Kokatat Lightweight GORE TEX Drysuit
Yesterday I received my highly anticipated Lightweight GORE-TEX Paddling Suit. This Kokatat drysuit came highly recommended to me from Wesley Echols who probably logs more dry suit paddling hours in a surfski than anyone in the world. Based on his recommendation, I knew I couldn’t go wrong with this suit. Upon unpacking it, I immediately realized this suit was definitely much different than the others I had used. What I noticed first was the light weight and supple feel. I quickly threw it on and confirmed that this suit was indeed different. The fit was great, excellent length and articulation in the arms (always a challenge for me), the built in socks had plenty of room for my size 13 feet, easy operation of the zippers, excellent reinforcement in the high wear areas, and best of all, an extremely comfortable neck. Once I purged the excess air out and synched up the waist I knew for certain I would love this dry suit. The only final test would be paddling in it to make sure it kept me warm and breathed as well as I heard it does.
Note: At 6’3 and around 200 lbs I’m on the cusp of a Large/XL so opted to go with the XL. This was a good choice as it gives me a little more room in the sock and the right length in the arms and legs. I can easily synch in the excess material in the mid-section.
37 degrees and Pouring Rain – Motivation Lacking
The weather forecast called for temps in the mid 40s with off and on rain, so my plan was to go for a paddle the next day after work. Consistent with the spring, or lack thereof, we’ve had this year in Northern Michigan when I finished work after 5:00 the temps were in the high 30s with pouring rain. Not the type of weather that gets you excited to get outdoors for a workout and my wife made it pretty her strong recommendation was to run on the treadmill. So I drug my feet for 30-40 minutes until finally deciding enough was enough, and I wasn’t going to let the miserable weather hold me back.
I threw on a single layer of NRS Polar-Tech fleece, some fleece socks, my new Lightweight GORE-TEX suit, an NRS Mystery Balaklava, Kokatat Seeker low profile neoprene shoes and of course my Mocke PFD, and headed out into the 37 degree pouring rain and wind which was now gusting out of the north up to 15 mph. I made the mistake of going light with the gloves and only wore my NRS Hydroskin gloves, which turned out to be my only mistake. My right glove had a small hole in it and low and behold my right hand never got warm the entire paddle.
Dry and Warm the Entire Paddle
Aside from my hands, I was very warm and dry the entire paddle. The Kokatat suit performed absolutely amazing. It was apparent right from the start that this suit is built for intense paddling. The combination of the light and supple material and excellent articulation in the arms made for an effortless and comfortable paddle stroke. One I never thought possible with a dry suit. The combination of the highly breathable GORE-TEX along with the neoprene neck (which I left a little loose) ensured that the suit breathed extremely well, yet even when heading directly into the 15-20 mph winds I didn’t feel any air getting through.
I can honestly say that prior to today, dry suit paddling was not something I really looked forward to, and this cold, wet, and grey spring was really getting the best of me. My outlook has now turned 180 degrees and I can’t wait to get back out on the water (next time I will take my 2 mm Kokatat midweight hand jackets). I’ve always been fascinated by simple gear that can completely change the game and make an inhospitable environment completely comfortable. Combining the right insulation layering with a great dry suit and a simple neoprene hoodie has the ability to do this, and there is something hard to describe, but very special and liberating about being out there in the elements and defying nature while still keeping it safe.
I know that dry suits are a significant investment and in my own case, I put off buying one for my first eight years of paddling. For the most part this limited the length of my season, but even with the shorter season there were still times when I was likely very under dressed for the water temperatures. I am now a firm believer that the safety and comfort these suits provide is worth the price and there are few if any companies that stand behind their products the way Kokatat does. Buying a Kokatat dry suit is a life time investment (or at least several years of very heavy use
Note: I expect the water in the Great Lakes will remain dangerously cold this year through the end of May. These suits will also work extremely well for Stand Up Paddleboard use. If you have any interest in one of these Kokatat Lightweight GORE-TEX dry suits please contact me ASAP. There is a lot of demand right now for these suits and they are running on back order with a few weeks lead time. MSRP $769