Written By
Published Aug. 19, 2021

My favorite time to hit the water is during the offseason when the crowds are gone. But that means I have to prepare for the cold water and bad weather that scared off the crowds. To enjoy watersports after the temperature drops, the best dry suit for the conditions is mandatory. 

What is a dry suit?

A dry suit is a waterproof one-piece coverall with latex seals at the neck and wrists to keep out water. To enter, you step through a long waterproof zipper across the chest or back. The very best dry suits also have a relief zipper front or back that allows wearers to relieve themselves without taking off the suit. 

In general, a dry suit is best for activities such as kayak fishing, sailing, and canoeing in the cold. It keeps a paddler or boater warm on board and provides warmth and buoyancy if the wearer falls into the frigid water. 

Since many people wear a dry suit for hours or even all day as a safety precaution, the suit’s performance when dry is as important as how it works when wet.

Get a gender-specific dry suit

Serious paddlers and anglers spend many hours in their dry suits, so it’s important to get one that fits well—not just for comfort, but for safety. Dry suits are technical, with an ergonomic design and articulated joints. Neoprene or latex seals in the neck and wrists keep water from seeping in. Areas that see the most wear are reinforced with heavier material and tougher construction. These will only work if, as they say, the suit fits.

Best Men’s Dry Suit: NRS Navigator Dry Suit

Expedition Ready

Comfortable neck seal and integrated waterproof hood allow long hours on the water. NRS

Check Price

The NRS Navigator Dry Suit has a punch-through neoprene neck gasket and latex wrist gaskets with spandex over-cuffs, which keep water out without constricting circulation. Extra fabric at wear points prevents the suit from developing leaks after repeated use. NRS used their 4-layer Eclipse breathable/waterproof fabric for comfort and protection. The offset zipper in the face mask stays out of the way with the mask closed or open.

Best Women’s Dry Suit: NRS Women’s Pivot Dry Suit

Fit and Comfort

Serious waterproof protection and all-day comfort. NRS

Check Price

When the NRS paddling team lines up for competition, many of the women are wearing the Women’s Pivot Dry Suit. NRS’ Eclipse 4-layer fabric is breathable and waterproof without being hot and clammy. In addition to the Aquaseal easy-entry back zipper, the women’s dry suit has a waterproof drop seat relief zipper. Comfortable neck and wrist gaskets keep out water without cutting off circulation. A chest pocket is handy for storing a smartphone in a waterproof case.

Do you need a dry suit for extreme conditions? 

In order to rescue people who have pushed the limits beyond their limits, emergency workers need a dry suit that will go where no one should go. Top-of-the-line models are also popular with people who work on the water, and adventurers looking to stay safe. Since these suits are a tool for professionals, they include all of the best qualities. Look for Gore Tex dry suit material, reinforced wear points, multiple adjustments, and other comfort touches. 

Best Water Rescue Dry Suit: Mustang Survival Water Rescue

Pro Level Dry Suit

Designed to military specs, available to anyone. Mustang Survival

Check Price

In addition to making high-quality gear and clothing for paddling and sailing, Mustang Survival also makes survival suits for the Canadian military. They put their highest standards into the Water Rescue dry suit. It has a Gore Tex liner, which is the highest level of waterproofing, breathability and ruggedness, and features knee and elbow patches of Kevlar. If you do happen to put a hole in the suit, the neck and wrist gaskets are designed to be replaced and small leaks are easy to repair. For a perfect fit, internal suspenders keep the suit from shifting and riding up. If you plan to wear a dry suit for extended times in extreme conditions, this is the one to get.

Do you need a dry suit for kayak fishing? 

Kayak anglers have special requirements for a dry suit. While a big, wide fishing kayak makes it harder to fall into the water than a narrow whitewater or touring kayak, the possibility of an accidental capsize makes a semi-dry suit essential kayak fishing gear. Since the angler isn’t as likely to end up in the water, the neck and wrist gaskets don’t have to be as restrictive. To beef up for the rigors of kayak fishing, the best dry suits are reinforced at wear points and areas at risk of puncture. 

Best Dry Suit for Kayak Fishing: Kokatat SuperNova Angler Pro

All-Day Design

Featuring all new Gore Tex Pro fabric, Kokatat’s SuperNova Angler Pro is comfortable and designed for paddlers. Kokatat

Check Price

Featuring the latest generation Gore Tex Pro, the SuperNova Angler is breathable, waterproof, and super tough. The new Gore Tex Pro is so tough that Kokatat dry suits only need a single layer to protect against wear and puncture, making the suit lighter and softer. The suit is cut narrow to prevent binding, with strategic articulation and seams for complete movement. A drawstring at the waist further narrows the suit for a better fit. Kokatat gave the Angler a comfortable Neo-Cinch collar that doesn’t squeeze like a latex neck gasket (hence the term “semi dry suit”) but the suit is tested and guaranteed to be dry.

