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Dry suit

Thinking about getting a dry suit to wear for when I am paddling around Puget Sound. I have been looking at three manufacturers; NRS Extreme relief, Stohlquist Amp and Kokatat Gore-Tex Ion. They all look good but everything looks good in an add or video. Also, front zipper or back zipper? Seems front zipper would be much easier but been told back entry is a breeze. Don't think it would be for me. I'm not a hard core paddler but planning a paddling trip around the San Juans this summer. Would like to paddle the Tacoma Narrows also. Any experience would be appreciated. Thanks


  • OK - I am confused
    Kokatat GoreTex Ion? Can't find it on their web site. Is it that new?
  • Spend the extra for a "relief" zipper
    you will be glad you did. If you aren't sure about the back zipper or an over the front, go try them on to make sure you know the difference. If flexibility is an issue, the back zipper may not be a good idea.

    Get "FEET" in your suit as well. You will love them in the winter.

    I hear good things about the Kokatat Hydrus 3L as well, at a better price point than Goretex but still breathable and well made.

    Good call with getting the dry suit for Puget Sound. It will open up paddling for you all year around.
  • Kokatat is the favorite
    I know folks who have had NRS and Stohlquist dry suits and liked them, but among those who have owned dry suits from different manufacturers, Kokatat seems to be the overwhelming favorite. Their customer support is very good and their Gore-Tex suits are life-time guaranteed against defects (except latex seals). They will repair rips and tears in their suits for a nominal fee and if your suit delaminates or starts to leak at the seams they will repair or replace it. I have had several Kokatat dry suits and bibs, all of which have given me good service. I have a Kokatat Gore-Tex dry top over 15 years old that I still use on a regular basis.

    As far as I can see, the Kokatat Icon only comes with a rear entry zipper. Years ago, I used to see quite a few rear entry zippers. These days, I see hardly any. It seems therefore that the jury has returned a verdict on this issue.

    Getting in and out of a rear entry suit generally requires assistance. A rear entry suit avoids a somewhat stiff zipper in the front, but that doesn't seem to be a significant factor for most folks.
  • second alpalmer
    Get relief zip and attached booties.

    I have only had front entries. One Palm brand and a Kokatat. Don't know about back, but front has worked fine for me. They will be a little baggy, which is needed to allow you to layer and also allow wiggle room to get the suit on and off.
  • Advice for awkward zipper locations
    I've never used a rear-entry suit, but have had issues with being able to pull the tab along certain portions of the zipper travel in any case, especially with one suit that had a peculiar zipper orientation. Usually there's a little loop of string on the zipper tab (if there isn't, install one right away), and if you pass a much longer rope though that loop and fold it back on itself, it can become very easy operate the zipper. For example, you may be unable to reach the zipper tab at certain locations along its travel path, or you may be able to reach it but lack the pulling power you need at certain locations when your arm is contorted into an awkward position, but the much longer "handle" provided by the rope (which you can grab at any convenient position along its length (which is more important than you can know until you do it)) can totally eliminate both of those problems. You'll still need to find a way to "anchor" another part of the zipper "upstream" of your direction of pull, and if you can't do that with your free hand you may be able to do it by tightening the fit of the suit over your body in that area by crouching, bending, etc. It's that zipper-anchoring problem that might mean you still can't operate a rear-entry zipper along its full travel length by yourself, but this trick is worth trying as one method that might work.
  • It's the Icon ...
    A new rear entry in the main collection, but essentially the Jackson design in other colors.
  • Kokatat
    Yea it's new. It's a back entry type. However, I am thinking any Kokatat Gore-Tex or kokatat dry suit.
  • Consider Mythic Drysuits
    for a non hard core paddler that needs a quality suit


    Owner is a paddler.
  • relief zipper
    -- Last Updated: Mar-22-14 7:18 PM EST --

    I've been thinking about the Hydrus 3L also. Wonder if the customer service is just as good with this one vice the Gore-Tex suits. Would def go with the feet and zipper. I would try them on but leaning towards the front entry. Good points, thanks for your input.

  • Kokatat
    I have heard about Kokatat customer service and was advised to spend the extra cash because you get what you pay for. Sounds like you have good success with Kokatat. Agree with ya with the zipper placement. I'm leaning towards front entry but think I will give them a try. Thanks for your input.
  • front entry
    -- Last Updated: Mar-22-14 7:34 PM EST --

    I'm with ya. Leaning toward front entry zipper. I'm not as flexible as I once was plus shoulders aren't good. I can see myself getting stuck somewhere and not be able to get the suit off LOL. Thanks for your input.

