Drysuits look as if they’ll keep you warm. The truth is, they don’t. A drysuit is designed solely to keep you dry. It’s the layering process underneath that will keep your body warm. If you’re sailing (dinghy or yacht), kayaking or participating in any other surface watersport, then it’s sensible for your safety and wellbeing that you maintain the correct body temperature. Layering will help you achieve this.
There are four things to consider when layering.
- Air and water temperature including windchill.
- Activity planned.
- The length of activity.
- How susceptible you are to the cold.
Once you have determined each of these four factors, your decision on which clothing is appropriate to wear, will be based upon a three-layer system.
The base layer is designed to fit your upper torso like a second skin. It will hold your body heat whilst keeping you dry by releasing perspiration. This is an important function of the base layer, because if sweat isn’t removed, moisture will occur, thus making you feel cold. Additionally, if the weather does take a turn for the better, and a drysuit is no longer needed, a base layer will protect you against the sun and won’t compromise your movement.
Where the base layer retains the heat, the mid-layer is designed to keep the body at the right temperature. The mid-layer will also rid you of perspiration and moisture. A mid-layer can be comprised of a fleece and a softshell jacket. However, when you’re wearing a drysuit, there shouldn’t be a need for a softshell jacket. Therefore, a fleece is what you want, because it’s light and will provide appropriate thermal insulation.
Tip: Avoid cotton clothing as it’s known for absorbing perspiration and retaining moisture, which will have you feeling wet and cold for the duration of your time spent on the water.
The outer-layer will be your drysuit. It’s a shell that doesn’t add warmth, but rather will deter water and protect your body from the elements. The fabrics used to make a drysuit will also protect your body from windchill. Plus, drysuits are made from breathable material, that allows moisture to escape. Thus, when combined with your other two layers, means you’ll be warm and dry for the duration of your watersport activity.
Layering is often dependent on your ability to handle certain weather conditions. Everyone will have a different threshold, which means it’s a good idea to test out what works best for you. However, there are a few rules you can follow to get you started.
- Never wear more than three layers. If you’re still cold, change one of your layers to something that is going to provide more warmth.
- Allow each layer to fit on top of each other. For example, your base layer should be skin tight, your mid-layer should be able to fit over the top of your base layer, and your drysuit should be able to fit over your mid-layer.
- Your layers should not be restricting.
- Remember your extremities are important as well. A lot of your heat is lost from your head. So make sure you have a hat, gloves and the proper footwear.
Be mindful that weather conditions can change quickly out on the open ocean. So, if you are unsure as to what might happen once off dry land, it's always sensible to pack more than less. You'd rather be taking gear off because it's hot, than not having extra cold weather clothing if the mercury suddenly dips.
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