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Drysuit Experiences

Posted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 10:01 pm
by Mike
Hi, all.

I am interested in your experiences with drysuits you have tried.

The front-runners in value seem to be the Tropos suits from Kokotat, and the b-pod suits from Stohlquist. I have been able to find plenty of threads on the 'net regarding the wisdom of using a drysuit, but little in the way of review or direct comparison--personal experiences and links to other sites are appreciated!

Klepper Master
Feathercraft Klondike

Posted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 11:22 pm
by krudave
Own and use an older model Kokatat Goretex drysuit in the winter. Love it. If you paddle on cold water, it will really increase you comfort and safety.

On extended trips, it eliminates that "second set" of clothes ... the ones that get wet and stay wet because they are in use on the water. The ones you can't stand to wear on shore because they are so clammy and nasty.

Instead, when you reach a new campsite location, you unpack gear and set up camp, in the dry suit, perhaps unzipped, and while doing these chores, the slightly damp clothing under the Goretex dries out from body heat (almost entirely, anyway), so when you are ready to shed the dry suit, you are ready for dry camp clothes to go over the top.

Makes trips in rainy climes pleasant instead of misery.

Couple tips: get the Goretex booties, not the latex cuffs at the ankles, and send in your shoe size when you order it. Sizing the neck gasket is a hassle, but worth doing right. Unless you have a real pencil neck, you'll have to cut off at least two rings to get a good fit at the neck. Finally, use 303 on the latex, often.

Love my dry suit.

Bomber Gear Radiator Drysuit

Posted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 12:48 pm
by Christov_Tenn
I bought a much used, but serviceable, Bomber-Gear Radiator suit from Bomber Gear's own Rick, last year on Ebay. The suit's got a tunnel-thing layer over the torso designed to overlap one's sprayskirt, which it does admirably. The tunnel/layer, however, does seem to impede mobility noticeably, but not to so great an extent as to render paddling difficult or even unpleasant. To the good, the tunnel adds another layer between one's self and the wind, rain, temperature.

The suit is made of what I'm guessing is a Gore-Tex knock-off fabric, called Toray. It sort of "breathes," but, if your mutant power's sweating, you're gonna be damp in there.

The relief zipper's a good thing.

I tore an ankle gasket last time I wore the suit, in part because I stupidly failed to remove my sock before shoving my foot through the gasket, and in part because I "snapped" the gasket after using my forefinger to pull the opening wide enough for that foot.

My suit didn't come with the booties, so I use a pair of Chota Mukluks, their "light" version. I'd really like to get a pair of their marsh-boots. Anyway, the suit's inner leg with gasket fits down in the boot, I pull a pair of heavyish polypro socks over the inner leg, then the outer leg completely covers the boot and velcro-tightens at the ankle to form a snug but not even slightly water-tight outer seal. Not a problem, because the Chotas come up to about my knees.

I like the drysuit better than the farmerjohn/splashtop combo I got for a hundred bucks from NRS gearswap, so much so that rather than use that combo for a paddle today, I'm using the time to repair the drysuit.

Water out here in this part of Tennessee is probably about fifty-five degrees F right now, and doesn't usually drop too much below forty.


Posted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 5:57 pm
by maryinoxford
I've recently bought my first suit, the Kokatat "Supernova," which is sold as semi-dry rather than dry, because the neck is neoprene which doesn't give as good a seal as latex.

On the whole, I'm very pleased with it. A couple of things could be better, but I got this suit because it was in an end-of-season sale. I needed a size "large" for the body size. The arms and legs are longer than I need, but that's not a problem. The built-in socks are too big. I bought a pair of neoprene boots to wear with the suit, and had to get bigger than my normal size. The wrist gaskets are slightly bigger than I need - I can get my hands through without much effort, and I think a little water seeps in that way.

It's a front-entry suit, and I find I can get in and out of it easily enough. The neoprene neck is easy to get through; I have worn a dry cag with latex neck, and getting my head through that was really difficult - the latex clings to hair. I think that taking off a front-zip drysuit, when the neck has to be pulled to the back, would be difficult for me with a latex neck seal. The neoprene is also much more comfortable than latex. The downside is, it's not fully waterproof, even with a velcro adjuster. I'm doing some training at the moment that involves wet exits and swims. I do get some water down my neck, and end up quite damp around the chest and back (but not soaked).

I find the suit very comfortable, wearing a layer of fleece underneath. Far more comfortable than a neoprene wetsuit, and more effective at protection from initial cold shock. If I were doing extended paddling in extreme conditions I'd want a full drysuit, but for my purposes, the Supernova was a very good choice.


I have used a nylon Kokatat

Posted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 8:26 pm
by tsunamichuck
as a dry suit and have been happy with it. It no longer fits on my shoulders s I am getting a NRS. I also use 2 piece suits a semi dry or dry top with Kokatat or Navarro bibs. Not as dry as the dry suit but still comfortable rolling and swimming in 20 deg air ant 38 deg water. Breathability is non existant when gear is covered with ice ... _R1_041_19

I got a supernova this fall..

