thoughts on drysuits

Discussion in 'Gear Talk' started by eriktheviking, May 3, 2012.

  1. eriktheviking

    eriktheviking Paddler

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    I am looking hard at drysuits this year and wanted to get some opinions before dropping such a big chunk of change. I have spent quite some time at MEC and Western Canoe & Kayak. I have been able to try the Kokotat, Peak UK and Immersion Research suits in the stores.

    I know Kokotat has pretty much been the gold standard. I must say I really liked the Peak UK Explorer suit- both the fit and also I really liked the "bottom entry" design. It was easier to get on and off than my dry top.

    Has anyone used the Peak UK suit extensively and have opinions on it? It looked and felt pretty good, but of course there was no immersion tank to really test it out. Is there some undesirable aspect of the suit that only is apparent after more use? It does not have a latex neck gasket- the theory being that touring kayakers won't spend so much time upside down to need that.

    Also I would appreciate thoughts on sizing. The XL fit pretty well but not a lot extra room beyond thermal underwear. I think I would be a bit tight with a pile jacket under- but how likely is that? The XXL is roomier in the chest but clearly cut for someone 6" taller. Since I don't plan to do a lot of hiking in it, would that be a non-issue?

    Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.
     
  2. greg0rn

    greg0rn Paddler

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    Viking, it is possible that you are the prime candidate for a custom fit dry suit. Kokatat specializes in that. You have to find a shop that will give you proper advice (in my case I found George from Kayak Academy), and even perhaps a rental unit to try.

    Rubber gaskets intimidate at first, especially when you try a new suit in the store's skimpy cubicles. But they stretch over time and with some help of oversized pot or such.
     
  3. Comoxpaddler

    Comoxpaddler Paddler

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    Go for a latex gasket at the neck.

    From your post I assume that you do not currently roll and you probably therefore also, as you do not have a dry suit, paddle "safely", i.e. in such a way as to make capsize relatively unlikely.

    A dry suit with a latex neck gasket keeps you dry (except for sweat if working hard) however often you end up upside down whether deliberate or not. This encourages paddlers to really get their boat on edge, tackle bigger water, currents, rolls, etc. My skills increased dramatically once I got a dry suit, because I did not care if I fell in - it no longer meant abandoning the day's paddle because I was too cold (admittedly I did not go through a wetsuit stage).

    I have no experience with a neoprene neck on a dry suit but at least one seller on the web states that it is not as dry as latex, which stands to reason.

    My concern is that you will drop $hundreds on a Peak Explorer suit only to discover within a year or so that you are at a level where the suit does not support your aspirations as a developing paddler. That just will not happen with a latex neck gasket.
     
  4. Comoxpaddler

    Comoxpaddler Paddler

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    Another thing to consider is aftersales service. I have no experience of Peak or IR but Kokatat have been good for me. I am now on my third drysuit but only paid for the first. I sent back the first one after very heavy use, expecting Kokatat to laugh at me for expecting it still to be dry. They decided that it was delaminating (strictly speaking, Goretex decided - Kokatat sends suits back to them if the issue is possible delamination) and replaced it. The second suit leaked after a year, it went back, delamination again, replaced. Only cost to me was the postage. Some would argue that suits should not delaminate but I give mine very heavy use. As mentioned on previous posts, a friend of mine did have problems with a Kokatat suit and sent it to Kokatat through the store where he bought it. They did NOT replace it (we all felt that it was a defective suit) and my feeling (based on this very small series of events) is that personal contact with Kokatat works best, so go direct if you have a problem.
     
  5. scott_f

    scott_f Paddler

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    I did a custom order with Kokatat when I bought my drysuit last year. At 6'5" I went with the XL and had the torso lengthened 2" and had larger feet put on. I also went with a custom colour. The total cost for these alterations was less than $100 extra; well worth it IMO. If you go the custom route also check out other options like custom pockets and reflective piping. I found that the local shop did not know of these options, but I got the low down when calling Kokatat directly.

    I would advise not doing a custom order through MEC though. You cannot deal with a store and need to go through the national service center over the phone. I prefer having someone at a local shop who can help with measurements, place my order and check on it; it's nice dealing with the same person.
     
  6. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    I had my Kokatat suit customized as well and it didn't take very long. Highly recommend a customized suit rather than a suit that's baggy or too tight in areas.

    Agree with scott_f as well -- if you order a custom suit, get it from a local shop that can offer you good personalized service.

