Today we’re looking at the answer to a question that has puzzled a lot of people for many years: ‘what is the difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit?’
The terms are often used interchangeably, with drysuits often being mislabeled as wetsuits, but as any avid watersports fan will know, they are actually two very different pieces of equipment.
Both suits operate very differently but have the same purpose: keeping you warm while you’re at sea. Drysuits do this by keeping you dry, wetsuits do this by letting you get wet. Today we’re going to look at the differences between a wetsuit and a drysuit, and identify which is the best for you.
What Is A Wetsuit?
A wetsuit is a whole-body suit that provides you thermal protection when completing a variety of watersports and activities. You will likely wear a wetsuit while surfing or waterboarding, but the most common use of a wetsuit is when you are scuba diving.
Wetsuits provide thermal heat to the person wearing them by utilizing that person’s body heat. To do this, wetsuits allow a small layer of water inside of the wetsuit, filling the gap between your body and the suit.
This layer of water is thin enough that the natural temperature of your body will heat the water and allow it to give you continual thermal warmth throughout your time at sea.
Although wetsuits are designed to let water inside, they must have a relatively tight fit to your body. If the wetsuit is loose it will let in too much water, and your body will be unable to heat this large amount.
Wetsuits are available in different thicknesses which will be more important depending on the type of activities you plan to do in the wetsuit.
Thicker wetsuits will also be more appropriate for colder climates as they will provide more warmth to your body, while thinner wetsuits will be better used in warmer climates.
The thickness of the wetsuit will also depend on the personal preference of the diver. Some individuals are happy to dive in cold areas with a thin wetsuit, while others will prefer a thicker wetsuit for added comfort.
What Is A Drysuit?
As the name suggests, a drysuit keeps you dry. It operates in a completely different way to a wetsuit, keeping all water out of the suit to prevent your body temperature from dropping due to continued exposure to cold water.
Drysuits tend to be built out of different materials to wetsuits, usually built out of neoprene, nylon, or rubber. Drysuits are completely sealed from the outside environment, using a series of wrist and neck seals with a large watertight zipper that prevents water from entering the suit.
It is a common misconception that drysuits will be tighter fitting than wetsuits as they aim to keep you dry, however, this is not true. In fact, drysuits are usually very loose-fitting and allow you to wear additional layers of clothing under the suit.
While wetsuits provide insulation through trapping a layer of water within the suit, drysuits provide insulation with a layer of air. This layer of air can be controlled through an inflator valve which is usually situated on the chest of the suit, this allows you to add more gas as you dive into deeper areas.
Similarly, drysuits allow you to aid your ascent back up to the surface by releasing air from the interior of the suit. Diving in a drysuit is very different from driving in a wetsuit and it can take some getting used to. However, the build of the drysuit does help when diving after you gain experience.
As we’ve established, wetsuits and drysuits are two very different suits.
They both provide insulation when completing watersports, but depending on your situation one may be more appropriate than the other. There are some key points in which these suits differ, so let’s take a look at these to determine whether a wetsuit or a drysuit is the best.
The main difference between wetsuits and drysuits is the way that they provide thermal insulation. Wetsuits provide this by trapping a layer of water between the wearer’s body and the suit, while drysuits do this by sealing off a layer of air from the external environment.
They both have the same purpose, but is water or air a better insulator? It is also important to consider that drysuits allow you to wear additional thermal layers beneath the suit to add to the insulation.
Despite this, we think wetsuits are a better option in terms of thermal insulation. Water is a lot more conducive to heat than air, allowing your body to stay warm for longer.
Another key thing to consider when making a purchase is the value and quality of the materials used in the design of the suit. Wetsuits are often more expensive than drysuits due to the materials used to build them, however, both designs are built to last.
You should consider the build quality of the suit you are looking to buy as this will hugely determine the lifetime of the suit and the value you are getting for your money.
It is impossible to determine whether wetsuits or drysuits are better based on the material as this will be impacted by the specific wetsuit or drysuit that you buy.
Finally, you must consider the mobility you will have while wearing the suit. It might be assumed that drysuits will be more mobile as they have a loose fit, however, this can impact your mobility and make it more clunky while underwater.
While wetsuits with their skin-tight fit allow you to move smoothly while underwater. Drysuits tend to result in your underwater movement being slower, so we’d say that wetsuits are a better choice for underwater mobility.
Both wetsuits and drysuits are great for a variety of watersports, they provide insulation to your body and protect you from cold temperatures.
While they are both great options, we’d rate wetsuits as the best choice for diving.
However, you should consider your personal circumstances as this will impact whether a wetsuit or drysuit is the better choice for you.