Wetsuit vs Drysuit: What Is The Difference Between Them

You may be wondering what you should buy to make your paddling, diving, or surfing activities more pleasant. A wetsuit or a drysuit? And what is so different with a wetsuit vs drysuit?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here I’ll be discussing the main differences between these two suits. So, you won’t have a hard time deciding what is best for your water adventures.

What Is The Difference Between a Wetsuit vs Drysuit?

You may have already asked someone, and all you’ve received as an answer was that with drysuits, all you need to dry is your hair after a dive. While that is true, there are multiple attributes of both suits to look at to be able to make an informed decision on what to purchase.

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An extensive video explanation of the difference between wetsuit vs drysuit

Wetsuit vs Drysuit differences

Both of these suits are made to keep you warm while in water. They both have differences in the way they do that, but the end goal is to stop the heat from leaving your body as rapidly as it would if you wore nothing.

So, the main differences in how each one keeps you warm come from the materials and the way of construction.

Before I go into listing the main differences, here’s a shortcut to the answer.

Wetsuits are made of rubber neoprene and are designed to keep you warm when wet. So, this means that you won’t be dry when in water. That is why, when it comes to wetsuits, the fitting and size are very important, as I have discussed in that article.

If you have a loose wetsuit, it will allow for more water than necessary to enter, and you will get cold much faster. However, if you have the right fit, you will find that wetsuits are ideal for cold water surf sports because they allow you to be more athletic than drysuits.

Drysuits, however,are fully waterproof, but if you use them alone, then they won’t provide much warmth. Click here to find out what undergarments are perfect for under your suit.

Basically, your drysuit will act as a shell and keep you completely dry, but it will also fit loosely like a big ski jacket. This is why wetsuits allow for more movements and maneuvers in the water while drysuits are more suitable for diving.

With that said, here’s a little more info on how both wetsuits and drysuits work and how they differ from each other.

Man-Wetsuit-Snow-Cold wetsuit vs drysuit

Wetsuit vs Drysuit: Warmth

People usually choose to dive dry because of the temperature of the water. If you are in the Northern hemisphere and you decide to paddle board or dive, then you may think of a drysuit as a better option.

However, I’m here to tell you that neither a wetsuit nor a drysuit is designed to make you warm. All they do is slow the rate at which you lose heat from your body.

Wetsuits do so through their neoprene that lets in a small amount of water on your skin that you heat it up, and it stays warm. This is why it’s crucial to pick a wetsuit not too big because it will continuously be flushing out the water instead of keeping the warmth on you.

Drysuits, on the other hand, keep you warm through by keeping you dry with the addition of the undergarments that you wear below. With drysuits, there isn’t any water that takes the heat away, and you can add multiple layers of undergarments to warm you up even more.

Wetsuit vs Drysuit: Weighting

This is more of an issue for divers than it is for paddlers or surfers, but it’s worth the mention.

The neoprene in the wetsuit adds much buoyancy, which is great when you’re not diving but merely staying afloat. However, you become quite overweighted due to suit compression when diving deep with a wetsuit.

The good thing about a drysuit here is that with it, you stay more or less constant with the amount of buoyancy the suit offers so that you won’t feel any increased/decreased pressure.


Wetsuit vs Drysuit: Buoyancy

Speaking of weighting, as I said, wetsuits compress as you go further down in the water, while the drysuit will give you the chance to add air and compensate for the increased pressure at depth. You don’t have this with a wetsuit because, by nature, it sticks tightly to your skin. This is why, as your wetsuit compresses when diving, it gets thinner and loses insulating capacity.

Wetsuit vs Drysuit: The Cost

As you might know, drysuits are much more expensive than wetsuits. In the past, this difference in price was even more significant due to the unique construction and design. However, now with the introduction of new materials and manufacturing competition, a quality entry-level drysuit can be had for roughly the same price as a higher-end wetsuit.

You might even find the cost acceptable since you can vary the undergarments depending on the weather outside, so you can cut the cost of buying different thickness wetsuits for each season.

Practically, one drysuit will work on numerous occasions, and this is its benefit over the wetsuit. A wetsuit doesn’t offer you the flexibility of a dry suit.


Wetsuit vs Drysuit: Cost of Maintenance

At this point, I would say a wetsuit is much more practical and more comfortable to maintain since all you need to do after a session in the water is rinse it properly, and you are good to go.

Drysuits require a little more attention over time. Depending on how often you use it, you will need to replace its seals, and leaks might appear that you need to close. Also, you will most likely have your boots or socks replaced and even the zipper.

All these things on a drysuit need attention and may cost quite a lot over time. However, with a drysuit, you are most likely to use it for 10-15 years at 90+ dives a year, whereas wetsuits won’t last you more than 6 years with so much activity within a year.

So, in the long run, a drysuit may actually be less expensive. Especially because dry suits often hold their value for resale while used wetsuits get tossed.

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)

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