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Best Dry Suits for Paddling in 2023: What Makes a Good Dry Suit for Paddling?

Do I need a dry suit?

If you paddle in cold weather and/or cold water, you may want to invest in a dry suit. Wearing a dry suit increases safety, enjoyment and the time you can spend on the water. If water and air temps combined are less than 120° F, a wetsuit or dry suit should be worn. If water temps and/or air temps get below 50 degrees a dry suit is highly recommended. The great thing about a dry suit is, you dress for the water and air temps by wearing layers of insulation underneath and the suit keeps those layers dry, making it useful for almost any water/air temperatures.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

See Our Top Picks for Dry Suits >>

What material should my paddling dry suit be made from?

Drysuits for paddling are generally made from one of three materials: Gore-Tex®, other waterproof-breathable fabrics or Coated nylon.

Gore-Tex®: The original (and in my opinion, the best) waterproof breathable fabric. If you have ever owned a 3 Layer Gore-Tex®jacket you know what I’m talking about.Gore-Tex®is 100% waterproof, windproof and amazingly breathable. Which means the moisture your body creates when you're paddling hard is able to escape through the suit. This leaves you dry in your suit so you don’t get cold when you stop for a break. A Gore-Tex®drysuit will cost you well over $1000 but if taken care of, it can keep you dry for 10-15 years of regular use.

Other Waterproof/ breathable fabrics: There are many “waterproof, breathable” fabrics of varying quality on the market. Buyer beware, some are not even waterproof off the rack! The brands I have tested, Kokatat’s Hydrus and NRS’s Eclipse™, both work well, but neither compare to Gore-Tex®for breathability and durability. Available for under $1000 a Hydrus or Eclipse™ suit will serve you well for occasional use and is a good option if you can't stomach the price tag of a Gore-Tex® drysuit.

Coated Nylon: These are the most economical suits; essentially a rain suit with gaskets at the neck, wrists and feet. The suit may be waterproof but, as soon as you are active, you end up soaked from sweating in the suit. The waterproof coating also wears out and slowly the dry-suit will be less and less dry. Affordable and useful for short stints where you’re not active for too long. If it’s all you can afford, it’s better than a wetsuit.

What kinds of features should I look for in a dry suit?

Neck, Wrists and Feet: Your dry suit should have latex gaskets at the neck and wrists, ideally those gaskets are covered by cuffs/collar to protect them from the sun and add another defense against water sneaking in. A snug neoprene cuff on your wrists is key to keeping water out when paddling.

Some suits also have neoprene gaskets at the ankles; built in socks are more comfortable than gaskets and they are less likely to leak. Socks made from the same material as the suit (as opposed to latex socks) are best. Wear a pair of neoprene socks or booties over your dry suit socks to protect them from abrasion and future leaks.

Waist belt/ tunnel: Most suits have some kind of cinch at the waist. This is important so that the suit does not become a sea-sail when you are swimming. If you are kayaking in your dry suit, get one with a tunnel built in that covers the top edge of your skirt and closes around your waist.

Zippers: Entry zippers are either across the shoulders on the back, shoulder to hip across the front, or around the waste in the case of dry pant/dry top combo suits. I prefer the shoulder to hip zip. You can open and close your suit without help, as opposed to the back zipper, which only Houdini can get out of without the help of a friend. I have always stayed away from the combo suits; it just doesn’t seem necessary.

Relief zippers (in the front for males and across the butt for females) are well worth the extra cost.

Pockets: A small zipper pocket is nice, but don’t get too excited about fancy pockets. Stuff in pockets creates drag when swimming and potential pressure points while paddling. Remember, you will be wearing your PFD that probably has a pocket already.

Top 6 Dry Suits for Kayaking, Canoeing and Stand Up Paddling

Meridian Dry Suit (Gore-Tex Pro)

by Kokatat

Expert's Pick:

For function, price, durability and comfort, you can’t beat the Kokatat Meridian (Gore-Tex® pro). The Gore-Tex® pro fabric (new in 2021) is lighter and seems to be more durable than the previous generation of 3-layer Gore-Tex®. The skirt tunnel adjusts to fit comfortably over your skirt, keeping water out of your boat. The Meridian comes standard with a shoulder to hip entry zipper and a front relief or drop seat zipper for $1299. Kokatat also offers a custom sizing and options program and amazing after sales service.

