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Thread: Dry suits

  1. #1
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    Default Dry suits

    As I like to sail most of the year round when possible, and I sail small open boats I thought it would be sane of me to use a drysuit so that I don't freeze to death in the event of a capsize. I will say I've never capsized a small boat (I know you're supposed to and I intend to do a test come warmer water weather) but I do not believe this means it can't happen.
    I don't go far from shore (inlet is only a km wide max), but in the colder weather there's not a lot of boats out there to provide potential rescue.
    This , is also what makes sailing this time of year more enjoyable and sometimes, safer! ( no getting rundown/swamped)

    I was looking at this one; it has a convenience zip! I like this especially how a lady ex-olympic sailor talked of having to go in the suit...
    https://www.watersportsoutlet.com/20...k-p-37126.html

    unfortunately I have a small budget, it's not because I'm cheap it's because that's what I have. So I'm looking for affordable but functional options.

    I'd appreciate any helpful input
    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I may soon be in the market as well. Have a farmer john wetsuit and paddling top for now.
    There are multi-layer composite suits that would not provide the in-water protection of a dry suit but have superior out of the water comfort. Question is, would they provide enough in water warmth till you can self-rescue? Sharkskin is one brand.
    Can't offer any suggestions but am all ears.
    Last edited by Autonomous; 12-29-2022 at 11:01 PM.
    ​​♦ During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I currently have this outfit which seems to be ex norwegian HH olympic sailing gear (from the above mentioned sailor) has latex seals which I had to trim one of because it was gummy and failing, but a 2 peice outfit with overalls. The overalls are great because they are padded everywhere which makes many things a little more comfy. Pretty bulky though. Pretty traumatic wearing all that strangely coloured sports gear..first time in my life! Like the red overalls, feel like a fireman!IMG_9329.jpg
    Last edited by Toxophilite; 12-30-2022 at 12:35 AM. Reason: sideways picture goofiness

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I use a Kokatat Super Nova suit--this is a drysuit with relief zipper, but has a neoprene neck seal rather than a rubber gasket. That makes it about 4,837,261 times more comfortable. I actually wear this in dicey conditions and/or cold water. $480 right now brand new on their website:

    https://kokatat.com/supernova-semi-dry-suit-mens/

    Not sure if you've used drysuits before, but you absolutely need fleece insulation under. If you skip that part, it's like wearing a cold clammy frog skin, and will not keep you warm at all, even before you go in the water. So then, if the air is warm, the suit is uncomfortably warm with insulation under. But, "dress for immersion" is smart.

    Tom
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I can bore for Britain on drysuits.

    I agree with Tom^.

    Sailing drysuits come in two varieties - dinghy type and offshore racing type.

    The dinghy types are lighter and cost less than the offshore types, and are worn over a fleece “teddy”. Buy this at the same time if possible.

    This leaves the question of footwear because you will need a bigger size to go over your drysuited feet, but they don’t need to be fancy as long as they give a good grip.

    Then there are the offshore types as worn by long distance racers. These cost Sums Beyond The Dreams of Avarice, but they turn up on ebay almost or entirely unused because Clipper Race crews have to have them. They are great on a big boat foredeck but they don’t give the amount of movement that the dinghy types do.

    Concerning zips… older types have a zip across the shoulders and may or may not have a “flies” zip as well. You need someone to zip you into these and they can be a bit miserable if the flies zip ceases to be watertight. DAMHIKT. Newer ones have a single zip diagonally across the front and you can get into and out of these by yourself and unzip to pee.

    Do keep the zips well lubricated with the right stuff and if you have rubber seals on neck and cuffs keep these treated with the right stuff and expect to replace them regularly.
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 12-30-2022 at 06:12 AM.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Take this for what it's worth. My only comment is about the fellow making this video. I know he is an extremely competent and experienced kayaker. He does a lot of winter kayaking, And he isn't selling anything. He has a YouTube channel I follow.

    Skip

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I would love to extend my dinghy sailing/rowing season with the help of a dry suit but I know very little about them.

    I do have experience flyfishing with Gore-Tex fishing waders in winter conditions, is the concept essentially the same with the addition of the top portion and seals at neck and wrists?
    I am guessing the biggest issue might be over heating while rowing?
    Which type is the easiest to doff and don solo in a 17' boat?
    What are the essential differences between dry and semi-dry?
    Latex vs neoprene cuffs?
    can you just wear a pair of topsiders or the like over the booties?

    grateful for any insights

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Quote Originally Posted by Skegemog View Post
    I would love to extend my dinghy sailing/rowing season with the help of a dry suit but I know very little about them.

    I do have experience flyfishing with Gore-Tex fishing waders in winter conditions, is the concept essentially the same with the addition of the top portion and seals at neck and wrists?
    I am guessing the biggest issue might be over heating while rowing?
    Which type is the easiest to doff and don solo in a 17' boat?
    What are the essential differences between dry and semi-dry?
    Latex vs neoprene cuffs?
    can you just wear a pair of topsiders or the like over the booties?

    grateful for any insights
    It's a one-piece Gore-Tex (or similar) suit, kind of like a snowsuit. I find I don't often wear a drysuit when rowing, as the risk of capsize is much lower. But it's fairly easy to undo the top and leave it tied around your waist. From there it's pretty fast to get fully suited up if conditions get worse.

