Reed vs. Kokatat GMER drysuit...

Have a new Kokatat GMER sitting in the box from Kokatat, but have been through one already and wasn’t particularly pleased with a drysuit from another well known manufacturer. None of these breathe worth a darn, or I sweat too much or something. After a number of years of breathable drysuits, I might as well have a non-breathable suit, it would seem. I know they are breathing some,but with truly only exposed arms, really, how well can a suit breathe?

I’m curious how many here may have used the Reed ‘paddlesuits’. They are supposed to be a bit breathable, but that’s not really a main concern of mine because ‘breathable’ suits don’t breathe for me. I have a friend of mine who is about as advanced as an ocean paddler as you can get and he loves his Reed suit:

I like how each one is custom sized, made from stretchy material and incorporates it’s own insulation layer that should dry very quickly when turned inside out.

Anybody really used both kinds of suits that can provide some good advice on this choice?

If I go with the Reed suit, I’ll be selling a NIB mango/black GMER in size L.

ChillCheater Experience
I have two Reed CC suits, and really like them, despite some problems. Both were purchased used, and needed leak repairs - sent 'em off to England, had the chest seams (where the overskirt joins the main suit) retaped on one, and the overskirt removed and the booties replaced with larger ones on the other. Cost was most reasonable, and the service excellent. The fabric itself is great - very soft and flexible, with a sort of fuzzy inner surface that’s really comfortable.

Total cost for both suits, including the repairs, is less than that of one Kokatat. I find them breathable enough for my purposes - I’m not a heavy-duty paddler, but our Newfoundland saltwater stays lethally cold almost all year.

Thanks, vk1nf. Do I end up wearing any additional insulation layers in the cold NF waters? How watertight do you find he neck and wrist seals to be?

Any other experiences with Reed paddle suits anyone?

keep in mind
Keep in mind, the Reed is a “paddling suit”, where the Kokatat is a “dry suit”. Paddling suits don;t use latex for all the gaskets (Kokatat switches to Neoprene for the neck, but leaves the wrists as latex - Reed says all 3 are not latex). The non-latex have a tendency to leak a little water in past the gaskets. So this isn’t an apple to apple comparison.

Kokatat also makes paddling suits, for about the same price (300 British pounds is about $500).

That said, I haven’t used Reed myself, but know people who love them.

I would ask here
Since its a UK product I would ask on this UK forum.

I have a Reed Aquatherm sprayskirt which I really like and just ordered some Reed Aquatherm wading socks from the UK. Haven’t yet got the wading socks yet.

It breathes more than you realize

– Last Updated: Nov-03-13 8:35 AM EST –

Until you've used an nonbreathable dry suit, you have no idea how much a breathable suit really helps. Yes, you will get sweaty in a breathable suit if you're exerting yourself, but you will dry off when your effort level drops. In a nonbreathable suit, you never dry off and sweat continues to accumulate until your inner garments are saturated, and it eventually puddles in the suit.

If you're uncomfortable now, just think about how much more "fun" a nonbreathable suit will be!

This is not meant as a comment on the Reed products, as I have never used them.

“Breathability” not important to me . .
… for paddling gear.

That’s my conclusion after 30 years of multiple Goretex and non-breathable paddling drysuits and general rain suits – and many other types of breathable and non-breathable outdoor gear. Reasonable waterproofness and reasonable price are more important to me than purported breathability, especially in aqueous places.

First, the breathability of Goretex and like fabrics is, in my experience, not particularly significant even in optimal temperature and humidity gradient conditions.

Second, none of the Goretex-like fabrics will breathe when wet on the outside or even when there is high humidity in the outside air. They rely on a humidity gradient between the inside and outside of the PTFE layer to drive vapor diffusion through the PTFE. Compared to hiking or mountain climbing, the outside conditions when paddling are far more likely to be characterized by diffusion-defeating wetness.

Third, if liquid sweat forms inside a breathable suit due to heat exertion overload, the sweat in liquid form can’t get out of a breathable suit any more than it can from a non-breathable suit. Hence, you will get puddling in a breathable suit if you over-exert in hot conditions, even if conditions outside the suit are dry.

Finally, Goretex is too expensive for me.

I do use my old Goretex drysuit in cold air/cold water conditions, since I have it, but I wouldn’t buy one new again unless I had a lot of disposable income. (In that case, many of these gear choice discussions are irrelevant.) Instead, I would wear:

– In cold water, cold air conditions: a good non-breathable drysuit. Sweat build-up will be minimal, and tolerable to me, in such cold/cold conditions.

