One Piece vs Two piece Drysuits

Hey y’all!

I currently use a Reed Paddle suit that I actually like except when it comes to bio-breaks, even with the front relief zipper. I rarely get water down the neck seal, it’s comfortable even though it doesn’t breathe, love the back waist zip instead of the across chest one and my bespoke suit was roughly $400. It’s also super easy to repair with a little Aquaseal.

I’m planning a long mostly unsupported expedition and being a lady of, ahem, a certain age I’m thinking a two piece suit will be more convenient. I suppose I should mention that with a 36" inseam and broad shoulders, women’s stuff doesn’t come close to fitting so I wear men’s.

I’ve seen mixed reviews for Kokatat’s SwitchZip and somehow that locking mechanism looks like it would be annoying. Anyone wear a SwitchZip and love it?

Some expedition leaders of my acquaintance have suggested bibs and dry top as the ultimate flexibility combo since I could wear just the top on flat days with no long crossings, it would serve as rain gear in camp, etc. If I swim I don’t see how I’ll be anything less than wet, though. It’s not that big a problem since the air temps will be in the upper 70’s and I would be within easy distance of shore but the water is in the 60s. Anyone use bibs/dry top combos and find them the ultimate?

Anyone have a favorite drysuit they wouldn’t trade for all of King Midas’ gold? If so, what do you love about it?

I’d especially like to hear from some of the female kayakers about their likes and dislikes.


I have the zip switch and love it. In my second season with it. Only issue is that I was beating up the legs more than the top, so this year I picked up a pair of pants from NRS for half dry paddles.

There have been complaints about the big knob at your waist that seals the two parts. I find it means the skirt sits above that. But I haven’t found it to be an issue paddling.

Getting zipped up means I have to put on glasses to line it up right, and I have to keep touching up the vaseline at the end for it to unzip willingly. But since I need a pair of readers on me to see a chart this is not a major change in habit.

Note that actually unzipping and pulling the pants down may not be a less baroque process in terms of time than arguing with the drop seat zipper. The drop seat never worked for me for a bunch of reasons, my plumbing and it do not work together. But also that I had to ask a guy to start the zipper in a suit I got with it, after which I discovered that it also did not work for me anyway.

I always have kept one dry top around for needing just that, but the top of the two piece system would work just like a regular dry top intended to mate with a skirt. If you need one option to solve both problems, either the bib system or a two piece drysuit would work.

I got the expedition model, with a hood as well as pockets on sleeves and pant leg. I find the pockets very handy.

Thanks! Exactly what I was curious about. I’ve never even considered the drop seat as much for comfort as practicality. I can’t imagine sitting on that zipper and I’ve watch too many need someone to zip them up.

You’ve recapped what I’ve heard about mating the zipper, but it’s not like I don’t have to fidget with the back waist zip on my Reed as it occasionally gets snagged on an untucked base layer or the over skirt.

The pockets are a bit thing for me. I’m a ‘if you don’t have it on you, you don’t have it’ person, so thanks for that extra bit of information!


Note on the pockets, they really only handle stuff like ID, a skinny pair of readers, compass. Relatively flat stuff. But one more item that you can pull out of your PFD pockets if you want it closer or more directly attached.

I have the Kokatat Radius two-piece. Wouldn’t trade it for all that gold! The Gore-tex is wonderful since it breathes and cuts wind nicely. Zip-switch not at all annoying; really don’t notice it in my boat. When I first got the suit I practiced zipping it while indoors, just to become familiar with the practice. I apply Zip-Tech every so often just to keep things lubed.

I tried the Kokatat Expedition one-piece and hated it, not only because of the difficulty of putting it on, but the zippered drop seat was horrible,

I’ve used the top of my Radius as a dry top and the pants as waders. Top has two small pockets; pants have a generous pocket in one leg. Hood is stored in the collar (I remove it in late spring as I want a softer collar, then replace in the fall). No leaks whatsoever so far.

Easy on and easy off. I’ll put on the pants at home where I can keep the booties protected on carpeting before I put on my boots, then drive to my launch area and put on the top. Since the booties keep my feet dry, no need to take off the pants until I get home.

The two-piece is very convenient for bathroom breaks. A Kokatat storm cag can act as your privacy room. :relaxed:

1 Like

Thanks Rookie!

Good idea to practice indoors to get the hang of the zipper.

Do you have the women’s Radius? One of my worries is that the knob on the zipper will hit in an awkward place since I will be wearing the men’s version. My understanding from Kokatat is that the zipper/knob is positioned relatively low so it is below the seat back and spray skirt.


There are devices such as the Freshette that allow women to use a standard relief zipper. Quite a few of the women I know use them. The drop seat design seems to be almost universally disliked. Uncomfortable to sit on and hard to use without help.

Truly waterproof dry suits that are two piece and suitable for long time immersion are fairly new. They weren’t available when I bought mine and look very intriguing. However, I recently got a free replacement Kokatat dry suit. I sent it in because it developed a minor leak around the knee and they called back to say that there was some delamination of the Gore Tex. Kudos for Kokatat’s lifetime warranty policy.

Hey Rich,

I got the pee part of it down pat thanks to so called she-wees, athough the relief zippers on men’s suits are positioned a bit high for women’s use.

You are another in a long line of Kokatat owners who have sung the company’s praises when it comes to replacing de-laminated suits, though. Good to know, thanks!


