Choosing a wetsuit for kayaking is important if you plan on kayaking in cold weather or even just a cold body of water. For cold-water kayakers who are intentionally getting wet by using their kayaks to scuba diving, kayak surfing, spear fishing, etc. – a wetsuit is a must.
Be sure to understand what to look for in a wetsuit before you buy.
A good wetsuit will keep you warm and comfortable and allow for easy mobility while kayaking.
This may seem obvious but choosing a wetsuit for kayaking that fits your specific needs depending on the environment is key.
Types of Wetsuits
Wet suits are made out of neoprene because of material’s softness and ability to stretch. As a result you’ll be able to move around in the wet suit easily. If the material did not stretch the might would obstruct your movement while paddling.
The exact design of a wetsuit will depend on what brand you buy but all wetsuits pretty much boil down to four types:
Full Wetsuits – These wetsuits cover your entire body except for you head, feet, and hands. Some full body wetsuits come with hoods and you can always buy gloves and booties to be fully covered.
Spring Suits – These wetsuits are basically the “shorts and tshirt” version of the full suit. Instead of the sleeves and legs fully extending your arms and legs this wetsuit has short sleeves and short legs. Used for moderately cold conditions this wetsuit does a good job at keeping your core warm.
Short John Wetsuits – Covers your torso and just your thighs. Good for warm conditions and great for full body mobility.
Long John Wetsuits – Covers your torso and all of your legs. Ideal for kayaker in moderate climates who want to keep their legs warm while also having full upper body mobility,
If you’re only going to be kayaking in the moderate climate then think about getting one of the designs that does not have arms. These designs will be a little bit colder but you won’t have to worry about the wet suit getting in the way while you paddle.
However, if you’re going to be kayaking in extremely cold water or kayaking in the winter then you’ll want to go for a thicker full body suit.
Mobility while kayaking won’t not help you at all if you are in the water and freezing!
Another thing that you should consider is how thick you want your suit to be. Neoprene is an excellent insulator and the thicker it is the warmer the wetsuit will be.
The material tends to range from about 2 to 6 mm depending on the wetsuit and varies at different areas on the wetsuit.
The thickness of a wetsuit is denoted with two numbers as such: 3/2mm
The first number denotes the thickness around the torso and the second determines the thickness around the legs.
Depending on where you kayak will determine the thickness of your suit. Check out Wetsuit Warehouse’s thickness guide for general recommendations on thickness by temperature.
Make sure to consider unique aspects to kayaking such as wind-chill and how long you plan on kayaking at one time before purchasing!
Comfort and Fit
Wetsuits are meant to be snug so make sure not to get an oversized wetsuit.
A baggy wetsuit isn’t as efficient at containing your natural body’s heat as a snug wetsuit. Still, don’t get too tight of a wetsuit or it will impede your paddling capabilities. If your wetsuit is forcing you to bend over it’s probably too tight!
So.. what size wetsuit should I buy?
Check out a sizing chart from Wetsuit Centre that we recommend.
Get a tape measure out and measure yourself to see what size you need. If you don’t feel like trying to measure your entire body then go into your local sporting good’s store and get measured up there!
Note: Don’t let them convince you to buy an overpriced wetsuit!
How do I ensure the wetsuit is a quality wetsuit?
In most cases a name brand suit will ensure the quality of the wetsuit but you can still find great deals if you know what to look for.
For example, understanding how the wetsuit has been stitched together and the seams on the wetsuit is a big aspect that many overlook.
In general – more seams typically conform to the body better but has less flexibility. Less seams reduces the chances of water entering the wetsuit but does not conform to the body as well.
Check out Surfing Waves in depth article on wetsuit stitching and seams if you are interested!
Where should I buy a wetsuit?
As stated above – we encourage you to go into a store first and try on a wetsuit to ensure it fits. Once you find a wetsuit that suits you (pun intended) then you can find a similar one online probably for a much better deal!
1. Amazon – If you plan on buying a brand name then Amazon always has great deals and a full list of wetsuits to choose from. Not to mention thousands of positive and negative reviews to sift through.
2. Need Essentials – If brand is not important to you – Need Essentials has great wetsuits for the price (when they are in stock). We highly recommend these suits if you are on a budget!
3. REI – No need for a description here! REI is a great place to buy gear but it can be a little prices.
In addition to a wetsuit for kayaking there are other items that will keep you warm out there. Here are a just a few that you might find helpful while kayaking:
Finding the right wetsuit for you is challenging but it is one of the key pieces of gear that will make your kayaking experience that much better.
If you have any questions or comments on how to choose a wetsuit please leave a message below or contact us directly!