The marketability of dry suits

I was just having a conversation with @3meterswell about drysuits and warranties and such, and it dawned on me. Why is there a product that is so widely recommended and heralded on this forum that is also hard to come by and not widely marketed? I had not heard of a dry suit before last month and I’m probably not alone.

Kayaking, SUP, and other watersports as I understand are popular, including in places with cold water. Meanwhile there are large population centers near cold water like in Seattle, Chicago, Boston, NYC, Vancouver BC, Montreal, etc. So why are drysuits not marketed to the legions of people hopping on a board or boat?

The average paddler probably wants a cheaper suit, and they probably don’t need one that stands up to the rigors of long expeditions or using it 100+ days per year.

Really, the marketing is already done in this forum by regular members. The praises are sung in countless posts. I’d think those ideas just need to be delivered by a company, in addition to a way to not bleed money making ones that work well enough and selling for an affordable price.

That last part may be an issue. It’s also true they may not be sexy enough. But if there’s anything I’ve learned about economics, it’s that innovation will find a way given proper demand, eventually, right?

Do you think there’s a way for drysuits to be widely marketed? Is anyone trying to do that?

Well actually it depends on who you are talking to. Dry suits are old hat by now for divers and of course every Coast Guard member has to have one, or at least used to.

But the bottom line is the attitude of most new paddlers and the price points of both the boats that tend to be related to using a dry suit and the the suits themselves.

The majority of new paddlers are looking for inexpensive rec boats to go out on what they say will be flat, quiet water. And more often than not warm water. Add to that, outside of people going into whitewater most also start out assuring that they will not capsize. And/or being terrified of capsizing. I have encountered people who assure me they will panic if they capsize. I take them at their word and don’t go out with them a second time.

Even the few hundred for a lesser dry suit is going to be a tall order for someone with goals like this.

But you are looking at sea kayaking, in ocean water that is rarely if ever going to be warmer than 60 degrees. You are coming into this with a very different set of goals than people like my exercise class instructor who picked up a SOT so she could go out on the small lake by their cabin to float around with a cocktail in hand on a hot day, Or my sister who has never progressed beyond a Loon after she got into my first (and pretty unchallenging) sea kayak only to come back in 10 minutes because she was freaked out by the wobble.

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In a word - no. I just don’t think there are enough people out there looking to buy a drysuit. (Kind of like Royalex for canoes.)

Prices are up no doubt about that. I have always bought the NRS Extreme Drysuit. I remember paying around $500 about 15 years ago. I bought my 2nd replacement 4-5 years and it was up to $900. Looked just now and they are $1,300. That is a lot of money, but what part of the drysuit are you willing to sacrifice in order to get the price down - the fabric, the stitching, the zippers, the booties, the gaskets. It is a labor intensive garment to put together, and if it leaks…

I have spent more for my drysuit than I have for my boats, but I love winter paddling so it is worth it. There are some cheaper brands, but I have no idea what the quality is. I remember seeing Mythic Drysuits around for a while, but I haven seen those lately. Sometimes you can get good deals on close-outs.

Drysuit is something that I don’t want to skimp on.

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Are you saying you don’t get enough ads? Google “dry suit” and you’ll see ads for Kokotat and NRS for weeks. They can pay google additional bucks to push ads to you if you search for related words such as “paddling” or “kayak”.

I thought that there already a company making entry level drysuits/lower cost/less features. I believe that the company is called Mystic or something like that.

Mythic dry suits went out of business. I don’t recall the details, but I believe the owner moved elsewhere and didn’t choose to continue the effort.

Mythic - that’s it.

Jonathan in stern with his Mytic drysuit, me in the bow with my NRS Extreme.

At the surf wave - Erik and Jonathan

And for those of you who know this guy - he had one too.

Which way - John and Dan

That is a Millbrook 20/20

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True, although I also had a goal of going on Lake Union today for an hour to take in the sunny day. But the water is 45 degrees, air 50 degrees. In the past I would just go, but now (and probably wisely) I don’t think I will. Still, that does hurt a little.

I’d just be happy to find one that makes a drysuit for short fat people.

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I’m not sure. Tons of people golf now and the starter clubs are about $300 usually. If you want to buy a gaming system, it can cost $300 or $400 (well not the PS5). I think as price drops, the number of people who can afford it goes up exponentially rather than linearly.

People are also willing to spend for something they know they’ll use a lot. But it’s the huge market of the weekend warriors or those who aren’t as committed (at least not yet) that I’m talking about. If they were told capsizing is safe in these suits, and it can afford you time to get back in the boat, and they are comfortable and keep you dry, kayaking could become more attractive to many more people.

