Tips, Tricks, and Advice on Choosing A Drysuit for Cold Weather Sailing
Updated November 2019
WHAT IS A DRYSUIT?
A drysuit is a fully waterproof and breathable one piece suit designed to offer full protection from the elements. They feature neck and wrist seals with integrated booties to keep water out so that you can layer as needed to stay warm, dry, and comfortable on the water. A proper drysuit set up would include the drysuit itself plus a system of base and mid layers to wick moisture from your skin and add warmth as needed, depending on the outside air or water conditions. A drysuit is the ultimate piece of gear for cold weather sailing and popular among frostbite sailors, scholastic sailors, or anyone sailing in cold weather.
KEY DRYSUIT FEATURES
There are a few key features to consider when choosing a drysuit for sailing including the fabric, type of wrist and neck seals, type of booties, zipper, and internal suspenders.
- Fabric - Four layer, fully waterproof and breathable fabric is the standard for sailing drysuits. While the brand name of the fabric may vary, all options keep water out while allowing moisture to escape, keeping you comfortable during active sailing.
- Neck & Wrist Seals - Seals at the neck and wrist fit tightly to keep water out. These are either made from latex, neoprene, or a combination of the two. Older drysuits featured latex seals almost exclusively, but advances in fabric have allowed the use of softer, easier to handle neoprene fabrics that offer the same protection with a higher degree of comfort.
- Booties - The base of a drysuit features two sewn in booties, which complete the full protection of the suit. Typically these booties are made from latex rubber or from the same waterproof and breathable fabric as the rest of the drysuit. Like latex seals, latex booties were the standard for many years, but all drysuits we carry now feature fabric booties which offer more long term durability and are less likely to puncture.
- Zipper - Getting in and out of a 100% waterproof, full body drysuit requires a large zipper. Like improvements found in seals and booties, the classic (and very heavy!) bronze zipper has been replaced with a flexible waterproof zipper that is easier to maintain and operate.
- Internal Suspenders - Since a drysuit is one piece, many include a set of internal suspenders or straps that help keep the drysuit up and take some of the weight off of your shoulders. This feature is not found in all drysuits, but certainly makes wearing one a bit more comfortable if wearing for extended periods of time.
DRYSUIT TIPS & TRICKS
After many years of cold weather sailing, our staff has developed a few tried and true tips that make it easier to own and maintain a drysuit.
- Think About Layers - While a drysuit keeps water out, maintaining a comfortable body temperature depends on what you wear under the drysuit. A proper system of base layers to wick moisture and mid layers for additional warmth is key to allowing the drysuit to perform at its full potential and to keeping you comfortable on the water.
- Lubricate the Zipper - Use Zip Tech Zipper Lubricant to maintain your zipper, but even chap stick will work in a pinch.
- Rise with Fresh Water - If sailing in salt water, always try to rinse your drysuit with fresh water after use.
- Store Properly - Store drysuit unfolded, unzipped, and away from dirt and dust.
POPULAR DRYSUIT OPTIONS
For the 2019-2020 winter sailing season, here are the drysuits we think are worth considering when choosing a drysuit.
Gill Pro Drysuit - A standard from Gill that has been slightly redesigned for 2020 in a new colorway. Features 4 layer waterproof fabric, waterproof zipper, neoprene neck and wrist seals, integrated fabric booties, and a internal shoulder strap system. We like the new colorway includes orange details on the arms for safety. The improved neck and wrist seals with the internal shoulder straps make this drysuit super comfortable to wear. The cargo pocket on the thigh is great for storing a few small items. A staff favorite! Also available in a Junior version for you sailors.
Stohlquist EZ Drysuit - The Stohlquist EZ offers excellent weatherproof protection combined with outstanding comfort to create a great all-around drysuit. The 4 layer fabric offers all the benefits of the popular GORE-TEX fabric but at a more reasonable cost. Features a waterproof and flexible zipper, integrated fabric booties, and neoprene/latex blend wrist and neck seals. At about $500 we like this drysuit for its incredible value, particularly for scholastic sailors or anyone looking for a budget friendly but still high quality drysuit. While the EZ does not feature an internal shoulder strap or thigh pocket, it does have a relief zipper.
Zhik Drysuit - New for the 2019-2020 season, Zhik has introduced a brand new drysuit designed for active dinghy and small boat sailing. While we have not yet received a lot of feedback on use on the water, this drysuit has a durable and waterproof 3 layer fabric, waterproof zipper, integrated booties, and shoulder straps. We especially like the Hi-Viz detailing around the neck and wrist for added safety. This drysuit features a 'race cut' for slightly less bulk than similar drysuits while still allowing a full range of motion. This is our most expensive drysuit, but a great one to consider if you are making a long term investment in cold weather sailing activities.