If you are planning to purchase your first dry suit you probably have a laundry list of dry suit questions that need to be answered such as.. “How do I take care of my Dry Suit?” “Do I want a Metal Zipper or a T-zipper?”, “What if the seals dont fit?” Or “How in gods name do you put a dry suit on?”
In the following two videos, APS President Kyle Gross gets in front of the camera and goes through features, fit, and care of a Dry Suit to answer that laundry list of dry suit questions you have. After all, if you’re going to invest in a Dry Suit, you’ll want to know everything there is to know so you get the longest life and maximum wear out of your investment.
Part I – What is a Dry Suit? Features of a Quality Dry Suit.
A Dry Suit is a one piece suit that keeps you completely dry. You enter into, close up, and everything except your head and hands will stay completely dry – even if you decide to go swimming. To be clear, a dry suit is a shell – it’s not a warm piece. You will have to wear Base Layers and/or Mid Layers underneath depending on the conditions outside. Also, you should wear protective boots (specifically, Dinghy Sailing Boots) over your dry suit to protect the dry suits’s waterproof socks.
In general, dry suits are made of waterproof breathable materials that will allow moisture to escape while you wear them so you can be comfortable and not clammy. Men’s suits are most often front entry. A zipper usually runs diagonally across the body so the wearer can put the suit on and take it off without help. The suits have neck and wrist seals to keep the water out and ether Latex or Gore-Tex socks to protect your feet.
We have several options available for Men’s and Women’s Drysuits at APS, but for now we’ll show you a quick sampling of what to expect..
Dry Suit Breakdown:
|Dry Suit||Fabric||Zipper||Neck & Wrist Seals||Socks|
|Ignite Drysuit by Ocean Rodeo||200 Denier Nylon/Taslan||T-Zip||Latex (with glove and neck overlays)||Gore-Tex|
|Gore-Tex Front Entry Dry Suit by Kokatat||Gore-Tex||Metal Optiseal||Latex (Neoprene over top to protect)||Gore-Tex|
|Front-Zip Breathable Dry Suit by Gill||5-Dot, 3-Layer Fabric||Metal Dynat||Neoprene||Latex|
|MPX Gore-Tex Dry Suit by Musto||Gore-Tex||Metal Dynat||Latex (Fabric tabs over top to protect)||Latex|
*Some Dry Suits have relief zipper options for men. Please click through above links to view details.
Dry Suit Zippers
There are two main types of zippers that you’ll find when looking into drysuits. Theres the Metal Zippers and then the newer T-Zip (plasitc waterproof zipper) As you might image, there are pluses and minuses with both options.
Some of the great things about the newer T-Zipper are that they tend to be far more comfortable to wear, easy to clean and they often will slide open much easier than metal zippers. However, if you are planning on being submerged for extended periods of time, this may not be the best choice for you but if you paln on staying on the boat, like most sailors try to do, this kind of zipper should cover all of your needs.
Metal Zippers on the other hand, they do have some downsides like the need for maintenance, they’re a bit less comfortable, and the packing volume is a bit larger. That being said, they have the benefit of be being time tested, have a higher breaking strength and when properly lubricated, they can stand the test of time.
Dry Suit Seals – Latex v. Neoprene
Latex is stretchy and comfortable. Neoprene slightly more rugged – some think it’s not as comfortable or flexible, but it’s definitely a little more durable. You’ll notice in the table above that the suits that have latex seals have reinforcements over top to protect the latex. For example, the Kokatat Dry Suit has a neoprene guard, and the Musto Dry Suit has fabric tabs that secure over the latex.
Should your latex seals ever fail, check out our other Video Blog Post on How to Replace Worn out Dried up Drysuit Seals
Dry Suit Socks
Options include latex socks (booties) or Gore-Tex Socks. Both options are completely waterproof. The advantage of the Gore-Tex sock is that it’s breathable, whereas the latex is not. Also, Gore-Tex socks are also a little less fragile and easier to slide into a boot but you will still want to wear a Dinghy Boot over top to protect it.
Part II – How to Put a Dry Suit On and The Proper Fit
First, you need to put on your layers. Wear Base Layers and Mid Layers to keep you as warm as you need to be depending on the conditions. Wear wicking socks to keep moisture away from your feet and/or wool socks to keep your feet warm. Remember: Cotton is not your friend. Cotton garments and socks will retain moisture and will leave you feeling damp and cold.
Dry Suits are now front entry. Step into it one foot at a time. To work your way into the rest of it – always start on the side the zipper goes to. (For clarification on this, please be sure to watch the video.) Be sure to pull up on the dry suit to give yourself some extra shoulder room so you can duck down into it.
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.
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 room, duck, gather the neck seal with your hands, open it up, and pull the seal over your head as you extend your neck and stand up.
When you zip up your dry suit – pull the zipper along it’s axis. Trust us, you don’t’ want to break it. It’s a pretty spendy fix. Pull the zip until it’s completely closed.
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.
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 to hug your shoulders to feel for freedom of movement across the back of your shoulders – or to drop to one knee and raise your arms straight into the air. If you feel constricted in the area of your underarms, it’s safe to say you should size up.
A little more about Dry Suit Seals:
The suits have been designed with rings (cut guides) on the wrist and neck seals that let you customize the size of the opening of the seal. They come tight, but you can stretch the latex seals using glass bottles or something similar. Though, we do not always recommend cutting the seal – if you need to, you can. The suits have been designed with rings (cut guides) that let you customize the size of the opening of the seal. If you’re going to cut them, be sure to stretch the seal at least overnight (12+ hours) as this will help make sure you don’t cut too much. When you finally do pull out the scissors, cut straight across the seal. Do not create any nicks that could later tear. Also, know that neoprene becomes a little more forgiving when it’s wet.
Once you have your suit on and zipped, the next step is to put on your boots. Wearing boots rather than just shoes ensures you protect the whole drysuit sock so you don’t damage the suit on something inside the boat. Remember, you will have a thick pair of warm socks under your drysuit and a drysuit bootie over that, which means you might need to get a larger pair of boots meant specifically for wear with your drysuit. Also, if your boots are too tight over top your dry suit, the captive air will not move around your feet, and you’ll be very cold.
The latex socks found on all the other suits are not durable enough to be doing ANY walking around. You’ll want to put boots on right away. Once you have the proper size boots, you’ll need to put them on – which is harder than it sounds. The latex drysuit socks is very sticky against the neoprene found inside boots, and you are sure to find it helpful to invest in an inexpensive pair of Gill Drysuit Socks. They are super thin but make a world of difference.
One final thing. In general, don’t be afraid to size up when it comes to dry suits. The more room you have inside your dry suit, the more air you’ll have circulating inside it and the warmer you’ll be. Not even Kim Kardashian looks good in a dry suit.