  • Kokatat provides great support for all
    of their products. They don't short change on a lower priced product, from my experience anyway.
  • Awkward
    Agree with ya on the technique. I don't have the flex any more so I'm leaning toward a front entry. That seems to be the way everybody is going. I will try both out however. Thanks for your input.
  • Kaya
    Thanks for the recommendation. This will be fun to research.
  • Immersion research is BEYOND great
    Like many have said, you get what you pay for. With Immersion Research you get great value and lifetime warranty against defects. I had the old back entry suit and it served me very well for years until I got tired of reaching the back zipper. The new Arch Rival suit with front entry zipper is a game changer. It's as tough as nails. I upgraded mine with fabrics socks and it's perfect. Highly recommend immersion Research and they also have fantastic customer service. Very personal and responsive.
  • Dry suit suggestions - general
    Get something with a proven lifetime warranty - usually means the materiel and zippers. If you use the suit hard you'll likely end up taking advantage of it.

    Front versus rear - I have never owned a rear entry suit per se, but do have one suit with a drop seat. I had exactly the issue cited by guideboatguy, getting a purchase to start the unzip myself, and had to be unzipped out of the thing more than once. And that was well before I hit Social Security age. Got my primary suit with a lowered p-zip.

    As others have said, booties. They become a maintenance point and themselves. They are scrunched into shoes/booties and folds aren't great for laminate materials. But even leaking a bit, with wool socks underneath you stay warmer than with no booties.

    Extra tunnel to mate with skirt - I have with and without. Really can't cite any diff between the two in terms of that. Suit without a tunnel is easier to get in and out of.

    You may have a body chemistry that eats latex gaskets no matter what kind of care you take. I have that issue on my neck gasket despite forgoing creams etc when paddling. It is not a reflection on the suit, just might mean that you'll want to get a backup suit to have around with a less dry neoprene neck. You can either send a suit in somewhere for a new gasket or, for most of them, get a repair kit to do it at home. But it is worth finding out what your repair options are.

    A pocket or two can be handy, for the small stuff that is waterproof and you forgot to stash anywhere before being fully suited up and ready to launch. Not a reason to skip a suit, but if two equal suits are different in this respect you'll like the pocket.
  • General
    Good input. Thought the tunnel was a no brainer but you make lots of sense. Do I really need one, not going over falls or WW. Also I like the easier part. Think I'm going with front entry. Had one knee replaced, soon the other and had both shoulders rebuilt where the DR said he can't do any more, next time will be replacements. Don't have the flexibility/ strength I use to have and always in pain. At this point, would like to keep things simple but want reliable gear. I'm a pocket dude also :-)Thanks for your suggestions.
    I like IR, saw the video for the Arch Rival. Good input, thank you.
  • Rent one to see what you prefer
    Some shops in the Puget Sound area will rent you a Kokatat Gore-tex drysuit at reasonable cost. It will probably have a front zip. Try it on, go for a paddle, and see how you like the zipper placement.

    I first owned a Stohlquist Gore-tex suit, back when they made them. The suit was pretty good but the long-term customer support went away after they stopped using Gore-tex. The suit was leaking in several areas along the sealed seams and the waist's gathered area had abrasion inside, revealing the Gore membrane under the former lining. I was willing to pay for repairs but Stohlquist just told me to take it elsewhere for servicing.

    Instead, I bought a new Kokatat GMER suit with relief zip (lowered front one for women, a special order), Gore-tex booties, and skirt tunnel. My first suit lacked these features, and I was OK with it but, WOW, having the relief zip is definitely better. The booties help keep feet warmer and drier, and the tunnel reduces water intrusion when capsized. For not that much more money, it's worth getting these options, especially since you will be in cold water year-'round.
  • Rent.
    Good advice. Didn't know they rented dry suits. Agree with ya on the booties and relief zipper. I have received a lot of great comments. Thank you.
  • You'll need larger boots also
    When you use a drysuit with fabric foot covers, you need to upsize your paddling shoe by a size.

    Just a heads-up.
  • Rear zipper
    While I personally prefer a front zipper, there are some that prefer the rear zipper. Here is a you tube that I just saw that showed how one guy gets in/out.

  • Wow $1100 for a dry suit .
    I think I was into kayaking for several years before I even spent that much money on a boat.
  • Icon
    Here is the women's Icon. Personally I LOVE the colors in this suit and the paneling on the leg. Really looks great.


    There is a men's one in the new denim colors too.

  • Where you paddle, personal tolerance
    Paddling year round in the northeast or interior northern part of the country makes that money worth finding pretty quick - air temps in the 20's, wind chill lower than that and water temps in the high 30's.