– In cold water, warm/hot air conditions: a farmer john wet suit with a non-breathable drytop that can be easily taken on and off, so you can release trapped perspiration and dry off periodically.

I know nothing about Reed, but I’m assuming it falls into my category of a good waterproof, non-breathable suit.

Underlayers - You Betcha!

– Last Updated: Nov-03-13 9:46 PM EST –

Given our water temps, and my aversion to being wet and/or cold, I layer up pretty good. Last paddle, about a week ago, I wore merino wool underwear and socks, a layer of mid-weight polypro, and a layer of heavy poly fleece top and bottom under the ChillCheater. Added a neoprene hood, neoprene gloves with thin merino wool gloves inside them, and mid-calf boots salvaged from a crapped-out divers drysuit...

Re the ChillCheater gaskets - I've had no problems with leaking thru either the wrist or neck gaskets, and I find them more comfortable than the latex ones I've used. As noted in my original post, I have had ChillCheater leaks on the chest seams, and a bootie. Apart from those, the ChillCheatre suits have kept me dry - except once, when I didn't properly close the relief zipper, but we won't talk about that...a chilling experience, for sure...

Previously, I had a Kokatat SuperNove semi-dry suit - the neck gasket just didn't seal tightly, and I found that sweat tended to condense out against the inner membrane surface to the point where my underlayers would get damp-to-wet. Also had bootie leaks from day 1, and the inner surface started to delaminate after about three years of moderate use. To be fair, my wife's SuperNova never leaked, and the inner membrane is still in good shape. They were also a vast, vast improvement over the wetsuits we had previously used.

On balance, dollar for dollar, I much prefer the Reed ChillCheater over the SuperNova for comfort, warmth, breathability and durability. I haven't used the GMER or other Kokatat Goretex suits, but can say that most of the heavy duty paddlers here swear by them. Horses for courses, I guess.

One final note - my wife's Stohlquist B-Pod is a very nice drysuit, and may be the best of those I've tried. Again, great service - the neck gasket was too tight on hers when purchased, and Stohlquist replaced it free of charge with the only comment being that they had " make it absolutely right for you". Can't do much better than that!

Reed’s Aquatherm Fabric…
…is described as ‘breathable’ on their website - I’ve found it to be less ‘sweaty’ than that used in the Kokatat SuperNova. The fuzzy inner surface probably accounts for much of that.

The problem here in Newfoundland is the old cold water, warm air quandary - not uncommon to have 3 degree C water and 25 degree C air temps early in the season, and the water seldom gets much above 10 degrees C. But then again, we do get to paddle around icebergs in brilliant sunshine…

Perhaps now that batteries bail our
boats, we will soon see tiny pumps that force air through our drysuits. Maybe with dehumidification.

I didn’t find non-breathing dry tops that bad. The breathing ones are better, but if I paddle hard, moisture does build up faster that it can exit.

Under some circumstances, even though a drytop can breathe, outside temperature and temperature keep it from doing so fast enough for inside comfort. There aren’t magical little men with handpumps in those fabrics. It’s just a matter of moisture and temperature gradients.

Kokatat GMER Drysuit vs. Reed Aquatherm

– Last Updated: Nov-03-13 11:17 PM EST –

Yes, I think that in many (most for me) paddling situations, I overpower the breathability of the fabric so quickly that it becomes a moot point almost. With a w/b jacket, you can vent at the pits and front zip, etc. Obviously not so with a drysuit and a drysuit and really only effectively breath in environmental conditions that allow it to do so and if it's exposed to those proper environmental conditions. With only arms exposed on a drysuit, I just don't think there's much breathability there in reality, especially in a humid ocean environment where the fabric is already getting wet. Keep in mind, like I've said, that I have a number of years experience with the Palm Stikine and the Kokatat GMER and I'm just not convinced they are the right choice for me.

Another issue related to breathability is the long term reliability of the DWR. If that is not effective over time and the face fabric wets out, the w/b membrane will not breath. I've rarely had DWR perform well for very long on a drysuit, especially in saltwater, and have spent a great deal of time and money diligiently renewing or applying new DWR as per manufacturers specs. No issues like this with the Reed. Tired of the expense, perceived low performance and high maintenance that really doesn't seem to make a long term difference...

I'm am surprised at the low numbers of folks in the US that seem to have experience with Reed custom made paddlesuits. I picked up one of their decks last spring and like it way better than any other deck I've had. Does the job and it very lightweight and packable--much more so than a neoprene version.

Hopefully some more will chime in that have actual experience with the Reed paddlesuits. Anyone?

