8 Tips for Choosing a Drysuit for Kayaking – Kayak Hipster

Cold temperatures are coming, and I’ve been recently asked to discuss tips on choosing a drysuit, as well as features. I believe in a lot of cases it comes down to preference, but here’s 8 tips to think about when looking at options.

Please learn more about cold water paddling with this video:

You can view Chris’ channel here:
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44 Comments

  1. Eric Ouellet on April 21, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Great! Thanks!

  2. Magnus Persson on April 21, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Good video Luke! I think this is very helpful for alot of people trying expand their kayaking-season. Getting a suit of my own was an important and a hard decision I must admit, very happy with it! (latex gaskets, back/shoulder zipper, pissing hatch). Got a lot of tips from more experienced kayakers. You know what you are talking about and thanks for sharing. Thumbs up from Sweden!

  3. Chris King on April 21, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Great video, Luke.
    I suspect that you will find this quickly becoming one of your most viewed. The drysuit debate and decision is hard for everyone–at least the first time. The cost is daunting. Often as much or more than a person’s first kayak. What appear to be minor differences seem to frequently come with major price differentials. Personal comfort options are unique to the individual. E.g., I find neoprene neck gaskets less comfortable than latex both physically and psychologically. Most people assume the neo will be more comfortable–and for many it is. /shrug.

    As you noted, the key to the overall decision for each individual will be understanding what their intended use cases will be. If you don’t like rolling, stay in protected waters with competent people for rescue/aid, then you can opt for less dry, or less durable solutions if you choose. If you expect to be getting wet from waves or rolls, or doing rescue practices, think carefully about that choice.

    Protection from the water for temperature control is the primary thing of course, but I know enough folks–myself included–that have had failures of gear or process (in my case not fully securing the relief zip), that resulted in the rush in of cold water. The secondary risk there is not the cold, but that you now have shifted your flotation if you’ve taken in significant water. Die-hards out there can grab a friend or two and test out what a flooded drysuit feels like to float/swim/rescue. 🙂

  4. whollyman on April 21, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    Question – are wet suits not an option?

  5. Steppe Kajak & Outdoor on April 21, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Hi, I like your Videos very much, but please think about, not every You Tube user speaks perfect english. For me you speak to fast, it’s hard to follow you. PLEASE slow down a littlebit next time, would be nice.
    cheers Steppe

  6. Pete Love on April 21, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for the great advice once again. I am currently preparing for my second season of kayaking. I took the plunge last week and purchased a drysuit and upgraded to a high end pfd. One thing that I have found over the years is that when purchasing expensive gear, no one really regrets buying quality. I have researched the living daylights out of drysuits. The cheap stuff is just not worth it. I agree that close outs and sales are the way to go. Great discounts can be had on discontinued/noncurrent and previous year leftovers. I have found in other activities that when buying budget gear that eventually you upgrade to the good stuff and in doing so waste money on the initial product that was purchased with the intent to replace in time. I’ve replaced enough entry level stuff over the years to know that I’m better off just to bite the bullet and buy the good stuff in the first place or worst case the best stuff I could afford at the time if there was an immediate need. If I can’t afford something right away, I’ll take the money for the entry level item and bank it. Then save until I can get what I want rather than use the credit card. It can take a little longer to get some things but the satisfaction with the product is always worth it. This is especially true for me when it comes to anything to do with safety. When riding motorcycles I subscribe to the idea that you can’t spend too much money on safety gear. I’m learning that following that idea for kayaking is a good one. Thanks again for all the great advice and videos. Keep up the good work. My sole purpose for getting into kayaking was to get to better locations for photography. I’d love to return the favor in sharing knowledge so if you ever need photography advice feel free to drop me a line.

  7. Kidney Kayaker on April 21, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    I chose a drysuit with a zipper across the shoulders as I was told one with a zipper across the chest would get tiresome bunching up under the PFD. Comments anyone? Is this true?

  8. Jeff G on April 21, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    Drysuits with neoprene gaskets are useless. It should be illegal to call them DRYsuits. You should always dress for the water temperature, and if the water temp starts getting around or below 14-15’C(~57’F) you definitely don’t want it inside your suit. At that temperature it’s surprising how quickly you lose body heat and you can start to panic. Even if you are skilled at rolling and self rescue eventually there will be a time when you are in the water longer than you want to be, and suits with neoprene gaskets will start leaking right away under water. Save your money for a couple more months and buy a real drysuit with latex gaskets if you plan to use it on a regular basis. The only price gap I would consider is whether you want Gore-Tex or not.

