Dry Suits: Paddling vs. Diving?

Is a diving dry suit any good for paddling rivers and white water?

I am watching ebay and wondering if a dive suit could work for cold weather paddling. My goals are: first, stay safe, second, be frugile (ok cheap. yes I said it), and third, be comfortable.

I have zero intention of diving.

i think will be an issue, as will comfort, a relief zip, too hot, even less breathability than the suits more traditionally used…

Have both.

– Last Updated: Dec-22-05 12:03 PM EST –

A diving suit will work but not optimally.

Diving suits are heaver and bulkier. And they don't breath. Diving suits also have an inlet valve at your chest which is uncomfortable under a PFD.

Note that I'm taking about a "trilamiate" type dive suit. Other types of diving dry suits (neoprene and crushed neoprene) are even -less- suitable: they are much heavier and bulkier.

I can't imagine that a diving dry suit would be less expensive on ebay than one for paddling. The "most appropriate" (said with caution) diving dry suit (a trilaminate suit) is more expensive new than a new Kokatat top-of-the-line suit.


– Last Updated: Dec-24-05 7:20 PM EST –

What he said.

Also I feel I must ad: I am a paddler, and have also been a Technical Diver for many years now. I do not recommend a latex neck seal while paddling at all unless you have it very loose. This ofcourse could defeat the purpose if it leaks.

I had a friend of mine (a diver) who was involved in an incident where a drysuit caused, or at least considerably contributed to his death.

In the middle of winter while diving in very cold water between dives he decided instead of taking his drysuit off, he'd just leave it on until the next dive since it was so cold out. On the next dive he suffered a heart problem and died.

This seal puts a significant amount of pressure on the main arteries in a persons neck, preventing proper blood flow.

I was also told by a neighbor/friend who is a heart surgeon who used to watch me paddle sometimes 10 plus hours a day on the lake he, and I both lived on and shared a cove, that canoeing, and especially kayaking with your body in that position for a long period of time while at the same time physically exerting oneself can also put strain on a persons heart. That made sense to me, and from then on I started taking breaks more often, and getting the blood pumping as much as possible during my trips.

I feel that both this pressure on the main arteries from the neck seal, along with the sitting for long periods in a paddling postion while exercising together can be very dangerous. This is a self-formed opinion. This is just from my experience. Noone has to agree with it.

I have a diving drysuit, but I use a wetsuit when I paddle in cold water. This wetsuit works well, and has I believe saved my life on at least one occasion. There are some great new wetsuit materials out now that provide a great deal better comfort paddling than the ones of yesteryear.


Respectully disagree

– Last Updated: Dec-24-05 8:10 PM EST –

with your opinion on latex neck gaskets. I trim them; I go in comfort; I stay dry. I have several friends and many friendly acquaintances who do as well.

sorry your mileage has been less pleasant with them.

I’m with Peter on that
You have to trim/stretch your latex neck gasket to be snug but not too snug. It shouldn’t need to be much tighter than a necktie.

There are plenty of folks paddling hard in drysuits with no ill effects.



so basically what
peter and tommy seem to be saying (and feel freee to correct me if i am misinterpreting) is…

if you want you diving drysuit for paddling only, then go ahead and destroy the neck seal?

i was looking at the same kind of thing, only i do wnat to use mine for diving as well.

splash…can you recommend a good course of action for covdering both bases with the least possible expenditure?

id like soomething to wear for cold(er) weather paddling, and for all weather diving. i totally freak if something ic annot see touches my skinin the water so it’s a good bet i’ll wear a suit all the time.



Even though they may look similar, the diving drysuit is an almost entirely different bear than the paddling drysuit. You would quickly overheat trying to paddle in one. The first two posters were also on the money in regards to lack of mobility, and suit vale in the way, etc…

I cannot recommend a paddling drysuit ofcourse because of reasons I’ve stated above, but besides neoprene suits, it’s really the only choice you have.

I do however highly recommend Henderson hyperstretch wetsuits. Neoprene has a reputation of being very uncomfortable, and awkward to move in. This new hyperstretch material a world better. I’ll give you the link just in case I can’t make it back to this thread for some reason. It would be good to also have the hood. This stuff stretches very well. It is also very warm considering you get it to fit snugly. If you leave pockets they will act as pumps to circulate water in and out.

Oh, and btw. It is common to trim the seals on any drysuit, so trimming them is not destroying them unless you either cut them wrong, or too much. Besides all the reasons I stated in the post above, to me neck seals not sealing, or breaking, or splitting, or whatever are just more things that can go wrong. The KISS system was designed to keep people from getting their gear, and their configurations too complex. KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid, and I have no doubt of it’s effectiveness. I try to keep things as practical, and yet as simple as possible. Simplicity is bliss in my opinion.

Good to know of another diver here. Take care, and good luck.



I know nothing of dive suits but…
For a paddling suit, where worst case you are swimming in rapids or surf, you should be able to trim the gasket to be comfortable and still have no leaks.


