Does a drysuit provide extra flotation?

In practicing rolling with my PFD and tuilik, I’m aware that the neoprene Brooks tuilik is giving me a good deal of extra flotation, like I’m guessing another 1/3 or so of my PFD. Is a drysuit similar? I know you’re supposed to “burp” them — if you do that correctly are they flotation-neutral?

Also out of curiosity can anyone tell me the average amount of extra flotation a neoprene tuilik adds?

The short answer is: Yes–you do get some flotation when wearing a tightly sealed dry suit.
The practical questions are: How much flotation? Where is the flotation effect? Unlike neoprene, the drysuit material isn’t going to have any noticeable flotation effect. The flotation is from trapped air inside the suit. The more trapped air, the more flotation. The problems occur when you end up in the water. The trapped air moves inside your suit, towards the water surface and above it. This can cause two problems.

  • If you are upright (head out of water, legs down in water) and you have too much trapped air, the air in your sleeves can balloon up, impeding movement of your arms. This isn’t usually too dangerous, but in certain situations it might be hazardous. It’s never helpful. Solution–get a finger under your neck seal or under each of your wrist seals in sequence and let out some of the air. This will almost always let some water into your suit, but rarely enough to be dangerous from either a flotation or thermal standpoint.
  • If you’re inverted, the trapped air moves up into your legs, typically working to keep them out of the water while your head gets kept down. This is definitely disconcerting, but should be dangerous only if you panic. Solution, move your legs to a fetal position, squeezing the air back towards the torso, and then, maintaining that position, get your head up. That will then get you back to the first situation I described–ballooned sleeves.

You noted that you burp your suit to get the air out. This is good practice and prevents the problems from too much air in the suit that I discussed above. You can easily–and sufficiently–do this on shore by putting a finger inside your neck seal and squatting. If you go into the water and squat there to burp the suit, you’ll get even more air out, but my experience has been that this gives very little practical benefit compared to doing this on shore. Burping the suit leaves enough residual air to give some flotation, but not so much as to cause problems. However, none of this should suggest that you don’t need a PFD if wearing a drysuit. You need the PFD both for the added flotation AND because that flotation is located in the right place.


Thanks for all the interesting info!

Short answer is yes, drysuits provide some flotation even when just burped. I’ve lain back and let mine float me, right after burping it. There’s just less flotation than after it gains some air inside, which inevitably happens.

Full wetsuits also provide some flotation, depending on neoprene thickness.

One liter of air provides a little over 2 pounds of flotation. People use a rule of thumb of 2 pounds per liter of closed cell foam and neoprene should be similar. You can find out how much flotation your tuilik provides by seeing how much weight it takes to barely sink it.


just don’t walk in the water up to your neck and burp it you’ll be vacuum packed. Air and insulation also. I put everything on then squat and burp the neck.

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I don’t roll, can’t rescue to save my life except getting back on the boat near shore and do not like to go in the water ever. In 20 years of paddling have never been in the water by accident save once when I flipped last year upon hitting a submerged tree that I didn’t see maybe 30 feet from shore. It was late November, water was very cold and I was wearing a semi dry suit.

This is very subjective but have been in the water with just that life jacket from “naval battles” with the kids (got tipped on purpose but it was part of the game) on my inlaws plastic boats in saltwater where they live. I felt like I had a lot more floatation with my semi dry suit on despite being in fresh water although a lot of it could just be trying to move around in an air pocket inside of the water. This is very subjective; I would not go out with a (semi) dry suit only and rely on its floatation alone without a life jacket. But it seemed to help at least a little.

Thanks. I’m not planning on foregoing a PFD on any paddling trips, but I am planning on practicing rolling with different degrees of flotation and wanted to have a basis for comparison.

So wetsuits provide more flotation than drysuits but the drysuit does add some. Of course pfds very in flotation amounts . A ball cap or visor can provide some resistance, and can act as a scoop when rolling. My splash tops tend to catch water in the sleeves if they are not tightly secured at the cuffs and neck.

Not only does your wardrobe change the amount of flotation but perhaps a bigger deal is if it changes your flexibility. Put a few a layers on under a drysuit and you may find rolling to be more difficult because it is harder to get into position to roll. If you are not paddling as much in the winter you may lose some flexibility and tighten up a bit. Then there is the water getting colder, sometimes makes you want to rush it. I consider rolling to be harder in the Winter and early Spring.

Yeah, we don’t have drysuits yet but it’s going in that direction… I’ve already experienced that small changes to wardrobe or in the weather can make rolling more (or less) challenging. That’s not even talking about which kayak I’m in. So many variables.

Drysuits’ baggy cut allows more freedom of movement, not less.

Rolling without any flotation help at all (no PFD, just regular fabric clothes) feels easiest as long as your technique is good.

Otherwise, a PFD OR full wetsuit OR drysuit add flotation, but again, if your technique isn’t dialed in, you could have a strained roll.

For me, rolling with a PFD didn’t feel as free as without it, because no matter which PFD, it was always a bulky Thing stuck on my torso.

Try rolling with and without PFD, in all the combos of clothing you might use.

Make sure you do burp a drysuit before rolling. A normal amount of air eventually being inside adds flotation that helps. Too much air, OTOH, will actually hinder the roll. Try that, too!

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Thanks. I feel like the PFD and any extra flotation provided by clothing makes coming up easier, but capsizing harder.

A drysuit definitely provides extra flotation. My Brooks does also. Wearing both in very cold water is sort of cheating when rolling. In my experience, a burped drysuit is not flotation-neutral, is quite positive - you will always have some air in your arms and back/chest and neck - a little air provides much support. Make very sure you burp your drysuit of excess air. Not all the air, just what leaves the suit when squatting down with a zipper part way open.
See you at Delmarva.

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Just sitting in the kayak and pulling open the neck gasket a bit is usually enough to let out most of the excess air in a drysuit.

Entering the water headfirst with a lot of air in a drysuit can lead to inversion drowning if not wearing a PFD or not having learned the technique of extricating yourself from this condition. @OldEagle describes one technique, but I wouldn’t want to be trying this for the first time in a real world situation. Wearing a PFD prevents inversion.

Looking forward!

Definitely don’t go for the Michelin Man look!

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Who ya gonna call?

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Mmmmmmm, sea biscuits.


So, I gotta ask:
Is hardtack named for any of the following reasons?

a) It’s so laden with junk ingredients that it will make you have a heart attack?

b) It’s hard as a tack?

c) Its derives from “tack hard”, as in sailing?

There’s a piece of hardtack on exhibit in a FL museum, baked almost 200 years ago:

Down the Internet rabbit hole I went. Here’s a good website with a note on what the word hardtack meant before it turned into the name of a food. There’s also a recipe that I’m going to try, even though the actual food is probably, well, BLAH. I’ll add some dried herbs to the blend and, as advised, soak the rocks…er, sea biscuits…in soup before eating them. Hardtack Recipe (Survival Bread) - Bread Dad