One more GoreTex drysuit question

I’ve got this very nice rental Kokatat expedition drysuit in my living room. Managed to try it on last night without overly gyrating (after studying Kokatat’s directions).

Thanks to reading old posts here at Pnet, I’m using Smartwool socks under the booties, then my Astrals over the booties.

What do you paddlers do when you drive for maybe 30 minutes to a launch site?

Do you put your drysuit on at the launch site or before you leave, without zipping/closing up the top? Seems the latter would be more efficient and protective of the booties.

Thanks - I’m new to this drysuit aspect of paddling.

Depends on the temp
If it’s cold below freezing I might put it half on

Usually put it on just before paddling

A terry towel is great to stand on so you don’t grind your Goretex socks up

At launch
I always put it on at launcn site. BUT I mite put it on at a central meet point while waiting for others to arrive then drive short distance to actual launch site. I just put my legs and arms in but don’t pull the top part up over. this way its almost all on but not the neck seal yet. I have a front cross zip kokatat suit.

Wear the underlayers
I wear the insulating underlayers, perhaps with a baggie pant/shirt (sweatsuit or similar) over them for the drive to and from. That minimizes coldness because then there is only the outer layer to swap for a drysuit at the launch.

And then I don’t have to jam the Goretexed feet into booties or sandals for driving. Ugh. Especially with a manual transmission.

Many launch sites lack a bathroom to change in, so keep that in mind.

If you get the lowered men’s relief zip, bring a FUD.

Put it on at the launch

– Last Updated: May-06-16 12:27 PM EST –

I have a pair of supplex pants that I got for cheap from somewhere, they don't add any heat over the under layer for the dry suit if I am wearing them to the launch. And you can stop and grab a cup of coffee without looking strange. I may wear a highly wicking base layer on top to the car.

But I usually do most of the changing at the launch, in or hanging out of the car if need be. Once you have anything on your lower body it is no big deal to pull the suit on while sitting sideways out the front seat. Leave the top open and zip up once the boat is loaded and ready to launch. I tie the arms roughly around my waist for getting things loaded.

Just make sure your feet go directly from being out of your driving shoes to inside the booties and the booties directly into your paddling shoes without touching the ground. Some people toss a towel or have a mat for the ground if they are not able to get theeir shoes on without standing up.

at the launch

– Last Updated: May-06-16 1:12 PM EST –

but I tend to heat up quickly so I usually wait til the last minute with my drysuit or wetsuit.

Some people buy those sleeveless fleece robes you see on television, basically a big fleece bag with a head and arm holes, it allows you to discreetly dress at the launch.

I just use a towel or pretend I'm German.

Good advice from others here regarding feet and the booties.

another at launch person
I also do at launch. I generally wear running tights and polypros under the dry suit, and they are fine for walking around in.

at launch
I have one of those carpet samples that I bring with me to stand on while getting suited up.

Before Starbucks
Amazing how quick the line moves when you step in looking like a maritime Power Ranger. Just the drysuit though, the paddle and pfd would be a bit too jarring.

I’ve gotten great service ever since answering a bit of snark in line that it was my work clothes as I had a class to teach as kayaking was my job. The barista high fived me and supersized my caffeine dose.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Only one at home?

– Last Updated: May-06-16 9:19 PM EST –

Guess home isn't the popular choice, but that's what I do. It's a bit of an adventure so I prefer to not try to do it at the launch. I put the bottom and my booties on at home, drive to launch, unload everything, then put the top on and zip up right before I'm ready to go. For the way home I take the top off and put a towel on the seat in case I'm a little wet.

Probably shouldn’t have rented it.

– Last Updated: May-06-16 10:00 PM EST –

As always, your good advice is wonderful reading. Thank you.

I don't think the type of drysuit I wore tonight (clunky zipper over the hips and butt for the drop seat) would be comfortable while driving to a launch site. Sitting against that zipper wasn't comfortable in my cockpit, although I only paddled wearing the drysuit for maybe ten minutes tonight because it was 79F this afternoon and the water was like a mirror. Surfskins and a rashguard worked fine.