  9. Scott Saulsbury on April 21, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    We learned something new last weekend re: "dry" vs. "semi-dry" suits, and I realize that your mileage may vary, but…
    I have a Stohlquist full dry suit (the "Amp"), which my wife tried, but didn’t like at all because of the initial feel of the neck gasket. She opted for the "EZ" because she thought it was more comfortable and was assured that it would keep her dry in the case of an occasional dunking.
    We set out last weekend in a full-on deluge. It was warm(ish), and calm, but the rain never let up. I had a grand time, but after about 90 minutes or so, my wife started talking about feeling wet and cold. We cut the paddle short and headed back.
    As I was sorting gear out at home, I found that her "dry" suit was pretty thoroughly soaked around the neck because of the permeability of the neoprene. She hadn’t gone into the water… she’d just been exposed to constant rainfall.
    It’s winter in the Pacific Northwest, and rain is just what happens. It kind of sucks to find that a "dry" suit isn’t up to ongoing rainfall.

  10. clumsy_ninja4now on April 21, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Nice video, Luke. For a woman, as you mentioned, if you want a relief zip you can go with a front or a drop-seat. When I started looking I wasn’t particularly drawn to the drop-seat and I’d heard from someone that did have one that using it was logistically a pain. So some considerations for women might be: where you think you’re going to be using this, will there be cover? Or will you need something a little more discreet when you might only be able to turn your back. Do you want to be able to use it while still in the kayak? How’s your stability in a squat? Personally, one of my hips is a mess and my stability in a squat isn’t great so squatting seemed like it might be at best an actual pain and at worse a bit of a mess. I went with a front zip because I thought it was more discrete, versatile and a better fit for my own physical limitations. I did find a decent review of FUDs for women that explains pros and cons of different styles as well as some usage tips as there is a bit of a learning curve (I recommend practicing at home first!)
    https://www.backpacker.com/gear/the-complete-guide-to-female-urination-devices
    Hope this helps.
    -Shannon

  11. PharmGeek Outdoor Fun on April 21, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks Luke! This is perfect timing…I am considering getting a dry suit from santa…just circling the wagons…I also do a fair amount of fitness paddling on a surf ski in addition to touring…and I have opted to start off with neoprene wetuits for fall and early winter here in the south east US, but by mid to late December, I know I will want a dry suit if I am to keep paddling even in my relatively protected waters….the dry suit will allow me to take on some kayak camping trips when air/water temps really make things crazy. One thing that keeps me scared of camping in fall/winter/spring is the thread of relatively low temps AND rain….a dry suit would make staying dry and warm exceedingly easier while you setup camp. I do not yet get opportunities for lengthy touring…and am in-land so no waves much, so I may try and find a good bargain suit as a starter…

  12. Felipe Behrens on April 21, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    I would also add that you should see how comfortable is it to paddle in the suit. Some are better than others, and can give you more mobility, or don’t chafe as much..

  13. 1guillote on April 21, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    Hello ,why do you have an Argentine flag on the board?

  14. Jeff G on April 21, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Curious if anyone’s ever bought a drysuit off of AliExpress? They have drysuits with latex gaskets for <$300USD + free shipping. I’m tempted to get one as a spare for friends who don’t paddle regularly. $280 is not the end of the world if it turns out to be junk.

  15. GooshawnXD on April 21, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Great info, much appreciated!!

  16. Explorer Mike on April 21, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    This is another really informative and excellent video. A dry suit is such a big investment. It is good to have a well informed video like this. By the way, I really like your T-Shirt "Say No to Wet Exits" Ha! Great.

  17. Cormac Ó on April 21, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Great Video as usual. Thank You.

  18. Gary Wood on April 21, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    What is your opinion on wearing a wetsuit under a dry suit?

  19. seymore glass on April 21, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Hi… if I may add to the discussion?; please be aware of "breathability" which was mentioned in the video. Let me emphasize that cheaper dry suits may not allow your body heat to vent which can cause over-heating but also will allow you to get soaked via your own perspiration. This can become an issue once you stop paddling and allow a chill to set in very quickly. Just so you know…

  20. GooshawnXD on April 21, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    I wish I had a kayak shop around me but I do not 🙁
    I’m going to have to buy online…with the cold temp dry suits do they take in account the fact that you will layer underneath when it comes to sizing? I have a heated winter jacket I plan on wearing underneath but it is a bit bulky… not sure if I should up it to the medium to accommodate this?

  21. Joe Taylor on April 21, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Seems like great advice to me

  22. Donna Spencer on April 21, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    I just purchased a kokotat drysuit. I was debating between the semi-dry and the dry. I know i experience cold shock pretty bad so thought I best go with the full dry. We won’t have any water up here in southern British Columbia for a good couple of months yet but i’m eargerly waiting to try it out.

  23. Scott Saulsbury on April 21, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Nice video, Luke! Your suggestion at the end to test in actual cold conditions is very important. I took an opportunity this spring to test my suit in water that was hovering around 38-40F, but the air temp was in the high 70s. I jumped in without gloves on and, regardless of how overdressed I was with the suit and base layers, the cold on my hands was enough to chill my whole body, to the point of having "brain freeze" (ice-cream headache). I got out my neoprene gloves and made sure that the cuffs were smoothly over the gaskets and tried again… it made a world of difference. Don’t forget about your hands in very cold water, even if the air temp is warm!

