Articles - Sea Kayaking Dry Suit Group Test

Sea Kayak Dry Suit Tests
Sea Kayak Dry Suit Tests
Canoe & Kayak UK Editorial - Posted on 02 Jul 2012
Making the correct choice when choosing a sea kayaking suit is arguably even more important than choosing the right whitewater suit – simply because the chances are you’re going to spend a lot longer wearing it! On a multi-day circumnavigation or other expedition when conditions are bad you might find that you end up not taking it off for days at a time. That’s a lot of time to spend in anything, so you want to make sure you get it right when you’re perusing the shelves in your local retailer. Being the considerate sort of folk we are here at Canoe Kayak UK we’ve gone to the trouble of putting some best-selling dry suits from well known brands to the test with the sole intention of being able to give some solid guidance in this all important decision.

Kokatat Expedition Kokatat Expedition Sea Kayaking & touring dry suitDry Suit

www.kokatat.com
RRP: £940

Materials
Evolution 3.21 oz. nylon 3 layer GORE-TEX®
Latex wrist and neck gaskets
Neoprene trim
Metal tooth, waterproof Optiseal zippers
Cordura® seat and knee patches, self-draining
GORE-TEX® socks

Features
Competition cut
Front relief zipper (unisex only)
Drop seat (women's only)
Storm hood
SOLAS reflective tape on hood
Dual adjustable overskirt incorporates "hook & loop" compatible neoprene
Left and right sleeve pockets

Canoe & Kakay UK Verdict:
A typically premium suit at a typically premium price, Kokatat have spared no expense with their three layer Gore-Tex material, Optiseal metal-toothed zips and Cordura reinforcement. Considering the size of the investment in quality materials, which is passed onto you when you buy this suit, you’d expect the cut and other features to reflect the quality of the components, and the Expedition delivers. The cut that is generous but not baggy is truly comfortable for the wearer; this is a suit that we’d be happy to spend the duration of a prolonged sea kayak expedition wearing. We’re fans of the available colour options, they’re all vibrant enough to keep you visible and looking good, and the reflective tape is a good extra safety feature. We found this dry suit easy to get on totally unassisted, and the diagonal chest zip is unobtrusive for getting on an over-the-head buoyancy aid (BA) and paddling. The two arm pockets are also well placed and mean you can have keys, snacks, VHF or mobiles (with their own waterproofing only) or maps stored without it getting in the way of your boat or BA. The relief zip on the unisex version, and drop seat on the women’s version are both practical additions that we’ve come to expect as standard with most suits nowadays. We really struggle to fault this suit on build-quality, choice of features or cut, this is truly a great quality and ergonomic suit. Comparing it with another suit when it is brand new leaves us unsure, though, about how far the huge disparity in price between this and the next cheapest of the better-selling suits on the market is justified. A lots of it is down to the cost incurred getting it over the Atlantic Ocean and into UK retail outlets, but a lot of it is also down to the premium quality of the material; so over the course of a few years, and with appropriate care, you may find that your investment pays off when other suits begin to lose their waterproofness and warmth, but your suit carries on strong.


Typhoon PS220 Extreme Dry SuitTyphoon PS200 Extreme Sea Kayaking & Kayak Touring Dry Suit
www.typhoon-int.co.uk
RRP: £599.99

Materials
Quad-Ply fabric throughout
Cordura reinforcing on all high wear points
Hypercurve rear zip position for unrivalled comfort
BDM Brass zips as standard with over covers

Features

Articulated arms legs and body
3D Dry hood with spray protector
Double waist
MP3, mobile phone and VHF integration from the collar pocket
'High-Vis' glass bead wrist prints and SOLAS reflective hood tape
Built in whistle
Extra long lower leg covers to work with full height boots
Glide skin seals designed specifically for salt water use
Four Pockets and a hand warmer
Internal braces
Convenience zip