    Once you get the technique down, it's not too bad to put one on in a small boat. You do need a certain degree of shoulder flexibility, and it seems ludicrously hard at first. Eventually it's hard to remember why it ever seemed difficult to put on or take off. But it does take some experience to get comfortable with the process.

    Semi-dry, I think, often means a neoprene neck seal. This is far more comfortable, but will let a few drops of water down the back of your neck. I think the trade-off is well worth it--I'd never wear a suit with a latex neck seal. The wrist cuffs are usually latex even in a semi-dry suit.

    I usually wear Teva sandals over the booties. I'm sure boots would be fine, but might need to go slightly larger.

    Hope that helps. I often wear foul weather bibs and a rain jacket these days, rather than the full dry suit. But for early/late season, I think a drysuit is smart.

    Tom
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I have been researching drysuits also. Kokatat now has a year end sale on men's drysuits (the usual disclaimer) https://kokatat.com/

    Tom, I see that your suit is listed on the Kokatat website as a "semi-dry" suit. Have you ever gone for a swim wearing yours? If so, how dry was it?

    The semis are less expensive that the fully dry versions. They might be adequate protection for those of us who boat conservatively and in less difficult waters. (Unfortunately, Kokatat is sold out of the Super Nova in my size.)

    The semi-dry suits have neoprene gaskets rather than latex. They are attractive to me because I am allergic to latex. However, I have read that the neoprene gaskets do not seal as well.

    As we age, it seems the "relief" zippers would be an essential feature.
    "George Washington as a boy
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    He could not even lie."

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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I use small boats year round in New York. When rowing or paddling, I just dress for the weather. The same if sailing a keel boat or fairly stable dinghy. I have capsized a 28" wide light canoe in water under 50 degrees. I was wearing a short farmer john wetsuit, which was sufficient to swim the boat to shore. On a strong recommendation, I tried a full wetsuit and found it unbearable. The farmer john is light, 2-3 mils, just enough not to suffer badly from either cold or heat. I'm 6'5", about 230#, and was middle aged when I dumped the canoe. Suit yourself, literally.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I used to have a wetsuit when I was young and skinny. Now that I am older, I realize there is no such thing as a "relaxed fit" wetsuit.
    "George Washington as a boy
    was ignorant of the commonest
    accomplishments of youth.
    He could not even lie."

    -- Mark Twain

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I have the same (or similar) Kokatat drysuit with the neoprene neck gasket that Tom mentions. The wrists have latex gaskets. The feet have “footies.” I’ve done numerous capsize drills and always stay dry. Very comfortable. Would recommend.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I bought a Kokatat semi-dry suit from NRS. I have not tried it out yet.

    I watched enough reviews to conclude the neoprene neck gasket should be adequate. There are plenty of demos videos on YouTube to help you with your decision.

    I will try to remember to report back with my thoughts once I have had it out for a spin.
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I don't particularly enjoy wearing a drysuit but on those occasions when I do,its because not wearing one would make the day less pleasant or a day to stay ashore.A warm fleecy layer is a very good idea and I would recommend rubber wrist and neck seals if there is a chance of getting dunked.For reasons of comfort the seals are usually tapered and often have moulded in rings to indicate various amounts that can be pruned off if they are found to be too constrictive.Replacing seals is tedious and has to be done with care.It also happens less often if the suit is kept in a darkened cupboard as light seems to accelerate the deterioration of the seals.There used to be a kind of runny wax for lubricating the zip but I think these days I would try a dry lubricant aerosol.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Yes ^.
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Thanks very much. I found a brand new HH Dr suit of the appropriate size on the local craigslist for a third of the retail price which is the only way I could afford this model.
    Came with the zipper wax( tell that to the ladies!!) a whistle and a hydration bag.. Still have to trim the neck seal as you see from this red-headed picture of me, with my parents, my eldest sister and brother in law and the full body picture with the myheadisgoingtoexplode look. I had to adopt a super hero stance as these sorts of outfits usually have that look. Right now I get a red head and a cartoon voice. I am happy to say it fits well and I can wear my normal clothes under it if I want. It does have that, I-need-an-AK-47-and-a-bellaclava evil henchman look but it seems quite practical Easy to take on and off and the diagonal zipper will allow for outside the suit peeing.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Good find!
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Trim the neck back very judicously. Upon donning the suit a proper fitting neck gasket feels restrictive and uncomfortable but gets comfortable fairly quickly. Trimming a small strip makes a big difference. It's very easy to trim too much resulting in a poor seal. DAMHIKT.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Quote Originally Posted by Skegemog View Post
    can you just wear a pair of topsiders or the like over the booties?
    Suspect I'd try sandals first. Beware of closed toe sandals which are in reality brilliant gravel traps.
    ​​♦ During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act
    ♦ The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it
    ♦ If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear
    ♦ George Orwell

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    When I put it on my voice becomes a cartoon voice and my head starts going red intantly, I stick my fingers into the gasket so I can breath. That's normal?

