Drysuits and Wetsuits for Sailors
Practical Sailor reviews the latest drysuits and wetsuits from Quiksilver, Gill, and Neil Pryde.
Spring arrives in the minds of many sailors as soon as the ice has been carried out to sea. Itís often the time when the breeze is consistent and only the temperature stands in the way of great sailing. Hypothermia is a concern, but the latest wetsuits, semi-drysuits, and full drysuits can add both comfort and safety to an early start. The new drysuit technology is a quantum leap forward in both comfort and thermal efficiency. Unlike a wetsuit, which traps and warms a thin layer of water next to the skin, the drysuit keeps all water out. The drysuit is not a survival suit. (See story, facing page.) It allows more freedom of movement. Itís made of multiple thin layers, and in some cases, a breathable fabric. The drysuit allows the user to dress like a mountaineer, with wicking undergarments (Practical Sailor, January 2006) close to the skin, followed by layers of fleece, hollow fill, or other high-tech insulating layers. Hands are uncovered, but a wide range of glove options are available (see Practical Sailor, September and November 2008), allowing a sailor to keep warm and still maintain dexterity. Many drysuits incorporate sealed booties that accommodate sock-covered feet. Deck boots or other footwear can be worn over the sealed socks, insuring that the toes stay toasty warm. The semi-dry option is a high-tech wetsuit with some drysuit features. Neck and zipper seals and a unique top entry keep the chest and upper arm area of the neoprene suit dry. Legs and lower arms are warmed in wetsuit fashion by trapping a layer of water between the skin and the neoprene. Thicker material and high-tech insulation like Neil Prydeís Zirconium yarn liner add warmth, and the combined effect delivers a suit thatís both warm and flexible to wear. Wetsuits and semi-drysuits are often designated with numerals separated by a back slash. The first refers to the millimeter thickness of the torso portion of the suit and the second designation is the material thickness covering the extremities.