Canoe & Kakak UK Verdict: Canoe & Kayak UK Best in Test
We thought there were some really nice touches to this heavy-duty sea kayaking suit: the fleece-lined hand-warmer pocket on the front is a welcomed addition in all sort of situations, the VHF/mobile/MP3 pocket near the collar with a hole for headphone leads is a great idea, and the built-in whistle is a very sensible feature. We couldn’t argue with the build quality and finish of the suit, the quad-ply material, BDM brass zips and (according to Typhoon) salt-resistant glide-skin seals make for a very dry and warm suit. This is compounded by a well-articulated and fleece-lined hood and storm collar. We also like the look of this suit, its bold colour with additional reflective tape make it practical and safe for the ocean; combine this with a comfy and ergonomic cut and we think this is an excellent choice for the money if you’re looking for a sea kayaking suit that’s up to some more rough and ready days out or even expeditions. But even if you’re on a more relaxed paddle, though, the nice touches like the collar pocket, whistle and hand-warmer would make the PS220 a good choice of suit, so long as it wasn’t too warm – the heavy-duty fabric is designed to be as breathable as possible but on a hot day exerting yourself in this suit will only lead to one scenario of the sweaty variety, but this is true of all suits. We feel that this suit represents Typhoon at their best: it combines the build quality that is reflective of their long suit-making pedigree with some very thoughtful design.

Peak Adventure One Piece Dry SuitPeak UK Adventure One-Piece Sea Kayaking Dry Suit
www.peakuk.com
RRP: £529

Materials

Mid-weight X4 ripstop nylon with 30m waterproofing
Feet: Fourway stretch X4
Neck: Zip opening with stowed away X2.5 ripstop nylon hood outer. Neoprene with opening Velcro enclosure inner
Wrists: Latex inner with opening neoprene outer
Waist: Neoprene AO outer seal with X4 Ripstop nylon inner with elasticated drawcord

Features
Articulated sleeves with pre bent elbows, bum and knees
Fully taped seams
Double front zip pockets
Reflective sleeve stripes
Zip pocket on sleeve
Double zip trouser pockets
Adjustable hood

Canoe & Kakak UK Verdict:
The Adventurer One Piece is one of two fairly similar sea kayaking and inland touring suits of Peak’s. It’s mid weight four layer ripstop nylon material and neoprene Velcro opening enclosure means that on fine days in calm conditions you won’t find this suit as much of a paddler-sized slow cooker as many heavy-duty ocean going sea suits, but equally in colder, windier conditions you can batten down the hatches by zipping up the storm collar and putting up the hood. This level of versatility is good, and as long as you’re not going to try anything too pushy in your sea kayak (a capsision leads to some cold drips down your neck) then this suit will serve your coastal and inland needs. The cut is ergonomic and allows unhindered paddling, and is comfy enough for you to wear all day.




Palm Aleutian Surface Immersion SuitPalm Alutian sea kayaking dry suit
www.palmequipmenteurope.com
RRP: £599.95

Materials
XP250ª 4-layer fabric/Cordura¨ 300D reinforcement
Natural latex gaskets at neck and wrists with adjustable over cuffs
Cordura¨ 300D at elbows, seat and knees
XP250ª Toray socks with Cordura¨ 300D soles •
Ti-Zip

Features
Relief zippers
Volume-adjustable storm hood
Water-resistant zipped front and sleeve pockets
Velcro adjustable neoprene waistband
Articulated sleeve panelling with no underarm seams
Adjustable internal waist drawcord
Seamless crotch and pre-bent knees
Reflective detail at hood, neck, cuffs and ankles