    :yikes: I wouldn't recommend doing any hiking in your drysuit. If you want your suit to last a long time, I'd limit any use of it where you could run the risk of puncturing or snagging it on a thorn or sharp branch. Aside from short (and very careful) scrambles when stopped on a beach somewhere, my drysuit comes off as soon as the tent is set up. If I'm going to do any hiking on a day trip, I'll take my suit off before heading off on a trail. IMHO, the drysuit is for when on the water, not land.
     
  7. KathyD

    KathyD Paddler

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    Re: neck gasket type

    I wear a drysuit for cold-water safety, not rolling, and for work as an alternative to neoprene chest waders when the water is deep/very cold (I work in rivers a lot). I had a drysuit for many years with a latex neck seal and it was so uncomfortable (yes, I did trim it and stretch it) that I hated wearing it. My new drysuit has a neoprene neck seal and it is much more comfortable; I don't mind wearing the drysuit so I'm more apt to put it on if conditions are marginal. I'm sure a neoprene neck seal is not appropriate if you are planning to roll or do long open paddles where safety is a prime concern. For my needs in sheltered water/non rolling uses it is great.
     
  8. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    My drysuit has completely changed my attitude about 'getting wet' - it's the smartest purchase I've made in a long time. With a wetsuit, you survive the immersion, but it's pretty cool and miserable for the rest of the day, in my experience.
    The drysuit doesn't provide any insulation, so you need more than thermal underwear (IMO) if you are spending much time in the water - rescue practice, for example. Also, one-piece (Farmer John or 'union suit') undergarments avoid the 'bare midriff' situation- you can't adjust those underlayers much, once the suit is on.

    My Kokatat suit is a bit on the 'stiff' side, so I'm glad there's a bit of extra girth. You don't want to feel restrained by the suit. I agree with the custom size recommendation. George and the crew at KayakAcademy do a lot of mail orders, and I'd trust them to get you what you need. They've shipped stuff across the border to me in Victoria, and I saw a posting a few days ago from somebody in Tasmania who said that he and his mates all got their drysuits from George.

    :big_thumb on Kayak Academy. I've gotten excellent advice from them, and bought a drysuit + fleece 'farmer john' (for wearing under the suit) there.
    I agree. It feet incredibly awkward 'entering and exiting' the drysuit until I'd done it a dozen times or so.
    Stretching, and using the 303 Protectant-it's slippery- both help. The Kokatat neck gaskets can be trimmed if necessary- they're conical-shaped and a small trim makes quite a difference, so be conservative.
     
  9. Jacquot

    Jacquot Paddler

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    About using 303 on the gaskets--do you apply it to both sides or just the outside?

    I knew it was good for protecting the latex, but when I saw that it could also make getting in and out of the suit easier, and reduce neck friction, I started to wonder.

    Jacquie
     
  10. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    I put it on both sides of the gaskets, and re-apply after using the suit a few (4-5) times -it seems to help. A little goes a long way....I spread it around with my fingers after giving a squirt or two.

    I'm no expert - hopefully some long-time dry suit users will comment.
     
  11. eriktheviking

    eriktheviking Paddler

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    I wanted to thank everyone for the thoughtful comments and advice.

    This reminds me of the adage that the best safety equipment is the equipment that you actually wear.

    I had on the drysuits for perhaps 5 minutes each so it is hard for me to say if a latex neck gasket will drive me crazy after several hours. I do paddle pretty conservatively, and wouldn't expect that to change even if I had a wetsuit on. Perhaps I shoukld try to visit someplace that will let me rent a suit for at least a day to get a feel for it better.

    I will consider the custom suit option though- it seems less of a premium price than I had expected.
     
  12. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Just a note on the neck gasket issue. I have a Kokatat drysuit and a PeakUK Freeride semi-dry top. No doubt that the Kokatat with the latex neck is dryer, but when I cinch up the PeakUK's neo neck seal and put a hood over the whole thing, I can roll several times before I start to feel leaks. The neo neck is definitely more comfortable.

    I guess you have to ask yourself why you want a drysuit. I got mine for so that I could stay dry on courses and safe during the winter months. As the weather warms up, I start to favour the PeakUK top.

    A note on quality: my PeakUK jacket has some robust materials, but the seam tape on the neo neck has detached and I have had to aquaseal it.

    Regards,
    Andrew
     
  13. benson

    benson Paddler

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    Really like my Kokatat with the Gortex booties. I've used the 100% silicone grease by McNett for neck gasket lubrication on longer paddle or surf days. Helps for wear comfort and likely extends gasket wear.
     
