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A dry suit is, by definition, a suit used by underwater adventurers to keep dry and to stay warm. A dry suit is a loose-fitting suit without any insulating properties, so undergarments must be worn for the wearer to keep warm. The more layers that you wear under the drysuit, the warmer you will be.
Layering is the best method to wear clothes under a dry suit. Wearing different types of materials in different layers allows you the flexibility of wearing more or fewer items according to the temperatures and conditions of the day to ensure that you stay dry and warm.
Drysuits are waterproof and windproof with a breathable outer shell. They don’t have any thermal properties, but they will keep you warm and protect you from any windchill as long as you have the correct protection underneath.
What Do You Wear Under A Drysuit?
When deciding on what to wear to keep warm under a dry suit, there are four things to consider:
Which Activity Will You Be Taking Part In?
If you are taking part in above-water sports like kayaking or kitesurfing, you will need more mobility than you would if you are diving under the water.
By taking part in active sports, you will be moving around more, increasing your body temperature, and requiring fewer layers under the drysuit.
If you are wearing a drysuit while jetskiing, you will not be mobile and need more layers to keep warm.
When diving, you will be fully submerged, usually in cold water, and you will need more layers to warm you up without restricting your movement.
The Temperature And Weather Conditions
Take into account the weather conditions when planning your layers. Water temperature is different from air temperature, so plan your layers according to the water temperature. Wind and rain could make the air temperature cold but could warm up the water temperature.
The Time You Will Spend In The Water
If you are in or on the water for a long time, you will need the appropriate type of layering to keep you warm and dry for the duration.
Your Own Body Temperature And Clothing Preference
If you do feel the cold more than others, you should layer up with warmer fabrics to keep warm and comfortable.
How To Layer Under A Drysuit
While a dry suit keeps the water off your skin, what you wear underneath it is what really counts. Although there are specially designed clothes to wear under a drysuit, many people wear regular clothes or clothes designed for other sports like skiing.
If you are involved in any water sport, you could succumb to hypothermia or cold shock if your head and face are not protected properly. Cold shock could affect body movement and respiration and could lead to death.
Heatstroke can be caused by heat retention. Proper layering allows you to adapt and add or remove insulation to prevent heatstroke and cold shock.
There is a three-layer system to use when choosing what to wear under a dry suit.
The Base Or Lightweight Layer
The first stage in moisture management, the base layer is designed as a close-fitting layer against your skin. Therefore, the base layer is essential as it ensures that the wearer is dry and comfortable.
This layer should not be too bulky as more layers are worn over this one for additional insulation. All the layers need to fit snuggly and comfortably under the dry suit without hampering any movement.
If you are too warm under all the layers, sweat can keep you wet and uncomfortable, so you need a layer that will insulate even when wet to keep your body heat in and to wick moisture away from your skin.
A short-sleeve shirt and shorts can be worn on warmer days, but long underwear is preferable on cooler days. Never wear fleece fabrics close to the skin as they could cause chafing.
Recommended materials for this layer are polyester and polypropylene.
The Midweight Layer
This second stage layer is a thicker, warm fleece layer designed to provide extra insulation by trapping heat close to the body. Fleece is rated as 50, 100, 200, etc.
The higher the rating of the fleece, the warmer it is, so check the rating before you buy. A down jacket or vest can be added over the fleece for added insulation.
Your legs should also be covered with a fleece layer, not only your torso. Leggings are available to wear as an additional layer under a dry suit.
The Outer Layer
This third layer is the drysuit which provides a barrier to seal out water and protect you from windchill. Generally made from a breathable material that allows the moisture to escape from the suit preventing you from cooling down inside the suit.
Most drysuits are made from nylon or polyester fabrics.
Protecting Your Extremities
Keeping your head, hands, and feet warm is critical when facing the elements.
Covering Your Head
Often the head is overlooked when deciding on what to wear and how to keep warm. Heat is always lost through your head, so make a point of wearing a hood with a fleece cap underneath it.
Keeping Your Hands Warm
Wearing a combination of neoprene gloves and mittens will ensure that your hands are warm. Cold hands could be extremely unpleasant and could prevent you from grabbing or holding on to what you need to keep afloat.
Keeping Your Feet Warm
If your feet are cold and chilly, you will be cold, and that’s a fact! So, protect your feet by wearing warm wool socks and booties or dry socks.
Dry socks are fully attached to a dry suit and are designed to make sure water stays out of the suit while keeping your feet dry. They are made from thin breathable fabric and require other layers to be worn over them.
Polyester socks are an economical option to wear as an extra layer under thick socks.
What Not To Wear Under A Drysuit
Certain materials should never be worn under a dry suit, no matter the layer. Breathable or non-breathable drysuits should influence your choice of what to wear underneath.
A breathable drysuit allows sweat to leave the drysuit keeping the under layers dry and warm. A non-breathable drysuit traps the sweat inside the drysuit, causing some materials to stay soggy and wet.
- Cotton – cotton is non-wicking and keeps moisture close to the skin.
- Neoprene/hydro skin – This is a non-breathable material designed as insulation to keep a layer of warm water against your body.
- Lycra and Spandex – Neither material is designed for heat retention. As stretchy fabrics trap water between the fibers, they are slow to dry and could cause irritations and rashes.
Wearing a dry suit will protect you from the elements but, it’s what you wear underneath the suit that really matters. By layering your clothes appropriately and covering your head, feet, and hands, you will protect yourself from changing conditions and enjoy yourself without worrying about hypothermia or cold shock!