Canoe & Kakak UK Verdict:
Canoe & Kayak UK Reccommended
A solid option from Palm for anyone looking for a sturdy, durable sea kayaking suit, the Aleutian ticks all the boxes needed for the rougher, tougher stuff with its four layer XP250 fabric with Cordura reinforcement, latex neck and wrists and storm hood. We were impressed with the distinctively ergonomic cut that avoids underarm and crotch seams and found this to be a suit you can wear comfortably all day. The rear-entry system is tricky to operate alone, but neutral and unobtrusive once on, allowing for full freedom of movement. When the wind drops, it stops raining and the clouds part you can duly open the storm collar and pack away the hood and use the Aleutian in more placid conditions, and we found it to be just as breathable as all the other four-layer sea kayaking suits out there (which on a warm day is not very, but that is a fact of dry suit wearing life), although the latex neck will mean it’s always a better option in the breezier, chillier conditions than it is when the temperature rises. There are plenty of practically sized and located pockets, which are technically water resistant although a small penetration of moisture should be expected. We like the bright colouring and the reflective strips, this is a visible and good-looking suit, For us the Aleutian represents a well-made option that wouldn’t be a poor choice even for the more adventurous sea kayakers and expedition sea kayakers out there, and the price is a fair representation of what you get, roughly level-pegging with the other high-end suits available.

Peak Explorer One Piece Dry SuitPeak UK Explorer One-Piece Sea Kayaking Dry Suit
www.peakuk.com
RRP: £549

Materials
Mid-weight X4 ripstop nylon with 30m waterproofing
Feet: Fourway stretch X4
Neck: Zip opening with stowed away X2.5 ripstop nylon hood outer. Watertight neoprene AO inner seal
Wrists: Latex inner with opening neoprene outer
Waist: Neoprene AO outer seal with X4 Ripstop nylon inner with elasticated drawcord

Features
Double front zip pockets
Reflective sleeve stripes
Zip pocket on sleeve
Double zip trouser pockets
Adjustable hood

Canoe & Kakak UK Verdict:
Canoe & Kayak UK Reccommended
The Explorer One Piece is Peak’s most premium sea kayaking and inland touring suit, which incorporates their unique and patent-pending leg entry system. What impressed us about this suit was the versatility it affords: there’s no latex on the neck, so you can use it in conditions that don’t warrant latex and stand less chance of overheating in the process, but once you’ve rolled out the X2.5 ripstop nylon hood, pulled the bungee draw cord on the neoprene neck seal tight and zipped up the storm collar all the way you can make yourself comfortable in the less pleasant conditions too, provided you don’t capsize your kayak. Not as heavy duty as more specialised ocean suits, the Explorer’s mid-weight four layer ripstop nylon allows for some level of exposure to the elements, but makes this the ideal inland touring suit as well, and it doesn’t look like the design has compromised on durability. This level of dual-function is always a consideration when buying a sea kayaking suit, and you can save yourself a lot of money by doubling up where possible. If you enjoy inland touring and keep your sea kayaking to the level on one-day trips in good conditions this could prove to be an incredibly good-value suit for you. It’s a great-looking piece of tailoring to boot, we thought the colour scheme was visible enough, particularly with the long reflective stripe on the sleeve, while not being overstated. You just have to remember that for the pushier, longer and expedition sea kayaking exploits this suit may not quite be specialised enough. Still, we were impressed with the build quality, liked the placement and size of pockets, and love the versatility of this suit.

Crewsaver Sabre Dry SuitCrewsaver Sabre Sea Kayaking & touring Dry Suit
www.crewsaver.co.uk
RRP: £349.95

Materials

20,000mm waterproof tri-laminate material with a breathibility of 8,000g/m2/24hrs
Curved metal front zip
Latex socks

Features
Protective zip flap.
Glideskin neck & wrist seals
High storm collar.
Adjustable wrist & ankle outer seals to seal over gloves & boots.
Reinforced backside & knee areas.
Internal braces & key pocket.

