuables close to you and secure them in dry, sealed compartments.

  • Drop Seats

Drop seats are a long curved zipper in the back of the dry suit to allow you to squat to relief yourself. This is ideal for women.

  • Relief Zippers

Relief zippers are a zipper in the groin region, similar to jeans for you to be able to relief yourself on long journeys. If you plan on being out on the water all day you will more than likely need to go to the bathroom so it is important to plan ahead so you can without having to strip off your dry suit to do so.

  • Hood

Hoods aren’t always included in the design of a dry suit, but you should really consider the bonuses that a hood provides. Rain, strong winds and cold temperatures all can make it easy to get cold and lose heat through the top of your head. So if you have the option, you should always look into getting a hood.

  • Overskirt

The overskirt, or tunnel, is a flap of material that goes around the waist of your dry suit. It acts like a spray skirt for your kayak and keeps water from getting into your kayak and onto you and your belongings.

  • Reflective Materials

Incorporating reflective tape and piping into the design of your dry suit helps create higher visibility, especially in the dark like night or early morning kayaking.

  • Fabric Reinforcements

Fabric reinforcements create extra layers in areas where the dry suit will wear out faster than others like the seat, elbows and knees.

  • Over Cuffs

Over cuffs go over the gaskets and points of entry where any water might get through to help block those openings. They are typically made of neoprene or nylon with hook and loop fasteners like Velcro.

One Piece vs Two Piece Dry Suit

While this article has focused primarily on one piece dry suit options, it is important to note that there is a two piece dry suit option as well. This is typically a shirt and pant set that is made up of the same material as the one piece dry suit, but can be worn together or separately depending on your personal preference.  While it does not keep out the water as effectively as a one piece dry suit, it will provide protection for the water, air, wind and rain.

Warranty

Because a dry suit is typically one of the most expensive pieces of gear you can buy related to kayaking. So it is important to look into warranties and what the company offers to protect your purchase. There are many companies that offer lifetime guarantees so you should always do your research and look for the best deals.

How Do You Care For A Dry Suit

Because a dry suit is a rather large investment, it is important to properly care for and maintain it to keep it functioning as well as possible for as long as possible. So it is key for you to know how to properly care for your dry suit before making the purchase.

Cleaning

Cleaning instructions can vary depending on the brand and style of dry suit you choose to buy. So you should always look on the website and refer to the tag on the dry suit to best care for your product and avoid any issues or complications. But unless it says differently, the typical instructions for cleaning your dry suit are to wash in warm water on a delicate cycle, or by hand, using gentle powder soap. You should always rinse your dry suit twice and then hang it to dry. Never just throw your dry suit in the wash with other clothing or put it in the dryer.

DWR Restoration

Durable water repellent, or DWR, is the outer coating of the fabric of the dry suit that keeps water from soaking through. DWR allows the water to bead rather than saturate and simply roll off. The DWR can sometimes wear down and become less water proof than before. If this happens you can usually buy sprays that will help restore the DWR and prevent you from having to buy a whole new dry suit.

Zippers

It is crucial to keep your dry suit zippers clean and clear from any debris so they properly zip up without catching on anything, getting stuck or breaking. You should also invest in some lube to help keep it moving up and down without issue. Without a functioning zipper it can make it impossible to fully close the dry suit and reap the benefits of the design.

Gaskets

The dry suit’s gasket, also known as the seal, it a key element of keeping you dry while in the dry suit. So it is crucial to keep them clean and working as well as possible. Otherwise you completely defeat the purpose of wearing a dry suit. Use a mild soap and fresh water to remove salt, sweat and sunscreen to keep your gasket from being destroyed, especially when they are made of latex. You can also look into sprays like 303 that will help further protect the gaskets from wear and tear.

While you can do things to prolong the lifespan of your gaskets, they will inevitably wear out and need to be replaced. So check your gaskets before and after every trip and if there are any signs of damage, replace them out for new ones.

The Ten Best Dry Suits On The Market

Stohlquist Amp Dry Suit

Stohlquist Amp Dry Suit

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The Stohlquist Amp dry suit is designed for comfort with a relaxed style fit and plenty of room for layering underneath. The Stohlquist Amp comes in both men’s and women’s sizes so you can find your best fit and comes with a three years warranty.

Pros:
  • Laminated nylon shell
  • Relaxed fit
  • Comes in men’s and women’s sizes
  • Relief zipper
  • Reinforced knees and seat
  • Mesh drainers
  • Socks
  • Reflective accents
  • UV resistant
  • Front entry
  • Bright colors
  • 4 layer twin sensor
  • Breathable
  • Neoprene coated
  • Latex gaskets
  • Neoprene cuffs
  • Built in tunnel
  • Pockets
  • Three year warranty
  • Nylon shell
Cons:
  • Could be more durable

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Level 6 Emporer Dry Suit

Level 6 Emporer Dry Suit

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Designed to be used year round, the Level 6 Emporer dry suit definitely doesn’t lack features. With reinforced knees, seat, elbows and forearms, the Emporer is both durable and comfy enough to layer underneath.

Pros:
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Relaxed fit
  • Bi layer Cordura
  • Adjustable waist
  • Double tunnel waistband
  • Neoprene gaskets
  • Relief zipper
  • Socks
  • Fleece pockets
  • Taped seams
  • Whistle
  • Three color options
Cons:
  • No women’s sizing option
  • Rear entry zip
  • Slightly bulky
  • Could be too warm in summer

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Stohlquist EZ Dry Suit

Stohlquist EZ Dry Suit

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The sleek all black design will help keep you warm while paddling in the colder weather. While not as durable as materials like Gore-Tex, the 4 layer twin sensor dry suit comes with armored knees and adjustable cuffs to make up for it.