Posted: Sun Nov 12, 2006 12:10 am
by Kheya Shunka
It has been real effective at keeping me dry. (SUPERNOVA)
I have had several cold water (ice) rolling sessions with it. I wear a tuilik over it for rolling games. I used to use a similar setup with wetsuit, but a couple cups of water sloshing inside the kayak will wind up getting neo soaked up, and eventually I chilled. I was out for a good couple hours last week and never felt chilled. After a couple hours of rolling, I get some seepage around the neck gasket. It is so miniscule I don't even notice it, feels damp near the collar of the NRS union suit under it.
I know it's alot nicer to have less wet stuff to handle once it's cold.


Posted: Sun Nov 12, 2006 8:38 pm
by Mike
I was wondering, Mary and Jeff-- Is it likely the case that the meatier the neck, the drier the seal with the neoprene neck gasket?

Anyone out there tried the b-Pod from Stohlquist? I have read one private review that states it is drier and more comfrotable than the Supernova.


Posted: Sun Nov 12, 2006 10:29 pm
by krudave
Mike wrote:I was wondering, Mary and Jeff-- Is it likely the case that the meatier the neck, the drier the seal with the neoprene neck gasket?
I can answer that. I have used neoprene-sealed paddlejackets for over 10 years ... and I have a "meaty" neck. Word: neoprene does not seal well, compared to latex, because the zone of closure is narrow with neo, while with latex it is very broad.

If you plan to surf or roll, go with the latex.

Neo Neck closure

Posted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 12:34 am
by Kheya Shunka
Compared to the other two neo neck closures jackets I have used, the neck of the supernova has that broader coverage Dave refers too as latex neck seal having. It's a different style of neo neck. I don't have a meaty neck. I did'nt want to spend a ton on a goretex. I figured if the neo neck was unsat I would glue a latex gasket in the suit.

Again I have to stress that I'm wearing a tuiliq over the nova, if I wasn't I'm pretty sure the neck wouldn't be weepy damp, but something else.

I would never roll for fun in cold water, i.e. greenland games, without a tuiliq on. I paddle with one on in the cold as well, even if I don't roll.

What's the skinny?

Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 4:36 pm
by acrosome
Sorry for resurrecting this thread. I did, in fact, read through the thread before posting.

A drysuit is probably going to be my next big kayaking purchase, and I doubt that I can afford more than one. I don't plan on kayaking in any extreme conditions, i.e. surfing serious waves, so my main concern would be unforseen swims far from help during long expedition-type paddles. Since this is a low-liklihood event I am quite concerned with comfort, yet I may be far from help so effectiveness matters, too. ( I know you can't have everything- at least not cheaply.) Can someone give me the skinny on a few things?

1) Just how bad is it using a drysuit made of a non-breathable fabric, like coated nylon?

2) For that matter, since Kokatat seems to be an industry leader, how does their (less expensive) TROPOS fabric compare to Gore-Tex? I saw this issue addressed peripherally in one of the posts...

3) I like the idea of a neoprene neck gasket, since the latex ones look quite uncomfortable. I'm sure this is a good option for someone who probably won't need to take a swim, but I understand there is some leakage. (Thus you can't really swim or snorkel in them.) But is the neoprene neck dangerous if you may be in the water, though not in high surf, for a long while, i.e. expeditioning? Just how much leaking is there? I heard "tablespoons" every time your neck goes under. Would this add up to a death sentence if the water temp is particularly cold and the nearest help is an hour away? Or do you generally keep your neck above water with a decent PFD? Would it be a better option to get the latex neck? (My worry is that the neck would be so uncomforatbele that I wouldn't wear it, thus taking a big risk.) I guess one option would be to get the latex neck and if I can't stand it have a neoprene one put on...

4. If front-entry zippers are so much easier to get into, why do they still make rear-entry suits? Am I missing something? Is there an advantage to rear-entry?

5. I'm pretty sold on the idea of integral socks. Any reason to reconsider?

6. How tough is the Gore-Tex or TROPOS? Will I have to baby them, or can I swim around and crawl over rocks?


Re: What's the skinny?

Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 5:58 pm
by henry
acrosome wrote:1) Just how bad is it using a drysuit made of a non-breathable fabric, like coated nylon?
If you're concerned with comfort, want to be putting in a long day of expedition paddling, and don't plan on spending a lot of time surfing/rolling/swimming, I would expect that a non-breathable suit is a really bad idea.

I don't use a dry-suit, but I do use a non-breathable dry-top. You'd be surprised how much water vapour the body gives off just by working those paddling muscles (even in cold conditions) and it adds up over the day - and that's all water you'll be wringing out of your clothes at the end, which seems to defeat part of the purpose of a full dry-suit.