Perhaps there is a feeling that the sport as practiced safely going mainstream could ruin it. There’d be a lot more people out there for longer periods of time. Not as quiet. And there would be government regulations.

“I just don’t think there are enough people out there looking to buy a drysuit.”

But why is that? Do they not know the benefits, or do they not want to spend so much $? Can this hurdle be overcome?

Or is it that those in the community have no desire to overcome those hurdles? That paddling in all the safest and most sound ways is a small community not wanting to be mainstream.

So divers and kayakers aren’t the only ones to use drysuits. Kiteboarders, sailors, and windsurfers also use drysuits. The suits are sometimes referred to as “smokers”. I have no idea where that term started, what it means exactly, or how wide spread the usage is… the use of drysuits is more widespread than you may have realized.

What % of people in each of the listed sports use drysuits? Rather than the breadth of sports or activities.

The need is primarily where you live, whether you just paddle seasonally, and how warm or cold the water is you plan to paddle. The need for one is not universal. Plus wet suits are a less expensive option.

Marketing isn’t the issue; dry suits are well marketed to their various audiences. They are a high-end garment and the reason isn’t lack of volume production, it’s that good quality materials are expensive and making dry suits is labor intensive. Tight quality control is a must when making a garment that’s also a piece of safety gear, and that adds to the cost. A good dry suit will never be inexpensive; it’s just the nature of the beast.

You can probably find cheap dry suits made with non-breathable fabrics, but frankly, they suck and aren’t durable. Lower-end breathable fabrics all seem to suffer from durability issues, too. Companies that have popped up and used those fabrics to make relatively inexpensive dry suits have tended not to be in business for long. The best fabric - Gore-Tex - costs a lot, but is very durable and is backed by a lifetime warranty, so it’s effectively a one-shot purchase unless you damage it in some manner. However, it will never be cheap and it’s not going to attract most paddlers, who often spent less on the rest of their gear combined than the cost of a Gore-Tex dry suit.

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I have heard and seen here over and over that the cost of a good dry suit seems too much against apparent alternatives for most people new to the sport. Like wet wear.

Bottom line is that most people do not do water sports of any kind where immersion may be likely in chilly water. Where dry suits come in. That is why people go to way southern Maine to vacation in summer rather than further north, to find water most can comfortably swim in. Thank heavens - if where I go got like southern Maine I would have to relocate to an hour plus further up.

Not quite the usual way. Bob moved to England to pursue studies in Southhampton for a masters and doctorate in Marine Archaeology. He will be travelling to Central America next in the backcountry in Honduras I believe.

I had heard of wetsuits and dry-suits before I started paddling again last year. I looked into a little bit the options of wetsuits bibs and short leg and even dry-suits. Living in the north Great Lakes area paddling is never going to be a year round thing for me, but it could be a season extender for me.

Our springs and falls have some really great days and you for the most part you have the rivers all to yourself. The water temp being the issue.

I don’t see too many foolhardy people paddling in the fall without adequate protection but I do in the spring. Water in the low 40s and people in swimsuits no PFD etc. But the air temp in the 70s. I doubt 99% of the people here would wear a dry-suit if you gave them one. The mindset of paddling is totally different.

For me as much as I would like to extend the season or start early the cost of a dry-suit will keep me out of the water a few weeks on both ends. It is not that hard as we are social paddlers and I’m ready before friends and family are anyways.

I windsurfed in my younger days and used a dry suit during spring and fall. Usually, the air was warm enough or the sun might come out so that I’d bake in the dry suit unless I frequently hoped in the water to cool off. A kayaker has the same issue and while falling in the water is a skill anyone can master when windsurfing, a kayaker is going to need to have a reliable roll to be able to cool off. It’s another factor that would limit dry suit adoption by kayakers. Of course, a kayaker who doesn’t have advanced skills shouldn’t be out on cold water in the first place.

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Dumping water over yourself, often by using your hat, works just as well as rolling. In both cases you want to be wearing a sprayskirt. Paddling a bit slower and taking a break and putting your hands and lower arms in the water for a few minutes works also, but to a lesser extent.

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So here’s a link for budget drysuits. Drysuits for Men at Best Prices in stock | Watersports Outlet

I’ve owned Helly Hanson (plastic-the early days of kayakin’ drysuits), Stohlquist, Kokatat, Palm, Mythic, Typhoon, and Gul. The cheaper ones I would consider semi-dry.

Drytops from Level Six, and someone else

Dry Pants from NRS

You get less bells and whistles with the cheaper stuff but you still get functional suits. Nowadays I just buy the cheaper semidrys that come with fleece. The major thing I look for is shoulder width without being too long. I’ve got one suit dubbed the oompah loompah suit- short and fat. i loan out drysuits a lot and sell off to newer boaters.