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Best Wetsuit For Kayaking

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Are you planning on kayaking for long periods of time? Or going out in waters below 60 degrees fahrenheit? If so, you will probably (and rather wisely) be considering what kind of wetsuit to use.

There are countless brands and types of wetsuits available which makes it hard to know what’s best for you. But fear not because we’ve scoured the market to find you the best wetsuit for kayaking.

At A Glance: Wetsuits For Kayaking

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Best Wetsuit For Kayaking

What Makes A Good Wetsuit Suitable For Kayaking?

The main thing to consider when purchasing a wetsuit specifically for kayaking is that it allows maximum mobility for your upper body (especially your arms.) 

A lovely day paddling on the water will soon become an arduous task if your wetsuit is restricting your movement at every turn. 

Choosing The Best Wetsuit For Me

The most important factor in choosing the best wetsuit for you personally is the conditions you expect to be kayaking in. The type of suit you wear in warm climates will differ greatly from colder climates and waters.

In warm waters, a wetsuit will allow greater comfort but may not be essential for survival (depending on the length of your trip) but in cold waters (anything below 60 degrees fahrenheit) the right suit could prevent cold shock and hypothermia and ultimately save your life.

Different Styles

Wetsuits come in several styles for various conditions. You might find slight variations on the names but generally there are four types of wetsuits.

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    Full Wetsuits - cover your entire body except hands and feet. This is best for colder climates and waters but depending on the thickness can also be used in warmer waters.
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    Shorty Wetsuits or Springsuits - are a one piece suit with short sleeves and short legs. This is good for medium temperatures where you still need some coverage.
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    Short John Wetsuits - are one piece suits that cover your torso and thighs, leaving your arms bear. This is ideal for hot climates.
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    Long John Wetsuits - are similar to Short Johns but they cover your legs down to your ankles. Good for warmer climates.

You can also get wetsuits in separate tops and bottoms so if you’re paddling during a hot summer, you can opt for just bottoms or just a top, depending on conditions.

What About Thickness?

The thicker the wetsuit, the warmer you’ll be. This is based on the fact that Neoprene consists of tiny pockets of air which trap in heat. The more neoprene used to make the suit, the warmer it will keep you.

The thickness required depends on the water temperature you will be experiencing. If you’re going to be immersed in cold water - you should consider a thicker wetsuit.

You can identify the thickness of the wetsuit by the label. There will be two or three numbers on there, each separated by a slash. The numbers represent the thickness in millimeters. The first number is the thickness around the torso, the second is the legs and if there is a third, it is referring to the thickness around the arms.

Numbering Example: 3 (torso) / 2 (legs) / 2 (optional: arms)

You’ll notice that all wetsuits are thicker around the torso. This ensures that your core body heat is protected and helps prevent hypothermia. The thinner material is used on your limbs to allow flexibility for activities such as paddling.

Comfort And Fit

Wetsuits keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of water in between the suit and the skin. Your body heat warms up this water which in turn keeps you warm.

Though it might not always be flattering, wetsuits are designed to be snug. Any sag in the suit will allow too much water in, making it harder for your body to warm up. If you have any extra room, you should consider a smaller size.

Of course, you need to make sure that it isn’t too tight. A wetsuit that is too small will make it harder for you to paddle, making you exhausted very quickly.

Most brands will have a size guide but wherever possible, try on your wetsuit prior to purchase. If this is not possible, try it on at home before going into the water. Make sure that there is a good returns policy so you can exchange the size if it’s not right.

A good way of testing the fit is by squatting down and stretching your arms above your head. It should only feel slightly restricting. If it’s hard work - your suit is too small.

What About The Zipper?

When you’re choosing your wetsuit for kayaking, it might be worth thinking about the location of the zipper. This is where a wetsuit with a front zipper might be more comfortable than one with a rear zipper.

Sitting down in a suit with a rear zipper might be uncomfortable after a while, so if you plan to sit for long periods while wearing your wetsuit, a front zippered one might be better.

