I’ve been on the prowl for a new drysuit for quite a few months. A good drysuit is the key to an enjoyable full days kayaking adventure during the winter in the UK. Long ago I wore a steamer wetsuit, but after a few hours the inherent wetness (possibly sweat-ness) starts to drop your core temperature, slowly but surely.
So I invested in a Crewsaver Hyperdry drysuit and it was absolutely fantastic. With a full length ‘onesy’ beneath, long before they became a fashion item, I was warm as toast.
But it only lasted a season and then started to leak appallingly. So I moved on to a Typhoon Eezedon Drysuit. It did all I wanted, apart from keep water out. It went back to Typhoon twice for relaminating and they were very helpful and quick in their repairs. It just about lasted the three years of the guarantee.
This Spring I was tempted by a salopette- style dry trouser for summer paddling as a full drysuit is usually surplus to requirements during the summer months. The Palm Ion Bib looked like the business so I proudly took it (them?) for a trial on our local lake….and came back with a wet backside! Back they went to Palm. I tested the ‘repaired’ Ion bib with a committing paddle along the North Cornwall coast in very lumpy conditions (complemented by a Palm Fuse cag)…..and ended up soaked. Palm kindly replaced the salopettes with a new pair. These leaked along the seams as well so they went back for a refund.
So it would seem that drysuits don’t necessarily do what they say on the tin. I was veering towards the very generously priced range of Kokatat drysuits , realising that maybe a genuinely dry- for- several -years garment is going to cost…a lot, when I stumbled across the very smart looking Gul Scapa Kayaking Drysuit with a novel horseshoe – style zip looping around the neck.
To be honest the thing that really attracted me was the relief zipper. Neither of my previous two drysuits have had a relief zip. This is bad news if you habitually drink as much tea as I do in the morning and then guzzle a thermos of coffee an hour or two later. Factor in the age-related weakening of bladder control muscles ,and the need for more stops due to the constant splish-splish of paddles in the water. Yes, this is definitely true. In fact I have got into near disastrous situations on a number of occasions when I have been pretty desperate, paddled like stink for the shore, and the increased splashiness making the need even more urgent, so paddling even faster , and so on and so on.
With a relief zip on a sit-on-top kayak, I could drink a bathful of tea and it wouldn’t be a problem.
So Santa was very thoughtful in delivering a scarlet and grey Scapa suit for Christmas.
It is indeed an impressive looking garment. Robust-feeling GCX4 material (whatever that is…..sounds like a hot hatch from the 80s) and loads of extra features apart from the basic drysuit bit.
In fact virtually everything you can think of.
A hood for a start. No need to pack that neoprene hat next time.
And THREE pockets. one on the upper arm!
I thought someone had left a tube of Polos in one of the waist pockets but it turned out to be Zip lubricant. Nice touch.
Velcro tightening straps in THREE places. Around the ankles , around the wrists, and big ones around the waist to ensure a slick fit and no flapping bits.
Very comfortable neoprene wrist seals and neck seal. No throttling effect like you get with latex. OK purists might point out that to be a proper drysuit the gaskets have got to be latex but I would sooner have a comfortable suit that is 98% watertight than one which is 100% waterproof and makes your eyes bulge and jugulars stick out like drainpipes.
In fact the whole suit feels velvety and smooth and is generally extremely pleasant to wear.
And that relief zipper.Phew. No more panicky moments.
So what about that horseshoe entry zip? For me it’s simple. I have got to have a drysuit zip that I can do up myself. No negotiation. So previously I have opted for front zip suits.
This one claims to be easy to do up solo but would it get a bit stuck when the zipper was at the back of my neck? Yes,funnily enough, it did. Unless you can dislocate your shoulder its impossible to pull the zip round in one go so you have to change hands. And I think the two parts of the zip ‘gaped’ a bit too much when I was pulling behind the neck, so the zipper wouldn’t move. But a little bit of straightening and I got the zipper within sight behind my right ear, and the last bit was easy.
I think I am now getting the hang of it, and overall the suit is quicker to get on and off than my previous two drysuits so looking at the overall convenience of the neck zip entry, it gets a thumbs up.
Just one potential problem. Both ends of the entry zip are ‘supported’ by two little strips of drysuit material that prevent too much separation pressure being put on the end of zip track, with a danger of splitting it. These look flimsy but I stand to be corrected and will do my utmost not to put them under any excessive pressure.
Only one other comment. Not negative in any way. I am six foot, one-and-a-half inches tall. So perfect for a ‘large’ sized drysuit. However the large one that arrived could have fitted me plus two members of my family in it, plus a rabbit down each sock. A medium-sized suit arrived by return of post (thanks, Nucleus watersports) and it is an excellent fit.
So my humble verdict is this is the PERFECT kayaking drysuit. I hope it stays dry for a good few years.
OK I have only worn it three times, and only in fresh water but I did take it out this morning in storm conditions with buckets of rain, and deliberately stopped beneath a bridge with a drain overflowing into the lake below, so that it was like sitting beneath a waterfall, and stayed dry. Yippee. Glad nobody saw me though.