Dry Gear 101

Navigating all the Dry Gear options can be confusing…

Here is a comprehensive guide to help you pick what will work best for your needs and understand what you are getting.

STEP ONE: Questions for YOU

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you buy, if you’re not sure it may help to read further and come back to these questions once you understand how they relate to picking the right suit.

  • Where will I be using this & under what temp conditions?
  • How often will I be using this piece of gear?
  • What kind of budget do I have to work with?
  • What kind of extras do I want the garment to have?

STEP 2:  A Basic DryGear Sum-Up

Drysuit Full body suit can be made of

  • Non breathable Nylon Coated Fabric,
  • Coated Breathable Fabric
  • Multi-Layer Laminated Breathable Fabric
  • Extends paddlers season into Colder Season Late Fall-Early Spring, giving you Year round options.
  • Awesome option if you want to extend the season and you are subject to weather because you are rafting or canoeing or having more out of boat experiences while kayaking.
  • Awesome multi-day trip option for late fall-early spring trips.
  • Not good Summer option unless you are in extremely cold water. Can be too hot.
Drytop Top only, can be made of same materials as listed above.
  • Extends paddlers season from Early Spring-Summer (where you have colder water) into Early Fall.
  • If used in conjunction with Bibs can extend season to year round paddling.
  • Awesome top to have for playboating even in warmer months, if water is cold.
  • For the paddler on a budget, wanting versatile options this with Bibs can be fantastic if your skill set is up to it.
  • Not the best winter option for folks who are swimming a fair bit. Water can get up into the drytop if you are swimming. This is reduced with Bibs but not 100%.
BIBS Like overalls legs and chest are covered.  Used in conjunction with Drytop to create a like Drysuit experience.   Can be made of same materials as listed above.
  • If used in conjunction with Drytop can extend your paddling season to year round paddling.
  • For the paddler on a budget, wanting versatile options this with Bibs can be fantastic as long as your skill set is keeping you in the boat most of the time.
  • Keep you dry even when swimming although multiple swims can lead to leakage.
  • Not the best option for folks who are swimming a fair bit, even when used with drytop some minor leakage can occur.
Drypant Legs and Butt only, can be made of same materials as listed above
  • These are best used with Drytop, to extend paddling season into Late Fall, Mild winter, & Early Spring.
  • Good budget option if you aren’t paddling quite all year round and you are staying in your boat reliably.
  • Not much overlap with drytop so can have substantial leakage if you are swimming.

STEP 3: Understanding the Fabrics & ZIPS

Non-Breathable Waterproof Fabrics

NON Breathable Waterproof Fabric: This is often a nylon coated fabric, it is very waterproof, but does not let moisture from sweat out of the gear.  You will most likely be damp or wet inside this garment.  These do keep you warm as long as you are active, once you are inactive most folks notice they are damp from sweat and this  cools them down.  Most drygear today is not made of this material because folks have seen the benefits of warm air being pushed through breathable fabric keeping you dry on the inside of the suit.   These suits are patchable, as long as the coating is in good condition once the coating begins to peel on the interior of the suit or the seam tape no longer sticks they are done.

OUR DURABILITY RATING: MODERATE to HIGH USE OK! These fabrics tend to be a mid weight fabric from our experience and hold up pretty well.

Breathable Waterproof Fabrics

Breathable + Waterproof Fabrics are NOT all created equal here they can be comparied by their g/m²/24 hours which measures grams of moisture vapor that can pass through a square meter of material in a single day.  Higher ratings indicate more breathability to waterproof.  

Rampart_DiagramIn a nutshell water molecules surrounding you when you paddle are much bigger then water vapor molecules that come off you in sweat.  SO manufactures create a membrane that is porous to water vapor molecules but NOT water droplet molecules. This membrane is encompassed 

  • 1) Durable outer fabric layer (the thicker this is the more durable your garment.  This is coated with a DWR coating that creates the beads of water on your top.
  • 2) This is a hydrophilic PU membrane absorbs and transports moisture away from the body by allowing water vapor to collect and pass through gaps between the molecules of the PU membrane. The partial pressure and increased heat on the interior of the suit allow moisture to pass through these gaps. As your body heat increases, the gaps between the molecules increase, allowing for further breathability.
  • 3) the third layer may or may not be present on your top. This layer protects the PU membrane and also is usually provides additional wicking properties pulling moisture away from you.
Breathable fabric with no  wicking layer.
breathable fabric no wicking layer

OUR DURABILITY RATING on Fabrics w/o wicking protective layer: LOW USAGE RECOMENDED,

This is part due to the thinner initial fabric used and also due to the lack of the inner wicking material.  These suits are great for lighter applications, fall, spring and infrequent use.  This fabric also is often used on light weight summer drytops and shortys because of how comfortable the light weight fabric feels in hot weather.

