Once you’ve begun to dabble with paddling in colder waters, it’s important to consider how you’ll keep yourself warm. Drysuits offer unmatched protection against the elements, keeping you dry and stoked. If you are planning days out on water that dips below 60-70 degrees or in places where the wind rips, then you’ll likely need the barrier of a drysuit for your adventures.

 

A drysuit is a piece of outerwear–usually made of Gore-Tex or another waterproof-breathable shell material–that covers your whole body, keeping you dry all the way down to your toes. A full dry suit will have latex gaskets at the wrists and neck, stopping any water from leaking into the suit. Other types of paddling suits sport neoprene necks that offer more comfort and breathability, but won’t keep the water from trickling in if you take a swim. Whether you’re casting a line, navigating ocean waters, or negotiating whitewater rapids, we’ve found the right suit for the job.

 

RankItemMen'sWomen'sPrice
1

Kokatat Icon

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2

Kokatat Meridian

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3

Sweet Protection Intergalactic Pro

No Women Specific Fit

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4

NRS Pivot

No Women Specific Fit

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5

NRS Crux

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6

Level 6 Emperor

No Women Specific Fit

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7

Stohlquist Amp

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8

Kokatat Hydrus 3.0 Meridian

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9

Kokatat Hydrus 3L Supernova Paddling Suit

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1. Kokatat Icon

The Icon is Kokatat’s newest drysuit in their lineup, designed by professional athletes to be as durable and ergonomic as possible. This suit features two types of Gore-Tex fabric–Gore-Tex Pro shell and 330 Cordura Gore-Tex–giving added abrasion resistance on the arms and legs, and breathability in the chest. A rear entry design helps to ensure that no leakage will occur, but this means you’ll usually need a buddy to help you suit up. This suit comes in both men’s and women’s fits, with a front relief zipper for men and a rear drop seat for women. Long paddles through ice-cold ocean currents or whitewater and waterfall drops, the Icon stands up to it all. And, an added bonus of Kokatat suits: Can’t find the perfect fit in their standard sizing? Any Kokatat drysuit can be custom made to your specific sizing and color choices.

 

Check price on this style:

Men’s Women’s

 

2. Kokatat Meridian

The Kokatat Meridian is a tried and true staple of the paddling world. Made with a combination of a Gore-Tex Pro body, Cordura seat, and Kokatat’s proprietary Evolution Gore-Tex fabric, this suit offers the perfect combination of durability, breathability, and range of motion. The Meridian is equipped with a metal-tooth front relief zipper for men and rear drop seat for women, and features a convenient front entry. Looking for a versatile and reliable drysuit for all conditions? You can’t go wrong with the Meridian.

 

Check price on this style:

Men’s Women’s

 

3. Sweet Protection Intergalactic Pro

Designed specifically for whitewater kayaking, this drysuit is made with Gore-Tex Pro and Ocean Technology throughout the body. Reinforced seat and legs adds durability while a loose fit allows for range of motion. The Intergalactic Pro comes only in a men’s fit, with a front relief zipper and front entry for convenience. An inner rubber lining at the waist helps keep for spray skirt from slipping down, while the velcro waist straps attach below the entry zipper, keeping your dry throughout the day. This suit tacks on a higher price tag, but the durability speaks for itself. If you plan to give your drysuit a beating, this one holds up to the flack.

 

Check price on this style:

Men’s/Unisex

 

4. NRS Pivot

The NRS Pivot drysuit is a men’s specific design for whitewater and ocean paddling. A rear entry design aims to mitigate pressure points in the front while effectively sealing out water. This suit maintains a lower price point due to the fact that it is not made of Gore-Tex Pro fabric. Instead, NRS has designed their own Eclipse fabric–a 4-layer waterproof breathable shell with a durable waterproof (DWR) finish. While this fabric will not have the longevity of Gore-Tex fabrics, it will still hold up well against moisture. Added features include reinforced tape in the feet to prevent leakage, and a front relief zipper. For those who are looking for a well-made drysuit with a streamlined design but want to avoid breaking the bank, the Pivot offers a compromise.

 

Check price on this style:

Men’s/Unisex

 

5. NRS Crux

The Crux drysuit is designed with the same Eclipse fabric as the NRS Pivot, but features a convenient front entry and a women’s specific model. Flexible zippers add comfort to the fit, while minimizing seams adds to the overall durability. The men’s model features a front relief zipper while the women’s has a rear drop seat, keeping things simple when nature calls. This suit is similarly priced to the Pivot, with a friendlier dollar sign for those looking for a more affordable option. With the front entry design, men’s and women’s fit, and added relief zippers, this drysuit is a perfect option for new paddlers looking for something easy to use and reasonably priced.