Canoe & Kakak UK Verdict:
This suit is a bit of an ‘odd one out’ in terms of the other suits in this test, in that it isn’t a full-spec or ocean-safe sea kayak suit, but we included it to demonstrate that there are other, slightly less pricey things out there if you’re not undertaking any full-on sea paddling. The fact that it doesn’t have a double tunnel discounts it from being used in a sea kayak in all but the most placid of tidal estuaries. It could be used in a canoe or on a sit-on-top, but we wouldn’t recommend you using it anywhere tidal in anything other than calm and bright conditions on account of it being black, and so if you were in trouble it would be much more difficult for rescue to see you. If you are only heading out for a spot of light sit-on-top paddling or canoeing in sheltered coastal inlets, however, the Sabre is cheaper than most dedicated sea-kayaking dry suits, and will do the job. If you are a regular sit-on-top paddler or canoeist this could also double up as your inland touring suit too, which makes the price that extra bit more economical. The suit is front-entry and very easy to get on and off and zip up on your own, a huge advantage if you’re venturing out alone, and there are pockets on the trousers, which although handy for some purposes aren’t dry and again discount this suit for kayak use as the hip pads and thigh braces cause whatever you have in there to dig in. As long as you buy this suit with the right purposes in mind, and expect the slight concession in build quality that comes with paying less, then this could prove to be a very adequate suit for the budding sit-on-top paddler or canoeist out for some fair-weather fun on sheltered water.

Reed Pro-Instructor Full Dry Suit
Reed Chill-Cheater Pro-Instructor Sea Kayaking Dry Suit
www.chillcheater.com
RRP: £570

Materials
Aquatherm collar and cuffs
Light Weight 16 layer Butyl Membrane Fabric socks Medium Weight 16 layer Butyl Membrane fabric main torso area and the upper arms and upper legs
Heavy Weight diamond patterned rip stop fabric which is more suited for the high risk abrasion areas such as the lower arms and lower legs

Features
Fully bespoke item and can be custom-built with the whole variety of technical fabrics
VerZip position around lower back accessible around the waist, serves as a drop seat as well as an entry exit system

Canoe & Kakak UK Verdict:
We quite liked the unique entry system of this suit, which folds forwards at the waist allowing you to step in to get it on, but could also double up as a drop seat. Of all the suits we tried it wasn’t the easiest to get on, but it can be done on your own, unlike the rear-entry suits, which is an advantage. Once you’re in the suit, the positioning of the zip means there’s no way you’ll be hampered putting on over-the-head buoyancy aids, and is comfortable to sit down in. What makes this suit really interesting, though, is that it’s a ‘made to measure’ item, which you can customize to a certain extent when you order. This means that for less money than you’d pay for some of the other suits in this test you can have a suit custom-designed to your specifications. The opportunities for customization outside of sizing are all in the ratio of different technical fabric used: there are four main materials, of different weights and levels of durability, and depending on whether you want a really hardcore and heavy duty suit that you could wear out in colder conditions, a more lightweight, summery suit, or a happy medium you can achieve it by picking and mixing from the material options available. As a specifically sea kayaking dry suit it has limitations – most notably the lack of double tunnel for a spray deck, although it does have a removeable hood. It would be fine though for all of your open boat needs, or as the name suggests, to possibly wear whilst coaching. Overall we were very impressed with the versatility this offers in terms of the custom design options as well as with the finished build quality; and thought that considering the level of control you have this is a rather good value suit provided you bear in mind you’re not buying an all-out sea kayaking suit, but more of a general purpose canoeing or, indeed, instructing suit, whether you’re pro or not!

Useful Info

Dry Suits?
You’ve probably noticed that we’ve referred to all of the suits in our test by the commonly used description of dry suits, but a better description would really be a surface immersion suit. This is because strictly speaking no suit can be 100% dry. The human form comes in all shapes and sizes and whenever there are seals with bits of body poking out (neck/wrists) there’s always going to be a little ingress by the wet stuff. The other source of moisture in the suit again comes from our bodies in the form of perspiration. Many people complain that they get damp feet in their suits, but moisture is always going to find the lowest point, so it stands to reason that you may find your socks a little damp after along paddling trip.

Caring For Your Suit
Although most immersion suits are built tough, as with all paddling equipment they do require a certain level of care, especially the zips, to stay in top condition and keep you dry and warm season after season.

