Drysuits and Latex Socks
Over the years, high-end drysuits have evolved to include socks as part of their protective system. Socks are much easier to put on and take off than ankle gaskets. And socks on your suit allow you to wear warm, insulating synthetic and wool fabric socks next to the skin.
Drysuits use two types of socks: those made of waterproof fabric and those made of latex. Fabric socks are generally made of the same material as the suit. The waterproofness comes from a membrane or coating that is bonded to the woven layers. The fabric sock has two or more pieces that are stitched or glued together and these seams are covered with seam tape. The latex sock is formed over a foot-shaped “mandrel” and is seamless.
The foot flexes many times during a day’s boating, scouting, portaging, etc. It’s also down there “where the rubber meets the road”, in the sand, muck and mud. Any of that grit that gets between the sock and wetshoe increases friction and wear. This flexure and friction puts a lot of stress on the sock, hence the area of the suit most exposed to water and most prone to leaking. Over time the membrane or coating in fabric socks breaks down and seam tape peels and loosens.
Seamless latex socks are tougher than fabric socks and less likely to leak. A hole or tear in one is easy to repair in the field and any facility that does latex gasket repair can replace them. They are also easy for the do-it-yourselfer to replace, using a simple step-by-step procedure.
Scott Hamstra, Sales Manager at Rutabaga Paddlesports in Madison, Wisconsin tried out a 2008 NRS Inversion Kayak Drysuit on a recent kayak surfing trip. He reported: “Easy to get into my neo boots, NRS ATB's, however my ATB's didn't fit so well into the Necky Gliss I was paddling so I was forced to go without. I had to do some slogging through the surf after dumping in just the latex socks over sandy gravel and they held up wonderfully. In a pinch and with no other options I was pleasantly surprised to see no damage or wear on the socks after two surfing sessions and several wet exits followed by numerous demoralizing walks up the beach.”
Some say, “I want a fabric sock because it’s breathable, just like the rest of the suit.” The simple truth is that most of us wear some type of neoprene bootie or wetshoe over our drysuit sock. The shoe doesn’t breathe, therefore the sock can’t breathe. Top of the line breathable fabric fishing waders use non-breathable neoprene socks or built-in boots.
For comfort inside a latex sock, wear one or more fabric socks next to the skin. If the “sticky” outer surface of the sock makes putting your shoe on difficult, put a fabric or HydroSkin sock over the latex sock and your foot will slide in easier.
If your current wetshoes are roomy enough to accommodate a heavy, padded hiking sock, you can probably fit your drysuit sock inside. If not, a size larger shoe should take care of the extra layers.
Care of your latex socks is the same as for the neck and wrist gaskets. Rinse with clean water after each use. Dry thoroughly, inside and out, and regularly coat with 303 Aerospace Protectant. Store in a cool, dry area away from light.
With this care, your latex socks will give you many, many boating excursions with warm, dry feet. Everyone who switches to a drysuit with socks says, “I love my socks, I’ll never go back to ankle gaskets!”