Dry Suit Advice

warranty, sizing, customizations

Been answering some of OP’s questions via e-mail as someone provided him with my e-mail.

Some questions are good to address here.

As for warranty:

Tropos - 2 year (used in the Supernova paddling suit)

T3 - LIFETIME WARRANTY - this is new on the T3, it now carries same warranty as Gore Tex against delamination. It is retroactive to ANY T3 suit, not just ones purchased this year when the warranty went into effect.

Gore-Tex - Lifetime warranty against delamination.

Ordering custom suits - can be done at ANY Kokatat dealer. If the retail store can’t figure it out, they will either talk to the rep or talk to Kokatat to figure out which is the best size. If needed, Kokatat will send out sizing suits to the retail store for trying on.

Buy local and support your local dealers - they are there to talk you through any concerns. They are also there to provide you with a loaner through the rep if needed. Each rep has a fleet of demo drysuits for both sales purposes and loaner purposes. So if your suit needs to go in to Kokatat for an uplanned repair, check with your local shop to arrange a loaner through the local rep.

Finally, custom suits are also warrantied against delamination.

And now on to suit styles - suits with tunnels are great because they keep water out of the boat. My boat is bone dry in the winter when wearing a drysuit. Water comes in to the boat over the skirt tube. When using a tunnel, it doesn’t.

The suits that have a tunnel are the Meridian and the Expedition. The differences between the Meridian and the Expedition are the Expedition offers arm pockets and a hood ALONG with reflective tape on BOTH lower arms and pockets along with reflective on the back of the hood. I love the hood and rarely use it on the water, mainly use it when I am getting ready to paddle or when I am taking a break.

Generalizations are that WW paddlers use the Meridian and Sea Kayakers use the Expedition. Canoeists usually just get the simpler GFER (which means Gore-Tex Front Entry) as they do not need a tunnel on their suit.

An Expedition suit can be used to paddle white water and many WW paddlers do use it. The trick is to stow the hood by rolling it and then cinching the “collar” down. That prevents scooping water with a big floppy hood. Neither WW paddlers or Sea Kayakers wear the hood with a helmet on.

Oh - custom suits take about 8-10 weeks to build.


Wet suit

– Last Updated: Jan-03-12 10:04 AM EST –

Kokatat is a popular brand, but I got a Stolquist. I've used it two years and have been very happy with it. While I haven't had to use it yet, I understand their customer service is also excellent. I'm 6-2 and 275 lbs., and there's plenty of room inside my suit for extra layers of polyester base layer and fleece. Once you get it you'll have a couple other questions. The neck will be tight. Slide a flower pot into the neck from the inside to stretch it and let it set a few days. As for getting into it, if the zipper runs left hip to right shoulder, get into the legs, work as much air out as possible, pull the suit as high as possible and slip into the left arm. Then slide into the right arm. Reach behind your head and bring the neck down over your head and zip her up. The exact reverse gets you out. Try donning it at home the first couple times so there's someone there to call the rescue squad if you get caught half in and half out. LOL. Keep the zippers treated with zip-ease, and the neck and cuff gaskets wiped with 303. Try to avoid sun screen on the gaskets as much as possible.

Forgot about the pockets…

– Last Updated: Jan-03-12 4:15 PM EST –

I love my newest dry suit most for two things, one of which I was reminded of by Suzanneh's post. It's the expedition model of Kokatat's suit.

The first is the pockets on the sleeve - two of them - for the little stuff that can get wet but you forgot to stash before you got all your stuff arranged just right in the day hatch. After I have gotten the otter box of emergency contact info, the medical kit, the hot tea jug, snacks, the extra gloves and hood(s), VHF radio and cag stowed so that I can still hear the radio if it goes on alert and I can pull out the cag without half the other stuff coming with it, I hate having to dig to the bottom of it all because I forgot to stick my health insurance card in the otter box.

The other thing is that it is radish red. After being followed by a bee several hundred yards offshore from an island and finally having to roll - slowly - for him to lose interest, I have sworn off yellow suits.

Suzanneh, thanks for the update re the Tropos 3 warranty. That's great news for the pants I got.

I’ve had a Kokatat Expedition for years
I’ve worn a Kokatat Expedition dry suit for 7-8 years. I’m one of the folk who got a new suit from Kokatat because of Gore-Tex delamination. I also have A Kokatat Super-Nova as back up and for warmer conditions.

As far as I am concerned front entry, pee-zip, Gore-Tex (or equivalent) booties are essential. Personally when I buy another dry suit it will again be a Kokatat Expedition.