Pros:
  • 3 year warranty
  • 4 layer twin sensor
  • Relaxed fit
  • Front entry
  • Relief zipper
  • Neoprene gasket
  • Reflective accents
  • Adjustable cuff covers
  • Socks
  • Armored knees
  • Nylon material
  • Breathable
Cons:
  • No women’s sizing
  • Lacks Durability

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Kokatat Front Entry Dry Suit

Kokatat Front Entry Dry Suit

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Designed to make movement simple and easy for a large variety of kayaking adventures, the Kokatat Front Entry Dry Suit is durable enough to handle everything from fishing to whitewater kayaking.

Pros:
  • Gore-Tex material
  • Medium fit
  • Specialized mobility sleeves
  • Reflective highlights
  • Front entry
  • Socks
  • Reinforced knees and seat
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Latex gaskets
  • Women’s sizing option
Cons:
  • No hood available

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Kokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian Dry Suit

Kokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian Dry Suit

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Ideal for cold days out on the water, the Kokatat Hydrus #L Meridian dry suit is not only durable, but highly breathable and warm. The Hydrus 3L Meridian comes in both men’s and women’s sizing and the medium fit allows for some layering underneath, but you may not even need it depending on where you go.

Pros:
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Breathable material
  • Durable
  • Warm and insulated
  • Front entry
  • Relief zipper
  • Socks
  • Drop seat
  • Adjustable waist
  • Women’s sizing option
  • Latex and neoprene gaskets
  • Reinforced knees and seat
  • Key lanyard
  • Medium fit
  • Self-draining chest pocket
Cons:
  • May be too warm for summer use
  • Neck gasket can feet tight

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Stohlquist Shift Dry Suit

Stohlquist Shift Dry Suit

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The snug fit of the Stohlquist Shift dry suit may take some of the flexibility away, but the three layer Rampart, Cordura reinforced knees and seat,  and “Stand By” mode make it easy to get over the lower mobility.

Pros:
  • 3 layer rampant
  • Snug fit
  • Relief zipper
  • Latex gaskets
  • Spray skirt
  • Removable hood
  • Cordura knees and seat
  • Chest pockets
  • Headphone port
  • Elastic suspenders inside
  • Reflective accents
  • 3 year warranty
  • “Stand By” mode
  • Front entry
  • Hood
Cons:
  • No women’s sizing option
  • Can’t layer underneath
  • Lower mobility and flexibility

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Kokatat Radius Dry Suit

Kokatat Radius Dry Suit

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The Switch Zip style entry allows you to separate the top and bottom into two separate pieces to not only put it on more easily, but choose to wear both sections or only one part depending on what you prefer. The Gore-Tex material and relaxed fit create a durable and comfortable dry suit while being incredibly versatile.

Pros:
  • Hood
  • Gore-Tex material
  • Relaxed fit
  • Switch Zip
  • Dual adjustable overskirt
  • Latex gasket
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Comfortable
  • Versatile
  • Women’s sizing option available
Cons:
  • Pricey

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Kokatat Idol Dry Suit

Kokatat Idol Dry Suit

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The versatile Switch Zip design and durable Gore-Tex material make the Kokatat Idol dry suit a fantastic freestyle kayak option. With a medium fit, you will need to plan ahead more when it comes to layering to make sure you have enough clothing to keep you warm without sacrificing mobility.

Pros:
  • Gore-Tex material
  • Durable
  • Medium fit
  • Switch Zip
  • Dual adjustable overskirt
  • Self-draining
  • Pockets with zippers
  • Key lanyard
  • Limited lifetime warranty
Cons:
  • No hood
  • Pricey
  • No women’s sizing option

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Crewsaver Cirrus Dry Suit

Crewsaver Cirrus Dry Suit

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With a one piece fleece design and three layer fabric, the Crewsaver Cirrus helps keep you warm while out on the water, without breaking the bank. Internal braces help keep the dry suit exactly where it needs to be and the abrasion resistant seat and reinforced knees prevent ripping and tearing in high activity areas.

Pros:
  • Medium fit
  • 3 layer fabric
  • Medium fit
  • One piece fleece
  • Front entry
  • Taped seams
  • Reinforced knees
  • Neoprene cuff
  • Latex socks
  • Internal braces
  • Abrasion resistant seat
  • Affordable
  • Dry bag included
Cons:
  • Medium fit
  • 3 layer fabric
  • Medium fit
  • One piece fleece
  • Front entry
  • Taped seams
  • Reinforced knees
  • Neoprene cuff
  • Latex socks
  • Internal braces
  • Abrasion resistant seat
  • Affordable
  • Dry bag included

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O’neill Boost Dry Suit

O’neill Boost Dry Suit

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If you are looking for a good dry suit on a budget look no further than the O’neill Boost. The relaxed fit allows for plenty of layering and built in suspenders keep everything in place.

Pros:
  • PVC backed nylon
  • Relaxed fit
  • Latex ankle and wrist seal
  • Built in suspenders
  • Affordable
  • Easy to layer
Cons:
  • No women’s sizing option
  • No hood
  • Heavier than other dry suits
  • One year limited warranty
  • Lacks breathability

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