View Full Version : Survival suit/ drysuit recommendations?
12-14-2011, 08:23 AM
I've never before looked at a one piece survival suit and wonder if anyone can recommend a brand/model.
In fact I know almost nothing about them and wonder where I should start my research.
12-14-2011, 08:54 AM
I'm thinking here more of the type of suit you actually wear all the time, not so much the real and specialized survival suit with the Bumbie legs that you can don in the water.
If you're sailing or doing something active that may involve a splash, the work-suit or immersion suit is better. If you're on a commercial fishing boat or something where the work is hard and dirty and the suit is for emergency-sinking use only, then the gumbie shape is far far better since you can't really get the work suit on in the water much less dewater the suit once on. I tested this some years ago and you really can't get either a work suit or sork/survival drysuit on over your arms in the water. Many years before that - mid '70s - I demonstrated the early Imperial survival suit by jumping off a pier in March into the Columbia with the suit in it's valise.
So, depends on what you need. For my use I have a work suit. In winter tests I've done I can seal it enough that the water getting in is restricted and warmable. I did not make good medical tests looking at core body temp for more than a couple hours immersion and for that time body temp not badly depressed, no hypothermia in that time with water temp about 31F. Once out of the water it drained and I warmed up enough that I was only cold and wet but not too uncomfortably so in air temp around 25F. So I figure the Mustang estimate of at least 6 hours survival is conservative.
Mustang's immersion work suits on the other hand, like the Ice Rescue series, will leave you warm and floating long enough that you'll die of thirst before you die of hypothermia. If that's a comforting thought. Were I attempting to circumnavigate Antarctica or sail upper Alaska or Greenland in the colder months, that would be the rig mandated for going on deck. But in any event I'd have Imperial survival suits for any sinking emergency where some or all of the crew are not already in work or work/immersion suits.
I have huge brand loyalty here. It may be unfair since I've not done a point by point detailed comparison of Mustang to some of the less expensive competitors but there's a reason for that. The Mustang design details coupled with fantastic quality control put it so way superior that it pays for the cost difference either in a couple years hard use when the other stuff is in tatters or in the first splash when you really want it.
12-14-2011, 11:29 AM
Kind of depends what you need the suit for. I agree that Mustang is top of the line for serious survival suits. On the other hand, for small open boat cruising I've used this far cheaper suit with good results:
Even in summer it wasn't unbearably hot or clammy. I wore it when cruising alone in cold water in fairly remote areas of the Great Lakes on windy days when I had to reef. Not bad. The neoprene neck seal is far more comfortable than a regular drysuit, but it does allow a trickle of water down your neck if you duck your head under. But the other kind would be too uncomfortable to wear for long.
12-19-2011, 05:57 PM
I wore the Mustang-type suit on a humpback whale survey on Sitka Sound, SE AlaskaŚ it was an insulated coverall and somewhat bulky. I'd not want to wear one in a small row/sail boat.
For water chemistry and plankton sampling from a float-tube during ice-out in alpine lakes (water about 1░C/34░F), I wore a one-piece drysuit (this was before Gore-Tex) and really hated it. I wore polypro or fleece underneath and after an hour of flippering against the wind, that layer would be pretty damp. I had to have a tent up and my sleeping bag ready, as the combined chill factor put me pretty close to hypothermia.
For present-day sailing and whitewater rafting, I've got NRS drypants and a long-sleeved Kokatat top, both waterproof/breathable with rubber ankle, wrist, and neck gaskets, and wide rubber waistbands. It's intended mostly for spring whitewater, where the water temps are in the 40░ F range. When the air is warm and the water's still cold, I often wear the dry top with neoprene river shorts. My legs and feet seldom get cold if my core is warm.
The new w/b one-piece drysuits have an appealing feature for guys: a front self-sealing zip so you can pee without any drama. If you're long-legged and stiff in the joints, it can be a struggle to get the ankle gaskets over your feet.
12-20-2011, 03:27 PM
We use the Mustang survival suits here at the UW Center for Limnology. They make a couple of different styles of suits. We've been going with the orange shoulders and black bottom suits with the neoprene cuffs(all orange gets pretty grungy in short order). The suits have several straps around the legs that are velcro adjustable to control water flow if you do go in. They are not dry suits but they will give you an advantage in cold water. They also satisfy USCG type V requirements. We use them when winter sampling out on the ice and during open water sampling when air temps are nearing freezing. They are extremely warm. Typical winter attire under the suits is jeans and a tee shirt.
12-20-2011, 08:45 PM
We use the Mustang survival suits here at the UW Center for Limnology. They are extremely warm. Typical winter attire under the suits is jeans and a tee shirt. Dave
Rowing a small boat on a sunny day when the air is warm (but the water is still cold) these suits will just about cook you.
Not a great idea to wear cotton garments of any sort under a survival suit or drysuit, as the cotton traps moisture and can make you very uncomfortable. Wet cotton is also famous for bunching and chafing, which can give you nasty rashes and (if you wear the suit for several days) boils. You do not want to get a boil on your bum while rowing a small boat day in and day out.
Any sort of wicking synthetic, in a thickness suited to the ambient temps, is a better bet.
M. J. Notigan
12-20-2011, 09:03 PM
Having read all of the posters up to this point and having used both the Stearns/Mustang work suit in my previous CG career, and as an active sea kayaker and an owner of a Kokatat SuperNova paddler suit and Meridien Gore Tex dry suit, I can say they are ALL spot on correct. The work suit is great for people not intending to stay in cold water for extended periods of time (ie-you fall in-you get out ASAP!). It stands up to heaps of abuse, it will keep you afloat without a PFD thanks to it's built in flotation. It provides some degree of protection from cold water, but not much. That is what it's not intended for. It will tolerate bumps into sharp objects without fear of jeopardiing it's watertight integrity. My Kokatat Supernova has the neopreme neck with latex wrist gaskets. It is semi-dry in that if you go in to water over the neck gasket, it will allow water in, the more thrashing about, the more that water comes in. If you are really active and sweat, the material does not breathe like the high end gore tex models. It is easily torn or ripped if you encounter sharp objects, jeopardizing water tight integrity. The Gore Tex drysuits are expensive, but allows a lot of internal water vapor to escape, whereas the Tropos material is not as breathable. You will pay dearly for Gore Tex drysuits, but you will do so knowing you have the best. This year I've been out paddling with my Kokatat Meridien Gore Tex Drysuit. I love it. The latex neck gasket is something you need to acclimate yourself to, it is not exactly the most comfortable thing to have around your neck! The Kokatat drysuits require the wearer to have on an approved PFD. My opinion on wearing any costly drysuit always brings this question to my mind: Is your life worth 500 to 1000 dollars? One final thought on undergarments under a drysuit: jeans and a tee shirt are verboten as they are made of cotten and we all know cotten absorbs water (sweat). A good polypropylene underwear ensemble under a polypro union suit or suitable synthetic heavy duty thermal underway is the safest and warmest way to go with a kayaker-type drysuit.
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