Rinse And Dry

We’ve all done it, got off the sea and walked up the beach, tied our kayak onto the car and then screwed up our sopping kit and stuffed it in to a dry bag, where we then leave it to sit until a week’s time when we’re going paddling again. This is bad for your suit, very bad indeed. What you should do is carefully fold your suit up, so that the zip remains flat. Then when you get home give the suit a rinse in fresh water and then turn it inside out and hang it up inside to dry. This would be important enough if you were using it in freshwater, but when you’ve being it at sea, and salt is a factor, this is doubly important. Don’t hang it in direct sunlight. This will allow any dirt or grit that has got inside your suit, and often gathers in the sock area, to fall out. Once your suit is dry give it the once over and brush of any remaining grit, then turn it back the right way round and store. Remember never fold a suit across a zip, as this can break the teeth.

Lube It Up
Both brass-coil zips require regular lubrication to keep them in good condition. Check with your manufacturer what type they recommend (they usually supply a small tube with the suit) and apply as recommended. Latex seals also benefit from regular application of a silicone protectorant, such as Seal Saver.

Open or Closed
Brass coiled zips should always be stored open, but Ti-Zips should always be stored closed.

Wear and Tear

Immersion suits have a tough life, not only do they have to put up with the demands of a life at sea, bracing against the salt-laden water and wind, grit and sand, but they also have to cope with what’s going on inside too. When we paddle we exert ourselves, when we exert ourselves we sweat and give off heat. This can make the inside of a suit a pretty steamy place, a paddler may complain of getting damp in their suit, but unless they’ve been unlucky enough to have holed their suit it’s usually from perspiration. It’s not uncommon from the acids and salts we produce when we sweat to attack the suits fabric over time. A quick rinse with fresh water after use will help prevent this.
The sock area of a suit is very susceptible to damage, if you don’t follow the care guidelines above then any grit that you’ve brought in to the suit on your feet/inner socks is soon going to be rubbing away at the inner membrane of your suit sock. Suits are best worn with some nice warm socks inside (because it feels nice, and protects suit socks from your un-kept toenails!) and proper shoes or Wellington boots to protect the suit’s socks. Sounds obvious, but we’ve certainly seen people wearing them with sandals, or nothing at all.

Breathability
All the suits we tested are built from breathable materials, but in the environment we play in and with the additional equipment we use in conjunction with them, frankly makes this area a bit of a nonsense. The layers we add around them – buoyancy aid, neoprene spraydeck on top, plastic or composite kayak on the bottom all reduce the area that could effectively breath by about 80% of the suits surface. Combined this with the fact that no fabrics (except some ultra light membrane stuff) can breath at the rate we as paddlers work at you are never going to get an immersion suit where breathability is great - period. Tests on fabric breathability are generally lab based, with static conditions where the inside and outside temperatures are at perfect levels (not what you'd find on the ocean) and in many cases are based on garments where air flow can take place, both outside and in, and suits don't do this. Combined with the adverse conditions that we use them in the best policy when considering suits, in our opinion, is for water-proofness, good quality weaves, durability and the ability to be active and move.

Warranty or not Warranty
Looking at a few of the more popular paddling forums it seems like many of us have some pretty unrealistic expectations with regards immersion suits. If we follow the care guidelines above, it is certainly not unreasonable to expect a suit to last for many seasons, even with heavy use. Most manufacturers take warranty claims very seriously and will exchange or repair any product that is faulty without question. If however the problem has resulted from reasonable wear and tear, (for instance grit wearing out a sock etc) or improper maintenance or care (leaving it in a bin liner after surfing) then they’ll happily repair it for you, but with a minimal charge. It’s a pretty labour intensive process to check a suit out. Firstly it has to be pressure tested and sprayed with water, to find any leaks. Then the section will need to be untapped, before being unstitched. The new section then has to be re-stitched and then re-taped before being packaged up again and dispatched back to its owner.
If you’re returning a suit to a manufacturer for any reason it’s only polite to give it a rinse, ensure it’s grit free and dry before packing it up.




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