Best Quality Drysuit?

Dear Folks:

If money were no object…

What is the best quality drysuit for an active (rolling, playing in waves) sea kayaker? Thanks in advance for your responses.



– Last Updated: Oct-23-09 7:37 PM EST –

Kin'na go wrong wit a Kokatat. Me' uses a GFER. Costs lot'sa wampum but they be very, very good.


Seconded…Kokatat is great
I’ve spent quite a bit of money on a few Kokatat items over the years, and it’s always been money well spent (always a great bargain, in fact, considering the years of useful performance/durability). Even my 12+ year old semi-drytop (very first Kokatat purchase) is still going strong after years of heavy usage. Haven’t had the drysuit quite as long, but it’s well on its way to doing just as well.


And the support is second to none
I have heard of someone sending his many years old drysuit to Kokatat for repairing holes and got a new suit back for the cost of repairing the holes, because Kokatat found some delamination.

And this is just one such case out of many.


I would have said Stohlquist…
…as I like the fit of their suits better than Kokatat, but they’re no longer making Gore-Tex suits and I refuse to buy any waterproof-breathable dry suit that doesn’t have a lifetime warranty on the fabric.

Whoever has the best warranty
You are going to beat the hell out of these things. Whoever has the best deal on replacing one if there is delamination or some other material problem.

My stuff is Stohlquist, I use it alot
and am not very nice to it. My only complaint with my Stohlquist Whitewater drysuit is that when it was new it wicked the water off the outside surface of the suit, now it seems that after I roll it stays wet for too long. This problem could lead to evaporative cooling issues which is not good (generally). Does anyone know why this is happening and what I can do about it? Bill

Get a DRW renewer (sp?)

– Last Updated: Oct-24-09 10:20 AM EST –

All dry wear starts out with a water-resistent outer layer that causes water to bead up rather than soaking into the cloth layer. It wears off over time and use.

EMS and others have treatments for this. Wash the suit with the fancy shampoo for this fabric, then rinse it again in in this stuff. It will renew that layer somewhat, though if the water-resistent outer layer has completely gone you probably won't get it back to where it was new.
If you get a new suit at some point, use the stuff starting early. It'll keep that layer fresher longer.

Durable water repellent. Sometime is seems not so durable. Its what makes the water bead up and yes it does wear off.

Goretex does not work well without it.

Revivex if it’s GoreTex…
North Face and other manufacturers of GoreTex gear recommend Revivex for treating the exterior of your garment so that it will bead water as new. Follow the instructions on the bottle. You might want to rinse the garment twice after washing to make sure all the soap is out before application. I do this with my jackets and rain pants. Good luck.

“Durable” is a misnomer
I have yet to see any DWR that last for long, particularly in areas that get flexed or rubbed frequently.

Gore-Tex has an iron-clad warranty…
…which is why I am willing to spend the extra money for it. Gore has a lifetime warranty on the fabric and they enforce strict waterproofness standards on all garments made with their fabrics. Manufacturers must comply with their standards or Gore won’t sell them fabric, plain and simple. If a manufacturer goes belly-up, Gore will replace any defective garment with a similar one of another brand, or give you a credit toward the purchase. It’s the best warranty in the business, period.

I recently returned a Marmott Gore-Tex jacket that was delaminating on the shoulders (after 10-12 years) and it will be replaced as soon as I can make up my mind which model I want from their current line. In this case, they gave me a $400 credit, which was the original suggested retail price of the jacket (not what I paid for it). I certainly can’t complain about that.

Remember that any warranty is only as good as the company behind it. Gore is a large, diverse company that isn’t going away anytime soon.

I bought a Palm because the other manufacturers only made suits for people with ‘average’ proportions. The Kokatat I wore had to be a HUGE size in order to accomadate chest and shoulders, but was like wearing a tent otherwise.

Stohlquist and Palm do not use Gore-tex because Kokatat has always had the Gore-tex contract. But remember that Gore’s patent expired several years ago and there are several manufacturers out there making the same breathable-albeit-waterproof membrane, using the same technology, that is likewise guaranteed for life. Point being there are other options out there.