By “non-breathable”, I really meant …
… the newer polyurethane (PU) film or microporous coated fabrics, as opposed to the PTFE laminated fabrics such as Goretex. These PU film fabrics, and even some PU coated fabrics, have a measure of breathability that may not be as good as PTFE laminates, but that are better than the old fashioned completely non-breathable coatings.

REI has a thorough explanation of the various waterproof-breathable options:

… I repeat, NOTHING, will make me let go of my Kokatat Expedition. Yes, I get a bit moist whrn sprinting, but as soon as I stop I dry quickly, if I feel too hot I can always roll and evaporative cooling works really well on Gore-Tex. I wore a PVC suit once for 4.5 hours on open water paddle when the air temp got too high to be comfotable… never again. Espensive? Definitely. Worth the money? Absolutely.

That said, I’m looking forward to adding Reed Tuiliqs to my big list of kayaking clothes…

So it’s not NON-breathable, is it?
How about being honest here?

You’re not talking about non-breathable fabrics at all, just non-LAMINATES. Relative breathability varies, but the fabrics you describe are still designed to transfer moisture through the fabric.

Actual non-breathable fabrics have coatings that do not allow ANY moisture transmission and are essentially like wrapping yourself in a plastic bag. They are miserable to paddle in if you sweat much.

That leads to another important point, the amount that people sweat varies greatly and it makes a big difference in what is considered comfortable. Personally, I am not comfortable in non-breathable garments or neoprene, where I end up “stewing in my own juices”, but I’m fine in breathable fabrics. While I do get sweaty at times, I also dry off when my exertion level drops, so obviously, there’s moisture transmission going on whether the outer surface is wet or not.

So you already know you still sweat

– Last Updated: Nov-21-13 3:31 PM EST – the point of drenching yourself in a Gore-Tex drysuit?

Then nothing's going to work that is actually waterproof also. Gore-Tex is the best-breathing waterproof material I've worn.

Where gaskets sit under and PFDs and sprayskirt tunnels sit over the Gore-Tex, you will still get sweaty. Common sense: the moisture has to be allowed to move out. I know this from the difference in perceivable sweatiness when paddling while wearing or not wearing a PFD.

But here's the big diff with Gore-Tex: even after getting torso damp from paddling, it will evaporate and dry quickly upon removing the PFD, skirt, etc. It helps if you add some air (reverse of burping the suit) while you are stopped--but make sure to burp the suit before getting back on the water.

Maybe some experimentation with insulating layers would help, for example, wearing 2 thinner wicking layers vs. 1 thick one, or wearing a very thick one that allows more noncompressible space between your skin and its outer surface.

Right, there are more options today
I have in the past used truly NON-breathable drysuits and rain gear. I was an early adopter of the first drysuits. And, putting cost in the balance, I would still choose a NON-breathable drysuit in cold water/cold air conditions today over a $1000+ Goretex drysuit. Poor cost/benefit ratio for me. YMMV.

However, today, the PU film and coated fabrics offer another slightly breathable option at lower than PTFE cost. I don’t honestly know whether drysuits are made out of these PU fabrics or not. I know decent rain gear is.

However, PU fabrics won’t breathe either when wet or in high outside heat or humidity. (Pit zips and open collars are used on them for ventilation, but those features I don’t think are found on most paddling tops.) In addition, as others have said, salty water and air can clog and eventually wear away the outside DWR coating on all the breathable fabric options.

They DO breathe when wet
How else would you explain that when sweaty, you will dry off when you stop sweating? Your body isn’t going to reabsorb your perspiration. Breatheability is reduced when the outside is wet, but it’s not eliminated.

As for cost, coated fabrics are basically a case of false economy. Yes, they are cheaper initially, which is attractive, but they lack long-term durability and the “iron-clad” warranty of Gore-Tex. You’ll likely end up replacing coated garments repeatedly over the life of a single Gore-Tex garment. I’ve had three Gore-Tex garments that have delaminated after 8-12 years of use and all of them were replaced under warranty, at no cost to me. Should the new ones eventually fail, they’ll be replaced too.

You simply don’t get that with any other fabric and it’s why Gore-Tex is actually a much better value than the alternatives.

selling NIB GMER
Have decided to sell the NIB Kokatat GMER and get the Reed suit after much research.

Dry Suits
I have been looking as well for something that works. I am new to kayaking (2 years) and I wish I could get a suit made from my fly fishing waders. I realize that to be waterproof there has to be an impervious property, and that means a restriction of air. My Simms waders are great at breathing. Maybe the fishing wader guys need to make dry suits?

you do know that your Simms waders are made of GoreTex? the same material as best breathable drysuits?