Dry Suit Advice

-- Last Updated: Jan-02-12 5:18 PM EST --

So I sold a guitar and I guess I'm going to pull the trigger and purchase a dry suit. I've never owned or worn a dry suit. I'll use it for kayaking - coastal New England, as well as New England lakes and rivers, including some spring white water in the 2/3 range. I will be hard to fit. I had a heck of a time finding fishing waders last spring. I'm overweight but heading in a downward direction steadily. I don't want to wait until my weight is stable. I'm too old and an entire year lost in the hope that my weight will be different is not something I am willing to do. Perhaps some of you can relate to that. I think I will need some custom fitting. I have enough money to get something comfortable and durable that fits properly. I am not enthusiastic about cutting corners only to find I am less than comfortable. I'll paddle late march early april through late fall. Probably no dead of winter paddling. Snow shoes come out then.

What makes and models do you all recommend? Features? What sort of fit should I be looking for? Should I err on side of a loose fit? Or snugish since my weight is headed south?

it’d probably
be better if you filled us in on your height and weight. Odds are someone out here is around the same size. Personally, I’d err towards the larger side on suit, you squeeze the excess air out anyway, and it’s necessary to have stretching and baselayer room.


– Last Updated: Jan-02-12 5:53 PM EST –

240Lbs (on the way down)
32 inch sleeve length
30 inch inseam
large thighs
broad shouldered
grey haired

a sight to behold!

Kokatat makes custom dry suits
They are great to talk to over the phone. They have a lifetime warranty for Goretex suits.

I found that torso length affects a dry suit sizing chart. I am 5’ 10" and about 165 pounds and fit well within the medium range on the sizing chart. But, I discovered my torso is longer than average, so the medium doesn’t quite give me the room I need - plenty of chest room, just a slight wedgie - I used it too many times before I determined this, so couldn’t exchange it, so I plan to sell it and order the large.

I also found that I prefer a semi-drysuit with a looser neoprene collar instead of the tighter latex. I even despise buttoning a shirt closed. I wouldn’t advise the semi-drysuit if you are practicing rolling in cold water, but for cold water safety, it’s more than tight enough around the neck.

your ESP is working
I was going to link the NPMB thread (I’m mattm over there) but I see you’re already there :-). Seeing as you canoe,extra leg length isn’t a bad thing as you’re kneeling a lot I’d imagine. End of drysuit (selling) season is coming up soon, you might hit a shop, try some suits or at least talk to the staff, and make an offer.

Kayak Academy, Kokatat, Stolquist
The Kayak Academy in Seattle I think sells custom drysuits. It’s worth giving them a call since they’re quite knowledgeable and will help you find what’s best for you.

Kokatat and Stolquist are the 2 brands that seem to have the best reputation for quality and customer service.

P-zip. Not optional. (even for this female)

Goretex booties are really really nice. They tend to be the most frequent place that needs to be patched, so they do produce some maintenance issues. But warm dry feet on a cold dank day - priceless!

Hood is nice but frankly, if I need something on my head it’s either a neo hood for warmth or I am pulling out the cag or the Goretex big brim hat for rain. I don’t think the hood adds a lot until you aer in the boat for long treks.

OS Systems for me
Had my OS Systems suit for years now, custom sizing as well.

I figure any company that makes them for

diving 100’s of feet underwater can’t be all bad.


What’s with this over skirt feature -
I see on some dry suits? Good to have or excess futzing around? And what about a hood? Same question.

skirt is for ww yakking
it pulls over the cockpit skirt. Nice for cl. 3 and up yakking, totally extraneous for canoeing. hoods are basically for sea kayakers from what I gather. Us ww folks are wearing helmets, and the yakkers wear skullcaps underneath.

Hood nice for yakkers too
Since we sit so low we get splashed all the way up our top!

I’ve owned several Kokatat products and one Palm Stikine drysuit.

Unless something drastically changes at Kokatat, I don’t plan on buying drytop/drysuit from any other manufacturer than Kokatat again.

You might pay a bit more up front, but it is well worth it over the lifetime of your drysuit as Kokatat will take care of you and your suit probably better than any other drysuit company out there.

But buy their goretex products and not the cheaper drysuits with non-goretex fabrics.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard (and experienced myself) of people returning products to Kokatat for a repair and have had brand new garments returned, usually due to the goretex delaminating (any w/b will do this at some point). But only goretex has a lifetime warranty, as far as I know. Due to this Kokatat will send you a new suit at goretex’s expense.

I have easily spent in postage only more than the cost difference between a Kokatat GMER (their top of the line suit) and the Palm Stikine (their top of the line suit) to have the Palm product repaired. Now the Palm has to be sent to the UK at $50 a pop.

