Quick Drysuit Advice, Please

I just received an unexpected bonus at work in the form of an Amazon gift card. I’m considering treating myself to a drysuit. I’ve never owned a 1-piece before. Primary use will be touring with some whitewater thrown in. I’d like it to be relatively breathable, robust, comfy, easy on-off when solo. Must have a double-tunnel and a relief zipper. The only shop within a ‘reasonable’ distance sells Kokatat, but they have nothing in a size that would be close. I’d like to stay around $600 if possible but can do more if it offers a true benefit.

So far I’m really liking the Stohlquist Amp drysuit. Seems to check the boxes and I’m familiar with their 2-piece sizing. The problem is that there are only a few left on Amazon, and I’m leaving tomorrow for a week and won’t have internet access. It won’t kill me to wait but hate to miss out if you all think that’s a solid suit. I appreciate your feedback.

I was just browsing the “sale” pages on Outdoorplay this afternoon and saw they’ve got the Level 6 Odin and Emperor drysuits (both have double tunnel and socks) on sale for $810 and they seem to have decent stock. I have had good experiences with Outdoorplay and expedited shipping. Not familiar with Level 6 but the details look good, so maybe somebody who knows them could weigh in on quality.

Thanks for pointing those out. I’d like to stick to Amazon because of the bonus. Those suits are available there for a bit more, and over $200 more than the Stohlquist. I have a Level Six neoprene skirt that’s been great.

Kokatat has a lifetime warranty for their dry suits and similar gear as opposed to Stohlquist’s three year warranty. I’ve had a dry suit that they said showed some delamination in the Gore-Tex fabric replaced for free. Other than a very small leak in one knee where it had been punctured by a thorn, I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I’ve also had a Kokatat dry top that I paid $40 for in 1999 replaced for free a couple of years ago with a $500 Kokatat Rogue dry top. I had originally called them to ask what adhesive to use for some seam tape that was coming loose.

If you’re looking long term and a fair amount of use you can’t beat Kokatat for their customer service. Unfortunately with fall and winter coming on it can be a tough time to find a dry suit in stock in certain sizes.

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Thought I’d bring this back up. I waited on the purchase and shopped a bit more but hadn’t decided on anything specific. I even scoped out some Kokatat suits at a semi-local shop but they had nothing in my size. I’ve been checking the Amazon Warehouse regularly to see if anything popped up, and a Stohlquist Amp drysuit appeared this morning in my size for a really great price, so I snagged it. Shipping is showing to be ~10 days out but I’ll give you all my impressions when it arrives.

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Sorry I didn’t see this post earlier, but I will give you some reassurance.

I purchased an Amp dry suit in January and used it dozens of times through April. I have been extremely happy with it overall. Here are my observations and advice based on my use so far.

First, if you have not tried a dry suit previously, the most obvious thing you will notice is the neck gasket. For me, the Amp gasket is snug, but not uncomfortable and I am fairly sensitive to neck pressure. If you find the stock fit too tight, check the internet for instructions on trimming the gasket as it is cone shaped and trimming the end will result in a looser fit. Don’t go too far though as you do need it to stay tight to ensure it won’t leak.

The Amp itself feels quite sturdy and has nice reinforced patches at the knees, elbows and seat. You should lube the zippers immediately and then practice using the main zip (unless you will have a friend to help get it started from the back). With some practice, you can operate the zipper by yourself, but it is awkward at first as it starts behind your shoulder.

I found the Amp breathes pretty well, but it is heavier weight than some other suits, so it will be warmer than some of the more expensive suits. I believe the Amp uses more layers than some of the more expensive suits. As I mentioned this has good and bad points. I believe it is more robust than lighter suits and will need less insulation than lighter suits, but it will be warmer in hot weather. I have worn mine in temperatures up to about 60 degrees and I am generally comfortable (though at that temperature I’m just wearing shorts and a short sleeve rashguard under it).

Here are a few additional tips.

The Amp has built in socks. Like most, these are somewhat delicate. I always stand on a carpet or towel when getting into or out of the suit to ensure that I don’t tear or puncture the socks on sand, gravel, rocks, etc. I also suggest wearing a full neoprene boot over the socks.

Remember to ‘burp’ the suit. I forgot to do this the first time I tested the suit. When I jumped into the water, I looked like the Michelin Man because of all the air trapped in the suit that got pushed to the surface of the suit from being immersed in the water. To burp, when you are fully sealed in the suit, you just gently pull the neck gasket away from your neck and hold it so that it is not sealed against your neck. Then slowly do a full squat. Once you are in the full squat, release the neck gasket so it seals against your neck and stand up. The suit should suck in around your body.

Good luck and enjoy your new suit.

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Awesome post, @IraB thank you so very much!

A couple of comments. Most people do not recommend trimming the neck gasket unless absolutely necessary. First use a large can or other object a little larger than your neck size and put it through the gasket. Let is remain for a few days to gently stretch out the gasket. The gasket is going to eventually stretch out with time and use anyway. They say the neck gasket will be the most comfortable just before it fails. If you make it a bit too comfortable when new, it will eventually be too loose. If you accidentally nick thee gasket when trimming you risk having it tear prematurely. Treat latex gaskets periodically with 303 Aerospace protectant…

Always wear a PFD when going into the water with a dry suit. A few years ago the DC Marine Police were running a water rescue training session. The “victim” wearing a drysuit because of cold water, dove into the water without a PFD and when no one was watching. The air in the drysuit went to his feet and he ended up upside down in the water and couldn’t right himself. He had a dive knife and tried to cut his way out of the suit, but it took too long. Nobody realized he was missing until it was too late. His body was recovered about a week later…

The typical series of errors that led to an avoidable death. There is a method for getting out of this situation, but you have to know and practice it. You cannot end up inverted if wearing a PFD.

@rstevens15 I really appreciate your input. I’ve had drytops with latex gaskets so I’m not totally new to them, but this will be my first drysuit. I’ll most certainly always wear my PFD but your story is much appreciated and will be taken seriously.

rstevens15 : Is there a source or link to this drysuit fatality? I’ve heard this before, but can’t seem to find documentation. Thanks—

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I don’t have the source handy, but I’ll keep poking around. I was living in Arlington at the time and am a member of the Chesapeake Paddlers Association. It was widely discussed among Club members. I believe the accident occurred on the Potomac off of either the SW DC or Alexandria waterfront. The DC Police Harbor Patrol is located on Washington Channel. Might have been a joint exercise as a number of people were involved. It was a while back, but I don’t remember how long ago. Time flies when you’re a geezer.

I don’t know who these “most people” are, but most drysuit manufacturers recommend trimming neck seals. The seal manufacturers all recommend trimming.

Stretching latex seals is bad for two reasons:

  1. It’s largely a waste of time. Seals are elastic and stretching them over any reasonable sized object accomplishes nothing; they return back to their original size. In the meantime, while you’re going through all this stretching nonsense, you’re stuck with a suit with uncomfortable seals, that you can’t use or at least won’t enjoy using.

  2. The only way to get a latex seal to stretch is to damage it. You have to stretch it over something so large that it causes micro-tears in the material. Of course, this reduces the life of the seal.

Trimming is quick, easy and your suit will be comfortable and ready for use immediately. I typically leave mine just slightly snug to start with, then fine-tune it after I’ve worn it. The simple test for a proper fit is that you should be able to pinch the seal with your thumb and forefinger and easily lift if off your skin.

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