For cheap dry suits, check
sierratradingpost.com. If you are a fairly standard size, you may be able to get a good one for reasonable cost. Try to stick to Kokatat or Stohlquist and avoid strange varieties about which most of us have heard nothing. I got a terrific Stohlquist Goretex drytop from this source, and a very good Palm semi-drytop.

One more disagreement

– Last Updated: Dec-25-05 8:42 PM EST –

I disagree. A light weight trilaminate or bilaminate shell diving drysuit can work reasonably well for paddling. I've used my DUI FLX 50/50 for several cold weather paddles before buying a Kokatat and it worked well. The valves did not present a problem. The diving drysuits are not breathable (same as cheaper paddling suits) and the material is usually heavier (and more rugged) with better quality zippers. The heavier material may not be the best choice for warm air/cold water days.

While a good paddling drysuit is the optimal choice, a lightweight diving suit can allow you out on the water until you find one that is affordable (used suits may be a good option).


NO knowledge of diving suits
I just paddle comfy in a paddling drysuit Merry Christmas.

No “destroying” involved
The person who showed me that a latex seal doesn’t need to be tight was a diver with over 30 years experience. The seal on the dive suit he also used for paddling at the time was loose enough that it could easily be pulled away from his skin with two fingers. According to him, it NEVER leaked when diving or kayaking. He has since switched to a waterproof/breathable suit for paddling and strongly prefers it. He still uses his other suit for diving. The bottom line is that a seal DOES NOT need to be tight, regardless of the application.

Alternatives re neck gasket

– Last Updated: Dec-26-05 11:06 AM EST –

I haven't tried this myself, so can't speak to how well it works. My drysuit neck gasket is just barely tight enough to assure dryness (skinny neck). But the divers on the board may be able to comment. It seems that it may help the tension issue on the latex gaskets.

When we were at a local scuba shop, the owner told us about a trick that the cold water divers had suggested to the local police when they were up her to help out after a ship overtuned at the Port of Albany. The cold water divers told the local guys that they all had their neck gaskets too tight. They instead recommended that the neck gaskets on the diving drysuits be cut loose enough that they could be rolled over (to the inside), and dive that way. That left the neck gaskets cut looser than the norm but still quite waterproof.

The good and the bad of the gaskets on the Kokotat paddling drysuits is that they use lighter weight latex than a lot of other manufacturers, so even when tight they don't produce the same constriction as a dive suit would, or even our Stohlquist drytops. So I'd worry less about the heart issues in them than something like a diving drysuit. But the above is an interesting idea if you are willing to take the chance of cutting the neck gasket that much.

latex or neoprene seals?
When we were at a local scuba shop, the owner told us about a trick that the cold water divers had suggested to the local police when they were up her to help out after a ship overtuned at the Port of Albany. The cold water divers told the local guys that they all had their neck gaskets too tight. They instead recommended that the neck gaskets on the diving drysuits be cut loose enough that they could be rolled over (to the inside), and dive that way. That left the neck gaskets cut looser than the norm but still quite waterproof.

Some neoprene drysuit seals (but not all) are made to be rolled under. These are the ones with the bare side of the neoprene on the outside. I have not heard of divers rolling under a latex seal, at least not intentionally. Are you sure they were talking about latex seals?


Semi Dry Suits
Does anyone have any experience with semi dry suits? It seems like it could be a good alternative to either a wet suit or dry suit.

Semidry suits
Most semidry suits are just wetsuits with better wrist, ankle and neck seals to minimize water exchange, which is always a good idea when diving. Some have attached hoods and also may eliminate the zippers, which allow water exchange. It is mainly a marketing term, all diving suits SHOULD be designed for minimal water exchange. Freediving wetsuits have very little water exchange and are cut for better shoulder mobility.

The only true semidry suit I know of is the mares Isotherm see: http://www.scubatoys.com/store/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=Isotherm . If the unique donut wrist and ankle seals fit you, this is really a diving drysuit without the valves. However, since it is made of 6.5 mm neoprene I don’t think it would be my choice for paddling.

I think a drysuit will generally be the best option for paddling when a farmer john is inadequate.


We assumed we were all talking about latex gaskets - so it is possible we weren’t and the scuba guy was talking about some suits with neoprene. (Assuming that those neck gaskets rolled over would work to retrieve bodies in 32 degree water.)

Different types of semi-dry suits
Semi-dry diving suits and semi-dry paddling suits are two entirely different things. The former is just a wetsuit that fits right. The latter is a fabric suit that has neoprene seals instead of latex, basically a paddling jacket with pants attached. Those with Velcro/neoprene closures, like the Kokatat Nova, strike me as basically useless, since they would leak like a sieve while swimming. Those with latex seals a the wrists and ankles, like the Super Nova, would at least provide reasonable protection.

Hi, I got on this site trying to figure out if my Kokotat Meridian Whitewater kayaking dry suit will work as a dry suit for diving?
All of these convos seem to be about doing the opposite.

My experience is in rivers…not diving…super new…12+ dives in warm water(Indian and South Pacific Oceans).

I live in Tahoe, wanna dive to clean up lake!