(Warning -- long post. The Chronicles of trying on a new drysuit!)
I already have a small Kokatat Goretex Meridian. The 'tat is due for an overhaul of the neck gasket and seams. Also, I really don't fit the 'tat quite as I would like since, at 5'3" and 140lbs, I am more of medium girth encased in a short stature body. I find I can't get as many layers or thickness of layers as I would want in the deep of winter. So to not disrupt my winter paddling, I decided to order another drysuit.
I first ordered another Goretex Meridian in medium. I fit this width wise quite well and had no problem contorting my head/neck to the side to get in the front entry as I do with the small Meridian. Unfortunately, I have about 4 to 6 inches of overlapped material in the arms and legs. For the comfort of this size, I would have to contend with extra material catching waves going through the break zone. Dunno... I'm not so good that I need the additional handicap. So, I sold it.
I looked around at other breathable drysuits. I really want one with a double tunnel to minimize seepage through the skirt waist since I play rough water more than I paddle flatwater. The double tunnel feature is important to me. I saw someone with a Palm Stikine up close. It seemed a roomier cut. I also liked the sturdy construction and features -- the chest pocket, the more substantial neoprene overflaps for the gaskets and the wider neoprene double waist tunnel. The material also feels sturdier, as much if not more so than the Goretex Meridian. The issue of whether the material will "breathe" as well as goretex didn't concern me as much. Since I already have and happy with drytops made by BomberGear and Rapidstyle which use breathable laminates other than goretex, I wasn't focused exclusively on just goretex as the only material. My experience is that if these other materials don't breathe as well as goretex, it's certainly a minute difference and not noticeable to me. Frankly, I am always damp (though not soaking) either in my goretex drysuit or these tops because I sw..., I mean, perspire quite profusely when I am going at it. So I went ahead and ordered a small stikine back in early November.
The retailer I ordered from didn't have a small in stock and ordered for me with PalmUSA. Palm was out and backordered. The shipment finally arrived from overseas last week and I got my Stikine a couple of days ago. The drysuit came in a big flat box. When I opened the box, I thought it was a mistake because I saw what looked like a black nylon mesh duffle. Well, inside the duffle sat the Stikine. Nice.
Putting on the Stikine with its rear shoulder horizontal zip was different that the Meridian front entry. With Meridian, I step into the suit and pull the waist up, then sort of scoot my arms through the front entry into the sleeves and then really contort my neck/head to the left to get through the neck gasket. I am always concerned that the pressure I put on the neck gasket will result in tear in the rubber or force a seperation of the seam. With the Stikine, I pulled the suit all the way up to my chest. A sticky point was in fact the double neo waist tunnel. It felt almost like (but not as tight) as putting on a neo skirt the way it was hugging/resisting my hips. However, once I got the double tunnel past my waist, it felt snug but not uncomfortable. Now, the final fit test... I put my arms through the sleeves... No problem with that. I then pulled the back of the shoulder and neck area over my head. No problem with that. Then when I tried to get my head through the gasket... Uh-uh... No way! I couldn't even get the crown of my head through the opening. Okay, the moment of no return or no return... Do, I trim the neck gasket? Once I do that I can't return the suit.
Well, with a deep breath and the neck gasket stretched over a plastic bottle, I took the razor blade to 2 lines of the neck gasket. Went to put on the suit again. Uh-oh... Still no way. Put the gasket on the bottle again, and cut another line off. Put the suit back again and found once again, no way... Took off the suit, looked and looked at the neck gasket and the mock turtle neck like neo overflap. I flipped the suit around and tried to poke my head through the neo overflap into the suit. No can do. The mock turtle neck was too tight...
Since I was already committed (and with a bit of frustration), I grabbed the turtle neck opening and stretched, release and stretched. With repeated stretching, the neo collar began to loose it's elasticity and the opening was just big enough for me to poke my head through.
On went the suit again. This time I stuck my head through the gasket down to my nose. I then grabbed the mock turle neck and rolled it down past the rubber gasket, but not before I took a deep breath, because the neo overflap then pressed the rubber against my face cutting off any air. I then gently grabbed the opening of the rubber gasket, pulled open and pushed my head up. I was through!
Now, onward to pulling the shoulder zipper close. I have heard the reports that the zipper was very hard to close alone and then it's better to have a partner do it. Now, seeing as how I paddle alone at least half time, I can't have a drysuit that requires a partner to close/open... I reached over my shoulder, grabbed the rubber zipper tab and pulled. Sure enough, the zipper wouldn't move. Too much give in the material so that I can't get the tension needed to make that zipper move. Okay, I grabbed the zipper end with the other hand, I proceeded to pull again. The zipper moved several inches and stopped when the tension was gone. I move the other hand over and grabbed the zipper right near the zipper pull and then pulled again. Another couple of inches. Basically, repeating this process, I was able to close the zipper after several minutes. However, not having much flexibility around my shoulder and deltoid area, I was really sweating and feeling the tension on those muscles. It was a workout already. But the suit was on and sealed.