And in hot air temps a non-beathable dry-top is bad enough, I'd be surprised to hear anyone here saying that a full non-breathable suit is anything but unbearable - At least with a wetsuit/dry-top combo I can take off the top if the day gets too hot - with a dry-suit it's all or nothing.
6. How tough is the Gore-Tex
Goretex is certainly plenty tough, but if you're regarding it as a critical safety item you'll probably baby it anyway - barnacled rocks aren't kind to any fabric.

Gaskets and booties

Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 6:37 pm
by tsunamichuck
Nylon suits are not made any more. There is one for sale at folding kayak adventures
I had a nylon suit that I sold recently as it was a bit too tight on the shoulders. I was fine, but I paddled in cold dry air and frequently rotocooled. Latex gaskets are not uncomfortable if properly trimmed. Integral booties rock. My feet are much warmer in them than in mukluks and I can get my feet into the Nordkapp and still be warm. I have been using a NRS Extreme suit for the past couple months. I am very happy with it overall. A sprayskirt tunnel would be nice, but for your boat, not really useful. On a front entry suit, a relief zip ( for men) is not needed but, if you go with a 2 piece ( bibs and dry top) you would appreciate one. I swim in my suits and I find the 2 piece as dry as the suit if the top and bibs are properly mated.

Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 8:36 pm
by krudave
If the dry suit is to keep you alive for an hour or more while swimming in rough, cold water, a neck gasket is essential. A PFD won't keep your head above water all the time if the water is rough.

I own PJ's with neoprene closures, and a full-on Goretex dry suit with a latex neck seal. And, the PJ's neck seal leaks a teaspoon or so, every time I duck under; the dry suit's seal does not leak at all. After half a dozen head-dunkings, the PJ allows enough water in that my fleece is saturated, and its warmth value is very compromised.

A nonbreathable drysuit or drytop is OK if you are doing day trips -- because you can dry out your fleece every night. It will be saturated from body moisture, in a moist climate like that of the Northwest, unless you are very inactive, after a few hours of paddling.

OTOH, a Goretex dry suit allows you to "dry" your fleece while making camp, etc., after paddling all day, while wearing the dry suit; a nonbreathable dry suit would not allow this to occur, meaning the next morning, you will be donning wet fleece to start your day. It is impossible to dry your fleece each night in a rain forest climate.

As far as Tropos vs Goretex, I thought I commented on that as part of this thread, but could not find it here. Might be in some other thread; Basically, Gore stands behind Goretex, no questions asked, and is very fussy about who uses Goretex to make garments, and how they do it. One reason Kokatat has such an unbeatable guarantee is that they don't want anybody blabbing to Gore that "Kokatat's Goretex dry suit failed me!" So, they do highest quality work. The same logic applies to other garment makers. I don't know what the Tropos guarantee is, but I suspect it is not as good as the Goretex stance. You pay extra for that stance, and quite a bit. Is it worth it? Depends.

I would sure as heck not want to be swimming, far from shore, congratulating myself for "saving" $400 by going Tropos instead of Goretex ... I suspect my heir (I only have one) would have been glad to pony up the bucks, to have me around for a few more years.

Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 8:50 pm
by krudave
Acrosome, here is the text from another thread I was thinking of; no mention of Tropos, though. My CRS must be getting worse!

Have you considered a Goretex drytop with a farmer john bottom? That might be a lower-cost alternative that is nearly as good as a dry suit. I've swum for an hour or so in 50-55 F water in a rig like this, and did OK.

Alm wrote:
As to the drysuit, there is apparently only one choice - goretex material, preferably with booties. Full drysuit (not just drytop or drypants) made of Goretex will cost you a fortune (from $350, I think), but full drysuit is the only way to go, if you want to paddle through the winter.

krudave responded:
I own and sometimes use a goretex drysuit from Kokatat. Our winter temps do not get as low as they do in NJ, so in NJ I would use one more often.

The Kokatat units are closer to $800, but they are worth it. If you shop around, you'll find nonbreathable (i.e., made of coated nylon) suits, for about the price Alex quotes, but I don't think there are any new goretex suits out there for $350.

Check out what NRS offers.

As to whether a non-goretex suit might work for you: depends somewhat on how active a paddler you are. If you like to paddle at a highly aerobic rate, then get a goretex one. If you like to just lope along, the cheaper ones might be OK.

If these prices are way too high, consider a farmer john plus dry top combo. Pretty warm, and a lot less costly: maybe about $120 - $130 for the FJ, and about $200 for a good drytop with latex seals at the wrists and a neoprene flap closure at the neck. Gives some flexibility as the water warms in the spring, because the FJ alone provides quite a bit of immersion protection.

Posted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:21 am
by maryinoxford
There's a British forum which has discussed drysuits several times. If you follow this link: ... htm#equip2
-- you'll be on the "clothing" summary page, with links to various drysuit discussions.