Alex Smith examines some of the best drysuits money can buy.
A drysuit is basically a waterproof, body-shaped garment built from a combination of neoprene, latex and Gore-Tex and sealed by means of a heavyweight rubber-lined zip. The zip runs either diagonally down the front of the garment (in which case, you can dress and undress yourself) or across the back of the shoulders (in which case some help is often required to ensure that the suit is fully sealed).
The modern market provides everything from £200 budget suits to £1,500 offshore commercial garments, for everything from diving to dinghy sailing, so you need to tailor it to your intended usage. If you spend long periods at the helm you need lots of protection but minimal flexibility, while if PWs or more physically active pursuits are your thing, you might want to sacrifice a little strength for some extra movement and breathability. Whatever you enjoy, some of the more useful extra features include whistles, harness-connecting points, reinforced panels on the seat, knees and elbows, dry pockets, light-reflective patches and toggles for sailing accessories like handheld electronics, knives and lights.
Just be aware that most drysuits offer virtually no thermal protection, so your warmth is dependent upon what you wear underneath. Regular everyday clothing is fine, but avoid bulky buttons and toggles as these can cause friction over long periods on a bumpy boat. And if you need serious thermal protection (for diving or exposed winter conditions) you might want to consider an all-in-one thermal drysuit undergarment, usually made from fleece and designed specifically for purpose.
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