Insulation – Under Layers
First, you need to put on your under layers. A thin base layer for transporting perspiration from the surface of your skin to the second layer, the mid layer. Mid layers should be one or two layers, and a mix of mid weight to heavy weight fleece. This colder the weather, the more and heavier your mid layers. Remember: NO Cotton. Cotton garments and socks will retain moisture and will leave you damp and cold. Wicking base and mid layers will not absorb moisture, and transport perspiration away from the wearer to the breathable material of the dry suit, which will then be expelled leaving you warm and dry.
Preparing the Suit
To prepare your suit for entry, powder the inside of the seals (feet, wrist and neck) and the inside arms and legs of the suit with talcum powder (unscented – additives can damage latex seals over time). This will allow your arms and legs to more easily slide into the suit, and seals to slide on with less catching and stressing of the materials. Now be sure to remove any jewelry or watch you may be wearing to keep them from catching and tearing seals. Make sure your socks are straight and pulled up well – it’s hard to do this once the suit is on. Be sure the entry zipper is completely open so it is not stressed when donning the suit.
Putting a Dry Suit On
To start, remember to always sit down when putting the bottom half on. Before you actually step into the suit make sure you have the suspenders in the right place – one on each side of the suit. Once both legs are in, put on the suspenders, stand and adjust them. The suspenders should be adjusted to keep the crotch and waist in the correct place for ease of leg movement and to keep the top half of the suit from sliding down which would restrict free arm and torso movement.
Slide your hand through the sleeve. In doing this, be careful not to “punch” your hand through the wrist seals – especially the latex seals. You don’t want to damage them. Using your opposite hand, open the seal so you have room to slide your other hand through the wrist seal. Put your hand through the seal, and lay the seal flat against your wrist just above the wrist joint.
Next, pull the suit up again, and put your other arm through being as careful with the wrist seal as you were with your other hand.
Now, it’s time for the neck seal. Pull the suit completely up to give yourself some extra material and room, duck, gather the neck seal with your hands, open it up, and pull the seal over your head as you duck your head down and into the suit.
When you zip up your dry suit – pull the zipper along its axis. Trust us, you don’t’ want to break it. It’s a pretty spendy fix. Pull the zip until it’s completely closed. If it is difficult to pull, it may be time to clean and/or lubricate the zipper.
To deflate the suit to streamline your fit – open the neck seal, crouch to squeeze out all the air, close the seal while you’re still crouching, and stand up. You’ll notice the suit is sucked tight against your body. As you sail, your body will off gas and the suit will slightly inflate. In between races, you may need to crouch down and release air from the suit.
With both latex and breathable material dry suit socks, be sure to work any excess material up and away from your foot. You want to reduce the volume of your foot before putting on boots. Latex socks tend to ‘stick’ to your boots when putting them on. To reduce this, you can do one of two things: use a special thin over sock to protect the latex and create a slick surface, or apply talcum powder to both the sock seals and the inside of your boots. Remember that if your boots are tight, blood flow to your feet is reduced resulting in cold feet. To overcome this some sailors have a second pair of sailing boots that are a size larger for dry suit sailing, and a regular sized for warmer conditions. If you are wearing a sock liner, a thick insulated sock, the dry suit bootie and a thin over sock, your foot size will increase by at least a full size. Boots for dry suit sailing should be neoprene – not rubber – which add insulation, are stretchy and are easier to put on.
Dry Suit Fit
If you’re fitting a suit, remember to make sure you leave room for layers. Good tests to be sure you get the perfect fit are, once you have all your warm layers under the dry suit on, hug your shoulders to feel for freedom of movement across the back of your shoulders, and then drop to one knee and raise your arms straight into the air. If you feel constricted in the area of your underarms, you should consider a size larger.
Lastly, don’t walk around in the suit until you have put boots on over the latex booties.