Kokatat does have other options and I think their zip-switch technology would allow wearing just the bottoms en route so you could at least be half-dressed.

Just before dusk, when it was cooler, I did don the drysuit (inside my house) over a fleece 3/4 zip, fleece lined tights and pair of dry socks. Neo boots. I had checked the water temp earlier: 48F. Then I walked into the lake up to my neck and quickly learned why you should burp a drysuit closer to shore (I started to float away like a puffball).

I'm now a believer. I had done the same lake walk last week wearing my full length FJ wetsuit and a neo paddling jacket. Once I got out of the water that day, I didn't go back in.

That wasn't the case today. I did a recheck and then pulled my boat off the shore and marveled that I could put it in water up to my knees and enter the cockpit taking my time. No wet feet. Then paddled with less caution than earlier.

The reason behind the title to this post is because this learning experience is probably going to be expensive.

(p.s. Sonnyjane, I like your style!)

A lecture and advice haha
So the lecture portion of my reply is that even though the air was 79, if your water is 48, you need your drysuit anyway. For second I had to see if you’re my neighbor because our temps also were high 70’s with water temp 48. I see you’re in Michigan though. To “keep cool” I drink ice water and if I need to splash my head or dip my hat in the water, I will, but 48 degree water, if you accidentally go in (boat wake, “look a bird!” distractions, etc.), can easily be fatal.

The advice portion - I’m a female and choose to NOT wear a drop-seat dry suit. I wear the front zip ones instead. This makes it more challenging to “relieve” myself, but I don’t like sitting on a zipper. I never had an issue until two weeks ago when I was on an awesome paddle and really wanted to keep going but the thought of taking off my damn suit on a beach to pee was so unappealing that I just paddled home instead. I think I’ll have to order one of the silly purple funnels so that I can go to the bathroom through the front without taking off my suit.

I hear ya, Sonnyjane.

– Last Updated: May-06-16 10:31 PM EST –

I was wearing a shorty FJ under the surfskins and a (lined) rashguard. I was the only boat on the water, which was totally flat. All I did was work on forward stroke technique, except for a ten-minute paddle with a neighbor out on her SOT. I lectured her because she was wearing capris, a T-shirt, and no PFD on board.

Forget the funnel. Check out TravelJohn resealable disposable urinals at Amazon. They're great and work standing up or sitting down.

I also have a dropped p-zip
I actually have a suit with the drop seat, but my issue was not sitting on the zipper. I have an illeostomy so that access was useless anyway. Plus I kept having to ask a guy to start the zipper because I couldn’t get a useful angle on it.

Using a FUD with the lowered Pzip is not always the least cumbersome or the neatest option, but it allows me a lot more independence and guerilla options if needed than the drop seat. Actually, the new two part suit is the first intriguing alternative to a lowered Pzip that I have seen from Kokatat.

You have a choice
You can order a women’s drysuit without the halfmoon zip and spec a lowered men’s relief zip. Works great for me. You just need to use a FUD with it.

It is a special order but does not cost more.

TravelJohn/Janes and dry suits
These don’t work thru the lowered Pzipper of a dry suit. That is in front of the suit, just a bit lower than the guy’s. I do know the device and have used them for Leave No Trace camping.

But to get thru that lowered Pzip you need an extension, Travel Janes don’t have them. Better fit is the ones designed for mountaneering, like the SaniFem.

Zipswitch technology

– Last Updated: May-07-16 10:52 AM EST –

A bit of backstory: after I had asked questions about using neo pants and a jacket because my FJ was cutting into my left shoulder muscles, Marshall kindly sent me a Kokatat Surge paddling suit to try on (he's been my outfitter ever since he helped me with a PFD and is the best outfitter in the world in my book). I've never tried on a dry suit before and have only seen them worn by someone once.