  24. M FF on April 21, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    Very instructive video. I am in Puerto Rico and practice kayak fishing. I installed a sail in my kayak to get to relatively distant fishing spots, and usually spend 4-6 hours (wet) during each fishing trip. My question is… what is the best way to keep me dry and do not suffocate in this tropical climate? TIA for any comments and advice. Miguel.

  25. Mathieu Dumoulin on April 21, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Great video… Thank you! Shared on Paddle World! http://www.paddleworld.com/8-tips-for-choosing-a-drysuit-for-kayaking-kayak-hipster/

  26. Данил Баранов on April 21, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    REALY cool! Thank’s!

  27. The Grizzly Yaker on April 21, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    Great video and great tips. Thanks!

  28. DJ Alexander F on April 21, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Nice video 😉

  29. Stefan Carey on April 21, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    I carry a $10 infrared thermometer to measure river temp. In winter I was amazed to find our local river gets done to 5C (41F). Is there a chart showing recommended number of layers for each temperature range wearing a drysuit?

  30. Anthony Leone on April 21, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    Thank you for a very informative video. I was researching for a dry suit or a wetsuit. This video helps a lot. Thank you

  31. Ian Hamilton on April 21, 2020 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks for the comprehensive list of considerations. We bought our first SUP last year (a touring model that didn’t have great initial stability), so we were spending a fair bit of time in the water in Seattle. That was cold in June, OK in July, fine in August but by September we had to be done. Just bought SUP #2 in mid April and just had to take it out. Stayed close to shore. Great stability until a boat wake hit me broadside and I took a swim in 49 degree water with no protection. Lake Washington and the Puget Sound are amazing paddling opportunities. But, they are super cold much of the year. So, it seems like something will be needed–either a wetsuit or dry suit. As I looked at dry suits, I saw all these knobs on them. Took me a few videos to figure out that there are diving dry suits and like "surface" drysuits. The diving ones get air blown into them so they don’t compress at depth and lose their thermal protection if I understood correctly. Whole new world. It needs an infographic. One more note–being a big guy entering into these sports is a tough gig. If anyone else is in that position, I’m finding Kokatat has a L King size that will accommodate larger paddlers. Thanks again for the video. Great stuff.

  32. Cooking and Fishing on April 21, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    I’m just a kayak-fishing hack, riding a hobie surf board…but this is invaluable information for anyone paddling/pedaling cold water. Excellent video!

  33. Lance Smith on April 21, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    Love the T shirt 🙂

  34. OTH50 on April 21, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    Wonderfully informative video! I have a question on buying a dry suit… I’m 51 and a man of a rather small build.. 5’6" tall and 145 pounds and thin. Can i find a drysuit for a man my size? Keep up the excellent videos!! Gary.

  35. dragonspirit1185 on April 21, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    I’ve never seen those oar type of kayak paddles what are they

  36. Cyndi Daves on April 21, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    Hi, I just got into kayaking and I bought an Angler kayak. I am wondering if there are specific dry suits for anglers? Since I will be handling hooks that will damage a dry suit. Thanks for the video.

  37. Heather Jones on April 21, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    Thank you for the excellent advice. Hoping to get out on some calm lakes in northern ontario canada this spring.

  38. Bernard Dugas on April 21, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    Always great reviews, I just bought a dry top, brand new, a Level 6 Mack(there form my home town), for 100$, the person just never used it, 2 years old. never been used, so yes you can get some good deals.

  39. Pat D on April 21, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    I’m a frequent dry suit paddler in cold water and weather. This video is the best guide/info session on dry suits, much better than what most retail sales clerk will be able to provide you. Take Luke’s advice about wearing insulating layers under your dry suit seriously. A paddling dry suit, as opposed to diver’s neoprene dry suit, is one very thin layer, you need insulation under it. Finally, if you’re going to wear a dry suit, wear or carry neoprene paddling mitts and a neoprene hood or cap…you’ll need them if you capsize.

  40. Fayley A on April 21, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    Fantastic run down. Many thanks.

  41. Little PAW 1969 on April 21, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Good video.

  42. Jeromy Ashcraft on April 21, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    Amazing overview. Thank you.

  43. aerozg on April 21, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Most paddlers don’t really need a $1300 Kokatat or Helly Hansen arctic expedition type survival dry suit. There are far more affordable options like Palm, Typhoon, Gul or Nookie at €500 range here in Europe, with all the bells and whistles, some of them even come with a full body neoprene thermal underlayer included in the package. I have the Palm Atom and it’s brilliant, i paid €582 for it, brand new over at wetsuitoutlet shop. It’s perfect. What are your thoughs on drysuit vs wetsuit, could you do a video on that? Great video, subscribed and following! Greetings from Croatia.

  44. Gus Kayak on April 21, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    How about some tips of how to keep one’s feet warm while wearing a dry-suit?

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