A commenter (Got Fish) left a question on ifish.com:
Having no experience with either (wet suit or dry suit). What are the benefits/disadvantages of each? What would you recommend? I fish out of an open boat this would be more of an wear in case of emergency.
USIA’s Captain Kujo responds:
I wanted to respond to this post as I have over 35 years of experience of manufacturing dry suits and wet suits for the Special Operations Community, Public Safety, and Recreational Fishing and Diving Communities.
Back in 2005 when I created “extreme-fishing” on the “infamous “Black Rocket” I also developed “Rockit-Wear.”
Rockit-Wear was specifically designed for fishing and is a simple dry suit design with built in socks or boots, neck seal and wrist seals. In fact if you have to enter the water before we left the dock and if you could not get yourself back in the boat unassisted, you were deemed “not fit enough” to ride the Black Rocket.
First the difference between wet suits and dry suits. The major difference is in a wet suit, the neoprene should be fitting tight enough for minimal exchange of water. Yes you are wet! The cold water that enters the suit is a thin layer and your body heat, “heats that thin layer of water” and the wet suit does not allow that heated water to dissipate whereby keeping you kind of warm. Depending on how thick the neoprene is will determine the warmth you will have. If you are SCUBA diving in a wet suit at depths exceeding 33 ft (lets just say in Oregon, average water temp in the 50s), you would use a 1/4 inch or 7mm wet suit. As you go deeper, the water pressure compresses the neoprene, so at 100 ft that 1/4 inch wet suit becomes an 1/8 inch wet suit from water pressure. You will be colder at depth. Surfers on the other hand, who are not subjected to pressure at depth, wear wet suits that are 2 to 3 mm as those suits are not designed for prolonged immersion under pressure in cold water. Surfers are generally sitting on top of a surfboard.
The advantage to a wet suit is they provide inherent buoyancy if you have a catastrophic incident, e.g. snag with a fishing hook or cut with a slip of a knife. The disadvantage is they are a bit hard to get on and once you’re in it, especially in an open boat, you don’t get out.
Dry suits, on the other hand, exclude all water so you wear garments underneath (this is an entirely different subject, that must be addressed to a new dry suit user), based on water and air temp, that provide warmth. The dry suit excludes external environmental factors like wind and water. In a dry suit your body is heating a “layer of air” rather than a layer of water as in a wet suit. It’s important to note it takes 800 times more heat to heat the same volume of water as it does the same volume of air. So heating an air bubble in a dry suit it much more efficient than heating a bubble of water as in a wet suit.
The advantage to a dry suit is it’s warmer, more comfortable, can be repaired instantly on board a boat, and other than replacing neck seals and wrist seals, most Rockit Wear I originally sold (that is a Rockit-Wear dry suit) is still in use (10 to 15 years so far!)
There is maintenance to a dry suit, as they have an air/gas/water tight waterproof zipper rated to over 132 ft and if you do not store and care for the zipper you will be looking at an expensive fix (1/2 the cost of the dry suit).
A Rockit Wear dry suit is $449.00 for a basic model.
Click Here for more info on how to buy your Rockit Wear
Personally, when I’m off shore fishing now, I never fish without a dry suit on and I also provide them for my friends and family that may go with me. ( I have the advantage of owning a dry suit company).