The Kokatat Surge is two piece and has the Zipswitch technology. This was a brand new suit with all the tags attached. Admittedly, I was frustrated on my first attempt with the Zipswitch as it was so stiff, but my second try and thereafter was easy. The suit was also a perfect fit. Initially I was skeptical about that knob, but it doesn't interfere with anything. Obiously I couldn't go paddling while wearing the Surge, but I did roll around on my carpeted floor to check if the knob would be bothersome. It wasn't.

I did layer up under it and (with boots on) walked around outdoors in blustery winds and 40F air temps, I couldn't get the top layering right and was still chilly. That's when I asked about GoreTex. I think there might be a difference in the fabric weight of a paddling suit and drysuit, but not sure.

After reading all the great responses on the GoreTex thread, I decided to rent a drysuit from Marshall so I could do a water test. That truly was a revelation. But the difference in putting on and taking off the two is monumental. The front diagonal zipper involves a lot more shoulder stress for me. With the two piece, you just put on the pants, slide the top over your head, and your arms and shoulders are in a downward position when closing the zipper rather than overhead. Plus, the top can be worn as a separate dry top.

I want something easy to get in and out of, so I wouldn't think of buying anything but the Zipswitch entry. I just don't know whether to go with the paddling suit or (gulp) the drysuit.

Another question is if you need to unzip for a pit stop, do you have to burp the suit again?

Since I do have that rented drysuit here, I'll contemplate which way to go as I use the rental over the next two days. It's now 45 degrees colder, so I can also experiment more with layering.

My responses

– Last Updated: May-07-16 11:36 AM EST –

1) New really good waterproof zippers are always stiff and need to be treated to get them running smoothly. And rinsed and treated after salt water... it is just normal maintenance.

2) Both the Surge and the a regular drysuit are Goretex, and should be the same Goretex. No diff in the material unless I just misread something. Goretex is supposed to breathe, if you were walking around in chilly air rather than paddling and generating warmth you would have noticed it more as your under layer got lighter. Or maybe a another layer.
Kokatat size chart assumes leaving room to handle up to two layers, one very light breathable and a thicker one. That is plenty for most days that anyone will actually want to paddle. If you need more for a lunch break you can throw on a good cag over the whole thing. But frankly, at the point you need more layers in the northeast you are also talking about cold enough water temps that the hands are more of a challenge than the body or head.

3) There is a knack to getting a suit off and on, and frankly the first few times are not the best check on how it will work later on as you figure it out. That said, I expect that the diagonal zipper process is a bit more careful than working with just the top.

4) I am confused about the paddling suit versus the drysuit part. By paddling suit do you mean something semi-dry that does not have a latex (hence reliably waterproof) neck gasket?
Here is my bottom line on full Goretex dry suit (using any zipper technology) versus semi-dry. Kokatat maintains an aggressive warranty with the full out Goretex suits. I am on my third suit because they were very alert to delamination when I sent the suits in for an annual wet test. Being the original purchaser, I only paid for the first one. Per year, I have a hard time complaining about the cost. That is including paying for frequent replacements of the neck gaskets, despite being super careful with skin creams etc. My and their skin chemistry just don't get along.

5) Warm air will build up in the suit regardless, as you paddle. More so on warm days. But burping is ridiculously easy. You just scrunch up, crouching in shallow water is the most efficient and open up the neck gasket a smidge to let it out. You can do the same in the boat if you start looking like the Michelin Man.

GoreTex Differences
The Kokatat ProShell Suits like the Expedition, Idol and Radius use the proprietary Kokatat Evolution 3.21 GoreTex Pro which has a heavier hand.

The Kokatat Surge uses the same GoreTex membrane but with a lighter denier facing fabric so the fabric does feel more flexible and actually transpires at a faster rate than the 3.21 GoreTex Pro.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Thanks for the info Marshall!
So Rookie would be in a chillier garment than with a regular dry suit in the Surge.

Hmm for me - for my use heavier may be better.