 

Check price on this style:

Men’s Women’s

 

6. Level 6 Emperor

Designed with expedition paddling mind, the Emperor is built tough with reinforced fabric on the chest, elbows, and legs. This suit offers maximum durability for hairy portages and bushwhacks to the put-in, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not your drysuit can take on your most exciting adventures. Level 6’s own eXhaust 3-layer waterproof fabric helps with breathability while latex gaskets and rubberized zippers seal out water. And, don’t worry, they didn’t for get the relief zipper! Considering it’s burly design, the Emperor will not be as breathable or streamlined as other models like the NRS Pivot or Kokatat Meridian; but, for it’s considerably low price tag, this suit can take a beating.

 

Check price on this style:

Men’s/Unisex

 

7. Stohlquist Amp

The Stohlquist Amp is one of the best budget drysuits on the market. With one of the lowest price points around, it’s tough to beat this deal for paddlers new to the sport. The Amp is made with Stohlquist’s Twin Sensor 4-layer waterproof breathable fabric, reinforced with Cordura in the seat and knees. A front entry and relief zippers add convenience while a women’s specific fit gives an options for the ladies on the water. While not the most durable suit on the market, the Amp offers an affordable option for light use. Hardcore paddlers should opt for something like the Sweet Protection Intergalactic Pro or Kokatat Icon.

 

Check price on this style:

Men’s Women’s

 

8. Kokatat Hydrus 3.0 Meridian

The Hydrus Meridian is Kokatat’s budget drysuit. A similar design to the Gore-Tex Meridian but made with a less durable but more affordable 3-layer waterproof breathable material. With all the great features of the Meridian–front entry, latex gaskets, men’s and women’s designs, and relief zipper or drop seat–this suit makes an excellent option for entry level paddlers just testing the waters. While this suit may not boast the longevity of the Gore-Tex options on the market, the price point makes this the perfect option to get your feet wet–or, rather, keep them dry!

 

Check price on this style:

Men’s Women’s

 

9. Kokatat Hydrus 3L SuperNova Angler Paddling Suit

Unlike the other suits on this list, the Hydrus 3L SuperNova is not a true drysuit. Instead of a latex neck gasket, this suit features a neoprene neck for added comfort. However, this means that if you end up taking a swim, you won’t come out dry. The SuperNova is designed specifically with kayaking anglers in mind without forgetting important features like a relief zipper, women’s specific model with a drop seat, and reinforced Cordura fabric where you need it most. This suit offers the perfect combination of affordability, comfort, range of motion, and waterproof material to make days out casting on flat water warm and dry.

 

Check price on this style:

Men’s Women’s

 

RankItemMen'sWomen'sPrice
1

Kokatat Icon

Check Price

2

Kokatat Meridian

Check Price

3

Sweet Protection Intergalactic Pro

No Women Specific Fit

Check Price

4

NRS Pivot

No Women Specific Fit

Check Price

5

NRS Crux

Check Price

6

Level 6 Emperor

No Women Specific Fit

Check Price

7

Stohlquist Amp

Check Price

8

Kokatat Hydrus 3.0 Meridian

Check Price

9

Kokatat Hydrus 3L Supernova Paddling Suit

Check Price

 

Important Drysuit Features to Consider:

Material:

When purchasing a drysuit, it’s important to consider everything from fabric to fit. Gore-Tex is widely considered the most durable and effective waterproof breathable fabric on the market. Generally, drysuits made with Gore-Tex fabrics. But, those looking for a more affordable drysuit that will take a little less wear and tear, other waterproof breathable suits are a great option. Such as the Hydrus found in some Kokatat styles.

Tunnel:

Look closely at the waist of the drysuits above, all but the Kokatat Paddling Suit (ranked at #9) have tunnels. The drysuits are all one piece but the tunnel could make it look like it is a top and a bottom. If you wear a spray skirt, you want a drysuit with a tunnel. Put up the skirt and then the tunnel (aka waist band) goes over the skirt. This helps prevent water getting in through the top of the spray skirt. They have velcro to secure a snug and dry fit. If you kayak in a sit on top or never use a spray skirt, a drysuit with a tunnel isn’t necessary. Although, if you plan on furthering your skills in kayaking and get into whitewater kayaking, you should have a drysuit with a tunnel.

Zippers:

Another important factor in drysuit construction is the zippers. Heavy-duty, seam sealed zippers are a must if you actually want to stay dry. Zippers that are not rubberized or seam sealed with eventually let water trickle into the suit, leaving you soggy after long paddles.

