Frequently Asked Questions

Drywear Basics

  • In your drywear descriptions, what do you mean when you say “semi-dry”?
    First let’s talk about what makes drywear “dry”. All drysuits, drytops and drypants are made with a waterproof fabric. In most of today’s popular drywear, the material is “breathable” as well, to allow air and water vapor to pass through it, keeping you more comfortable inside. Waterproof and breathable fabrics are made by either laminating a waterproof, breathable membrane, or painting on a waterproof, breathable coating to the inside of the outer fabric. There are also dry suits, tops and pants that are made with non-breathable waterproof materials. These tend to be less expensive than the breathable options, but they don’t regulate heat and moisture the way breathable drywear does.

    That explains how the material keeps water out, but what about the neck, wrist and ankle openings? All drywear has latex gaskets attached at these openings. Latex is a stretchy, supple material that will effectively seal water out of the garment when the gasket is sized properly so that it’s tight against bare skin. That’s the good news.

    However, latex gaskets are relatively fragile, largely due to aging and direct sun exposure. If torn, these gaskets must be replaced. Also, latex gaskets must fit very snug to keep water out. As a result, especially with the neck gasket, some boaters find this snugness very uncomfortable.

    Now, finally, we’re back to what does “semi-dry” mean. Where drywear uses latex gaskets, semi-dry garments will feature some sort of non-latex alternative or a combination of both. Most common are snug neoprene cone-shaped “punch through” cuffs. While not as dry as latex gaskets, these neoprene closures keep most of the water out; hence garments with them are referred to as "semi-dry".

    So, when are semi-dry garments appropriate? They’re great when you know you won’t be fully immersed, swimming or upside down a lot. Semi-dry wear is ideal for river runners of all types, as well as touring kayakers, recreational canoeists or anyone enjoying themselves in milder waters. They are most appropriate in the non-winter months: late spring, summer and early fall, when the weather’s pretty nice and the water isn’t icy-cold.  

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