DrySuit Relief Zipper thru the crotch?

Hi, I’m thinking of buying a kokatat drysuit that does not have a relief zipper. I would like to have one installed. I’m relatively new to kayaking but I’ve done quite a bit of mountaineering- the very best system for me (female by the way) relief while wearing winter layers and a harness is the through the crotch zipper. Works great for all eventualities. Rainbow zippers are a big thumbs down in my book. I’m wondering why the dry suit manufacturers don’t offer a zipper through the crotch or whether anyone has tried this out?

It may be uncomfortable as you would be sitting on it. I have a kokatat suit with the front relief zipper. It’s a bit tricky but I can still manage it. I chose that over the back one as I didn’t want to be sitting on a zipper, I don’t have much padding in that department : )


Better alternative

– Last Updated: Mar-29-08 5:37 PM EST –

Get a regular guy's drysuit with the normal relief zipper and have it lowered to accomodate a FUD (female urinary device). Kokatat has a standard distance they use, you just have to give them the general instruction. You may have to specify a distance for other makers, I suspect about 2 inches does it.

A crotch zipper would really not work over a long paddle - you'll get why when you start rolling.

why would rolling affect it?
Can you explain? Why would a crotch zipper be a problem on long paddles? It seems to me that you could use a lady jane with it more easily than the horizontal zippers. I have rolled a boat a few times…how would a crotch zipper cause problems? thanks

Relief Zips
I just returned a women’s Stohlquist drysuit with horizontal relief zip. I do not think they put it low enough. I ordered the next size up, hoping that might solve the problem. I have a front-to-back relief zip on my wetsuit and it is easy to use. I wonder why the drysuit makers can’t or don’t put in a zipper like the one in my NRS farmer-jane wetsuit.


I roll a lot
10-15 rolls every time I go out, which is at least twice a week. Nearly 800 miles paddled last season. But I fail to see why a crotch zipper would be detrimental. Please enlighten me. (male, 53 yo in case that matters)


– Last Updated: Mar-29-08 8:30 PM EST –

The crotch zipper is the only one that actually accommodates the anatomy, protects from weather is discreet and works great. I wonder if this is just a typical oversight (US army issues women rainbow zips as well). I can and have used fud's but I'd rather the suit be adapted to my anatomy rather than the other way round.

Maybe just me but

– Last Updated: Mar-30-08 5:13 AM EST –

When I roll it tends to put some downward pressure towards the seat and can create a bit of a squeeze of the inner thighs together sideways as I go thru the full motion. There is also some sideways action as I shift weight around for things like holding an edge etc, ongoing stuff while paddling.
I envision having the optiseal zipper like on the pzip in the middle there, and my first reaction is that it be very stiff and create friction. I also wonder if the zipper wouldn't rub against the fabric in a tighter cockpit.
Maybe I'm wrong?

PS - I have the Expedition Jane with the crotch zip and agree it works well, albeit very carefully, but that zipper is way lighter weight than the zipper in the GMER level drysuits and doesn't stick up beyond the fabric.

Dry zippers are stiff
The waterproof dry zippers are quite stiff.

I would imagine that it would be uncomfortable having one in the crotch or sitting on it.

It would be too uncomfortable!
That is one reason I didn’t go with the seat zipper. Other female paddlers complained about sitting on the bulky, stiff zipper all day.

Just get the front relief lowered (I think they only lower it an inch but it makes a big difference).

Frankly, the Fud (I call mine Elmer) is like sliced bread. Great invention! I use it in all outdoor pursuits and also when indoor pursuits meet poor sanitation.

Diff in zippers

– Last Updated: Mar-30-08 12:31 PM EST –

I didn't think to mention this in the earlier post, but I suspect that there is a diff between the crotch zippers used in climbing and paddling dry suits. The crotch zipper in the climbing suit may be the lighter weight waterproof zipper like that found on waterproof shells. That's really a slightly jazzed up regular zipper on treated material, so it isn't terribly stiff.

The drysuit zippers intended to handle immersion are a different affair entirely. Even the relatively lightweight ones are pretty substantial, and the top end ones are very heavy and stiff.

So you girls now have the opportunity
that guys have always had. A chance to get caught in a zipper.One of the more painful and embarrassing incidents in my young life.

There’s a reason that on the few occasions I pull out a wetsuit it is the one without that zipper. Takes less attention to be uncivilized than to work with that zipper safely.

I’ve asked this question to Michael
Duffy at Kokatat. He says the original prototype for the women’s dry suit relief zipper was through the crotch and there was no way for it to be both water-proof and comfortable. Since a drysuit needs to be both, they went will the butt zipper.

Sitting on what?
The dropseat zippers are positioned so you don’t sit on them. My girlfriend has been wearing dry suits with those zippers for 10 years and has never sat on it. She finds the dropseat setup very comfortable and functional.

My experience
I picked up a suit used with the drop seat. I am not a fan of it as a long term choice, I find it to be more uncomfortable than the other and I don’t see where it is as useful. But in fairness, I also have an ostomy so get more limited benefit from the drop seat than most women anyway.

As to comfort, I find it takes some real arranging to keep the end of the zipper from cutting into my hip. And depending on the boat I can also feel it more than I’d like at the bottom of my spine. It also has a tendency to grab the top of the backband on a wet re-entry thus requiring a second (or third) try.

But my biggest complaint with the drop seat is that it is of no use in the boat. There have been times that things needed to be emptied and we are adjacent to a no-landing island. I can handle some of that now and expect that with the lowered zipper on the next suit I’ll probably be fully set. With the drop seat, there’s really nothing you can handle without landing, or more extraordinary gymnastics than most of us prefer to do.

What is a Rainbow Zipper?

crotch vs drop seats
Marciat has it right. A crotch zip was tried in early prototypes and the zips that are waterproof are also fairly hefty and when in the crotch area, would be uncomfortable to sit out. Think about the width of the whole zipper that is installed and imagine that between your legs all day and then sitting on that hard zip edge.

The head designer at Kokatat is a women who paddles and has a very good understanding of logistics of utilizing the relief zipper. Surely this will only change when zipper technology changes.

As for sitting on a drop seat zip. The ONLY women that I have met who have complained about this to me directly, are women who are wearing suits that are too big for them. Usually they are wearing a suit that someone passed down to them or they bought used in a size that was too big. If the torso length on the suit is too long for your torso, the zip will lie lower on your body than where it is supposed to be - then you would sit on it when in the boat.

Also note that a drop seat relief zipper can not be retrofitted on a already purchased suit. A front relief zipper can be added later.

I am a frequent paddler and in the normal course of things, I haven’t seen any men or women NEED to use their relief zippers while still in the boat. I can only imagine that is only done while on expedition where landing isn’t possible.


FUD link


Drop seat and “normal”

– Last Updated: Mar-31-08 9:24 AM EST –

As above, I've needed on-water access on day paddles. But I don't know how many people end up paddling on long day trips where there are a bunch of no-landing islands. I am quite sure that most don't have an illeostomy, which has a physical limit that Kokatat can't do anything about.

Two things that I don't see a tighter fit solving with the drop seat, one is the zipper end in the hip and the other is the wet re-entry thing. But maybe I am missing something. Also, my issue is not sitting on the zipper in the drop seat, but feeling it at the base of my spine. Not a fatal problem grant it, but one that I don't have with the other suit so I find it less comfortable.

By the way, I am taking your advice on size and shortly putting in an order for a suit that will be a tighter fit thru the torso than my first. I've been waiting to make sure I could get my posterior back from its expanded state after a winter of sloth to get into one of the standard sizes.