Best Kayaking Drysuits

Kayaking drysuits open up new horizons, as they allow for year-round paddling and fishing even during the cold months of winter. They are a true game-changer for passionate kayakers and fishermen.

I started winter kayaking several years ago, it is an awesome hobby that is hard to stop once you start.

Having tried many drysuits during the years (rentals and own), in this article, I will give my opinion on the best drysuits you can use for kayaking. Also, I will explain how they work and what you need to look out for if you buy one.

Let’s jump right in.

Best drysuits for kayaking in 2020 (reviews)

Here are the best mid-range and high-end kayaking drysuits that will keep you dry all day long.

Kokatat Gore-Tex Front Entry

Kokatat Gore Tex Front Entry Features

Pros

Gore-Tex is the best drysuit material available in 2020
Lifetime warranty
Very comfortable
Men’s and women’s version available

Cons

No sprayskirt tunnel
Optional extras are expensive

This is my top pick for the best winter kayaking drysuit. It is a front-entry suit made out of 5.8 oz. 3-layer Gore-Tex, which is the most reliable drysuit material. It keeps you dry of external water and still releases your own perspiration.

As with most of Kokatat’s drysuits, you can customize the suit by adding any of the following features:

  • left or right shoulder pockets
  • entry zipper cover
  • reflective tape on the arm
  • internal suspenders, which make it more comfortable when you are walking around with the top off around your waist.

These extras can really add up though. The base price of the Kokatat Front Entry is $1,080, but selecting all of these options adds $500 to the final price.

You can even customize the exact fit of the inseam, sleeves, torso, drysocks, and gaskets. This will add another $300 to the price of the suit though.

Perhaps the only big complaint I have with this suit is that it does not have a sprayskirt tunnel.

The extras included in the base model of this drysuit are:

  • Made out of Gore-Tex material
  • Reinforced seat and knees
  • Relief zipper for men, or drop seat for women
  • Neoprene coated latex seals for increased tear and UV resistance
  • Fabric drysocks
  • Adjustable wrist and ankle
  • Bungee drawcord at waist
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Sizes S-XXXL

All Kokatat drysuits are water tested at the factory before being shipped out.

Kokatat Gore Tex Front Entry Drysuit Review

Kokatat Gore-Tex Front-Entry

review rating stars

Great fabric and wear

Editor’s Choice

This is Kokatat’s most popular model, for good reason. It is a no-frills drysuit that just works, thanks to the fabric used, and the comfortable fit.

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Kokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian

Kokatat Hydrus 3l Meridian Features

Pros

Hydrus is almost as good as Gore-Tex
Lifetime warranty
Many features, including sprayskirt tunnel
Men’s and women’s version available

Cons

No customizable features

The Meridian is another very popular Kokatat drysuit. This suit uses Kokatat’s Hydrus 3.0 fabric, which is a 4.57 oz. 3 layered fabric. It keeps water out perfectly, but not as good at breathability (letting your sweat exit the material) as Gore-Tex. This is noticeable when you get a lot of sun.

Hydrus fabric is probably the best on the market after Gore-Tex, performing at around 80% of it in terms of breathability. It is 100% as waterproof.

By the way, this suit can be purchased with the 3.21 oz. Gore-Tex fabric as well, but it is $400 more expensive. The 2 models are otherwise identical. The Hydrus 3.0 version cannot be customized, but the Gore-Tex one can.

You don’t really need much customization of this suit though, as it has a lot of extra features that make it ideal for winter kayaking, even in whitewater.

This suit is available in both men’s and women’s versions, with the later having a dropseat.

The main features of the Kokatat Meridian are:

  • Reinforced seat and knees
  • Sprayskirt tunnel
  • Relief zipper for men and dropseat for women
  • Self-draining, zippered chest pocket
  • Neoprene coated latex seals for increased tear and UV resistance
  • Fabric drysocks
  • Adjustable wrist and ankle
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Sizes S-XXL

If you want a lot of features and can compromise on breathability, the Kokatat Hydrus 3.0 Meridian is a good choice.

Kokatat Hydrus 3l Meridian Drysuit Review

Kokatat Hydrus Meridian

review rating stars

Loads of features, great for whitewater

Top Non-GoreTex Choice

If you want to save a few hundred dollars but want Kokatat’s quality and many features, the Meridian made of Kokatat’s Hydrus 3.0 fabric is a good choice.

