Understanding the Differences Between Wetsuits and Drysuits

When diving into colder waters, choosing the right suit is essential for comfort, safety, and performance. Both wetsuits and drysuits are designed to help maintain body heat but function quite differently. Understanding the distinctions between these two types of suits can help divers, surfers, and other water enthusiasts decide which is best suited for their activities and the conditions they will face.

Wetsuits: Function and Form

How They Work

Wetsuits are made of neoprene, a type of synthetic rubber that contains tiny bubbles of nitrogen gas, which provide insulation by trapping water. When a wetsuit is worn, a very thin layer of water gets in between the neoprene and the skin. Your body heats this water, which helps maintain body temperature. The neoprene then acts as an insulator to keep this warmed water close to the body.

Types and Varieties

Wetsuits come in various thicknesses, which should be chosen based on the water temperature. Common thicknesses range from 2 mm (for warmer water) to 7 mm (for colder conditions). Wetsuits can be full length, which cover the arms and legs completely, or they can be shorties, which cover the torso and leave parts of the arms and legs exposed. The fit of a wetsuit should be snug to minimise the amount of water entering and leaving the suit, which maximises its insulating effectiveness.

Best Use

Wetsuits are generally preferred for activities where the water temperature is between about 50°F and 78°F (10°C to 26°C). They are popular among surfers, snorkelers, and divers in moderately cold to warm waters.

Drysuits: Function and Form

How They Work

Unlike wetsuits, drysuits are designed to keep you completely dry, except for your head, hands, and sometimes feet, unless you are wearing a full drysuit with integrated gloves and a hood. Drysuits are made from waterproof materials and have seals around the neck, wrists, and sometimes the face. These suits also feature a zipper that makes them airtight. To stay warm, wearers must layer clothing underneath the drysuit, as the suit itself provides little insulation. Air is also added to the suit while diving to add insulation and to help control buoyancy.

Types and Varieties

Drysuits are made from materials like crushed neoprene, vulcanised rubber, or heavy-duty nylon. They can be tailored to fit loosely to accommodate layering of warm clothes underneath. Some drysuits come with boots attached, and others might integrate a hood or gloves.

Best Use

Drysuits are ideal for very cold water environments (below about 50°F or 10°C) and are often used by divers in cold water lakes, rivers, and oceans. They are also preferred for extended periods in cold water where hypothermia is a risk, such as in commercial or rescue diving operations.

Key Differences

  1. Insulation: Wetsuits use water trapped inside the suit warmed by body heat to insulate; drysuits use air and the layering of clothes underneath.
  2. Water Contact: Wetsuits allow water to enter the suit; drysuits do not let any water in.
  3. Temperature Range: Wetsuits are suitable for warmer waters that would still be too cold for swimming without a suit; drysuits are for colder environments where maintaining a dry layer is necessary for warmth.
  4. Flexibility: Wetsuits are generally more flexible and less bulky, making them better suited for activities like surfing and snorkelling; drysuits can be bulkier and less flexible but are essential for deep or prolonged diving in cold water.
  5. Cost and Maintenance: Drysuits are typically more expensive than wetsuits and require more maintenance to keep their seals and zippers functioning properly.


Choosing between a wetsuit and a drysuit largely depends on the water temperature and the type of activity you plan to engage in. Wetsuits are excellent for general water activities in cool to warm temperatures, where the simplicity and flexibility of the suit are advantageous. Drysuits, on the other hand, are essential for staying warm and dry in cold or icy water conditions, making them ideal for more extreme environments. By understanding these differences, water enthusiasts can make an informed choice that ensures their comfort and safety while engaging in their favourite aquatic activities.

Choose the Right Suit for Every Condition with Sharkskin™

At Sharkskin™, we know that the right gear can make all the difference in your water sports adventures. If you need the flexibility and warmth of a wetsuit for cooler waters, Sharkskin™ has you covered. Our products are crafted using the latest fabric technologies and design innovations, ensuring you stay comfortable and safe no matter the environment. Explore our extensive range designed for all levels of activity—from casual water sports to extreme adventures. Make an informed choice with Sharkskin™, and experience the confidence that comes from wearing gear tailored to your aquatic needs.