First dry suit advice

I’m finally in the market for a dry suit, and I’ve never bought one before. Beyond the typical make and model suggestions, I have a deeper question…

So, what else am I going to need to purchase to go along with this? I’ve already read the very-helpful booties+dry suit thread, so I think that’s covered. What about underneath? What’s the general school of thought on appropriate layering/insulation?

Also, what do I need to consider before shopping? Beyond my sizing data, what kind of info is going to helpful in choosing a suit?


Underlayers and warranties
For underneath, you can use the same stuff you’d put under a goretex shell for winter hiking or cross country skiing. Just go for the highly wicking end of that stuff. You can get the fancy liners, but it costs some bucks and I hardly use mine compared to the coolmax and fleece that I already have around for other winter activities.

As to what suit, consider what level of warranty you want. Better breathability equals more cost usually equals better warranty.

Get the very best you can
In twenty years when you are using the same suit you price per wearing will be dirt cheap. I did the cheapie route and got much less use per dollar invested

zipper lube
You might as well get some McNett zipper lube while you’re at it.

And of course always always get a suit with the relief zipper!

Shoes and accessories
You’ll need some sort of footware.

Get a roll of “tenacious tape” or a Gore-Tex repair kit, “just in case”.

A small bottle of 303 for gaskets.

Not to hijack the thread, but if he goes the route of a drysuit with the new style TiZip zippers, (I have a new Palm Torrent), I don’t think you are supposed to use the wax based zipper lubes, like McNett. Anyone know where you can get the TiZip lube? It looks a lot like silicone (clear, less viscuous than wax, like a thick liquid). I’m almost out of the small tube that camr with the suit, and can’t find the stuff anywhere.

Would bike shop stuff work?
A lot of the chain lube for higher end bikes is quite lightweight, silicone-based stuff. Long gone are the days of slathering grease on then pledging to do a deep cleaning and reapplication before each riding season.

Might be worth a read of the labels.

wool vs. synthetic
Lots of people have switched to wool brands like Ibex or Icebreaker. Not as stinky in multiple wearings as synthetic.

A warmer lower layer and thinner top layer is what most people wear. Your PFD adds lots of insulation. You’ll have to experiment with layers and amounts of insulation. I produce lots of heat and wear much less than some of my partners.

If you are out in winter time a Kokatat Storm cag is a great piece of clothing. They will totally cut evaporative cooling when you get out of your boat.

hiking/biking clohtes
As said before, under layers can be the same as hiking/biking/skiing clothes. I was out today and had a polypro type long sleeve jersey, long tights, and a sports t-shirt (non-cotton). I generally stick to the breathable/wicking stuff, as it will keep me warm should the dry suit get a leak (or I just sweat too much), unlike cotton.

Long sleeve and long pants - direct contact of skin to dry suit feels weird (and I once heard that body oils can clog the breathable materials).

I would avoid wearing anything with zippers as an underneath layer. Fear of the zipper cutting into the drysuit.

I assume the bootie thread you mentioned said get the attached socks to the dry suit? If not, get the attached sock.

If you do latex neck gasket, you may want to get Body Glide (especially for guys - makes the beard stubble a little less annoying).

mostly found my stuff locally,
bunny suit, long johns, and panty hose at walmart. Balaclavas at Dicks. Wool socks came from another local sporting goods store. speciality items include pogies and booties, and special wicking socks. I use NRS or CKS usually for that kind of stuff.

I don’t put anything on my gaskets but I know most folks do. I Store the suit loose in a drawer. I wash it once a year on gentle cycle with special shampoo from NRS and let it drip dry. In a pinch I’ve used chapstick on stubborn zippers but I’m sure there’s better stuff than that. I Carry a mat to stand on while changing.

I don’t recommend ever cutting the neck gasket to get it to fit. Try stretching it out around a 2 liter for awhile if need be.

A high float jacket gives you even more insulation on a cold day so I wear a bulkier lifejacket in winter. Its very important to protect your head so I also wear a balaclava from Dicks.

Hope that helps.

Good question!
I think I’ll stop in to my nearest bike place and take a look at what they have. Thanks for the suggestion Celia!

Great Service
I bought my Kokotat from Kayak Academy. I got great advice talking with them on the phone. One thing you should ask about is the foot size on the dry suit booties. The stock size on my XL Kokotat was an 11, so Kokotat made a custom suit for my size 13 feet.

Kayak Academy did one thing I really did not expect. They loaned me a drysuit so that I could check the fit AND let me use it until mine arrived (about 1 month)…free of charge.

There is a very helpful article here:
It addresses laying, what to wear for different water temps, etc. Some of the brand/models of clothing are a bit dated, but useful info that may help you.

A follow-up question…
Turns out, I’m oddly shaped (I already knew this). If I fit my upper body correctly, the legs of the suit are going to be REALLY long on me.

Would it make more sense for me to buy separates? I don’t quite understand how they could possibly “fit together” to give the same level of seal as a whole suit.

they don’t
A separate dry top and dry pants combination won’t be waterproof if you swim. A dry top is only dry if you stay in your boat. Even then you may get some leakage between the skirt and cockpit coaming.

If you can’t get a good fit with an off the shelf drysuit, then do a custom order. I know Kokotat allows for custom sizing.

Cost of custom fit versus being baggy
You’ll be wearing boots of some kind over the booties, which will keep the booties on your feet rather than sagging off. Custom ordering adds considerably to the cost, and you may want to decide how much it’s worth to you just to make sure the legs of the suit aren’t a little long. For anyone who’s a lot thinner than a “typical American”, the whole suit will already be really baggy unless custom tailored and that’s no problem, so I imagine you can put up with the legs being a few inches too long if you’d rather not spend the extra money.

Thanks guys.

NRS Inversion?

– Last Updated: Sep-03-13 4:06 PM EST –

So, NRS now has the Inversion drysuit on clearance for $300 cheaper. Any experience or opinions on this suit?

I’m pretty much right…

– Last Updated: Sep-03-13 7:09 PM EST –

on the cusp between Kokatat's medium and large recommended sizing. Glad I went for large. Doesn't seem to big to me, especially once it's deflated. Also, I spend around 50% of my paddling time in a canoe so really appreciate a bit of extra leg length for kneeling. I'm sure it's a boon when clambering in and out of my kayak as well.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that a suit would have to be obviously/absurdly oversized to be a problem, but you're going to quickly slog out the seams on a suit that's even a little snug because of the constant strain on them.

Also, in answer to your last question, Kokatat's Swift dry suit in the hydrus 3L fabric is cheaper again, US made, and comes with a lifetime warranty. It's a little more basic in design though.

What’s the warranty…
…on “TriTon” fabric? Sure, it’s an attractive price…until you have to replace it in a few years. You’re better off to spend the extra money for Gore-Tex once and be done with it.