– Last Updated: Oct-26-09 9:36 AM EST –

"Stohlquist and Palm do not use Gore-tex because Kokatat has always had the Gore-tex contract."

Hardly. Stohlquist made Gore-Tex dry suits up until 2-3 years ago. I have a Gore-Tex Meridian suit, which I really like. AFAIK, Palm has never used Gore-Tex. It appears that these companies have CHOSEN not to use it, for their own reasons. I don't claim to know why, but I suspect that it's primarily an issue of price and in Stohlquist's case, it's also possible that they weren't selling enough of the more expensive dry suits to justify making them. Now that Kokatat has an "exclusive by default" on Gore-Tex dry suits, I imagine they're laughing all the way to the bank. ;-)

Thanks for the advice! I will hit the
store later this week and look for the Wash and Renew products. I don’t know what my suit is made from, it has a shiny silver fabric on the inside. This wet outer condition really sucks as it keeps the cold outer layer close to you (it looks like the suit has a vacumn to it) and it feels clamy. You lose the warming effect of an air gap. I also noticed yesterday that the inside of the suit in the tunnel area looked damp. Is this because the fabric needs open air to work properly? I like my suit alot, but the repellancy has got to get fixed. Bill

A couple of issues
If your dry suit is damp inside, it’s either condensation, perspiration or it’s leaking. In areas that flex and rub a lot, leaks will eventually occur. If the suit is Gore-Tex (you can’t tell by the silver lining), leaks would be covered under warranty, as long as the fabric/lining isn’t worn through. With other fabrics, it depends on the manufacturer of the suit.

While the DWR renewal products all work to some degree, don’t expect miracles. At best, they cause water to bead for a short period of time, then it will wet out again as it is doing now. The high flex areas and those that rub on other surfaces will wet out almost immediately, with the rest of the suit following over time. There is nothing you can apply to a suit that’s going to prevent wet-out completely or long-term. While it’s certainly good to have the fabric stay dry on the outside, it’s one of those battles like trying to repair scratches on your boat’s hull; it shortly becomes more work than it’s worth, you spend more time repairing than paddling and eventually you give up trying. I did, anyway.

Since I’m going to be replacing all the seals on my dry suit shortly, once I remove the old seals, I may try treating the fabric and tossing the suit in the dryer, as the renewal products recommend. Please note that you CANNOT PUT LATEX SEALS IN A HOT DRYER, as it will destroy them. After that, I’ll just use it until it starts leaking and I can get it replaced under Gore’s warranty.

You might be seeing pinholes, where the rubbing that bnystom talks about has produced a worn spot that lets water thru. You can get them patched by some manufacturers, or try it yourself. But as he said, there is a point where a worn suit is a worn suit.

My original suit has been beat to hell and has a couple of hundred patches - or so. I have kept it in decent gaskets so I have one that I can take into nasty environments and not mourn it too much when it finally suffers fatal damage. But I do have to recognize its limitations.

The condensation/leak is in a perfect
line exactly where the tunnel cinch is located. When I hung the suit up after paddling I could see the wet spot in a horizontal line about 6 inches tall, which is exactly the size of the neoprene/glidskin cinch for the tunnel. I was thinking maybe the lack of air or water retention from the skirt/cinch was causing it. I suppose it could also be my skirt wearing on the material from torso rotation. The mark was a straight line though. When you say patches, do you mean a piece of material sewn or glued on? Or is it an application of seam seal or some other sealant? Thanks, Bill

GoreTex material glued over the pinhole
Inside the suit. My booties don’t need my feet in then to have a firm shape any more, in that old suit.

At one point Gore-Tex required
any garment made with Gore-Tex fabrics had to be made at a Gore-Tex factory. This led to problems where a designer would want to try something experimentally or edgy and the Gore-Tex factory would say ‘we can’t/won’t do that’. An example of this is when Mountain Hardwear started using external seam tape on garments. The folks at Gore-Tex said ‘it can’t be done’. So Mountain Hardwear produced those garments with a different fabric (Conduit I think).

Their policy may have changed though since Gore-Tex no longer has a strangle hold on the Waterproof-Breathable market.