dry suits

-- Last Updated: May-02-05 4:55 PM EST --

after 1 winter with wetsuit I am looking for a drysuit. There are so many I was wondering if there are any brands to stay away from and what brands would be best. also has anyone tried the Kokatat tropos super Nova ? That sound more comfortable it leakage around neck is not too much. Thanks; Phil

Choices, Choices…

– Last Updated: May-02-05 2:34 PM EST –

We're awaiting delivery on two Kotatat SuperNova suits - they are a new product, so reviews are sketchy to date. You can do an archive search on pnet Advice and General Suggestions for SuperNova or Super Nova, which gives several early impressions by people actually using the suits.
We chose them for two reasons - comfort, and price. The neoprene "semi-dry" neck seal is far more comfortable than the latex neck seals we tried on other suits - we reckon we'll wear the suits more regularly than we otherwise would. It also has booties and a relief zipper or ladies drop seat, which is very handy indeed. The other reason is price - $525 Cdn., compared to >$800 for the usual GoreTex drysuit.
Two things to note - while the SN is described as breathable, it isn't Goretex - early impressions I've read say the Tropos fabric does the job. And the warranty is two years, not lifetime as is Goretex.
A dive instructor friend who had a close look at the SuperNova for us was impressed with the build quality, and reckoned they should be plenty durable given reasonable treatment and care.
If you are on a tight budget, the Mountain Equipment Co-op still has a few of their Ultra suits at $295 Cdn. They are a non-breathing fabric, very plain Jane, but a darn sight better than no suit or a wetsuit. A local paddler who goes all winter said he had used a similar suit for a couple of years, and found it good - if he didn't really blast along, the sweating inside the suit wasn't severe enough to be a problem.
If you like, I'll drop you a note when we've got and have tried the SN.

Supernova vs. Higher $$$
Just purchased the high $$ Kokatat, but have yet to try it out. I know of at least one paddler who did the opposite, going from the high end latex neck gasket suit to the Supernova, with rave reviews. The reason I went for the high end one was based on the recommendation of the Kokatat rep, who stated that the Goretex fabric is far more breathable than that of the other treated fabric. This was a main concern for me, as my paddles are always higher effort, fitness oriented, and I tend to overheat quickly in just about anything. My neck gasket stretches around a 2 liter Pepsi bottle as I type…

Personally, I like a two piece outfit.
I have a Kokatat dry top and a matching dry bib. That gives me more flexibility. I often go out in the dry top over a farmer john wet suit. That works if you don’t expect to swim (i.e., you can roll). For colder conditions I use both pieces but to be honest that is not very often. I do not like paddling in really cold conditions.

Tropos, Neck Gaskets
We have the higher end Kokotat’s and like them very well. I saw the high end Bomber Gear drysuit up close too. It looked to be very well made and rugged as heck, in their own breatble material. Had some nice features in the torso - two layers of material there.

The Tropos material, used in the lower end Kokotat suits, is quite hardy. I have squished, dumped in the water and otherwise abused a loose rain shell I have of the material that stays in the boat. Haven’t tested its breathability hard though. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was less than the GoreTex XCR in the drysuit, which breathes at times a little better than I had planned for with my underlayers.

As to neck gaskets - after having only neoprene neck gaskets for a long time I am very comfy in latex now. We went out in day after day of deep fog and threat of rain last season wearing drytops because that was the weather, and by the end of the first week I was just fine in them for hours. And this season, again because of how much I can trust those gaskets, I was finally able to convince myself to try a couple of rolls outside (the water was 46 degrees).

As to features in a suit - most people prefer the booties because getting a latex gasket off over you ankle requires a combination of strength and flexibility that is not always there. And the booties mean that there is one less tight spot on your body.

And for sizing - I had to get a larger than needed torso to get enough room in the shoulders. That, and some oversize in the butt, won’t hurt. And you’ll be glad of the extra room the first time you try to pull it on over layers of wicking underwear and fleece.

Slow down, then you won’t need the breathability of the Goretex suit! Though as quickly as you seem to overheat, maybe you should just paddle in swimtrunks and heat up LI Sound with your bodyheat!

Me? Just paddlin’ my OI and SOF and not breaking 6 knots or a sweat! My SuperNova works just fine for me, requires no 2 liter bottles, and doesn’t turn into a straitjacket at the end of a paddle when I am too tired to escape the neck gasket!


I got a Kokatat…
Gore-Tex Meridian GMER over the winter. After leaving the neck gasket stretched over a cider jug for 2 weeks, it was still cutting off circulation. I finally trimmed the neck gasket as described in these forums, & am happy to say that now not only is it comfortable, but I swam about 50 yards and had no sign of any leakage. For once, I’m really happy I spent the money.

The only downside is that in a few more weeks the water will be warm enough that I won’t need it until late fall again. :slight_smile:

HOoray Stretching should be over a form
barely bigger than you neck Trimming is everything and your gaskets will last much longer.

Go for top quality, used if $$ dictate
By all means get a drysuit that is comfortable, one which you will actually wear whenever the water temperature dictates. Myself, having five kids, including some young ones, I want maximum survivability at an affordable cost. That has meant purchasing slightly used (therefore affordable), high-end equipment, namely, Kokatat Gore-tex. There is a great deal of this type of equipment available on Paddling.net, eBay, and other online resources from those who have made only a brief foray into kayaking. Good luck!

the bottom line
in my opinion is a goretex drysuit from kokatat.

For the other drysuits on the market, and the other options, your money would not necessarily be wasted, but it would be better spent on a meridian goretex drysuit.

super nova super for some
I have a super nova and a all out navy seal guide version of kokatat gore-tex dry suit. I love both for different things. Massive rolling in extreme cold water, coastal crossings, big lakes in big conditions my full out suit.

That said, warmer air temps, above 40 water, the super nova is super. It breathes quite well and the fabric while tough is thinnner and the neck very comfortable. If I want to do allot of rolls, I just take a headlamp stretchy band and use it to reinforce the neck closure. Also, simply pully the neck closure down onto base of neck reduces any leakage from rolling too. No one knows how they hold up over time yet, but my thought here is that Aquaseal can be easily applied if get any seam or spot leakage.

I say go for it if you live in an area that is warmer or do not need it only for surf, coastal wear etc. Of course NO drysuit makes up for lack of skills, judgment, emergency distress stuff, and companions to help out.

Features vs. materials
It seems that there are several good waterproof/breathable alternatives to Gore-Tex if you want to save some money up front. Keep in mind that the extra cost of Gore-Tex buys you a lifetime warranty against leaks, delamination and other defects.

Features such as a relief zipper and booties of some sort are probably more important to your comfort and enjoyment of the suit than the choice of fabric, as long as the fabric is breathable.