I moved around in the suit and found indeed it was slightly roomier and more comfortable than my Meridian. I like the fit. I flipped over the wide neo waist tunnel and found some lines of soft grippy rubber. The waist tunnel when overlaid on the skirt tunnel will definitely seal out water better than my Meridian. The price for that is that (still not used to) snug feeling around the waist area.
Taking off the suit was a reverse process of unzipping and getting my head out from the neck gasket. It was a bit of a struggle. Anyway, it dawned on me that it may be easier if I hook a biner through the zipper pull tab, thereby, giving a couple more inches to my overstrained muscles and also for more leverage. That worked. After, pulling the zipper close, I need to remember to take the biner off so it's not dangling when I am actually paddling. When I am done, I have to put the biner on to unzip. An extra step but probably worth the comfort of the Stikine vs the Meridian.
This weekend, I expect to take the Stikine out in surf and will report back on my impressions.
PS. I ordered the suit at about $50-75 less than the listed price of $650-675. If someone is interested, email me and I'll tell you who the dealer is.
(Warning -- long post. The Chronicles of trying on a new drysuit!)
Thanks for your report.
Don’t take this wrong but… I was chuckling while reading your report, the part about getting into the suit. Wow, it really sounds like an ordeal. Now, I have never been close enough to a dry suit to touch one, maybe they are all hard to get into.
I guess placing the zipper on the back affords some additional protection, but that really seems that it requires max body flexability to work with.
Bottom line, it will be good if it keeps you dry and is warm, and is comfortable.
It’s My 'Tween Size
that's a problem. But, I find the neck/head contorting thing with the 'tat to be the biggest pain. The Stikine was a whole lot easier on my neck. But I traded the pain of that for the pain of the zipper pull. I hate this whole yin/yang thing sometimes.
The other thing is that I could have custom ordered another 'tat. But, do I really want to spend close to a thousand for another drysuit? Evidently not.
I have been looking at the Stikine myself. I will be at the top of the top size scale. I am wore out from YOUR ordeal I am out of shape and not very flexable. This sound like it won’t be pretty for me. Imagine a big guy in a strait jacket losing his balance.
Thanks for the report.
hey sing -
have that same suit and love it.
a caution on the rear zip though if you are going to attach a 'biner and do it yourslef - i did the same thing - after i attached the lanyard to the zip and then 'binered the lanyard to my truck rack i spun around to zip and unzip myself...well, apparently the angle is important (and probably more caution than i used woulda been good) cause when i unzipped it, i ruined the zip. it is that beefy metal zip that kokatat uses and so i was surprised but none the less, it was trashed...i called the palm importer in the states directly, mailed the suit to them and they replaced it for free outta the next shipment (stock items do seem to be an issue)
i have no complaints with the suit after a year of use; it has held up nicely, is rugged and the company stood behind the product the one time i did have a problem (and that problem could have been my doing anyways)
so far, full marks all around.
Just A Hilarious (If Unpleasant) Vision
if I were to do what you did... Clipped to a truck rack and jumped off the side, I would definitely be zipped in but dangling of the side of the truck... Thrashing around, I would be screaming, "Help!, Help! I've fallen and can't stand up!"
It’s 9:00 AM and I’m…
exhausted from reading your description too Sing.
Quick question: What kind of layers to you wear under your dry suits in cold weather/water?
roughly, if the air temps are 40 or above, I get by with a pair of tights and rashguard and poly socks.
30-40 air temps, I generally were a micro fleece FJ, rash guard, a loose fittin thermax top over that, poly socks and then micro fleece socks over that.
30 and below or with big wind chill. I'll switch off the loose thermax top for a microfleece pull over, or I may add another loose thermax top on.
I find a tight top and a looser top wicks the moisture away from the body. Usually moisture gets trapped more between the outer layer(s) and the drysuit (and hopefully escaping through the micro pores of the drysuit). Generally, when I'm done surfing, the outer layer is very damp even with the goretex meridian. I have not ever had pooling of sweat in the booties though.
The above assumes winter paddling/surfing where water temp is anywhere from just above freezing to about 40 degrees.
i needed that…
happy holidays sing!
After that intense workout, you’d better have gotten it with a relief zipper!!!
My small Stohlie’s torso is way too long for me. Easy entry and exit. I fold over the excess material at the waist when I walk. Not an issue while paddling. The legs are the right length. But I would rather that it fit better, which unfortunately would mean a custom-sized suit.
fortunately, the relief zipper and booties are “standard” and not options.
so when are we getting a water review?
Now that you've squished your head and dislocated your arms getting the suit on, you need to go jump in the ocean and give us a dryness/breathability review.