    It is a also personal tolerance. I am cold when some I paddle with are OK in wet wear. By my late 50's what bit of fat I had was not enough to be warm without also being dry.

    Both of these considerations come around regularly in discussions about why people opt for dry suits. It'd be interesting to live in a place where these temperatures weren't an issue, but many of us don't.

    As to the cost - you are buying the warranty as well as the suit. Both my husband and I have had our Kokatat suits replaced on full because of delam. So that is really about a grand spent just once, for approximately a decade of suits for my husband and a good five years for me. (My first suit didn't really fit right and pin-holed instead.) At about $100 per year, my husband is not unhappy with the price.
  • Colors are nice
    I like anything that is not yellow - after I finally had to roll to lose a bee that followed me offshore I'll take anything that isn't (yellow). I like pink/purple these days a lot. Though I have gotten terribly attached to the pockets in the Expedition.

    But the women's colors are thus far not in play for me. The shoulders have been an issue in the Women's sizing that otherwise matches me, even if I was in love with the drop seat. Despite appearances, I am proportionally broader there than the apparent model. No matter - as long as I keep my posterior in check, I am a perfect fit for the unisex small. And getting that one part back where it should is good for me...

    Anyway, I just mailed my suit in yesterday for a checkup. It'll come back in some color that isn't yellow.
  • I think this is a bit of an issue
    with young people getting into sea kayaking.

    They see outlays like this and there is no way most people under 30 can think about spending the kind of money older established people don't even blink at.

    I think we need to remind people that you can paddle safely in 45 F water in a wet suit that costs $180. (have done so comfortably where original poster is thinking of paddling)

    On Facebook recently Sean Morley had a discussion about why seakayaking is dying out, and I think this is one of the reasons.
  • I'd get the tunnel
    Its helps ease the "purging" process (getting air out of the suit), and it makes for a cleaner interface with your spray skirt.
  • I could not agree more
    -- Last Updated: Mar-25-14 12:45 PM EST --

    Personal comfort doesn't help ease the pocketbook, and one can spend less than $1100 new for a drysuit that will adequately protect them and provide adequate comfort.

  • Issue
    -- Last Updated: Mar-25-14 1:54 PM EST --

    Thanks for your input. I've paddled for years without any suit, then bought a cheap paddling jacket, than a shorty wetsuit. The wetsuit was just too uncomfortable so just went with my jacket. Jacket doesn't handle keeping me dry if I go over but keeps the weather off of me. Can't remember ever coming close to capsizing. Never had a dry suit even when I was diving up here. However, I am older, and not as strong or flexible as I once was, joint replaced and soon others. I participate in the annual Polar Bear jump in Olalla but can't seem to handle the cold water like I use too. I've gone from a "What the $#^%" kind of guy to thinking about my limitations. Spending that kind of money on a suit is hard to do but as annotated above in some other posts, for me, the benefits outweigh the costs. Plus being retired, I'm thinking I would like to start paddling year round. Kids of today are not like kids when I grew up. We played and seeked adventure. I think kids see sea kayaking as too slow and requiring too much work. Thanks again for your input.

  • where you paddle
    Nice comment. I've become cautious in my old age. In the past I would have no problem climbing up on the roof to install Christmas lights, now I have some reservations. I just don't have the strength, flexibility, and just physically unable to do the things I use to. I now look at the risks. If I ever did become incapacitated by the cold water, I couldn't put somebody else at risk trying to save my butt because I wasn't prepared. Some of the kayak clubs out here require a dry suit to participate in some of their trips. I'm going to pick up a suit, just not sure which one. I see you like the Kokatat.
  • slush
    I'm sure any of the top brand dry suits would fit my needs. I am a believer however, you get what you pay for. Besides, if I didn't spend some bread on this I would probably have thrown the money away on something else; not that I have money to throw away. You know what I mean. Thanks for your input.
  • Partly agree
    The outlay for a good drysuit is high. Then again, if that same person is buying a $3000 kayak that's available in rotomold version for half as much, he could've had both the roto and the drysuit and insulation for $3000.

    It's like buying a car: Do you have some of your budget allocated for gas and maintenance? To kayak in cold water, more money has to be set aside for warmer immersion wear. What that wear consists of is highly subject to individual body tolerance of cold. It might mean needing a drysuit.

