Forrest Wells // December 17, 2019
The drysuit is the ultimate protective apparel for kayakers, rafters, canoeists and others venturing out on cold waters. Properly putting the suit on takes a little practice. The suit lets you wear dry synthetic and wool insulating layers inside to match the cold temperatures you’ll be kayaking in.
Before putting your suit on, make sure you have something to stand on so you don't end up damaging or puncturing the dry-socks.
First step into the suit and pull it on like a pair of pants ensuring that your feet are all of the way into the socks. If your suit has a body tube, it's a good idea to make to sure the Velcro tabs are undone.
The gaskets on the suit openings at wrists and neck are the key to keeping water out. To protect them from damage, take off sharp jewelry or watches before putting the suit. Put one arm through a sleeve, then the other arm. Long hair can be an issue with the neck gasket; tie it up first. Slide the gasket up over your head and carefully pull it down around the neck. Pulling the neck gasket open with one hand on either side will make this process go smoother.
Pro Tip: Drysuit gaskets need to be tight. They are built with latex which can be stretched. So if your gaskets are tight initially stretch them out by inserting an object like a coffee can (neck gasket) or soup can (wrist gaskets) and leave it in overnight. Do this a couple of times. If you still feel like the gasket is too tight it can be trimmed (Neck Gasket only!) The point being, don't trim your gasket first because it will stretch.
When you are ready to zip the suit grab and hold the material above the zipper while you pull on the zipper car. This can be a bit more challenging if you have a rear entry suit, a paddle buddy definitely helps! Be sure to snug the zipper car all the way against the end of the opening for full closure. Check the relief zipper to be sure it’s secure as well. Sometimes spotting the zipper yourself can be tough. Get a buddy to check your suit before your take off, do the same for them! Ensure that both the entry zipper and relief zipper are completely closed.
You want to evacuate, or “burp,” excess air from the suit. A puffy suit is cumbersome when paddling and can be dangerous if you were to get caught in a hole during a swim. One way to do this is to hold the neck gasket open with your fingers, then squat and scrunch your body, pushing air out. Release the gasket before standing up.
Another method is to get into the water and let the water pressure force out the air. This is really a good idea; it not only most effectively removes all the air, it’s also a safety check to ensure your suit is fully ready to protect you in an emergency swim.