I like the overskirt, and sleeve pocket. Mine is an older suit so only 1 sleeve pocket (which carries my inhaler and mini-first-aid kit). As an older suit the hood is also bulkier than on the newer suits. My hood has mostly lived rolled and cinched. I believe the overskirt helps keep water out of the cockpit even though I always use neoprene skirts with neoprene tunnels. I use my Expedition suit for both sea and ww kayaking.

I buy my Kokatat gear from dealers I know (here and in Maine). I send my suit back to Kokatat when it needs or seems to be close to needing new gaskets (about every 2 years). Some I know use the Kayak Academy which is also excellent.

Experience has made Kokatat the ‘gold standard.’

That is one seriously cool dog!

More thoughts re dryness
Just something I forgot to mention earlier - how water tight your setup is has a couple of factors, and only one is the clothing. (drysuit with tunnel or without) The other is how tight your skirt is. A skirt itself can be super-dry, which can also mean harder to pull off. Or it can be looser, maybe easier to remove with cold hands, but will let in water when getting kicked around by waves etc. I tend to prefer the looser option, am more comfortable with a little water sloshing around than worrying about getting it pulled off. But each has to come to their own comfort point on that one.

I’ll say it again here …

– Last Updated: Jan-03-12 7:19 PM EST –

... if you have decided on a dry suit, fine. But if you paddle rivers with options for a quick exit from the water, a dry top + dry pants I find a lot more versatile. This year I bought my first dry suit, mainly for "open water" and for surf-ski paddling, where a 2-piece does not cut it. But I've only used it a handful of times and a lot more times I've used the dry top (without the dry pants in the fall, with them in the winter). An argument has been made that most drownings happen within a few feet of safety - these however (as a rule) did not involve folks with drywear of any kind. A swim in a 2-piece will likely result in a little water getting in your pants. For a 2-3 hour outing and back to your warm home, that is not an issue. Done that many times even in freezing waters and sub-freezing temps outside. For an extended trip - it could be a hassle or even dangerous... The convenience and versatility of a 2-piece is hard to beat for short outings near shore and when the air warms-up you can just wear the upper part (again, under the right safety situation, where the lack of a bottom will not be an issue).

One last point, if you tend to paddle hard, you will sweat a lot so you will be wet inside your dry suit. And the DWR layer will wear off quickly too, requiring either maintenance or resulting in diminished performance in spray/rain.

Maintenance of the DWR layer

– Last Updated: Jan-03-12 7:23 PM EST –

EMS and probably other stores have a wash that maintains that decently. The trick is to use it often and early - like probably most people I waited longer than I should have to make that regular maintenance with my first suit.

I find that even a pretty decent 2 piece system is a lot more than a little wet. OK for some rolling, but too wet for a swim. Not saying that it doesn't work for you, but experience seems to vary a lot there until you get to the Kokatat bib thing, which comes not so far from a basic GoreTex dry suit in cost.

OP is mentions coastal
in addition to rivers.

btw, I don’t sweat too much even in the warmer California winter temps when pushing fairly hard. I find that quality wicking layers along with using a strong antiperspirant in a few key areas (mostly feet and waist) helps me a lot. I will also unzip anytime I land for a bit to let sweat evaporate.

Hi Suz,

So, the 2012 catalog says T3 carries a lifetime warranty, but the new website still says 2 year warranty. Which is correct?


T3 warranty

The T3 definitely carries the lifetime warranty. It was announced to the trade at the shows last year and it will be on the 2012 website whenever that gets updated. New 2012 product starts shipping Jan 15. Hopefully the website is updated by then.


Water Temps
Kocho - OP said he is in New England. You live in Maryland. What works for you probably won’t work in New England.


Your talking to a guy
who paddled rivers in northern new england all his life and rarely wore anything but wool. But this kayaking thing (and I’ll admit maybe my age) has me feeling insecure and risky when I am paddling in cold water, even flat water, often alone. I’m at the point that I just want to be warm and as safe as I can be. I’ve probably only got 10 years of cold weather paddling left, if that. I suppose it would be nice to have both a two piece and a full suit. I’m curious though - do you have a gore tex dry suit?

Dry suit seals
Celia said to use talcum powder, unscented preferred.

Great advice, but make sure it is the unscented stuff. The scented stuff such as baby powder) can destroy the latex seals.

