Drysuits for kayaking
Some biased advice for kayaking drysuits
Do try it on before you buy!
And as you would sit in a kayak, and with the most layers and warmest fleeces you are likely to wear in winter.
Make sure you are sitting down - kayak like - on the floor, and with the typical amount of clothes you might wear on the coldest day. We are not all the same proportions; leg to body. Apart from the usual small, medium, large sizes some manufacturers include other sizes such as medium broad, large medium. Difficult to guess how these might fit you so buying online is more risky.
Prices vary from £275 to £1000. The sweet spot between cost/quality seems to be around £450 which may include an under-fleece, 'onesie' or romper suit. If you are lucky you may be able to get one of the same quality a little cheaper if you can find one in your size and last seasons colours!
Though they won't cover 'fair wear and tear', warranties are available on some drysuits.
Cheaper alternatives can be had from suits designed for sailing which come without the waist 'tube' or pelmet.
Models are available with:
– With latex feet which will need protecting with socks
– In the same material as the rest of the suit
– Without socks but just with a seal around the ankle
Probably the most fragile part of the suit and where dampness or leaks are likely to happen.
You may need to buy a size larger pair of padding boots with a drysuit to allow for a pair of socks inside the feet as there is typically extra material to accommodate due to the one size fits many approach (unless of course you opt for a made to measure suit from the likes of Typhoon).
Apart from keeping your feet warm, socks help protect the dry suit feet from damage inside from toenails. Some people also cover their drysuit feet with socks on the outside to further protect them. This is particular good for latex feet which are very fragile. Whatever the material, don't be tempted to walk around without shoes on or they won't stay waterproof very long at all!
The zip is the most expensive part to replace. Do get help to close the zip, especially for across the shoulder models. Trying on your own to close it may kink it.
Suits can be bought with zips in different places, each has their advantage:
– across the back on the shoulder,
– diagonally from shoulder to hip,
– ankle to ankle.
You do need to wear an underfleece or 'romper suit'; to soak up any condensation or perspiration – RNLI crew wear a thick fleece winter and summer alike. When buying a drysuit make sure you allow for the potential layers you will wear in deepest winter. A drysuit that is too tight will not be so warm.
The 'convenience' zip option is worth having. Not sure what the options for ladies are apart from the Peak model with a zipped leg opening, or the women specific Kokotat?
The zips are the most expensive part of the suit and will need waxing with either beeswax or some high-tech silicon equivalent.
Remember to 'burp' it on shore before starting paddling - squat down and pull the neck seal open to let the air out. If you don't you might find yourself floating along with your feet above your head.
Care and Maintenance
Drysuits do have to be looked after - rinsing in clear water after each trip, especially to clear salt and sand from the zips. Wear socks inside to help protect the feet material - some people also put them on the outside too for the same reason.
Some people use talc power on the seals to reduce skin irritation. Five to seven years is a typical life expectancy from a drysuit. You will probably have to replace the neck and wrist seals at least once within that time.
Some dry suits owned by Club members
The last one listed is generally the most popular in the Club
Local shops which stock drysuits
Andark diving shop, Swanick - now offering members a discount (code needed)
AS Watersports, Exeter
Bournemouth Canoes, actually in Poole
Whitewater the Canoe Centre – Shepperton, Middx
generally online but can now be visited in furthest Essex for that essential try before you buy.
A distillation of Club member comments
'Quite a few of the Kayak fishermen wear Typhoons and they all recommend them! Multisport 4's, and PS220's.'
From the numbers of drysuits seen on recent Club trips the current popular one seems to be the Typhoon Multi-Sport which Bournemouth Canoes sell. I am on my second one - the first one lasted 7 years which is longer than any other cag that I bought ever managed to last. Kokotat make a nice one too but a £1000 ...
I have a Lomo Renegade drysuit - you may have seen a few other members wearing them too, in distinctive yellow and black. Very good price at £299. I'm very pleased with mine. It is in it's 5th winter now and I have used it a lot - completely submerged many times. For the first couple of years it was totally waterproof. By now, it seems to let in a tiny amount of water, the neck and wrist seals don't feel quite as tight as they used to and maybe the fabric has become slightly porous - but there are certainly no visible signs of deterioration, the fabric still looks 100% sounds, all the taped seams are sound etc. It may just need a service to bring it back up to scratch - but even as it is, it is still very good. Breathability is good too - I have been too hot in it many times, but it does not seem to suffer condensation. Well recommended, especially at the price - but call the Glasgow shop first to check sizes etc - they are very helpful.
I have the Lomo but in front zip style, . And about the same state except I'd replaced expired wrist and neck seals. It was basically ok but a tad damp at times (when it was dry when new). Then the (non-Lomo) replacement neck seal split just before Xmas, and I sent it off to Lomo - charged under £100 for a new neck, some stitch repairs, and reproofing the arse, and postage. Haven't tried it yet. Five seasons is a lot for a drysuit I think, so if I get another year out of it I'll be doing well. Lomo often seem to have run out of stock, so if you decide you want one, don't hang about if it's available.
... had a couple of Crewsaver suits, and the fabric on the legs seems to go in a couple of seasons (remember we do a lot of kneeling in canoes). My girlfriend has changed over to Typhoon.
The front zip styles we use let a bit in to a kayak round the waist, but are otherwise more convenient than back zips. I can pee (just!) from the front zip in the Lomo, but couldn't in the Typhoon, it's too high, a gent would need a pee zip.
Checkout the Peak ones as well, leg zip entry and unisex peeing.
We got Peak dry suits this year. Actually they are not stricly marketed as dry suits as the neck seal is neoprene, making them much more comfortable but not 100% waterproof. They leak a little round the neck if you dont do them up properly and very little if you do. The zip, while dry looks like a conventional zip and does not require the strength of a gorilla to get open. It runs from the ankle round the crotch and down to the other ankle and means that either sex can answer the call of nature with ease..
It always feels as if both socks have leaked, but as long as you make sure the zip is fully done up actually such dampness as there is can be explained through sweating alone and it is an illusion. Not cheap though.
Lomo are very good value, and although their suits lack some refinements they do seem effective & very serviceable - Mine has now done 5 seasons, albeit spent £100 on an overhaul this winter.
Some of the suits with front zips, it is possible to pee out of the main front zip (gents only). With my front zip Lomo I can, just. However, any suit of that style doesn't seal terribly well around the cockpit, which is a bit unhelpful if you regularly paddle grade 3 or more, or lumpy similar sea and no pump, and would be really very unhelpful if you surf.
There some suits now called I think "surface suits" which are comfier on the neck, but not quite so dry.
Concur about keeping clean, and also keep the zip lubricated.