Wetsuit vs. Drysuit: What Are the Differences?

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Are you interested in diving? Whether you are enjoying a dive along a reef or a wreck, or you are working on an underwater structure in a frigid environment and need something to keep you warm, you need to know what you are doing, and you need to have the right gear. If you are just getting interested in diving, you might already be starting to feel overwhelmed. After all, there is a lot to learn when it comes to the type of gear you are going to need, and which is right for different situations.

For example, do you need a wetsuit or a drysuit? For that matter, what’s the difference between these options? Below, we will be taking a closer look at wetsuits vs. drysuits and will learn more about each of them along with where and when they tend to work the best.

The purpose of both wetsuits and drysuits is to help protect the user and they are designed to keep you warm from cold water temperatures and cold air once you come out of the water. This is true whether they are used for recreational diving, snorkeling, underwater welding, surfing, or for any other number of activities. Although both are designed to keep you warm, they are made differently, and the functionality is somewhat different.

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What Are Wetsuits Made Of?

One of the first things to note about wetsuits is that although they are designed to keep you warm, they are not made to keep you entirely dry. They are not waterproof. The wetsuits are made of neoprene, and while this is a high-quality material, if the suit doesn’t fit snugly, there is a good chance that you will get cold. It’s important to have a tight wetsuit that can deal with even cold water temperatures. Still, the wetsuits use a thin layer of water trapped between the neoprene and the skin, which is supposed to help slow the amount of heat loss.

To keep the warmth in the wetsuit, it is important to have quality seams. Taped seams tend to have less of a leakage issue than stitched seams, while rubber-coated seams can provide even more protection. This is something that you will want to consider when you are buying a wetsuit.

How Do Drysuits Work?

The drysuits are entirely waterproof, which is a huge benefit. However, it is important to keep in mind that when used alone, it’s not designed for warmth. You can use them with undergarments, which are worn between the suit and your body to help keep you warmer by reducing the speed at which you are losing heat. These added layers of insulation can help to make you feel much more comfortable when in a cold water environment. These suits are fully waterproof and will keep out all of the water, which is certainly convenient.

However, you will want to consider that when you start to add more and more layers of insulation that are meant to help keep you warm, it will make movement more difficult. This is true whether you are using the drysuit for water sports, recreational diving, or for working underwater. You need to find a balance.

What About Semi-Drysuits?

These are more similar to a wetsuit despite the name. The big difference is that with a drysuit, it’s waterproof and you won’t get wet. With a semi-drysuit, you do get wet because they will let in a thin layer of water. These suits have seals on the neck, wrist, and ankles, which can reduce the flushing effect of water. This simply means that less cold water will be able to enter the suit, which can help you to stay warmer. They can be used when it is too cold for a wetsuit. You will find that these tend to be used in places like the North Sea and cold Atlantic waters off the coast of the United States.

When to Choose a Wetsuit vs. a Drysuit

You will find that if the water conditions are cold and you are going to be in the water most of the time, a wetsuit is going to be a better choice in most cases. This is because the wetsuit is skintight, and it will be much easier to maneuver with it in the water than it would be standing up on a paddleboard in the cold weather, for example. When you think about swimming or diving in a drysuit, you will find that it tends to be more restricting to movement than a wetsuit. If restriction is not a factor, or the weather conditions are extremely cold, then choosing a dry suit tends to be the best option since wetsuits can actually be restricted by those very cold water temperatures.

To get a better idea of which type of suit tends to be the best idea based on the water temperature, keep the following information in mind:

  • Wetsuits between 6mm and 7mm thick can be used in water from 50 degrees F to 60 degrees F.
  • Wetsuits between 4mm and 5mm thick can be used in water from 60 degrees F to 70 degrees F.
  • Wetsuits between 2mm and 3mm thick can be used in water from 70 degrees F to 80 degrees F.
  • Wetsuits between 1mm and 1.5mm thick can be used in water from 75 degrees F to 85 degrees F.
  • Drysuits can be used in water from 35 degrees F to 65 degrees F depending on the layers that you have on under the drysuit. More layers will mean more protection from the cold, but less mobility.

As you can see, there are warm water and cold water options available, as long as you choose the right thickness.

What’s Right for You?

Ultimately, it will depend on just what type of usage you need the suit for, of course, and when you need to use it. Those who are going to be on the water during the winter months may want to have a drysuit. Others might find that their purposes are best served by a wetsuit. Consider how, where, and when you will be diving. Look up the water temperatures for that area and the time of year. Basing your choice around the actual facts of your diving needs tends to be the best option to ensure you are making the right decision.

Of course, like many people, you may find that there are good reasons to have both a wetsuit and a drysuit. This means you will have options year-round no matter where you will be diving, paddleboarding, kayaking, or otherwise enjoying the water both on it and under it.

drysuit vs wetsuit differences

Choosing the Right Drysuit

The thickness of a drysuit doesn’t matter like it does with a wetsuit. The drysuits, including those that are used for scuba, have zippers and seals that can keep the water out and ensure the inside of the suit stays dry. When you are choosing the suit, you will want to consider the material of the seals. They are generally latex or neoprene. Make sure you check the material for the seals, so you get the material that you prefer. For example, some people might be allergic to latex, which would be problematic.

Additionally, you always want to make sure that the one you choose has quality zippers and seals that are built to last, and that makes it easy to put on and take off the drysuit. You will also want to check the size of the suit you are considering. Remember, you don’t need a snug fit with a drysuit, but you still want to make sure you can fit into it. It should not be too tight, nor should it be too loose.

Always check the features of the drysuits and compare them to the options that you have shortlisted. Remember that quality is the most important factor regardless of the type of suit you are choosing, wet or dry.

Choosing the Right Wetsuit

There are many things to consider when you are choosing a wetsuit. First, you will want to consider how you are going to be using it. This will determine the type of wetsuit that you will need. Do you simply need a top or shorty wetsuit? Do you need a full suit? Do you also need boots, gloves, and/or a hood? Knowing how and where you will be using it will give you a better idea of what you need to buy.

When you are choosing a wetsuit, it should fit tight, like you are wearing a second skin. You do not want any loose areas, as that means you are going to be getting too much water rushing through the suit. Make sure there is no excess room in the suit. When you are in the suit, you should be able to raise your arms over your head and stretch out your shoulders and you should still be able to move in the suit. It should be tight, but it shouldn’t restrict your movement.

Some of the other factors to keep in mind whether you are in cold or warm water is the thickness of the wetsuit. Thicker neoprene means it will do better in colder water. Also consider the type of seams, as mentioned, and the overall quality of the neoprene.

Have Fun in and on the Water

Now that you have a better understanding of the difference between wetsuits and drysuits, you can determine which will provide you with the biggest benefit. Find the suit or suits you need and start enjoying the water.