    I sometime go out when the water is 40-something degrees wearing only a 3mm fullsuit, but that's ONLY in calm conditions, fairly sheltered area, and no intention of "wet practice". If there's any doubt in my mind, the drysuit goes on. I already know how I react to being in such cold water. The OP sounds like he already knows cold water by having dived in it many times.
  • More on Kokatat
    -- Last Updated: Mar-25-14 5:26 PM EST --

    One thing to consider with all suits is how well you fit their intended dimensions. As long as I keep my rear and waist from getting chunky, I happen to hit the measurements for Kokatat's Unisex small. Arm length, inseam as well as the rest. I just have to keep the flab off my hips, less wiggle room there.

    But I know people who can't fit Kokatat's sizes without a lot of adjustment of arm length, leg length etc. For those folks, it'd be worth seeing if some other manufacturer has a sizing chart that better matches their physiology.

    Kokatat tends to go with thinner gaskets than some others, so if you have challenging skin chemistry they might go faster. Hence my advice to make sure you know about repair options. When things last they do it really well. My wrist gaskets in my SuperNova are original and that suit is over 10 years old. It's my neck that rarely makes it a full season despite a raft of good habits. I don't mind sending it back to Kokatat for a new gasket, but I know others who have preferred to get the repair kit from Kayak Academy.

    One other thing about dry suits is the material itself. The reason that the GoreTex Kokatat dry suits are so well liked has a lot to do with their enforcement of the GoreTex warranty. They will react to any delamination very aggressively. It might be hard to argue that their suits outlast any others out there. Sweat and chafing and day to day use in a totally waterlogged environment is hard on any material.

    But when you are dealing with Kokatat, you are dealing with the same company that has the contract for a host of major clients like the Coast Guard and SAR crews all over the country. So they really need to stand behind the material for these clients - recreational paddlers are just getting the benefit of the demands they face from the bigger players.

    Interestingly, I have an older (used) Coast Guard suit that we have dated as a 2003 model. The material is thicker as are the gaskets. It doesn't breathe as well as the newer suits and it is a size larger than ideal, but all of that makes it a great cold-day-in-the-winter suit. It doesn't seem possible to kill this thing.

    I think there are a number of well-designed suits out there. I have liked what I have seen of Level6 suits, I think the value for the buck of NRS's suits is excellent and I have seen others I thought were worth a second look. What I don't know about these other ones is their warranty, and our experience with Kokatat on the warranty has been beyond good. So we have tended to stay there.

    One note - we have a friend who just got a suit from Kokatat that had a plastic zipper. I don't know what model aside from it being a lower cost line, but I can tell you it went back to Kokatat the morning after they opened up the box. The size was wrong as it turns out, but it would have gone back even if it fit right. Between the angle of the zipper and it being plastic rather than metal, she and her husband struggled to get it zipped and then almost had to send her back in the box with the suit because it took them an hour to wrestle it unzipped without damaging the suit. So be attentive to the zippers too.

  • no one's saying not to get a drysuit
    Seadart was talking about why the sport is diminishing and it's hard to counter his argument. Additionally, not everyone needs a $1000 drysuit. I know Celia is an advanced paddler who takes to the NE coast. I don't go that far but get into the great lakes every summer and fall, I paid half that for a drysuit that has lasted me five years. I made the personal decision that no fabric is breathable enough to keep me truly dry while paddling, I sweat a lot. So while I bought a "breathable suit" I didn't pay $1k for something more breathable.

    It's hard to see how cost doesn't influence this sport disproportionately compared to many others.
  • I admit it I'm cheap.
    only need a drysuit when traveling to BCU rental spots.

    Over Christmas I was thinking about taking up archery again; I used to make bows when I was kid from wood from the hills near my home. I made a bow for about $5 dollars during the Christmas Holidays this year, and have been shooting it quite a bit. I enjoy it for the same reason I enjoy paddling, very old organic technology, but I go with minimalist equipment, waveski, wetsuit, paddle helmet, sometimes a PFD.
  • Advanced? Thanks but...
    -- Last Updated: Mar-25-14 6:06 PM EST --

    I have never considered myself advanced. Intermediate used-to-be but I wouldn't try to claim even that right now. It has been a tough year for paddling. I know I am without a roll on my left right now and it is likely I will find the one on the right to be more boat-dependent than I like when I have chance to get wet again. Without a solid roll, a lot else gets more uncertain than it should be.

    I have been in some interesting stuff, intended and not, and have stretched with some WW, tidal work and a ridiculous number of attempts in surf. I actually got up, for a split second, on my last day in the surf before I got knocked over again. Now I know why into the wave face... I capsized to avoid a collision with an instructor. I figured he'd be real annoyed if I ran over him.