Fit and features

– Last Updated: Jan-03-12 10:38 PM EST –

Err on the loose side. Drysuits are already baggy, but keep in mind at least two other determinants:

1. You don't know for sure what your stable weight will be.
2. You will almost certainly vary the amount (thickness) of underlayers inside the drysuit. Don't downsize yourself out of having adequate room for thick insulation.
3. A too-big suit is mainly more difficult to walk in, but it doesn't hurt your paddling. A too-small suit will make both unpleasant.

I had an old Stohlquist drysuit without a skirt tunnel, Gore-tex "socks", or pee zip. Got that suit in Jan. 2003 and wore it out. The new Kokatat GMER suit arrived summer 2010. Notes on comparison of the above features are detailed here:

* The skirt tunnel on my new drysuit lessens the amount of water entering the boat, but (as Celia said) the difference isn't enough to make or break a decision. However, I do find the additional flap very annoying when it comes to zipping the main zipper. I don't know if I'd choose the tunnel again, but the GFER model lacked the main zipper's cover that I like (had it on the old Stohlquist).

* Gore-tex "socks" are definitely easier to get in and out of than ankle gaskets, and they make for drier, warmer feet (with socks inside). However, ankle gaskets allowed me to use any footwear I wanted, whereas with the integral Gore-tex socks I *have* to use a one-size-larger pair of booties over those. If you always paddle in very cold water, this won't matter. If you paddle in water with a wider range of temperatures, some days you will wish you could just put on some booties over bare feet instead of socks PLUS Gore-tex socks PLUS booties over those. Overall, I would choose the Gore-tex socks again. (On those less-cold days I just wear a full wetsuit instead.)

* Not having a pee zip in the old Stohlquist usually didn't matter for the mostly-short paddles I did in the cold season. If I couldn't wait till the end of the paddle, I would disrobe enough to pee by removing head from neck gasket, one arm from a sleeve, and then unzip the main zipper. That said, I vastly prefer having a pee zip now! I would definitely choose a pee zip again. (Mine is a lowered men's pee zip, and I use a FUD with it. This item had to be special-ordered since the standard women's pee zip is a half-moon in back.)

As for two-piece vs. one-piece, skip the two-piece. This question has been rehashed here many times. I was one of the people who started with a two-piece combo and quickly found it unsatisfactory. Just go straight to a full Gore-tex drysuit and you will be dry, warm, and wonder why you waited so long. Make sure you use good underlayers also (no cotton), and wear head and hand protection as well.

Nope, eVent and Triton
No GoreTex. What I have is a new NRS Mission drysuit with the eVent fabric, which I was refering to in my previous post. Feels very breathable in easy paddling or just wearing around. Just it can’t keep-up with a vigorous workout, especially if that is combined with being wet from rolling or heavy wave action (I don’t use anti-perspirants and I do sweat a few quarts of water during my typical outing: much of it stays in my layers because I’m wet on the outside due to imperfect DWR and the PFD covering most of the breatable area anyway so evaporation is low-rate no matter the fabric…).

The dry top is Level 6, so not sure what fabric. Dry pants are the NRS triton fabric, I guess.

Dry suit is very nice for the winter, no question. Go for it! I went with the NRS for the low price on slae and expecting not to use it nearly as much as I would use a 2-piece, due to where I paddle - can’t advise on brands - you got plenty of thumbs-up on Kokatat’s good stuff.

Corn starch
Most body powder is corn starch. They don’t use Talc hardly any more. You can buy corn starch at grocery stores.

Why does the trip length matter in
regards to how well dry wear will help you survive a swim in cold water?

Isn’t it the swim that kills, not he trip length?

Where I use the 2-piece
Is for white water. There should be no long swims there beyond a couple of minutes, where I paddle. During such a swim, I typically get next to no water through the waist area, about a cup or two worth max. And that is if I am in swift water and swim hard to get out. In slow water I may not get any if I just get back in the boat without swimming much, but in a situation where I would have to exit for me it means I can’t get back in on the water so I will need to swim to an eddy on shore. Swimming about a 100 yards in flat water for me it also results in similar amounts of water entering - a cup or two.

So, that particular situation is no danger at all in terms of dangerous cooling, but it presents a discomfort once I stop paddling, being all wet inside. In a short paddle, that’s OK as I just go out and change. If I was to continue on the water for many more hours, I’d want to change too, where without that leak I would not need to…

Thanks you all -
very very helpful input.

I ended up picking up a used good shape (new seals) Kokatat Expedition from Kayak Academy. Price was right. Should meet my current needs just fine.