I tested my pre-owned drysuit today

I bought a used drysuit in February from someone local. It’s an older Kokatat GFER with built in neoprene socks that were added at the factory when it was new. I hadn’t had a chance to get in the water with it until today. I wanted to make sure the suit and my layering under it were good to go in controlled conditions before having to rely on it.

I went to a local boat launch and spent about 30 minutes in the water. I chose the boat launch because if there was a problem with the suit, I could walk out of the water quickly. The water temperature was about 40 degrees, air temperature 45. With the drysuit, NRS Storm Hood, my PFD, and chosen base layers I stayed reasonably warm. I have some NRS 0.5 mm gloves that weren’t too horrible once the water in them eventually warmed, though they were still fairly cold. BUT, I did find the suit has a leak in a seam in the right sleeve at the forearm, where the cuff is stitched on. Over the span of 30 minutes, keeping my right arm under the water most of the time, submerging myself completely several times, laying back and floating, and some swimming, my baselayer sleeve was pretty wet, but not enough to cause water to trickle into the rest of the suit, and no other leaks were found.

I’m going to go through the sleeve again and make sure there aren’t any other leaks in it and have them patched, then try it out again before using it for kayaking. This was a good reminder of why it’s important to test out gear, especially used gear, before having to rely on it.


If you were in the water 30 minutes and your sleeve was moist, that was good. of course, if you can find the leak, patch it. But th reality is that dry suits aren’t fully dry. Whether it is small leaks or sweat that doesn’t make it out through the “breathable” material, I find I usually have some dampness when I get out of my dry suit.

Because of thus, I am always wearing under layers that will keep me warm if they get wet. Fleece wool, polypro, quick-drying nylons, etc. No cotton.


My base layers were polypropylene, and wool socks. I learned as a kid about not wearing anything cotton when dryness is important when winter camping with my father.

The sleeve was pretty saturated with water, enough to wring out when I took the drysuit off. It definitely wasn’t sweat, because I could feel the cold water as it seeped into the sleeve. Looking closer at the suit, it looks like the adhesive holding on the wrist gasket is letting go. I just had them replaced, so I’m waiting for a response from the shop that replaced them to see if they’ll fix their mistake. It looks like they didn’t scuff up the latex before gluing them on.

I have done the replacement of both my wrist and neck drysuit gaskets myself. It isn’t difficult.

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The other side of dry suits is my sweat does not evaporate. Even if you keep all the outside water out and your on a good long paddle i found i needed to make sure i do not get to hot inside. I was training for a nine mile race in Nov and managing sweat inside the suit if something that i did not expect but needed to manage. Do not over heat wear good wicking layers.

I believe that you can send it back to Kokatat for a full test and repair. But, it’ll be worth it. The leaking you described isn’t catastrophic, as it allows you a good time window to get out of the water (30 minutes for self or assisted rescues), but it is less than ideal if you get caught out there, alone and in the water, unable to get back into the kayak (for whatever reason).


Smart of you to test the suit before paddling in it.

And if I’m out when I need a drysuit, I know that’s exactly how I’ll be, alone, because no one I know is into this sport more than floating their rec kayak on a lake on hot summer days. My girlfriend is a little more adventurous, but even she is more of a warm weather, fair conditions paddler.

So, we are smack in the drysuit (5/4 or 4 mm hooded wetsuit for me) season. You got a slow leak in the sleeve with a window of 30 minutes plus before noticeably feeling the leakage. Sending in the drysuit for testing/repair will take the wetsuit out of usage for a month or more (If I remember correctly when I last sent my kokatat drysuit in for testing and gasket replacement over 15-20 years ago).

Your next “test” might be more than immersing in water. Rather, wear your drysuit and take your kayak out and practice self-assisted rescues near shore. How long does it take to get back into the boat and pump it out? How wet did you get? Do you feel it could pose a hypothermic situation even when you are paddling again? This will give you understanding of your time window and you’ll have more data to set some parameters about conditions (wind, waves, current, air and water temps) which would be within your threshold of “risk” management (given that risk continuum is there whenever you paddle).

You can then use the drysuit until the warmer months (June/July) and then send the drysuit in for testing and repair. It should be back to before the mid/late fall drysuit season.


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I felt the water get in pretty quick. Over the 30 minutes I felt my arm become wetter as more water got in.

I don’t know how long a self rescue will take wearing the drysuit, but in a short wetsuit doing a simple paddle float self rescue only took me a couple minutes in calm water. I am planning on trying that and other ways in livelier water. But, I wanted to make sure the drysuit kept me dry before going out in my kayak with it. Once the leak is fixed (dropped it off at a local shop today), then I’ll be able to practice all of the rescue skills.