  14. Peter-CKM

    Peter-CKM Paddler

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    I'll second this. I have been using a palm semi-dry suit for a few years now, and the neoprene neck is much more comfortable than a latex neck, and only lets a small amount of water in when rolling (like a teaspoon per roll). For activities where you won't be rolling much, it likely would be fine. But do wear underclothing that can retain heat even if moist (fleece, polypro, etc.). I do rock garden, surf, practice rescues, etc., and only surfing (because I end up upside down a bit too often) do I feel that I wish I had a latex neck gasket.

    This all said, my Palm is at the end of its life after a few hard years of use (delaminating material), so I am replacing with a Kokatat Goretex dry suit. A lot of people have said that GoreTex is much better than the "breathable" materials used by other manufacturers.
     
  15. Pawistik

    Pawistik Paddler

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    I can't add much to the discussion, but I am satisfied with my Level 6 Barrier dry suit. It's wonderful to play in cold water all day and be bone dry everywhere except where my PFD prevented the sweat from getting through the breathable fabric. It has helped me advance my skills, as well as to advance my safety.
    Cheers,
    Bryan
     
  16. eriktheviking

    eriktheviking Paddler

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    I have been doing a lot more online reading and have called a few other retailers so far. I was wondering what others had found if they have tried some of the other materials? Like Peter says, Gore-tex seems to be the best as far as waterproof/breathable fabrics go. I have a Kokatat dry top that is made from their Tropos fabric- they claim it is breathable but to the extent it is, it is quite poor compared to Gore-tex. NRS uses "eVent", while Stohlquist use a proprietary "Twin Sensor" fabric. The Stohlquist suits look appealing since it seems the stock size would fit me better than the Kokatat ones- but then I am uncertain about the fabric and its breathability. Are there any Stohlquist users who could give some feedback? I saw a thread here from a few months back where it looked like several people bought end-of-stock suits from them.
     
  17. pryaker

    pryaker Paddler

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    Hey Erik, I can't comment on the Stohlquist but I have the Event one from NRS and am about ready to switch to Kokotat. I've found that the event material seems to leak a bit. It starts with dampness in my clothes around where the skirt is and after a few more trips my thighs, ankles and hips are damp. Pretty much anywhere there is pressure on the fabric. This is my second suit from NRS as the first started to have small delams around the shoulder pocket which caused me to fear for it's longevity and so I exchanged it at REI. The first suit was starting to show the dampness effect but was returned before it got to the (low) point my second one is now at. I'm planning on one last REI return then a switch to Kokotat, probably through Kayak Academy.

    With Kokotat at least you know you'll get the best possible help with problems. It might take a bit (wifes suit had non warranty delam repairs after her first expedition, then water test and repairs along with booty replacement a year or two later, then finally got a free replacement in it's third year after months of expedition use) but should you experience fabric problems they'll stand behind it. after seeing the wife's experience I'd ALWAYS send a suit to them for ANY maintenance or repairs so they get a chance to check for the proverbial de-lamination.

    Bottom line is you get what you pay for.
     
  18. blondie

    blondie Paddler

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    I bought a Stohlquist g-pod suit with booties and latex gasket and in March 2010. The suit looked well put together, the fit was good, and had lots of design details that I liked. Comparing it to how Mark's drysuit has performed, I don't believe that the quality is anywhere near that of Kotatat. I didn't find that the fabric was very breathable, I tended to sweat quite a bit in the summer months. I started to develop leaks, first in the booties, then a few in other places. I noticed that certain areas were prone to rubbing and in those areas the seam tape almost wore off. I sent the suit back to Stohlquist in August 2011 after I saw that the seam tape was peeling back along the length of the zipper. I was also tired of the leaking. I used the suit fairly regularly, but was always extremely careful with it. They warrantied the suit and sent me a replacement which I will happily wear until it's demise. Given that I got the suit for around $400 I would say that it wasn't a total waste. At the time, $400 for something that wasn't quite as great as a $1000 Kokatat seemed like a good tradeoff. But the constant leaks and problems were annoying. You want to be able to rely on your drysuit to do it's job.

    I don't have any experience with eVent, but I have never found any waterproof breathable fabric to perform as well as goretex does.
     
  19. Pawistik

    Pawistik Paddler

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    I'm less satisfied now that my suit, just over a year old, has developed leaks again. I sent it back last fall for repairs in the feet. Now it's leaking in the armpit areas where it seems to be suffering from abrasion inside the suit. I really don't think I'm abusing the suit and am trying to be very careful with it. I'm waiting on a response from them after having emailed them photos.
    Bryan