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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.