However, front zippered wetsuits can also be more difficult to get into because the zip tends to be shorter, so the suit can’t open as wide as a suit with a longer rear zip. 

Do I Need To Wear Anything Else?

In very cold water, you should consider protecting your fingers, toes and ears with wetsuit boots, gloves and hoods.

You can also add and remove other layers for extra warmth and comfort. You should make sure however that it is not made of materials that retain water (like cotton). If you wear these materials, you will lose your own body heat in trying to warm up the water in the material and you will get very cold.

Underwear and base layers should be made from synthetic fibers like neoprene. Neoprene is great for helping to add warmth, and it's super-thin, meaning it doesn't really feel like you're wearing anything cumbersome (you don't want to add that while already wearing a wetsuit.)

You can also opt for layers on top of your wetsuit, particularly if you’re likely to be sat on your kayak for hours and want to stay warm out of the water. A waterproof jacket or drysuit top is ideal for this.

Best Wetsuits For Kayaking

1: O'Neill Wetsuits Mens 5/4 mm Epic Full Suit

ONeill Wetsuits Mens 5-4 mm Epic Full Suit 1

At 5/4mm thickness, this full wetsuit is ideal for colder temperatures. It is made with FluidFlex Firewall technology which essentially means that it is made from wicking material which will not only wick away sweat and moisture but also provide insulation. This makes it a great option for active water sports in colder climates.

The Double Superseal Neck along with the Lumbar Seamless Design of the suit makes for greater comfort whilst also ensuring that no excess water seeps in. The seamless paddle zones in particular allow for easier movement and comfort whilst paddling.

2: O'Neill Wetsuits Mens 3/2mm Reactor

ONeill Reactor 32mm Mens Full Suit

At 3/2mm thickness, this is a full wetsuit designed for warmer waters. Specifically designed for free and easy movement, it comes with seamless under-sleeve paddle zones which not only allow smooth movement but also minimize chaffing when paddling.

It comes with an adjustable neck closure made from non-irritating materials and the chest and back areas are made from mesh smooth skin fluid foam for extra comfort.

The in-built Krypto Knee Padz are designed to withstand wear and tear which means your suit will last longer and require less maintenance. It also comes with a handy hidden key pocket for extra convenience.

3: O'Neill Wetsuits Womens 3/2mm

O'Neill Wetsuits Womens Bahia 3-2mm Full Suit

A 3/2mm full wetsuit designed specifically for women. Made with 100% super stretch neoprene, it is made to allow free movement which is great for kayaking.

This suit also comes with reinforced knees, which like the above wetsuit will help minimize general wear and tear. It also comes with the seamless paddle zones to reduce chaffing from paddling and the adjustable neck collar.

This suit also comes with a Fluidex Firewall which makes it a great choice for cooler waters.

4: Lemorecn Adult’s 3mm Wetsuit (Jacket Only)

Lemorecn Adults 3mm Wetsuits Jacket Long Sleeve

This jacket is made to keep you warm across a variety of cold water sports like wakeboarding, kayaking or diving. Designed with a front zipper, it’s easy to put on and take off and can also be worn as an additional layer over a wetsuit as and when required.

Made with a Crewneck design, the neck of the jacket is designed to prevent irritation from the zip. Meanwhile the flat lock seams and construction of the suit allow a smooth feel against the skin for your ultimate comfort whilst also keeping you insulated.

5: O'Neill Wetsuits Mens 2mm Superlite Jacket

O'Neill Wetsuits Mens Superlite Jacket

This is a 2mm jacket that can be used on its own or in conjunction with other pieces and accessories for extra insulation. Made with Fluidex across the shoulder and under arm areas, it is designed to wick away sweat and keep you insulated at the same time.

Much like the full suits, it’s made with seamless paddle zones which is ideal for kayaking as it allows free and easy movement for paddling.

The clue is in the name with this one - the Superlite jacket is designed for warm and/or cool waters. At 2mm thickness however, it won’t be enough for extremely cold waters.

