How to Put on a Dry Suit

A Kayak Paddler's Guide to Putting on a Dry Suit

Dry Suit: NRS Paddling Dry Suit
Dry Suit: NRS Paddling Dry Suit. Photo © nrsweb.com, used by permission

When boating in cold water, a dry suit is a paddler’s best friend. While there are other options to dry suits, such as dry tops, wet suits, and paddle jackets, dry suits are the only near guarantee that a paddler won’t get wet. One of the biggest downsides to kayakers, canoeists, and rafters wearing a drysuit, however, is putting it on and taking it off. Those darn pesky gaskets! This guide will help you to avoid frustration by teaching you to more effectively put on a dry suit.

Put the Feet In First

Before trying to put on a dry suit, be sure to straighten all the material out, to undue all Velcro and zippers, and loosen all adjustments. Don’t attempt to put your dry suit on while standing, as if it were a pair of pants. Sit down, preferably in a chair or other raised surface off the ground. Put the dry suit out in front of you while holding it at the waist. If the dry suit is fitted with booties instead of ankle gaskets your life will be much easier. In this case simply put your feet in one at a time, being sure to guide each foot in with both hands on the outside of the booties to ease the process.

If the dry suit has ankle gaskets, put the first leg into the dry suit up to the ankle gasket. Grap the gasket with both hands and stretch it out so that it is big enough to put your foot through it. Don’t push your foot through the rubber gasket but rather use your hands to ease the rubber over the foot.

Do the same with the other foot. Once the legs are into the dry suit and the feet are through the gaskets, straigten out the legs and adjust the gaskets around the ankles so they lie flat and are also straight. Again, whenever adjusting the gaskets, use both hands.

Put Your Arms into the Dry Suit

Standup and pull the dry suit up like a pair of pants.

Next you will want to put your arms into the dry suit. The ease of this will depend on if the zipper is in the front or in the back. In either case, it is still easier to put your arms into the dry suit than your head at this point. Make sure you are not wearing any jewelry on your wrist or hands.

Push one hand down into the first sleeve up to the wrist gasket. Point all of your fingers together and make your hand as narrow as possible. Push that hand up against one side of the sleeve while at the same time use the other hand to gently pull and spread the other side of the wrist gasket open. Begin to push your hand through while adjusting the wrist gasket with the free hand. Once both arms are in, adjust the sleeves and wrist gaskets so that they are straight and not twisted.

Put Your Head into the Dry Suit

Next you’ll need to put your head into the dry suit. Grab the neck gasket with both hands and spread it as wide as you can. Place your head into the hole that is created. Don’t push your head through the neck gasket but rather use your two hands to work the gasket over the head. Once on, adjust the neck gasket to be straight, flat, and comfortable around the neck.

Zip Up the Dry Suit

I’ll bet you think you’re done at this point. Well, think again. There is one last step which depending on the dry suit can be easy or the most difficult yet. That is, you need to zip up the dry suit. Plan ahead for this step so that you position the pull cord of the zipper in a place you can grab it once you’re in the dry suit. If the zipper is on the back, you’ll probably need a friend to help out. If on the front, you may still need a friend to pull it all the way across your chest. Once the zipper is closed, secure any Velcro around the sleeves and ankles.

A Note about Boating in Cold Water

Boating in cold water and weather is always a dangerous proposition. It is therefore imperative that kayakers, canoeists, and rafters keep paddling water safety in mind at all times. It is also a must that in all the concentration to dress warm that paddlers have with them the required whitewater safety equipment or sea kayaking safety gear.