Kayakers Rejoice! Kokatat Re-Invents the Dry Suit – The Idol

24 01 2015

This week I was one of a few privileged souls to witness a revolutionary development in the kayaking world: The unveiling of the Idol dry suit by Kokatat, Inc. Why is the Idol dry suit revolutionary? Answer: The Idol is the first dry suit in history that can be zipped into two pieces – and each can be worn independently.idol-drysuit-leaf-small

Why Own A Dry Suit?

A dry suit is an expensive proposition. A top notch Gore-Tex drysuit from Kokatat or Sweet Protection can set you back $1,100, and that’s not chump change. So, what is the big deal? Your life. If you exit your whitewater or sea kayak in 50-degree water, and you don’t have a wet suit or a dry suit, you are a goner in short order. So, you ask, why a dry suit instead of a wet suit? There are several reasons. Suppose you are paddling and the water is 45 degrees. You’ll need a wetsuit north of 10mm to be safe if dunked more than 30 minutes. And you must get wet to even get warm. When dry, that wetsuit is useless. Wind goes right through it. Now, imagine paddling with that. With a Gore-Tex dry suit, all you need is a dry, comfy fleece layer under that dry suit. When out of the water, you’ll be warm and dry. It shields you from wind. The Gore-Tex will move your perspiration out of the suit. If you do take a spill, this doesn’t change. Even under water, Gore-Tex moves your sweat to the outside environment.

Dry Suit Trivia

Are dry suits something invented for 21st Century adrenaline junkies? Nope. Dry suits have been the immersion wear of choice going back to ancient times. Fact is, Arctic Inuit hunters invented dry suits centuries ago. They discovered seal intestines had the ability to pass sweat in one direction and keep water out. They used dry suits in their whale hunting exploits.

What is the big deal with a two piece dry suit? Well, for one thing, in a one piece dry suit you are stuck when needing to relieve yourself. Manufacturers have come up with rear zippers or front zippers. But still, kayakers have to wear this garment with neck and wrist gaskets even when it’s warm outside. Always a source of irritation. And it’s all or nothing because it’s one piece. Garment makers offered Gore-Tex pants or Gore-Tex tops. But if you are capsized, either meant total immersion in icy water as water enters at the waist. Therefore, for many years, the vast majority bought a one piece dry suit.

The Challenge – A Zipper That Can Do the Job

The Holy Grail was to somehow make a two-piece dry suit. And one that can be three garments in one. A dry top, dry pants, and a total dry suit if zipped together. The challenge has always been a waterproof zipper capable of the job. Metal zippers when worn around the waist are just unforgiving and uncomfortable-after all, a spray skirt has to fit over the zipper. The breakthrough is an upgraded T-Zip plastic zipper, and its SwitchZip technology and Ringseal closure. The plastic zipper is waterproof and much more flexible than a metal zipper.

idol dry suit,kokatatThe Kokatat Idol drysuit can be split into two separately worn pieces. The top can be worn as a standalone dry top. The pant can be worn as a waterproof breathable pant-with included waterproof breathable socks. That means on warm days, kayakers can launch their boat completely dry and paddle comfortably without having to wear the whole dry suit. So while the Idol drysuit costs $1,100, it replaces two additional garments! Not only that, it makes relieving oneself in the great outdoors so much easier. Whether you need to go #1 or #2 you can separate the pants and perform the duty much easier than performing the whole machinations necessary with a one-piece dry suit!

OK, I Wanna I Wanna! How Can I Get My Mitts on One?

To order one of these amazing products, you must visit a Kokatat retailer. In Portland, Oregon, visit Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. Kokatat says the Idol will be available in the 2nd quarter 2015. But you can order today.

Here’s a Kokatat Video on the Idol Drysuit

What’s that in the Tub?

20 04 2011

I got to hold him down!

A dry suit is an important component of any cold water paddler’s portfolio. A dry suit makes a cold water day downright pleasant.

Further, when it comes to safety, a dry suit can save your life! As wonderful as they are, many paddlers balk at stepping up to a drysuit because of the cost. How much? A top Gore-Tex dry suit from Kokatat starts at $900.

Less expensive suits will still set you back several hundred dollars. But the materials won’t stand up like Gore-tex. I took my chances and bought a lightly used NRS Extreme Relief dry suit three years ago for $400.

All dry suits have latex gaskets, which need replacement from time to time. I just replaced my latex neck gasket and latex booties. But this past weekend I was teaching a rescues class, and was disappointed to find my butt wet by the end of class!

When I took the dry suit off, my chest was dry. My fleece pants were dry. But my right foot had a little moisture. Underwear was definitely wet. Where did that water come from?

Thus begins the “find the leak” project. One way to detect dry suit leaks is to plug up the head and wrist gaskets and inflate! Then dunk and check for air bubbles.

But I wasn’t quite prepared for the amusement! Almost right away I felt sinister like I was trying to drown someone in my bathtub! I was pushing that suit around like I was trying to strangle somebody! Positively evil!

So, did I find the leak? No, not really. I pushed air into the legs and submerged. No bubbles. Butt/torso – well, there was one little tiny hiss, which then went away. I never saw any bubbles. I think it came from the end of the relief zipper? I do know I can use petroleum jelly on that end…and stop any water there…I learned how to do that.

But truly I think there is a leak somewhere else, and I just didn’t find it! Grrrrrr. Maybe I need to drown my suit in a pool, which is bigger!