Drysuit vs Wetsuit: What’s the Difference?


If there is one piece of scuba diving gear that no diver can do without, it is an exposure suit. As divers descend deeper in the water, the temperature is bound to drop to uncomfortable extremes and a good wetsuit or drysuit is necessary to keep the wearer warm and suitably protected as they indulge in their favourite sport. 


One of the most frequently asked questions concerning scuba gear, relates to the difference between wetsuits and drysuits. Wondering which one best fits your needs? This article takes a closer look at the main drysuit vs wetsuit differences to help you make an informed purchase.


Drysuit vs Wetsuit: A Complete Comparison

What is a Wetsuit?


Wetsuits are designed to provide divers, swimmers or surfers with a layer of thermal protection by utilising the body’s natural heat. These close-fitting suits are made using a closed-cell foam material which incorporates numerous tiny air bubbles that make the material waterproof and achieves efficient insulating properties.


As soon as a diver enters the water wearing a wetsuit, the suit’s material allows for a thin layer of water to seep through and fill the narrow space between the suit’s inner layer and the body. Eventually, body heat warms up that layer of water, helping to keep divers comfortably insulated and protected from the cold throughout their dive.


Available in a varied range of thickness, typically from 2mm to 8mm, the choice of wetsuit depends on the water temperature you should expect. Naturally, the thicker the wetsuit the more suitable it will be to wear in colder waters, so it is important to pick the right thickness for your diving location. 


What is a Drysuit?


Whether swimming on the surface or diving deeply into the ice-cold ocean, a drysuit is made for the express purpose of keeping the wearer entirely dry. Unlike wetsuits, which use a combination of water and body heat to maintain a comfortable body temperature, drysuits are fully sealed – thanks to wrist seals, a neck seal, and a waterproof zipper – and may be layered over thick insulating layers that keep the warmth trapped inside.  


When it comes to drysuits, insulation works through a layer of air which may be controlled with valves. Inflator valves allow divers to add gas as they swim deeper into the sea of ocean, whilst exhaust valves are used to release air during ascent.


Drysuit vs Wetsuit: The Similarities and Differences


At their core, drysuits and wetsuits are both designed to provide wearers with thermal protection from the cold water. However, both types of exposure suits achieve this in different ways and are appropriate for different temperatures.


  • Fit. Whilst wetsuits must be tight-fitting to retain a thin layer of water inside the suit, drysuits are equipped with seals around the wrists and neck, making a looser fit possible. Therefore, although divers may wear layers under both suits, the drysuit's looser fit allows for thicker undergarments to be worn beneath it.  
  • Insulation type. Both suits are suitably insulated with the purpose of keeping wearers comfortably warm, but the insulation type differs. Wetsuits require water as their means of insulation whilst drysuits use a layer of air.
  • Mobility. Wetsuits are typically skin-tight, making them easier to move around in when compared to bulky and baggy drysuits. Some divers find that drysuits can make them move slower underwater whilst wetsuits act like a second skin, keeping divers agile and feeling free.
  • Value for money. It is undeniable that drysuits are more expensive than wetsuits. However, drysuits are designed to last and with proper care they can easily last over 15 years whilst wetsuits last an average of 4 to 10 years.
  • Water Temperature. Finally, it is important to consider the water temperature you may expect. For temperatures lower than 0.56°C a neoprene drysuit is recommended whilst, with higher temperatures ranging from 24.5°C to 30°C, a thin wetsuit of 1.6mm would suffice. Of course, not every body is the same and, whilst there are recommended suit choices for particular water temperatures, the important thing is to adapt to your own body’s needs and feel comfortable as you explore what lies beneath the waters.



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