From my perspective of dealing with these issues and being around sea kayaking for quite awhile, I would advise most people to save their pennies and get a Kokatat GMER and don’t look back. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way and am doing just that at the moment.

Every manufacture will have problems, but the stories I continually hear coming from Kokatat are better than I’ve heard from other manufacturers in terms of customer service, which will become an issue for you as you use a drysuit.

Does that guarantee
apply to a drysuit that has been custom sized?

As far as I know, if it has the Kokatat name on it and it’s been custom sized by Kokatat, it should apply. Call Kokatat and ask.

Custom drysuit
Everything the previous poster is true. Kokotat makes a great suit.

It’s not necessary to have one custom built. I too am too bulky for a regular size. I talked directly to Kokatat and they offered to make me a XXL suit with shortened sleeves and legs. The cost for the minor changes was pretty reasoanable When you start talking “custom”, they are going to start using lots of measurements and it will cost a lot for the custom fit. A drysuit isn’t meant as fashion statement. As I recall, they charged about $35 to use XL sleeves in my XXL suit.

Someone suggested the “Expediton” model (the one with the hood), but in most conditions, I would find the hood to be in the way. When the weather is lousy, I just wear a hat. The GMER suit is great.

Kokatat GMER
Had one for years and years. Love it. Must have the relief zipper and GoreTex booties.

See above re hood
My newest dry suit has one, and my husband’s has had one for a while. Like I said above, I usually have alternatives. But if it is there you’ll use it too. The current Kokatat hoods are Paclight material, so they need a cap under them for cold.

The overskirt has adherents and not, often strong opinions. I have dry and semi-dry suits with and without one. The ones with the overskirt keep more water out of the boat from a rolling session than those without, but there’s not enough diff to choose one over the other.

The biggest diff with the overskirt is that it produces a tighter band around the middle to get in and out of the suit. Some days I grab the one without the overskirt to avoid that.

err on the larger side
I’m 6’2" 185 and need to use an XL because of height. I knew someone my size who bought a large and it was a struggle to get the neck over his head to get in on or off. They’re all baggy which is what you want because you will be sitting down which takes mare material as well.

I know somebody selling a used XL Gortex Kokatat in CT.

Mens XL Kokatat Gore-Tex drysuit. Neck seal was replaced. One wrist seal needs replacement, make me an offer. 203-494-1551

Kokatat Warranty
To clarify a bit - the neck and wrist gaskets are wear and tear. Those are not warrantied, and some people (like me) find that their skin chemistry rots out gaskets faster than others. Putting talcum powder on just before and immediately after use, unscented preferred, has made a diff in how long the neck gasket lasts for me. I got the just-after advice from a dive shop - so that the talcum powder sucks up skin oils left behind.

The warranty that tends to lead to new suits is on the material, where Kokatat is actually enforcing the GoreTex warranty aggressively. That is lifetime as long as it appears that the problem is true delamination rather than pin-holing from folds in the material and general hard use. I’ve had suits age both ways - delamination is perferable because it kicks in the warranty, pinholing does not.

Kokatat also offers a limited warranty on their Tropos material, I am not sure what it is but maybe a year or a couple. Similar, if it shows unduly early delam they’ll replace the suit.

The take-away point here is that it is best to figure on sending a suit in to Kokatat for inspection and a wet test each year, because that’s where they’ll spot the need for a replacement. And fix up the seams along places like the booties that tend to go easily.

Other manufacturers tend to use their own material, one or another proprietary version of GoreTex, so their warranties will be entirely on their own product. How much this changes the strength of the warranty I don’t know - worth checking. Some have pretty good reputations.

I suspect that Kokatat can be aggressive on the GoreTex warranty is partly because they have the contract to make up the Coast Guard and military (like SEALS) dry suits. They put out a lot of suits which ultimately put money back into the GoerTexd’s accounts.

Custom Kokatat Large King
I bought a CUSTOM Kokatat Goretex Front Entry Dry Suit with the pee relief zipper, pockets, reflective stripes, suspenders, and inches taken off sleeves and inseam, plus small sized built in goretex dry socks. And custom colors, a mix of 2011 & 2012, Lichen & Plum.

Bought from Kayak Academy which has actually sent me an excellent loaner free for the 10 weeks I have to wait for my custom drysuit. Kayak Academy’s customer service has been fantastic. Expecting my custom drysuit at end of February.

I’m short and fat and the L-King was the right size for me to use, then shorten sleeves and legs. I’m kayaking on a Sit On Top in the dead of winter near Portland with a huge dog for water rescue training.

Not in agile shape so need the extra room to be able to get the thing on and pull that zipper shut, not easy. Obviously beginning exercise program to lose weight and buff up.


Men’s & Unisex Sizing Chart for Kokatat Products

^^^ only place I’ve found with the L-King size!