Check today’s prices on:

Save 10% with this discount code at checkout on OutdoorPlay.com:
AV10


Kokatat Gore-Tex Idol

Kokatat Goretex Idol Features

Pros

2 piece suit that stays waterproof
Lifetime warranty
Many features, including sprayskirt tunnel
Men’s and women’s version available

Cons

No customizable features

Kokatat’s Idol 2 piece dryuit is made of 3.21 oz. Gore-Tex. The advantage of 2 piece drysuits is that you can use the 2 parts separately as a dry suit, dry top, or pants. They are also easier to put on/take off.

This suit incorporates the company’s SwitchZip zipper system, which creates a totally waterproof seal between the top and bottom parts of the wetsuit.

This is a pretty big deal, since other 2 piece drysuits that have a foldover connection between the top and bottom parts aren’t perfectly waterproof if you’re in the water for a long time.

This suit is super durable as well, with Cordura fabric present not just in the usual knees and seat, but the completely below the waist and over the shoulders.

The extras of the Kokatat Idol are:

  • 2 piece drysuit
  • Durable with lots of Cordura reinforced parts
  • Reinforced seat and knees
  • Sprayskirt tunnel
  • Relief zipper
  • Self-draining, zippered sleeve pocket
  • Neoprene coated latex seals for increased tear and UV resistance
  • Fabric drysocks
  • Adjustable wrist and ankle
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • Sizes S-XXL
Kokatar Gore Tex Idol Drysuit Review

Kokatat Gore-Tex Idol

review rating stars

2 piece drysuit that stays dry

2 piece drysuit

The zipper system that Kokatat uses on the Idol drysuit actually keeps the suit dry, even after being in the water for longer than just a dip.

The versatility and convenience of this suit is awesome.

Check today’s prices on:

Save 10% with this discount code at checkout on OutdoorPlay.com:
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Level Six Empreror 3.0 Ply Drysuit

Level Six Emperor 3 0 Ply Drysuit Features

Pros

Very tough, suitable for whitewater
Multiple reinforcements
Lifetime warranty
Lots of extras at a good price

Cons

Somewhat bulky because of the heavy-duty materials
Rear-entry needs getting used to (for me at least)

The Emperor is a loose fit, rear-entry drysuit made out of a durable 3 ply material that the company calls eXhaust 3.0.

It has reinforcements all over the suit, and the material itself is thick as well. This is as tough as they come, meaning you can safely go whitewater kayaking/rafting during winter in this drysuit.

All the toughness makes the Empreror the bulkiest drysuit in the list.

The extra features of the Line Six Empreror are:

  • Reinforced seat, knees, elbows, forearms
  • Double tunnel waistband for a watertight seal around your sprayskirt
  • Relief zipper
  • Articulated stitching which allows more freedom of movement when paddling
  • Dry socks
  • Fleece lined hand warming chest pockets
  • Latex gaskets covered with neoprene to protect against tears and UV
  • Several pockets
  • Emergency whistle
  • Lifetime warranty against defects (not wear and tear)
  • Sizes XS-XXL

If you are looking for a durable drysuit, the Emperor should be your pick.

Level Six Emperor 3 0 Ply Drysuit Review

Level Six Emperor

review rating stars

This suit can take a punch

Extra rugged

If you are looking for a drysuit that can take a beating, the Emperor by Level Six is a good choice. The material is safe for whitewater kayaking and is reinforced in all the right places.

Check today’s prices on:

Save 10% with this discount code at checkout on OutdoorPlay.com:
AV10


Stohlquist Amp Drysuit

Stohlquist Amp Dry Suit Features

Pros

Separate men’s & women’s cuts
Durable, watertight fabric
Many value added features
3 -year warranty

Cons

Not as breathable as Gore-Tex
No drop seat for women

The Amp is a budget-friendly drysuit by Stohlquist, a reputable brand. It has a relaxed fit and is a front-entry suit.

It uses their 4 Layer Twin Sensor fabric to keep water out, and air in. This fabric is on the thick side, meaning it is durable and provides a bit of warmth as well.

The Amp is totally waterproof, you can swim in it for as long as you want. It is not as breathable as Gore-Tex though, so if you are a very sweaty type, you should go with a higher-end fabric.

This suit comes in 2 cuts for both women and men.

The extras of this suit are:

  • Reinforced seat and knees
  • Sprayskirt tunnel
  • Front relief zipper for both male and female versions
  • Arm pocket (not waterproof)
  • Neoprene coated latex seals for increased tear and UV resistance
  • Reflective accents
  • Fabric drysocks
  • Adjustable wrist and ankle
  • 3-year warranty
  • Sizes S-XXL

Overall, you get a lot of good things at a very good price with the Amp drysuit.