6: Lemorecn Wetsuits 1.5mm Neoprene Women’s (Rash Guard)

Lemorecn Wetsuits 1.5mm Neoprene Womens Rash Guard

Although designed for women, this rash guard is made for unisex fit so men can wear it too.

It’s suitable for not only kayaking but also an array of other water sports like snorkeling, diving and wakeboarding. It not only provides UV protection, but also helps protect your skin from sea lice.

Made with lycra trimmed neck, waist and arm openings, this top allows a high level of comfort for water sports that require a fair bit of movement like kayaking and surfing.

7: Cressi Men’s Front-Zip Full Wetsuit

This Cressi wetsuit is a full wetsuit with a front zip that is designed for a variety of water sports and comes in both 2.5 millimeter and 3 millimeter double lined neoprene. It also benefits from Flex areas that can make it easier to move.

The front zip feature could make it a good choice for paddling because of the added comfort when sitting. There are Aquastop seals at the wrists and ankles, which can help prevent water from getting in.

Additionally, the areas around the knees and shins have been reinforced for added durability, which can be useful when you’re in a kayak.


FAQs

How Do I Wash And Clean A Wetsuit?

Ideally, you should rinse your wetsuit in clean water after you take it off - every time. This is because salt and chlorine can build up and damage the neoprene. This means you should rinse both the inside and the outside.

It can be a good idea to soak it in a large bucket or bathtub full of warm (not hot) water when you get home and then rinse it again outside with a hose.

For really dirty or smelly wetsuits you can use wetsuit shampoo in a bucket of cool, clean water.

How Do I Get Into One?

It can be easier to fold the top half of the suit down so that it’s almost inside out, as this can allow you to put your legs in the pants. Once you’ve put your leg in, grab the material to pull up as much as you can up to your knee, so you have a maximum amount of material to work the rest of your body into it.

Once both legs are in, you can then pull up the top part and put your arms in the sleeves in a similar way to how you put your legs in. 

Video: Putting On A Wetsuit

How Do I Dry Out And Store My Wetsuit?

A good way to dry your wetsuit is to hang it on a large hanger to air dry. Make sure all the zippers are open so that air can circulate and it should dry quicker. It’s best to dry it in the shade outside, as direct sunlight can damage and weaken the fabric. Remember to turn it inside out to dry both sides.

The best way to store your wetsuit is to lay it flat. However, you can also hang it up if you have a suitable hanger that can take the weight and won’t cause your wetsuit to stretch.

Conclusion

Wetsuits differ in styles and thickness, each designed for specific conditions and activities. Wetsuits designed for kayaking will be made with maximum movement in the upper body for easier paddling.

When choosing a style and thickness for your suit, think about the water temperatures and conditions you’ll be encountering. For colder climates, consider a full, thick wetsuit. For warmer climates, you can try Shorty, Short John or Long John suits.

Most importantly, you need to ensure that your suit fits. Having the right thickness and style will be completely redundant if your suit is too loose.

Trying on your suit at home before taking it to water is a good idea. Don’t be afraid to send it back for a different size. You will be glad you did once you’re out on the water!


Thanks for reading. Have a question? You can ask us anything in the comments below...

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
Cahuenga - April 15, 2018

I’ve been kayaking for 20 years and diving/surf non-full front zipper wetsuits are poor substitutes for real a kayak wetsuits.

Reply
    Kayak Guru - April 19, 2018

    Thanks for your input Cahuenga

    Reply
Josie - May 7, 2018

What about paddling in cold water: 12-17°C, but with the sun warm – in Penobscot Bay, Maine in August? I worry about being too warm in a long-sleeved suit, but too cold if I actually capsize…

Reply
Scott Marrone - October 20, 2018

I’m disappointed the full wetsuits you recommend for kayaking are back entry instead of front entry. The zipper in the back between a backband or seatback and the skin is VERY uncomfortable. For that reason, back entry wetsuits, while fine for surfing and diving, are not ideal for kayaking.

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