Some Examples w/out the inner wicking/protective layer: NRS’s: HyproTex™ 2.5 waterproof fabric, Kokatat’s: Tropos,  H2No® Performance Standard 2.5-layer, 

OUR DURABILITY RATING on Fabrics w/ inner wicking protective layer: Low to high, depends entirely on the thickness of the exterior fabric.  Look for warranty on the product for example Hydrus made by Kokatat  has a lifetime warranty on workmanship & materials.    Example: Kokatat’s: Hydrus 3L waterproof, breathable fabric, GORE-TEX® body & Integrated Cordura® GORE-TEX®, ,   Immersion Research’s  proprietary410 X 200 denier nylon waterproof/ breathable WhiteOut laminate,, NRS’s: 4-layer Eclipse fabric, Level Six’s: eXhaust 3 Ply & 2.5 waterproof breathable nylon

multi-layerlaminatewaterproofbreathablefabric            Note picture to left shows a Breathable waterproof fabric with the interior protective wicking layer. 

A few examples of durability differences: 

GORE-TEX® Paclite®: Low durability, ultra breathable, ultra light weight  & non constricting.  Used on Kokatat’s Knappster.

Evolution 3.21 nylon 3-layer GORE-TEX® body & Integrated Cordura® GORE-TEX®: High Durability fabric is heavier weight & has high durability, more constricting but ultra breathable and strong.  Used on Kokatat’s Rogue Drytops. 

There are many many options out there below is a chart with Breathability ratings for you to compare fabrics & our opinion on durability from working with the products. 


We know of 3 options all are good and dry some pros and cons listed below:

Ti-zip kokatat

Ti-Zip used by Kokatat and other manufacturers:

PROS: Easy to use, light weight, does require lubing to keep closure opening easily.

Cons: Not quite as durable as the metal zip option, also can get stiff from sand and debri if not lubed periodically.



Ti-zip stohlquist

Ti-Zip used by Stohlquist:

PROS: When lubed up works great easy to open mid weight. Metal Zip seems more durable then plastic one.

CONS: IF unlubed you can pull the zipper out of track causing it not to close evenly.


Metal Zip

Optiseal Metal Zip Used by Kokatat and other Manufacturers:

PROS: Super Durable and when lubed easy to close, When closed bomber!

CONS: Heavy, Can be Super hard to close if not lubed.  Can be pulled out of track if not lubed. Zip has to lock in place when closed ,  so it is prone to leak  if not closed all the way.

STEP 4: Understanding what  REPAIR, & WARRANTY options you have.

Once you know how often you will be using the suit, and under what conditions, you may want to look at what warranties and repair options there are for your suit.  Here are a couple things to keep in mind:

  • Your gear is only as water proof as you care for it… and your intentions may be great in doing this by avoiding blackberry, sun damage and wear.  However it only takes one misadventure with a blackberry bush doing a rescue or portage to make your gear NOT DRY. So consider what your options are on repair prior to your purchase.
  • Also  Multi-layer laminate Breathable fabric are often more durable but can be subject to Delamination… or the separation of these fabrics which can lead to leakage.  Some manufacturer’s warranties include the fabric and are life time warranties you may want to check and see what the manufacturer will do if your garment delaminates.

Click here to see chart with Manufacturer Warranty/Repair options.


Now that you are educated in how the fabrics work and hold up and what repair and warranty options there are here are the Brands we recommend and carry.   Special orders are welcome, come in and try on one of our rentals to get sizing right.   Click on the link below to get more breakdown on the options by manufacturer.


There are some things you can do to improve the life time of your gear…

  • Storage: Big part of wear is the gasket on your drywear.. Latex is NOT long term it is a very volatile material subject to rot.  Here are some tips to keep your gaskets in good repair.
  1. Store in cool area which is not too dry (don’t store next to heating vents which are often located in closets).  Store with Gaskets pushed inwards into gear so that cuffs protect latex from dry air and damage.  If hanging in a closet, hang from plastic coat hanger NOT METAL.
  2. Avoid getting excess body oils, sunscreen, and other substances on your gasket.
  3. Use Seal Saver periodically on your gaskets to help keep them supple.  You can also use 303, if you plan to store the gaskets or want to help stretch them out, but use this product less frequently as it reacts with the latex over time and can ultimately make the gasket gummy if used too frequently.
  • Gaskets are not covered under warranties by the manufacturer those often need replacing once a year depending on where you store your gear and how often you use it.  Many manufacturers offer gasket repair as may your local shop.