Dry Suits vs. Semi-Dry Suits

What is the main difference between a dry suit and a semi-dry suit? Why is there's such a big difference in price?

The main difference is the neck gasket. The neck gasket in a dry suit is made out of latex, and usually in a semi-dry suit is made out of a different material – let's say neoprene, or something else that will usually be a little more comfortable. It's usually not as watertight, hence being called a semi-dry suit.

To a lot of people a latex gasket is just fine, it will feel comfortable. But to many others it might be really uncomfortable. Having a latex gasket around your neck all day, or in some cases it can even cause allergic reactions. An alternative to latex is always a great thing to have. Don't get me wrong, there are alternatives by brands to latex that will be very dry. I'm not saying that latex is the only way to get a fully dry dry suit. There are other options, but usually when we're discussing dry versus semi-dry, if they say semi-dry that usually means that if you get dunked, if you go upside down, if you're swimming for a little while probably a dribble of water will get in through that gasket versus whatever material is used to be an absolutely dry dry suit.

So why is there an option?

It comes down to preference, and it comes down to what you're going to be doing. If you know you're going to be tossed around, or you're going to be doing things where you will be taking a swim or there's the possibility of taking a swim… for example, are you going to go in a place that has rough water? Usually a full dry suit is the way to go. On the other hand, if you just want to extend your paddling season but you're usually going in small lakes, in really calm waters, or you never really go out whenever conditions are rough, then you might be just fine with a semi-dry suit. If you do take a swim, if you fall in the water, you'll get a little bit of water in the suit but it won't be something that will be dangerous.

I'll give you an example: when my wife and I started paddling – for either the cold months or the months where the water was still cold, we both went for full dry suits. Eventually, she couldn’t stand the neck gasket. It used to bug her all the time, so we ended up changing her dry suit for a semi-dry suit because we also realized that she was never really paddling whenever an occasion would warrant a full dry suit. She doesn't enjoy paddling in rough water, she doesn't enjoy paddling in rough conditions, she doesn't enjoy paddling in very, very cold conditions, so it makes her happy to be more comfortable in semi-dry suit which is perfect for the paddling conditions that she usually likes. On the other hand, when I go out I know I'm going to be dumped around a bunch or if we're surfing I know there's a very good chance I'll be upside down, or I'll get pulled out of my kayak, or if we're going to practice things like rescues, that latex gasket for me helps keep everything out and keeps me dry.

Dress for Immersion

The last thing I'll share is for you to also keep in mind that even if you think that you will always be in calm conditions, also think about where you are going to be paddling. If you are in a place that is known for conditions developing, or you might have to land or launch into surf, please do take that into consideration when you pick one versus the other. Let's say you live near the Long Island Sound, versus if you're on the Pacific coast of the United States, conditions there can be dramatically different. So even if you go out in calm conditions there versus here you are dealing with something very different.

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