Stohlquist Amp Drysuit

Stohlquist Amp

review rating stars

Many features for a bargain

Budget option

If you are looking for a low priced, yet reliable drysuit, the Amp is a good choice. It is totally waterproof, and has many extras that are usually present on higher priced drysuits.

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How do kayak drysuits work?

The first drysuits were used by divers, but drysuits specialized for kayaking and water sports have been available since the 2000s. They are different from dive suits though, allowing for more freedom of movement and comfort.

Modern drysuits use advanced materials and seals (gaskets) at the ankles, wrists, and neck area to keep water from entering the suit. At the same time, they are breathable, meaning they let your sweat exit the fabric.

Kaykaing Drysuit Parts

High quality drysuits will have the following features:

  • Neck gasket – Latex seal to keep water out around the neck opening. Can also be made of neopreme, but Latex is better at staying dry. The seals are flexible and comfortable.
  • Wrist gasket – Similar to the neck gasket, keeps water out around the wrist.
  • Ankle gasket – Just like the neck and wrist gaskets, the ankle seal keeps water out around your foot.
  • Entry zipper – Waterproof zipper for putting the suit on. This is a front-entry suit, but there are back-entry suits as well.
  • Relief zipper – When mother nature calls, this makes things very convenient. Women’s drysuits have a dropseat. Just unzip and go.
  • Reinforced knees/seat– Reinforced patches to strengthen the suit in areas of high friction.
  • Dry socks – Optional extra, but worth it. Dry socks are made of the same material as the suit itself and are permanently attached to the suit.

Drysuits are quite amazing when you think about it, since they:

  • Keep the water out, even if you go swimming in your drysuit.
  • The best drysuit fabrics are breathable, meaning they let your sweat out (but don’t let the water in).

You can paddle for hours, go swimming, and still be completely dry at the end of the day.

When do you need a drysuit for kayaking?

The temperature of the water you paddle in will determine whether you need to wear a drysuit or a wetsuit. When the water temperature drops below 60°F (15°C), wearing a drysuit is recommended.

Here is a chart to show you at what temperatures you should wear a drysuit for kayaking.

WATER TEMPERATURERISK OF HYPOTHERMIACLOTHING
70 °F <Low3 mm wetsuit or shorty
60-70 °FModerate5 mm wetsuit
50-60 °FHighDrysuit or 7 mm wetsuit, or wetsuit with dry-top
> 50 °FExtremeDrysuit

How to choose a kayaking drysuit?

If you’re new to drysuits, here are their most important characteristics and features you need to be aware of before buying one. You should also read my article on winter kayaking clothes.

What materials are drysuits made of?

The main fabric

The fabric of a drysuit is made of laminated layers of nylon. It needs to be durable, as it will be put out to a lot of friction during an average kayak trip. The fabric also needs to be breathable, so it lets your sweat out through the material but doesn’t let water in.

As you can expect, there are huge differences in material quality and funcionality!

The best material for drysuits is developed by Gore-Tex. After decades of research and development, their material is the best in the industry. It is 100% waterproof and 100% breathable, so you stay dry of your sweat even on sunny days.

Hydrus 3L, developed by Kokatat, is almost as good, but is cheaper. Stohlquist and Level Six also make good fabrics, but again, they are not as breathable as Gore-Tex.

Fabric manufacturers coat the nylon with water repellent chemicals, but the result is lessened breathability, especially with low-grade fabrics. They might keep water out, but you will get damp from your own perspiration and become a big plastic bag of sweat.

Seals (aka gaskets)

The neck and wrist gaskets of kayaking drysuits are made of either neopreme (like wetsuits), latex, or silicone:

  • Neoprene is not 100% waterproof, it will let a bit of water in when you turn your head. It will also stretch with time. Some people find neoprene gaskets comfortable, some don’t. It’s a matter of preference.
  • Latex is my preference, it is more comfortable for me. It seals better than neoprene, but being rubber, it is prone to UV deterioration. You should treat it with 303 UV protectant every so often.
    Latex has a rather short lifespan. A latex seal is not going to last more than 2 years, it will tear from use. Neoprene lasts longer than latex.
  • Silicone is UV resistant and very comfortable, but it tears easier than latex.

Zippers

Drysuits can come with either metal zips or plastic zips. Metal zippers need maintenance against rusting, while plastic zips do not (because plastic doesn’t rust).

