Women's drysuit zipper - front or back?

I’m getting ready to buy my first drysuit and I’m looking for advice from other female paddlers on relief zipper placement. Ladies, does your drysuit have a dropseat or a front zipper and how is that working out for you?

It seems to me that the operating a short zipper in the front of the suit is way easier than wrestling behind your back with a big dropseat zipper, but the front zippers present a lot of other questions, like how hard is it to operate a FUD through whatever layers you are wearing underneath the drysuit? Are you stuck with men’s long johns? Will people wonder why you’re wearing a men’s drysuit?

If Kokatat
You can tell them to drop the front zipper to make it work better with a FUD. They have it sussed out. Maybe others by now.

The drop seat zipper tends to be a pain in wet-re-entries - it tries to pull the back band forward. The zipper can also be annoying on your hip, between you and the side of the seat.

The biggest thing to me is really a personal choice - if you need to handle some business on the water, you can at least get to 50% of the problem if you have the drysuit with a lowered zipper for the FUD. Maybe not the neatest thing in the world, but it’s more than you can do with the drop seat.

As far as looking funny, no one even notices. In many groups we’ve paddled with of more serious folks, in water where everyone is in a drysuit, women with the drop seats are in the minority.

Drop seat
I’ve had both in my Kokatats, have a drop seat now,and wouldn’t use any thing else The women I paddle with also prefer the drop seat.

While it can be awkward to use, especially if the zipper won’t move easily due lack of waxing, I’ve never had a problem with the zip sticking into my hips or into the cockpit (I don’t use a backband), or getting myself placed (or displaced) in my seat.

As for the underwear question: Kokatat makes a onesie with a drop that pretty much aligns with your butt and the drysuit seat. If you’re wearing long underwear, you figure out pretty quickly how to move it aside for optimum comfort and dryness.

Both relief zippers have their advantages/disadvantages. Should one be hit with a really strong need for something a bit more complex that couldn’t be handled with a FUD, I think I’d prefer the drop rather than have to get out of my drysuit. I do a lot of late fall/winter paddling and facing the cold dressed only in my long johns and onesie just doesn’t do much for me.

No one much notices where your zipper is, as long as you’ve got the drysuit on and burped for the conditions you’re paddling in.

We’re a fairly inclusive lot, after all.

Try 'em
My wife tried both models (kayakacademy.com will send you demos to rent - applies to purchase)

She thought she would like the drop seat, but hated it in actual use. She prefers the front zip for the reasons Celia stated, and just found the drop seat uncomfortable to sit on and always catching on things. Barb at kayakacademy says it is pretty evenly split between the two solutions. The lower zipper works well - a big improvement for gals over the standard men’s zipper.

Nobody comments on the front zipper - a lot of girls use them.

I have both, and use both. It’s a matter
of the right tool for the right situation. If I have the privacy I want I use the drop seat. Once you get the hang of it, it works. But you have to keep the zipper clean and waxed. I also don’t find it uncomfortable. I have a fairly small boat and use a backband. Just never been a problem.

If I don’t have privacy, the pee zip is great. I can just turn my back. But it also takes some practice and how you sort out under-layers is even more critical. I wear men’s smartwool pants and no underwear. That seems to work the best for me.

Kokatat will retrofit a dry-suit with a drop seat with a pee zip. They did mine.

Also, underlayer choices
I have a union suit but find that more often than not I actually get better use out of separate tops and bottoms. It is rare that I am not completely changing out layers at the midpoint break of a full day’s paddle. This preference likely affects some of my choices re the drysuit relief.

I have no credentials to respond
Since my UD came stock, I’m not the person to respond here. But since my wife doesn’t spend any time on Pnet, I’ll offer her two cents.

We rented both from Kayak Academy. They are extremely helpful and we would highly recommend them. For both rental and sales.

In the end, we found the drop seat to be more hassle than it’s worth. With practice, the pee zipper on the front works just fine. Key word, P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E. If you are squeamish about getting some pee on your hands at first, well, good luck.

But rent 'em both, and see what works better for you. Be sure to wash them before you return them to poor George, though.

Front Zip

– Last Updated: Feb-13-08 10:10 AM EST –

I just bought mine Kokotat with the lowered front zip for the precise reasons outlined here. If I don't have to squat, I'm not going too. There is also something to be said for how snug you like your boat and how large you are. I'm on the heavier side of things so having a zipper digging into my hips was not ideal. I'll let you know how it works as soon as PT clears me to carry my boat again.

Also, definitely get the dry socks. Some of my kayaking friends did not and it is really not fun to have wet feet.

As far as someplace to by the dry suit, Kayak Academy is one of the most helpful places to go. Unless you are able to buy wholesale, their prices are also reasonable.

I prefer the
front lowered relief zipper.

rental and practice
Great advice, thanks to all. Renting both types and practicing seems like a very sensible thing to do.

My girlfriend likes her drop seat
She’s had two drysuits with drop seats and a matching fleece under layer and swears by them.

Matching fleece?
Who has the matching fleece underwear?

Kokatat makes the underwear. It’s been a great investment as nothing rides up when you’re paddling – a problem I’ve had when I’ve worn regular long johns + a fleece pullover.

Mountainsurf also makes fleece…
…with butt zips.