    But - back to the dry suit thing - I have no issue with less breathable suits and think that they are often underrated. But personally I want the really good warranty because we really use it. And you don't usually find that on the suits that aren't full out GoreTex or equivalent as far as I know.

  • Plastic Zippers
    -- Last Updated: Mar-25-14 9:14 PM EST --

    At Canoecopia this year I fiddled with plastic zippers on dry suits at the Level 6 display booth. Those plastic zippers slid just as easily as the zippers on a winter coat, and I had doubts that they would seal very well (minimal sliding effort seems to translate to minimal squeezing force applied to the seal). The sales guy said all dry suit makers now offer plastic zippers, even Kokatat. He also said plastic zippers are the next new thing - an improvement - but I think he might have said that because that's all he could offer (though I didn't verify this). Anyway, I went to the Kokatat booth and found a cheap model with a plastic zipper. I couldn't even make the slider budge. I gave up trying, fearing I would break the thing if I pulled any harder. I have no idea why the Level 6 plastic zippers slid so effortlessly in comparison. Maybe the Level 6 guys pre-lubed the zippers on the display suits and the folks at Kokatat did not.

    Me, I'll stick to the heavy-duty, traditional kind of zipper, but with any luck I won't have to make the choice between brass and plastic any time soon.

  • My husband bought a used one
    Kokatat Gore-tex, in great condition, for $400 if I remember correctly.

    But that is comparing apples to oranges. New, the suit would cost more than twice as much.

    The point I wanted to make was that the cost of any equipment (that includes clothing) has to be factored into the budget. It's not over once you buy the boat. Same thing for bicycling. If you think $1000 for a Gore-tex drysuit is high, consider what (apparently) sells as cycling jackets or tights. These are not mountaineering parkas or other complicated garments, just stretchy insulation. How about $300 tights and $500 jackets? That doesn't include the $100 shorts or jersey underneath: total of $1000 for nonwaterproof insulation for the torso and limbs alone. Bikes cost as much as sea kayaks, yet they sell in much greater numbers even in the high-end ranks.

    Cost alone is not what keeps young people from taking up sea kayaking. This subject has been discussed here before. A tremendous limiting factor is simply space for secure storage, and, until TITS began, lack of shouting out about the more boisterous side of the sport.
  • Kokatat Icon video
    The following video will give you an idea of what is required to get into and out of the rear zipper Icon without help:

  • Wearing yellow
    The bee affinity for yellow carries over to cycling also. Don't wear anything yellow when in bee country/season. They will NOT just go away with a light brush of the hand.

    I noticed this when riding, because if I was wearing a purple-and-yellow jersey, the bees would land on the yellow parts, and only the yellow parts. Likewise for red-and-yellow jerseys. Yellow kayaks also!

    Watch out for yellowjackets if you're eating a meat sandwich. I had no idea they were attracted to meat until I got stung on the lip when I bit into a roast beef sandwich that they'd hung around and I thought had ridden them from. Hah! One was hiding between the bread and the meat. Geez, that one hurt.

  • Icon
    Thanks for the info. Haven't seen this one yet. They make it all look so easy :-)
  • More
    Funny. Good info on the sizing and zipper. I am assuming it would cost much more to have one custom made. Think I am limited to a manufacturer due to the size charts. Stickler for me is the length of the leg. If I have an inseam of 30" would a 32 " inseam be a big deal? It is with my regular pants. Not sure if dry suits are different.
  • Plastic
    I guess if it hard to zip in the store, it will be hard on the water. Thanks for the input.
  • Kokatat alterations
    Legs and arms are relatively easy with Kokatat. They can shorten/lengthen for a fee, just forget what it is. The fit issue is more of a problem with too big a belly, that kind of thing.
  • Clay Wright
    Clay makes a lot of things look easy. His gold medal performance in the mens' sguirt boat event at last year's World's Freestyle competition was astounding.
  • Maybe not. Just to clarify, any zipper
    -- Last Updated: Mar-27-14 10:38 PM EST --

    ... can be hard to get unstuck when it is in the fully closed position. I know that on standard zippers, there's a bit of a "tight spot" when pulling the tab past the last of the "zipping" and into the "cinched closed" position. Once you get it open and put some lube on it, it should be a lot easier to operate, including getting the tab pulled into and out of the fully closed position, so my experience with the stuck plastic zipper on the display rack doesn't really mean much. On my brass zippers I just rub the working parts with plain paraffin (on the plus side, paraffin is a dry material that does not attract dirt. On the minus side, being dry and non-sticky, it does not adhere well and must be re-applied frequently). A bit of lube makes a world of difference.

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