Loose or tight-fitting drysuits

The fabric of a drysuit does not stretch much, so they need to be slightly baggy for a comfortable fit.

When you shop for a drysuit, you will notice that they are labelled as loose fitting, medium, or tight fitting.

Loose fitting drysuits let you layer your undergarments more effectively, as there is more room in the suit for multiple layers of thermal protection.

Tight-fitting drysuits are less bulky, but don’t allow for as much layering as a loose-fitting model. However, if you’ll be paddling in milder weather and water, a tight-fitting drysuit will be OK.

Medium fitting drysuits are somewhere in between, as you might have expected.

But with that said, if you can only buy 1 drysuit, I think it should be a looser one. You can layer your clothes if you go out in the cold and still move around comfortably.

Entry type

With respect to entry method, there are 3 types of drysuits:

Back entry

A back entry drysuit has a big long waterproof zipper running across the back of the suit.

After putting the suit on, you need to have somebody close the zipper for you. If there is nobody around, you can put a string on it, or even hook it into a nail in the wall and zip it yourself.

Rear Entry Drysuit

Front entry

With front entry suits, the zipper is on the front side.

For me, these drysuits are somewhat easier to put on. This is a matter of preference though.

Front Entry Drysuit

2 piece drysuits

2 piece drysuits are a great innovation, as they are versatile. They can be used as a drysuit, a dry top, or the pants.

These drysuits join at the waist with either:

  1. A zipper, which you zip across your waist.
  2. Multiple folds of material that you roll together. Such folding models are not 100% waterproof though, as the water will find its way in between the folds if you are submerged for long.

Kokatat has 2 piece drysuits (Radius, Idol), which use a zipper at the waist. They become completely waterproof.

2 Piece Drysuit

Is a front vs rear entry drysuit better?

It’s a matter of preference. For example, I like front entry wetsuits, since I find it easier to put on and zip. Also, I can unzip it and leave the top hanging around my waist when resting without it being in the way.

If you are a man and your drysuit doesn’t have a relief zipper, a front entry suit is more convenient for when you have to use the bathroom.

The opposite is true for women. If there is no built in drop seat in the suit, a rear entry suit is more convenient for women.

Warranty and serviceability

A drysuit can cost upwards of $1000. It may even be more expensive than your kayak!

Look for drysuits that have at least a 3-year warranty against manufacturing problems, such as failing seals and leaky zippers.

The warranty does not cover wear and tear though, so you need your wetsuit to be serviceable. Gaskets need replacing with time, or you may puncture the suit. Unless you want to buy a new wetsuit every few years, it is important to buy a brand name model.

Kokatat is great at honoring their warrant. You can send the suit to their factory, and they will repair or replace it. The process takes 1-2 months though, and you have to pay shipping & handling, plus a testing fee (around $40).

Extra features

Drysuits are not generic garments at all. If you’re willing to put up extra money, you can get extra features that add to the comfort and durability of the suit:

  • Waterproof pockets – If you want to keep your phone, car keys, etc. close by, drysuits with waterproof pockets are nice to have. You will have a waterproof bag in your kayak though, so it’s not really an issue if your suit does not integrate this feature.
  • Relief zipper for men or drop seat for women – When you have to go to the potty, these extras come in handy. Not having one is a real hassle.
  • Reinforced knees – Your knees are braced against your kayak, so protecting the knee area is useful.
  • Reinforced buttocks – Useful since your bum goes back and forth all day long as you paddle.
  • Dry socks – They make your journey comfortable, drier, and warm. Dry socks are thin, so you need comfortable water wicking socks under them to stay warm, and you also need to wear something over them. The most obvious choice here is neoprene booties. Booties don’t let your sweat evaporate, which is the reason you need socks that wick the moisture up towards your pants where the suit can “breath” it out.
  • Hoodie – If you know you will kayak in the rain and cold wind, hoodies are useful. If not, a neoprene divers hat does the job just fine.
  • Nylon loops – Drysuits made for fishing can have nylon loops built into the suit. Fisherman can hang their light gear, such as tackle, on these loops.
  • Reflective stripes – Having reflective stripes on the suit is a great safety feature. It makes the kayaker easier to spot by larger boats, and can also aid in a rescue. On that note, when choosing the color of the suit, you want to get a vibrant color that is easy to spot.

Kayaking drysuit FAQs

Are you new to the world of inflatable boats? Then my Getting Started Guide is for you. You’ll find tips, tricks, and how-to articles to start off right.

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