What is a Dry Suit and How Does It Work

A drysuit provides thermal insulation or passive thermal protection which provides no water from entering the drysuit. It is worn by divers, boaters, water sports enthusiasts, and others who work or play in or around cold water. A drysuit normally protects the whole body besides the head and hands. Drysuits are often worn for these reasons:


  • Where the water temperature is below 15’C
  • For extended immersion in water about 15’C, where discomfort would be experienced by a wetsuit user
  • With an integral helmet, boots and gloves for personal protection when working in and around hazardous liquids


Difference between a Drysuit and a Wetsuit

The main difference between a drysuit and a wetsuit is that a drysuit is designed to stop water from entering. This generally allows better insulation making them more suitable in use of cold water, drysuits can be uncomfortably hot in warm or hot water, and are typically more expensive than a wetsuit.

A wetsuit works by trapping a thin layer of water between you and the suit which heats up. Decent seal ensure that the water doesn’t escape that though and thus keeps you warm.

A drysuit works by keeping a layer of air between you and the suit. Depending upon which material is used the drysuit will offer no or litter thermal protection. Because a drysuit contains air it acts as airspace and must be regulated.

Types of drysuits

There are two different types of drysuits:

Neoprene – The two biggest pros of a neoprene suit are price, they are usually quite cheap, and warmth.

A neoprene suit will keep you warmer with less, or no, thermal under protection than other types of drysuit. The thickness of the suit and the condition you dive in will of course influence your choice in thermal protection.

Neoprene suits are bulky, dense and fairly rigid and will take up lots of room in your gear bag; not to mention they will be harder to get on and off.

Neoprene is also buoyant. On the pro side, if your suit floods you don’t have to worry as much about it dragging you down. On you con side you will need to pack, carry and use more weight to offset your buoyancy.

Membrane – Membrane drysuits are also commonly called “Shell” drysuits. This is because these suits offer no thermal insulation and are basically just a watertight shell.

To stay warm you MUST wear some kind of under garment designed specifically for scuba or otherwise.

There are two basic types of membrane suits:

Tri-laminate – In the recreational scuba diving world, the most common type of drysuit you’ll see after neoprene are tri-laminate.

These suits are made with layers of nylon and rubber which form a thin and durable shell. Tri-laminate drysuits are a really good choice for recreational diving. There are tough, lightweight easy to get on and off and come at a decent price.

Because they’re baggier, and made from a more pliable lightweight material, these suits are sometimes easier to get on and off by yourself. Some are even designed with that functionality specifically in mind.

These suits are easy to pack for travel and take up little room in your gear bag. You’ll still have to pack thermal wear but even so it will probably still take up less space than neoprene or even vulcanized rubber drysuit.

Vulcanized Rubber – Is also used to make shell type drysuit. These suits are more common in the commercial diving world for their toughness, ease of repair and ability to be used when diving in contaminated environments.

With these suits, as with the tri-laminates, there is zero thermal protections so you will need to wear a thermal undergarment. Vulcanized rubber suit don’t have the flexibility of neoprene suits to allow movement at the joints.

So which one is the best?

You may travel a lot so a suit that packs easily like tri-laminate may be what you’re looking for.

Or maybe you dive in an area that is always cold so max warmth might be what’s important to you and Neoprene may be the best way to go.

Then again what if you dive in an area that has rough bottom or you use a lot of equipment that has the potential to puncture a suit? Vulcanized rubber can be dried quickly and fixed on the spot with a simple patch kit.

Each suit has its strengths and weaknesses and choosing one over another will depend on the type of diving you are doing and/or personal preferences.

Take the time to really think about the conditions you are diving in and be honest with yourself about your own diving habit and preferences. If you are lucky enough to have a local shot that rents drysuit, or dive buddies who own them, why not rent or borrow one and actually dive in it to see how it feels.

Do your research and if possible try before you buy and you should end up with a drysuit that will fit you perfectly.

The PADI Drysuit Course

Want to stay warm and toasty on a dive? A drysuit seals you off from the outside water and that keeps you warm!

The Fun Part

Drysuits let you dive in more challenging dive sites, and extend your dive season. When you have the right cold water scuba diving attire, you can stand up to the elements and take advantage of the generally better visibility offered by water months – especially at inland dive sites such as quarries, lakes, sinkholes, and caves ect. As a dry suit diver, you’re equipped to scuba dive some of the world’s incredible dive sites in the world’s cooler region that are best enjoyed in a drysuit even in their warmer months.

What you’ll learn

  • Drysuit buoyancy control skills
  • Drysuit maintenance, storage and basic repair
  • Undergarment (fleece or overall-type garments worn under the drysuit) options

Fancy doing a PADI Drysuit Course?

Oyster diving does a PADI drysuit specialist course, check it out.

For more diving courses check out www.oysterdiving.com


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