Buying a dry suit, sizing guide and experience

Hi everyone,…

New to the forum, and about time I post something… I’ve been sea kayaking in the great lakes for a number of years now and I now want to dive into some winter/early spring kayaking so decided in order to do that, I’d need a dry suit…

I’ve called around and it seams that no one really stocks them, so was right about pull the trigger on an ebay purchase of a Large Kokatat Swift entry. But when the price got to within a few hundred dollars over new, I decided against it… While investigating the sizing guides… I seem to fall into a Large in some categories, and an XL is others… So since no one stocks them, I was kind of forced to order a Kokatat Meridian Hydrus version, not gore tex (really wanted the tunnel cover for the skirt) online through REI and ship to my closest REI store. Good thing I didn’t bite on that ebay auction, cause a Large just barely fits me,… I can put it on, but do not have full mobility in torso rotation… While the XL fits, but a bit long in the legs… I also ordered a Large and XL Stohlqist Shift (I really like the option to remove the neck gasket for comfort paddling when a full dry suit it not needed) . The Large size for the Shift doesn’t even go over my waist line! I never imagined myself as an x-large until now (kind of depressing actually)… Anyhow, I now face the fact… and still waiting for the XL to come in to try on before I make my decision, more than likely this weekend… Knowing all this now,… my recommendation is to try things on before buying, or at least ensure the items are returnable…

My personal Pros and Cons between both suits:

Stolquist Shift Pros:

  • Removable neck gasket (after almost choking myself trying these one, big bonus… I know they will eventually stretch out)
  • Removable hood, love the option and one thing that sets it apart from the Meridian
  • Suspenders, while trying the suit on they just got in the way… then again… I never fully got it on,… so i’ll update this once I try the XL

Kokatat Meridian Pros:

  • Lifetime limited warranty - actually heard good and bad on this… the limited part
  • 100$ cheaper than the Shift
  • Neck gasket is trimmable
  • Customizable ($$$$ - worth it to fix the lengthy legs)

Stolquist Shift Cons:

  • Only 3 year limited warranty - again… how good is an actual “limited warranty”?
  • Large size doesn’t fit a typical Large size body (in my mind at least… how skinny do people have to be these days?)

Kokatat Meridian Cons:

  • No hood (although if I want to spend big money I can get it customized)
  • The Orange colour will clash against my lime green kayak and red PFD :slight_smile:

Anyone have any other advice, things to look for, personal experience with these two brands to share?

I think that’s all I have in terms of dry suits… a little about myself…

I’m 38 years old, 5’11 pushing just over 200lbs, usually wear a 36 waist pants with 33" in length and apparently an XL (still can’t get over that).

Typically paddle locally on the Canadian side of the Detroit river/Lake st. clair/Lake Erie

My kayak is a 17’ fibreglass Impex Currituk and just started paddling with a Greenland paddle last year custom carved and engraved by Adanac paddles (check out her work, really cool).


Neck gaskets…bunch 'em upandpull it over your head to clear mouthand nose before getting your arms all balled up in the arms. Good to have a spotter.

Here’s the Kokatat sizing chart from Kayak Academy’s site:

Bigger is better - once you burp the air out the suit will feel snug and not baggy. You definitely need extra room underneath for insulating layers, and to be able to move. I am about your size and have an XL NRS Extreme Drysuit. Open boater, so I don’t need the overskirt.

I was in the same situation when I bought a Kokatat Icon. The official size chart had me closer to an M than an L. (I am 183 cm, 78 kg, which equals 6’ and 172 lbs). When I tried it in the store, there was no doubt that the M was too small.

So I guess that Kokatats size charts are perhaps a bit to the optimistic side.

I owned two suits so far. A goretex Kokatat Meridian followed by Stohlquist Amp. Meridian may be more durable and better warrantied but after one season in the Amp I prefer it. It feels like a better fitting lighter suit. The plastic zipper is easier to operate and less bulky but you need to keep it lubricated and clean to prevent leaks.
I can’t see a significant difference in breathability between the two suits.
I sold the Meridian for reasons outside of its performance and would probably keep it otherwise but given a choice again I would choose the Amp. Time will tell if it’s durable enough though.
Another thing about it. I bought it used but it was made in the same year. It was a preworn by a smaller person for maybe 20 days. The first thing I noticed is how gentle and comfortable the latex gaskets were and yet fully waterproof. I cringe seeing my Kokatat wearing buddies doning and doffing their rigs. It’s a much easier experience for me.
Feet-wise, you need to try it on with your max layers. Make sure you have no restrictions whatsoever. Try doing full squats, exaggerated waist and arm rotations and err of the side of large.

great, thank you for the all the feedback… Very useful…

I think I’m going to pull the trigger on the stohlquist shift, I tried the XL this weekend and it just fits ever so snuggly around my waist, other than that, the fit is very good (I can loose a few pounds I’m sure)… I really do like the over head neck gasket zipper. I think I may want to invest in a knife next just in case I need to cut open the gaskets if I get bogged down with water… although I did see a youtube video where someone demo’ed a self rescue even with the neck gasket off, and it doesn’t seem as you don’t take in as much water as one would think and he still managed to get back into his boat…

I also did buy a new set booties that are +2 sizes than my other neoprene booties from 9 to 11’s and with wool socks inside the dry suit they fit nice as well… Also got a new PFD,… cause why stop there, the S/M one I had barely fit and all the straps are maxed out in length…

Anyhow, hope to get out there on the water sometime soon, but not before May (when I will order and pick up my dry suit).

Thanks again,…