Meridian Dry Suit (Gore-Tex Pro) Reviews

5 out of 5 stars
(3 Consumer Reviews)

This suit is strong, sturdy,…

This suit is strong, sturdy, durable, well sealed and very functional in WW situations.

I originally bought this…

I originally bought this drysuit 4 years ago when I still lived in North Carolina but never felt it was cold enough to use. This was a mistake. I took my Meridian drysuit out… read full review

I have been using my Kokatat…

I have been using my Kokatat Meridian dry suit for a number of months. I can't speak to durability but I can speak to the quality of the material and workmanship of the prod… read full review

NRS Men's Crux Drysuit

by NRS

With innovative 4-layer Eclipse™ waterproof-breathable fabric and flexible MasterSeal zipper, the Men's Crux Drysuit is the dream suit kayakers have been looking for.. 4-layer Eclipse fabric, with its proprietary waterproof-breathable barrier and Nanosphere® DWR finish lock water out while letting moisture escape. The supple polyester microfiber shell allows frictionless paddling with superior resistance to puncture and abrasion. The overskirt, with its 5" wide neoprene band and double-pull hook-and-loop closure fits over your sprayskirt tunnel to complete a watertight seal. A wide heavy-duty TIZIP® MasterSeal waterproof relief zipper, with protective flap cover, allows you to answer nature's call without having to strip out of the suit.

  • Material Description: 4-layer Eclipse™

Additional Attributes

  • Attached drysocks are made from the same 125 denier Eclipse fabric. The seams are taped on the inside of the socks, with double taping in the toe and heel area for extra durability
  • Top quality latex wrist and neck gaskets seal water out
  • The heavy-duty TIZIP® MasterSeal waterproof entry zipper allows easy entrance and is covered with a hook-and-loop sealed flap for extra protection
  • Punch-through neoprene overcuffs protect the wrist and neck gaskets
  • Single-seam legs eliminate wear points and improve mobility
  • For improved durability, we've used an extra burly Eclipse fabric in the seat and lower leg. Its high-density exterior weave provides maximum resistance to abrasion and puncture

NRS Men's Crux Drysuit Reviews

(0 Consumer Reviews)

No one has submitted a review yet for the NRS Men's Crux Drysuit. Please help out the community and share your experience!

Emperor Drysuit

The Emperor is a heavy duty drysuit built to stand up to the toughest tests on the water. From whitewater kayaking to expedition paddling and kayak fishing, the Emperor offers unparalleled durability and comfort while keeping you dry. This drysuit is constructed using our ultra-tough eXhaust 3.0 fabric and incorporates Cordura panels to reinforce high wear areas like the knees and elbows and seat panel. The careful attention to detail and included features make for one of the toughest, most versatile and most reliable drysuits ever created. The Emperor will give you the ultimate protection and confidence while on the water.

Additional Attributes

  • Constructed using ultra-tough Exhaust 3.0 waterproof/breathable nylon fabric
  • Incorporates CORDURA® fabric panels to reinforce high-wear areas like the shoulders, knees, elbows and seat panel
  • Exhaust 3.0 ply built-in waterproof socks
  • Articulated spine stitching for an unrestricted range of motion
  • Waterproof relief and rear-entry zipper
  • Fleeced, lined hand-warming chest pocket
  • Double tunnel with Stealth waistband system
  • British latex wrist and neck gaskets with adjustable gasket protectors

Emperor Drysuit Reviews

3 out of 5 stars
(4 Consumer Reviews)

I've had this dry suit for a…

I've had this dry suit for a couple of years now and I love it. I use it for sea kayaking on the east coast of Canada. It is comfortable and very tough. Pros: -Super dry -… read full review

The level 6 emperor drysuit…

The level 6 emperor drysuit is a very tough and dry drysuit. Aimed at whitewater kayaker but I have only used it sea kayaking. Pros: Very durable Very dry Good looking … read full review

Hudson Dry Suit

Finally - a drysuit designed and built specifically for you: the water-lover interested in gearing up in a suit that serves all your waterlife needs. Manufactured at the Mustang Waterlife Studio in British Columbia, and inspired by 30 years’ experience crafting products to keep professional users dry, the Hudson Dry Suit makes it easy and comfortable to explore cooler waters or extend your in-water adventure season. Offering the technical elements our pros love combined with the performance and comfort you want, you’ll have a seasonless connection to the marine environments that inspire you - no matter the weather. Each drysuit individually tested for performance before leaving the Mustang Waterlife Studio. Few and strategically placed seams offer performance without sacrificing comfort. Trimmable neoprene wrist cuffs, integrated socks and our patented Closed Comfort System (CCSTM) adjustable neck seal keep water out where it matters most. Internal suspender system, adjustability at cuffs and knees offer a customized fit. Lightweight knee pads make hitting the deck a no brainer. Pockets at thigh and sleeve keep your fast-grab goods easily accessible. YKK® AQUASEAL® zipper locks at the bottom - letting you in with ease and making relieving yourself simple.