For great convenience, get a suit with a relief zipper (front for men, drop seat for women), unless you want to go through the process of peeling out of all the latex gaskets and zippers when nature calls. While many drysuits have a women’s specific model, some don’t. This means your options for squatting in the woods are no longer available. Ladies planning to buy a drysuit with front zipper should consider a Shewee or GoGirl–a cone shaped urination device that allows women to respond to nature’s calling standing up, therefore making a front relief zipper useful to more than just the guys. Some ladies prefer this because the rear zipper can be bulky and uncomfortable.

Booties:

You’ll notice all the drysuits above have feet on them made usually of the same Gore-Tex or waterproof material. There are drysuit out there that have latex gaskets at the ankle. We do not recommend those because of how the average ankle is shaped it is easy for water to get in. That said don’t forget to wear socks as a base layer for your feet. Make sure you are standing on something when you are changing in and out of your drysuit, because there can be rocks or other sharp materials on the ground that could puncture, not making it an ideal drysuit anymore. There are way to patch up holes, but if you are careful you won’t have to. Then over the booties wear water shoes to protect the booties and your feet.

Fit:

It is also crucial to consider the fit of your drysuit. Too small and you’ll find your range of motion limited and paddling will be a bear. Too large and you might stay dry, but you’ll be swimming in that excess fabric. Be sure to look carefully at sizing charts for each company to get an idea of the best fit for you. Ladies, keep an eye out for models with a women’s specific fit. They are designed slightly different from the men’s to better accommodate that feminine figure. Those looking for a very specific and tailored fit should consider Kokatat, as they will custom fit any of their drysuits to your exact measurements and color choices. But keep in mind that this exponentiates the price of your drysuit.

 

Drysuit, Paddling Suit, or Wetsuit?

Well, this question all depends on what you plan to use your kayak for. Whitewater and expedition ocean paddling? The drysuit will be your best option. The neoprene fabric which wetsuits are made of will do a great job of keeping you warm, but you won’t be dry. If the water temperature is dropping the mercury low, or you’re planning long days or overnight trips, it’s important to stay both warm and dry, so opt for the drysuit. An added bonus to this is that unlike wetsuits, drysuits allow for layering underneath so you can better adjust to cooler temperatures.

 

Paddling suits are an excellent option for flatwater angling in cool areas. These will not be true drysuits and will not suffice in whitewater, or if you accidentally get to close to the fish down below. While still made out of a waterproof breathable fabric, these suits will not have latex gaskets at the neck and will often not be as durable as true drysuits. But for fishing or flatwater paddles, this is the way to go–especially given they are considerably less expensive!

 

How to Layer Under Your Drysuit:

It’s important to remember that while a drysuit keeps you dry, it does not keep you warm. Gore-Tex and other similar fabrics do not offer any insulation. Their job is to break the wind chill. A wicking base layer that draws moisture away from the body is the perfect place to start. Opt for merino wool if you’re looking for longevity and want to avoid the stench. Synthetic options are less expensive but tend to cling to odors. Then, add hydrophobic insulating layers on top, such as fleece or a synthetic puffy jacket. But remember, if you layer up too much, the paddling will cause you to sweat and alas you’ll no longer be dry. Be sure to select insulating layers that also offer some breathability to help avoid this. Also, make sure you wear socks. Feet can get gross, make sure your drysuit doesn’t!

 

Drysuit Care

Zippers:

A drysuit is an investment and you want it to last for as many days on the water as possible. One of the most important things you can do is take good care of the zippers on your drysuit. Cleaning and lubricating them on a regular basis will help them last longer and continue to seal out water. Products such as Zip Tech Zipper Lubricant keep your zippers watertight and protect against rust and additional wear and tear. Keep in mind that broken zippers are expensive to replace, so it’s worth the extra care to avoid this.

Gaskets:

The latex gaskets on your drysuit will begin to wear overtime. To keep the gaskets in good shape, remember that harsh chemicals like bug spray will degrade the latex. Keep them clean and be sure to rinse them well after every use. It is best to give the gaskets a coating of 303 Aerospace Protectant, especially before storing for the season.

Test it:

If you’ve put your drysuit through the ringer and are concerned about leaks, a great way to determine this is through pressure testing. This can be done by sealing all the gaskets, filling the suit with air, and then spraying with water to look for bubbles. This can also be done by filling the suit instead with water and looking for leaks that way. Once a leak has been detected, repair the leak by placing a Gore-Tex fabric patch and protecting with a watertight sealant.

 

Drysuits are a game changer!

Caring for your drysuit and taking the extra time to maintain gaskets and seams is crucial! It means that this expensive piece of outerwear will last for many long, cold, and exciting paddles. When you finally take the plunge into colder waters, a good drysuit will make all the difference.

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