Wetsuit vs Drysuit

Typhoon International

June 26, 2024

Wetsuits vs Drysuits 

Wetsuits and drysuits fall under the collective term of exposure suits – basically because they’re designed to protect you from exposure to the elements, keeping you warm and comfortable while participating in a variety of watersports. 

Whether you need a wetsuit or a drysuit will be dictated by the type of activity you’re doing, where you’re doing it and how long you’re going to be doing it. 

But, what’s the difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit? 

Quite simply, with a wetsuit you get wet while a drysuit keeps you dry.  

Wetsuits are designed on the principal that your body is the best source of heat. They’re made from closed cell foam material, like neoprene, which is filled with thousands of tiny gas bubbles trapped within the structure.  

A wetsuit works by trapping a thin layer of water between your body and the suit. This veneer of water is then heated by your body temperature. For this reason, it’s important that a wetsuit should fit quite tightly to prevent water ‘flushing’ through the suit as this will carry heat away rather than keeping it trapped, increasing heat loss from your body. 

A drysuit, on the other hand, keeps you completely dry by ensuring that no water gets into the suit. It can be made from foam neoprene, crushed neoprene, vulcanized rubber, or heavy-duty nylon. It’s fully sealed using a combination of wrist seals, a neck seal, and a waterproof zipper to keep you dry.  

Drysuits fit more loosely than wetsuits, allowing you to wear clothes or other insulating garments underneath as they are not designed for warmth if used without a base layer. 

In all watersports and activities, except for scuba diving, wetsuits are generally more favourable when in the water, while drysuits are more favourable out. But there are many things to consider when deciding on a wetsuit versus a drysuit. 

What activity are you doing? 

Let’s take surfing as an example. You’re in the water almost as much as you’re out of it (especially if you’re a beginner!) and you need an exposure suit that allows for flexibility and manoeuvrability to be able to paddle and pop-up onto the board. A wetsuit is ideal, keeping you warm and comfortable, without causing drag and resistance in the water. 

Where are you doing this activity or at what time of year? 

Depending on where you are in the world and/or what time of the year you’re on the water, your exposure suit doesn’t just keep you warm, it can also extend the time you can spend participating in your chosen activity, whether it’s surfing, dinghy sailing, kayaking or paddleboarding. 

During the summer in the UK, for example, you could spend hours out on the water paddleboarding barefoot just wearing a wetsuit, but in the winter you’d most likely have to opt for a drysuit with warm base layers to combat the chill, as well as gloves, boots and a hat or hood. A drysuit is more restrictive, but you need to balance manoeuvrability with warmth, taking into account your own personal thermal characteristics. 

Activity level?  

More effective thermally, especially under the water, drysuits are generally more suited to activities where you move less as they can create drag and restrict range of movement. Wetsuits are better suited to higher output situations where there’s short sharp bursts of energy or a sustained effort over a period of time.  


Drysuits tend to be more expensive that wetsuits, especially diving drysuits, as the features which keep the water out (waterproof zippers, neck and wrist seals) require more engineering and specialist materials which increases their cost. It’s always advisable to go for the best that you can afford for the activity you’re doing, where you’re doing it and when – after all, it’s not much fun being cold and miserable – and there’re drysuits and wetsuits out there to suit all budgets. 

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