Are you looking for a dry suit for kids?

Young paddlers who are passionate about the sport don’t want to quit just because the weather is cold. Give the next generation the ability to play outside in any weather with a youth dry suit. Young paddlers and anglers under five feet tall need a suit cut specifically for their size. Neck and wrist seals should be comfortable and tight enough to seal out water. 

Best Kids Dry Suit: Kokatat Hydrus Supernova Youth

Adult Features for Kids

Reinforced knee and seat patches, high-quality breathable material and a comfortable fit make the Hydrus Supernova Youth a top choice. Kokatat

Check Price

Safety and comfort are essential to not only a young person having a good time but for you to have a good time too. Kokatat dry suits take this into consideration with the Hydrus Supernova Youth suit. With Kokatat’s proprietary Hydrus material as the base, they added extra patches in the knees and seat, where kids dish out the most abuse. The semi-dry suit has a snug-fitting neoprene collar and waterproof latex wrist gaskets for water-resistant performance in all but the worst conditions. Costing less than half the price of the adult Hydrus Supernova, Kotatat puts safety and comfort in any kid’s reach.

Shopping on a budget

For paddlers and anglers looking to enjoy the outdoors after the water temperature drops below 50 degrees, a dry suit isn’t an option, it’s a requirement. The price of a top-quality design can exceed $1000, but most manufacturers offer a basic mode at a lower price. Look for high-quality waterproof and breathable material, a waterproof entry zipper, and comfortable neck and wrist gaskets. With these minimal requirements checked off, shoppers can save some money by cutting out the fancy features.

Best Budget Dry Suit: Kokatat Hydrus Swift Entry

Waterproof, breathable construction and comfortable fit

Many of Kokatat’s industry-leading features in a basic dry suit to get anyone safely on the water. Kokatat

Check Price

The most important qualities of any dry suit are safety and comfort. Kokatat’s Hydrus Swift Entry checks off all the boxes for hundreds of dollars less than their top-line models. It’s made with the company’s proprietary Hydrus 3.0 three-layer waterproof and breathable fabric, has tough nylon on the outside and a soft polyester inner layer for comfort and moisture management. Soft latex neck and wrist gaskets seal openings without cutting off circulation. The suit features Kokatat’s full-chest zipper for easy entry.

FAQs

How to pick the best dry suit for your needs

Q: How do I pick a dry suit?

The first factor to consider when picking a dry suit is how the suit will be used. If you plan to spend weeks in the cold exploring remote destinations in a watercraft, then you will need the best survival dry suit. If, on the other hand, you are kayak fishing the shoulder seasons or canoe camping in northern regions, then a semi-dry suit will be more comfortable. If the chances are high you will enter the water, such as white water kayaking, then a full dry suit is a mandatory equipment. For occasional use on the worst days, you can save some money on a cheap dry suit with the most important features. 

Q: How long do dry suits last?

A dry suit is the first layer of protection against the elements, so the full-body covering takes a lot of abuse. How long a suit will last depends on how much of that abuse it’s exposed to. Even the best dry suits will suffer leaks after repeated tough use, but most leaks can be fixed at home with GoreTex tape or silicone sealant. To help a dry suit last longer, store the suit hanging or folded lightly in a well-ventilated, climate-controlled environment. Do not store the suit when it is wet. Each season, treat the zipper with lubricating wax to prevent corrosion or sticking. Fix small tears or holes with silicone sealant, larger rips require the gasket to be replaced. If the material starts to absorb water, replenish the coating with an after-market spray.

Q: How warm is a dry suit?

A dry suit isn’t insulated, so it doesn’t trap heat. In fact, the best dry suits are breathable, so some heat and moisture are lost through the fabric. The key to staying warm is adding layers beneath the suit. Start with a tight-fitting, moisture-wicking base layer to remove sweat from the skin. The warmest option is a one-piece “bunny suit” base layer. Then, add a fluffy second layer to trap heat and transfer moisture. More insulating layers can be added depending on the conditions and activity. When the system works perfectly, the dry suit should block wind as well as rain and spray, while inner layers keep you warm.

A final word on dry suits

For casual kayak fishing or paddling, a semi-dry suit will be the most comfortable and less pricey option. Whitewater kayaking and long expeditions require a full dry suit or water rescue suit. Make sure the suit fits properly with whatever layers you’ll be wearing beneath it.

MORE TO READ