Wetsuit vs. Drysuit – What’s the Difference?

If you are into scuba diving or other water sports like surfing, chances are you probably own a wetsuit or a drysuit. Don’t you?

They are essentially  used for thermal insulation. However, there is a considerable difference between the two.

Today, I will try to explain how a wetsuit is different from a drysuit. They are often mistaken to be the same, but they are distinct in function.

Read on to find out how they are different.

What is a Wetsuit?

The way a wetsuit works is on the principle that your body is the only and the best source of heat. Thus, it provides you with thermal protection. To retain the heat underwater, wetsuits are made of closed-cell foam material.

This material is full of nitrogen bubbles trapped within the layers of the wetsuit. When you get in the sea, a small amount of water enters your wetsuit and is trapped between your skin and the suit.

Your body then warms up this layer of trapped water. The warm trapped water combined with other insulating layers of the wetsuit then provides you with the warmth you need to feel comfortable and avoid things such as hypothermia.

Wetsuits are designed to fit your body tightly so that not much water can enter the suit. If you wear a loosely fitted wetsuit, it will take much more time to warm up. Wetsuits come in different sizes and thicknesses.

Read: What to Wear Under Your Wetsuit

What is a Drysuit?

As suggested by the name, a drysuit keeps you dry by ensuring that no water gets inside your suit. This suit comprises of foam neoprene, vulcanized rubber, crushed neoprene, or heavy-duty nylon material.

If you’re wondering what keeps the water outside, it is the seals. A drysuit is fully sealed. These seals on wrists and neck are combined with a waterproof zipper to keep you dry.

Drysuits are not tightly fitted like wetsuits and allow you to put on multiple insulation layers or clothes underneath. Wondering how drysuits work? Well, they work by having an insulating layer of air between the suit and your body.

You can control this insulation by the inflator valves that enable you to add gas as you go deeper into the sea. Along with this, drysuits also use exhaust valves that are responsible for releasing air during your ascent.

Using a drysuit requires specific skills learned through training and experience, as maintaining neutral buoyancy is quite challenging.

Difference Between Wetsuit and Drysuit

wetsuits and drysuits

Now that you know what wetsuits and drysuits are let’s dive deeper into how the two are different.

Insulation

Thermal insulation is one of the most significant factors that you will have to consider while differentiating between a wetsuit and a drysuit. Although the two are the same in principle, they remain extensively different.

As you now know, wetsuits use a layer of trapped water to keep your body warm and insulated. On the other hand, drysuits use a layer of air to keep you warm and are entirely sealed to prevent water entry.

Lifespan

Drysuits are generally more expensive than wetsuits because of their complex structure that functions in different environments. A wetsuit will last you somewhere between 5 to 10 years.

However, a drysuit is likely to last over 15 years if properly maintained and taken care of. You will be required to replace the seals, zippers, or valves to ensure the excellent condition of your drysuit.

Mobility

As wetsuits are tightly fitted to your body, they ensure that you can move comfortably and quickly while you are underwater. On the contrary, drysuits are baggy and may result in dragging as you start to move underwater.

This is, however, entirely dependent upon the material used in the drysuit. To sum it up, a drysuit may slow you down when comparing to a wetsuit, which will ensure high mobility.

Buoyancy

Did you know that wetsuits are likely to compress with depth? This results in loss of inherent buoyancy in the wetsuit. However, with inflator valves present in drysuits, you can add air and reimburse the increased pressure while going deep.

When the wetsuit is compressed, it becomes thinner – losing its insulating capacity. But the drysuit does not suffer from this.

Training

Another significant difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit is the training. A wetsuit is extremely easy to use and more comfortable between the two choices. On the other hand, a dry suit is a little tricky to use.

How, you ask? Well, using a drysuit entails learning how to control the buoyancy and the weight. You will need the training and experience to master using the drysuit. You cannot use a drysuit without supervision.

Drysuit vs Wetsuit Temperature

Temperature is the most significant difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit. The first thing you will have to do is to consider your cold tolerance. Generally, divers use a drysuit when going into the water below 60° F (16° C).

Few divers can withstand lower temperatures like 50° F (10° C) in a wetsuit. Other divers use a drysuit when going into waters below 75° F (24° C). So, this is an important personal choice while deciding which suit you want to go for.

Wetsuit vs Drysuit for Cold Water

Typically, drysuits are used for diving into extremely cold or freezing water and wetsuits for warmer waters.

The thicker wetsuits undoubtedly provide you with more protection and insulation. They are meant for water with a colder temperature as well. Thinner wetsuits are appropriate only for warmer conditions.

Let’s Recap
 WetsuitDrysuit
InsulationWater keeps you warmAir keeps you warm
Lifespan5 to 10 yearsover 15 years with maintenance
MobilityGoodWorse
BuoyancyWorseGood
TrainingNoYes
Temperatureabove 60° F (16° C)below 60° F (16° C)

Final Word

Your suit for adventures underwater is going to be your shield. So, be wise when you pick out your armor. You must ensure that you are well trained if you choose to wear a drysuit and know how to control it.

After reading the differences between a drysuit and a wetsuit, we hope you can pick out the best insulation layer for your body. Have a fun, deep, and safe diving experience!