Oh and am I correct in assuming you got the suit from Terrell?
edited to add: I just reread your post where you stated you're taking it out this weekend. I'll eagerly look forward to your review since I'm deciding between the Stikine and the Goretex Meridian.
Enjoyed the neck gasket segment
Now you could say you’ve been born again!
I just received and tried on my NRS Extreme. I had it on and zipped in less than one minute. Do you know why??? It’s WAY too big. I put it right back in the box and I’m returning for the next size down. I tried to err on the large side as I know it sucks to have a drytop/suit that’s too restrictive. I did err well.
Deja vu, all over again…
…or maybe it’s misery loves company.
Either way I couldn’t help smiling at the blow by blow account of entering and exiting the dry suit. I am relieved to know I’m not the only one to have such an experience. I am also a “tween” size. At a skinny 6 foot tall anything medium fits me fine except for 1 piece coveralls.
I should say at the outset of this long story that I am totally hooked on BomberGear paddlewear. It’s just my luck that BomberGear seems to have gone out of business about 6 months before I got into kayaking. Anyway, I’ve been haunting eBay and hoarding BG stuff with the fervor of an antiques collector.
Needless to say I convinced myself that I just HAD to acquire a BG Radiator dry suit. Having already bought one of their Hazmat splash suits in medium for my wife I knew that I would have to find a Radiator suit in large. I simply could not get my head inside the medium suit.
After watching scads of mediums come and go on eBay I finally found a person selling what they claimed was a large Radiator w/relief zip in nearly new condition. It’s a good thing there wasn’t another bidder as committed as I was to winning that auction. At any rate I won it for just over 300 bucks. Yes!!
When the suit arrived I was thrilled. It was in nearly new condition. The gaskets and zips were in perfect shape and the fabric was clean with no signs of wear. Then I held the suit up in front of me and had one of those “wait a minute” moments. I searched the suit top to bottom but couldn’t find a size tag anywhere.
Since the suit was still frozen from it’s trip in the UPS truck I wanted to wait before trying it on. So I got out the wife’s medium splash suit and put the two together on the bed to do a size comparison. Well ok, they’re not exactly the same, but the dry suit doesn’t look that much bigger.
The moment of truth. I was just, and I mean just, able to get my head inside the suit. So it’s on. The gaskets are all comfortable and the suit fits like it was tailor made for me. Once again I’m thrilled at my luck finding this suit.
Then another one of those moments…how the heck am I gonna get out of this thing?
There is definitely not enough length in the suit to simply reverse the head pull through the gasket routine. Ok, now I’m experiencing something like panic. The wife will be home soon and this is one of those clandestine purchases that will be revealed at a less sensitive time than two weeks before Xmas. It simply won’t do to be caught prancing around in a new dry suit.
I discovered that by slipping my hand under the neck gasket, from inside the suit, I was able to shoehorn the neck gasket back over my head. OK, I honestly think the seller was mistaken. This is a medium suit. But since there are no tags and I didn’t ask for measurements I’m not blaming the seller. And once it’s on it fits me great.
So what if I look like Harry Houdini getting out of a straightjacket.
Seems To Me…
drysuits can use a bit of the surfer wetsuit sizing, though would mean more inventory on stock.
xs, s, sm, m, ml, l, xl, xxl.
What do I care about folks who are xxs, or xxxl? I really just want sm.
I really like their drytops. Too bad the company is gone.
Got two surfing buddies who are using BG drysuits. They like them and have not had a problem with the plastic zips. Though I was weary looking at those. Nevertheless, they got the suits for around $300 too. Seems to me if the zipper went and one really likes the suit, why not just replace the zipper at Amigos, even if it's $100-150. Still cheaper than any of the current crop of less expensive semi-drysuits out there.
i do really love that dry top i have from them and based on the quality of that top ordered a dry suit for my wife...
we got it, looked great, fit well but yeah, had the plastic zips....took her out and got her off of back beach up here and the thing leaked immediately. there was no way to get it to close that she didn't get wet...and on the first water test....called bg and their knee jerk reaction was "well, you didn't close the zip" and of course, that didn't sit too well with me where i've been dressing myself in this stuff for years and especially after having mastered not only zippers but really confusing hardware like buttons, velcro AND even snaps (and boys, we all know how frustrating those can be)...so long story short, that went back and ordered her a custom kokatat exped from mikco...fits like a glove, in the colors she wanted and it'll last damn near forever.
we tried the palms but they ran too big for her and i wasn't sure about customizing size for her and with kokatat, i was sure.
i just don't think those plastic zips are very impressive.
I care about you, Sing
Hope you noticed that I did include “xxl.”
Well I just went and looked. Yup, the zips are plastic and the pull/closer thingy is metal. It’s gonna be a few months before I actually test the suit. I didn’t buy it for playing in the ice floes. Just for spring/fall comfort in water temps around 50 or so.
Is it best to store the suit with the zippers open or closed?