Yes, the women’s Radius. I’m not sure what your concern is since the knob is in front and doesn’t dangle freely. It’s held against your body by the over skirt. On mine, the placement is just to the left of my belly-button.

I don’t use a seat back. My kayak has an IR Reggie back band. I’ve never felt the zipper nor has the knob impeded getting back in my boat or using torso rotation with and without a sprayskirt.

There’s a difference in the inseams between the men’s and women’s Radius. That’s something to consider as it will affect fit, unless you can customize it.

Any place you can try one on?

2nd the motion on the radius K . Easiest suit I have ever jumped in. I were the whole suit to drive to from paddle sites in cold weather. Even if it’s wet.
Peace J

1 Like

A lot depends on where this expedition you are planning is going to be as to what outfit will work the best. If in an environment where you will always want to be in a dry suit or in an environment where you only need/want a full drysuit some of the time.

If you will always want to be in a drysuit all of the time, then buy a full drysuit with a lowered pee zip.

If however you think that sometimes you will only want to paddle in half {either top or bottom} then the choice gets a little more complicated.{bottom on for dry foot entry and exit}

A set up with bibs can be paired with either a dry top or a paddling top with a vent-able neck or a short sleeved top. When in camp , the top can be removed and any water gathering etc can be done wearing just the bibs. You carry more ways to vary your outfit. {Also , the bibs have no latex gaskets to rip and can be used as a stand alone sometimes}{paired with a Reed paddle cag leaves you with a vent-able neck and no latex to tear}

If you like the wade-ability for camp water gathering, and the ability to take the top off while on shore in order to air out. But always wish to have a dry top while paddling. Then the two piece drysuit in the shining penny.

The lowered pee zip on any of the combinations {with a FUD} will make life easier.

In camp and for shore breaks either the two piece or the bib combination will be nicer than running around with the arms of the full suit , tied around your waist.

Just to be clear, I used a suit with a lowered pzip for years. It occasionally took some arguing with Kokatat to get it but it was a better solution for me than most. I still have a suit with it that is in good shape, but I have finally given up on the fight to retain my 30 year old dimensions and we no longer fit.

I still prefer the two piece suit I have now.

Unfortunately I can’t find a place to try one on. That would of course be fabulous but kayak shops are getting farther and fewer between, what they carry is getting narrower and sizes are limited.

I do know there’s no way I’ll fit anything Kokatat makes for women, so it’ll be a men’s XL or maybe even XXL since guys don’t tend to have hips. I wish manufacturers would get on board that some women are 5’11" with long arms and legs! This is the main reason I wound up with a Reed. Completely custom except for the relief zipper - I couldn’t get them to lower it. But I make it work.

My expedition 'yak doesn’t have a seat back or even a back band but Kokatat uses that as an indicator where the zipper sits. My concern with the knob wasn’t dangling but rather a hard round piece of plastic pressing against my waist. I wear a tow belt. I was hoping it was more below the waist.

I have never had the knob interfere with the tow belt. And I have done my share of towing.

Where are you located? Maybe someone has an option in your area

You’ve hit upon the very heart of the issue.

I’m paddling Lake Superior in 2021 to celebrate my 65th year on this planet. I was planning on taking both a wetsuit and a dry suit to use as needed. Figured if I was 100’ from shore in calm conditions I could wear the farmer john with a paddle jacket. Big crossings like Thunder Bay or rough conditions, I’d zip into my dry suit.

I was just up at the GLSKS taking an expedition class and the coach (Michael Gray) suggested the bibs/dry top combo for the reasons you outlined. If I swim in that combo will I take on water or do the bibs and dry top mate enough to stay dry?

Good idea about the Reed cag - which I have already. Only worn it once in Nova Scotia because it’s really warm and I tend to run hot.

Any favorites for the vent-able dry tops?

I ditto Allan about no interference with a tow belt.

The pants aren’t skin tight like a leotard. As I wear layer under the suit, I don’t feel the knob inside. The waist fit is adjustable.

You do have the option of having a custom suit made to your measurements.

As to Lake Superior, are you circumnavigating or doing particular sections? What time of the year?

Our messages crossed in the ethers apparently.

I’m in Almost Heaven West Virginia so I’ll be surprised if there’s many options. The closest shop that has any Kokatat inventory is Blue Mountain Outfitters in PA on the Susquehanna. I haven’t called yet to see what they have in stock, but I don’t recall seeing any SwitchZips on the rack last year but you never know.

The one of ladies I paddle with has a SwitchZip and loves it but she’s 5’ 7".

I would do a two piece combo for the wet-suit it’s not only easier for peeing it is much more adaptable.{switch out tops etc} I have a spare pair of the old bibs without the boots and no relief zipper {actually I have a large and an ex large} if you would like to experiment with the idea of bibs. If you are just looking at the two piece drysuit then someplace like Canoeacopia is where to find one to try on {since you must be sort of Midwest and maybe Michigan…and it should be happening in the spring next year. Same with if you need to try on a full drysuit. I carry my Reed cag and whirlpool bibs in a hatch whenever I paddle Lake Superior in the summer. The weather is very persnickety . If it looks doubtful, I pull into a landing and change. {unless it is already drysuit wearing time and then I already have it on and carry a pair of Reed chillcheater pants and a few choices for tops to change into } in case I overestimated the weather.

Working on the logistics now, but planning on leaving late May or first of June depending upon weather patterns and doing a solo circumnavigation in one summer-long adventure.

1 Like