Current crop of drysuit offerings...

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by jmden, Jun 21, 2017.

  1. jmden

    jmden Paddler

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    I've owned Palm, Kokatat and now Reed Chillcheater suits. But, haven't researched for several years. What's changed? Materials any more breathable or durable?

    Thoughts on best drysuits out there and why?
     
  2. AM

    AM Paddler

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    I don't think we've seen any sort of quantum leap in materials in the last few years. It's still pretty much your run of the mill waterproof-breathable fabrics on offer: Gore and its rivals. I hear claims from time to time that one fabric is better than another in terms of breathability, but I'm not sure how much stock to put in that.

    A true quantum leap would be to make the DWR (durable water repellancy) permanent. As it is, most DWR fails quickly, even on high end garments. Renewing it by applying heat or a new treatment is ever only partially successful, in my experience.

    Beyond materials technology, there is the consideration of warranty. I have bought Kokatat in the past because of the double warranty you get with them (their own, plus Gore's), and it has been worth my money. But I hear through the grapevine that they are getting a little pickier with what they will replace -- anyone else hear about that recently?

    Finally and most importantly, there is design. This is where I would make my decision if I was to buy a suit today. Kokatat has the Switch Zip system, which looks very promising. That might be a real consideration in terms of comfort. And certainly I prefer their tayloring to some of the competition's -- their hoods, for example, are really well thought out.

    Stohlquist came out with a neat design innovation in their Shift drysuit, which allows you to wear it either as a drysuit or semi-drysuit. It would certainly make my shortlist.

    Finally, my shortlist would include the NRS Navigator paddling suit. Neoprene neck closure, but likely good enough when paired with a hood.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
  3. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    AM WROTE:: A true quantum leap would be to make the DWR (durable water repellancy) permanent. As it is, most DWR fails quickly, even on high end garments. Renewing it by applying heat or a new treatment is ever only partially successful, in my experience.

    Great summary, Andrew! Jives with my experience, especially the DWR issue. Last time I renewed a DWR coating, ironing on the inside, with the garment 's outside in contact with a clean, cooler surface seemed to give better results, but not by much. As soon as the DWR is wettable, that area of my drysuit no longer breathes very well at all. The PFD contact area goes first, of course! PITA. :cry:
     
  4. Peter-CKM

    Peter-CKM Paddler

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    I totally agree with the summary.

    I also am headed more toward neoprene necks. They do leak some, but generally the latex necks get damaged or loose over time, so leak also. And the less than perfect breathability also means you likely will have some sweat that doesn't escape. Wear appropriate clothing under that can deal with some moisture, and all is good.
     
  5. designer

    designer Paddler

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    The biggest "improvement" I've heard about has been around for a while, but no one told me about it before I bought my dry suit. For those of use who are size challenged - like we have chest and shoulders and played football in school so we have these things called thighs. But if we are about 5'6", then all the size charts that assume a certain body type with body height are misleading.

    At one time - maybe even now - Kokatat offered a semi-custom fit option. I believe for $50 extra, you could order a dry suit from them but specify different standard sizes for parts of the suit. For example, I could have the chest part in size L or XL but the arms from size M or S. Same with pant length.

    So if you always have to have the pant or arm length shorten on clothes, then this might allow a better fit "out of the box".

    My take on "breathable" fabrics is there's a little too much marketing. If you are paddling hard or the weather is warm-ish. You'll still sweat - just maybe not quit as much.

    I do like the new style that provide Gore Tex booties instead of Latex. I feel I have to be very, very careful when donning or un-donning the dry suit so I don't stand on something that might puncture the latex. I stand on a small "rug" from REI that later becomes a welcome mat for my hammock or tent shelter.

    If your suit has outside pockets that are not intended to be water tight, check to see if they have a drain hole at the bottom. Because you WILL forget one day and go in the water to burp the suit and have pocket open. On the other hand, you can provide humor to your friends as you discover which yoga position is required to tip the pocket enough to get the water out.
     
  6. dr_penner

    dr_penner Paddler

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    Re: DWR. I am also disappointed with the loss of DWR in my 9 year old GMER Meridian. I like to think that Kokatat and their competitors are looking closely at the Columbia Outdry permanent DWR jackets, but who knows if they are? I think the reviews on these jackets reveal that the fabric is somewhat fragile and vulnerable to tearing on branches when hiking. I would love to see a permanent DWR drysuit. Spraying my old suit only to watch it wet out a few weeks later is very disappointing.


    KP
     
  7. jmden

    jmden Paddler

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    I can echo all that is being said. DWR is certainly one of the main drawbacks. Then face fabric wets out and breathability takes a dive, although there is still some, apparently.This is one reason I went with Reed the last time around, and the fact that the suits are custom sized to you no extra charge. I went with their Verzip option and still like that OK. Not as breathable, perhaps, as some others, and not quite as durable a fabric, but much, much cheaper. Still not really seeing a better option...
     
  8. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Andrew:
    I agree with your summary.

    About sizing - I have a LevelSix drysuit which is working well and 'sort of' fits me. They have a completely different set of sizing models than Kokatat, so if a Kokatat doesn't fit you, a Level Six might.

    Yes.
    I was very unhappy with the warranty backup from Kokatat, and with their 'testing and service' procedure about 18 months ago. After the shipping tracking showed they'd had my suit for a while, I still hadn't gotten any news on my suit from Kokatat via email, so I phoned them.
    They said they had found some pinholes and would fix them.
    Said they couldn't see any evidence that the suit was wetting through (it was), so no warranty replacement.
    Also said that :"When we did the water test, we noticed that the wrist gaskets look like they are getting a bit old. Do you want us to replace them? (at quite high cost in USD). I said I could do that myself later, when needed.
    "OK, we'll ship the suit back to you."
    Suit arrived with one wrist gasket completely shredded and a label attached:"Gasket failed during water test."
    :x
    Level Six suits do come on sale occasionally. Mine was about half the cost of a Kokatat, and it works OK. Heavier fabric, a bit baggy (see fit comment above), but it does have more pockets than the Kokatat Meridian.

    A friend has an Ocean Rodeo suit and is pretty happy with it. Again, the price was a fraction of a Kokatat.
     
  9. AM

    AM Paddler

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    John, my experience with Level Six sizing is the same as yours: baggy fit. I also am not a fan of their redesigned collar and hood on their touring tops and drysuits. Kokatat gets higher marks from me for the hoods. But I have garments from both companies and see value in both brands.

    Personally, my drysuit use as fallen drastically over the last few years. It started in 2013 when I went around Cape Scott with a few friends. At the end of the trip we were all really sick of our drysuits and talked about how we would have enjoyed the trip more in modular clothing. When I did a Nootka-Tofino trip last summer with a friend, we wore touring jackets and semi-dry pants (if it was cool) or boardshorts (when it was sunny). And when I paddle in the winter in Vancouver Harbour, I see all the surskiers and OC1 paddlers in lightweight, breathable clothing. They are dressed more like cyclists than paddlers. So this winter I kept the drysuit mostly in the closet, taking it out only for a couple of rough water trips. I was much more comfortable and enjoyed my paddling more when I was wearing modular paddling gear.

    By using the drysuit less, I hope both to increase my overall comfort and maintain the suit so that it lasts longer. There are times, of course, when the suit is the best option so I want to save it for those occasions.

    Cheers,
    Andrew