Additional Attributes

  • Engineered & built at the Mustang Waterlife Studio in British Columbia
  • Waterproof. Breathable. Super Durable.
  • Adjustable neck seal, for quick one-handed watertight closure
  • Waterproof YKK® AQUASEAL® zipper doubles as entry and relief zipper
  • Easy wear internal suspenders balance suit weight for maximum fit and comfort
  • Water-resistant zippered pockets on sleeve and thigh
  • Trimmable neoprene wrist cuffs for custom fit
  • Wrist overcuffs protect seals, and easily peel back for sleeve adjustment
  • Super lightweight molded knee pads stay put with knee adjustment tabs
  • Reinforced sock soles can handle extra abuse
  • External hanging loop, for drying

Hudson Dry Suit Reviews

5 out of 5 stars
(1 Consumer Reviews)

i love it! Is light and…

i love it! Is light and great adjust on the knees and padding, strong and well build! Gaskets are tight! Easy entry and the way that the zipper works no need for a additional… read full review

NRS Axiom Dry Suit

by NRS

When conditions demand better than basic but your boating style craves the classics, the men's NRS Axiom Dry Suit checks the boxes with GORE-TEX Pro fabric, front-entry design and minimal extras.

Additional Attributes

  • 3-layer GORE-TEX Pro fabric offers waterproof/breathable protection
  • Fabric is made of 100% recycled materials
  • Tough latex neck and wrist gaskets are protected with GlideSkin™ neoprene volcano-style overcuffs
  • Volcano-style wrist overcuffs
  • Tough-yet-supple mesh holes under the wrists and neck
  • 5 in. wide neoprene waist overskirt with double-pull hook-and-loop closure
  • Gathered ankle design features an elastic band to fit snug over booties; silicone dots keep the ankles from riding up
  • CORDURA® fabric panel at the interior ankle offers abrasion resistance
  • Front-entry YKK AQUASEAL® zipper with protective flap
  • Splashproof zippered chest pocket; relief zipper; GORE-TEX Pro fabric socks

NRS Axiom Dry Suit Reviews

(0 Consumer Reviews)

No one has submitted a review yet for the NRS Axiom Dry Suit. Please help out the community and share your experience!

Hydrus 3.0 Meridian Dry Suit

by Kokatat

For paddlers looking for a great dry suit on a budget, look no further than the Kokatat Hydrus 3.0 Meridian. Made in Arcata, CA and backed by a limited lifetime warranty.

Hydrus 3.0 Meridian Dry Suit Reviews

1 out of 5 stars
(1 Consumer Reviews)

How should my paddling dry suit fit?

Ideally you will have the opportunity to try on the dry suit you are going to purchase. Your dry suit should fit comfortably for maximum movement but not be too baggy. Remember, you need to account for the layers of clothing you will wear underneath the suit. Make sure it is not too tight in the arms and shoulders when you reach high above your head or cross your arms in front of you. Check the legs, butt and back by bending over to touch your toes or doing a few Yoga poses.

Gaskets should fit tight but not too tight. They can be cut or stretched but not made smaller, so too tight is better than not tight enough. Make sure the feet fit comfortably. If you can't try the suit on, try to find someone who has the same suit that you can try or get help being measured at your local paddle shop. If that fails, pay close attention to the sizing charts and recommendations on the manufacturers website, if you are unsure, give their customer support a call.

A dry suit is an expensive piece of gear but well worth the investment if it increases your access to paddling opportunities. Let’s be real... being warm and dry while ripping on a wave is far more enjoyable than being cold and wet.

Inspired by wanderlust and a passion for rivers, Adrian's paddling addiction has taken him across the globe. After pursuing his degree in Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management, Adrian eventually settled in Palmer Rapids, Ontario. Here, he has worked for over a decade as the Director Of Operations at The Boundless School.

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