    Thanks for the tip
    So far I've been stretching it a little and I just trimmed down to the top of first trimming ring, about 3/16" total removed. I'm very wary of too much removal. Like a haircut you can't put it back on, unlike a haircut it doesn't grow in again.

    I have some water shoes I can wear. I also have some sacrificial thin wool dress socks I can wear over the booties and still slip them into my blundstones.
    Going o check out my footwear options.
    Now if I could just get a windy non pouring day. (I don't like pouring because then I would feel obliged to bring the whole rig inside to dry out so it doesn't get moldy.)
    Last edited by Toxophilite; 12-31-2022 at 03:16 PM.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Quote Originally Posted by Toxophilite View Post
    When I put it on my voice becomes a cartoon voice and my head starts going red intantly, I stick my fingers into the gasket so I can breath. That's normal?

    Thanks for the tip
    So far I've been stretching it a little and I just trimmed down to the top of first trimming ring, about 3/16" total removed. I'm very wary of too much removal. Like a haircut you can't put it back on, unlike a haircut it doesn't grow in again.

    Getting a proper fit is tedious but you only have to do it once every few years. Trim and try. But wait before judging. Hang out in it for a few minutes and see if you adapt. It's very personal. If the suit allows it just try on the neck section and skip the rigamorale of donning the whole suit.

    Also make sure you get some sort of protectant for the seals. They are very UV susceptible and can tear due to sun damage. This is the reason the more expensive suits have fabric cuffs over the seals.

    I've used 303 protectant with success and I think it comes in different flavors.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Is it normal for your head to go red and your forehead veins to bulge??
    Should the gasket be above or below the Adams apple?
    My neck seems to measure around 15.5" or 394 mm
    I'm not dying yet, is that the test? bahaha this is a whole new world

    I can breathe, for the most part but I feel pressure in my head and my voice sounds like I'm on helium, it's a little hard to swallow. Instinct tells me this is too tight. However I don't know.
    If I open the neck seal with my hand I feel better.
    I'm not talking seconds. I've been wearing it for about 15-20 minutes
    Last edited by Toxophilite; 12-31-2022 at 04:28 PM.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Yes, that's sound tight. Take off a little (>1/8") at a time. You"ll get there. My suit seals above the adam's apple. You shouldn't be red in the face or have veins bulging. You're looking for the Goldilocks fit.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    For what it's worth my suit is a older Kokatat. I'm wondering if different manufacturers and designs have different seal parameters. (i.e. different angle of cone, parabolic shape, etc.)

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    I like drysuits very much and my experience with them may be of value, but I have stuck with one brand and type for a long time, so can't comment on other brands.
    I started with a gore-tex Kokatat kayaking suit that is still going strong after about 28 years. I sent it back for new gaskets (and gore-tex booties) after about 15 years and it has received new gaskets once since. I can replace wrist gaskets, but the neck gasket is better done by the pro's.
    The neck gasket can seem impossibly tight when the suit first goes on, but I tend to forget about it afterwards.
    Drysuits offer comfort and safety that wasn't possible before, but there are prices to pay (besides the high cost of a good one). Maintenance is super important: Washing the gaskets after every use in a mild soap and warm water to remove the body oils, rinsing the whole suit and hanging it to dry (by the toes if you have gore-tex booties), treating the gaskets with 3-M 303 when dry, waxing the zippers with beeswax every so often, and storing the suit folded loosely in an airtight container. Keeping the gaskets really clean is important.
    The benefits seem worth it to me. You can leave all your clothes on (even your socks) and when you come out of the water and remove your suit, all your clothes are still dry and you are still warm. The gore-tex seems important for sailing as you can have it on all day and still be dry and not smell bad when you take it off.
    I bought a new Kokatat suit 5 years ago, but the old one is still going strong thanks to good customer service. I have worn the new one for 2 R2AK races, but wish I had ordered a size larger for ease of putting it on, especially with lots of clothes on underneath. I bought a large and am 6' and about 180 lbs.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    THanks. I'm beginning to wonder if for a sail and oar boat if a kayak type suit wouldn't have been better. This one came up and they have a good reputation. Perhaps their high retail price made the deal seem better than it was.

    Good to have the room for undergarmets but it would also be nice to have a slimmer fit and maybe some elbow padding too. Word is HH oversizes to enable you to wear warm colthes, which is good. I fell bang in to the medium sizing though and this is a medium. I'll take another ring off the neck and see how it goes. Maybe if my head is bright red I''ll be more visible.

    Part of my reason for purchasing this one was my intermittently generous GF's comment. "Buy one soon while I'm feeling generous"
    She helped fund the purchase which bodes well for the future.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Are you aware of the benefit of squatting while holding the neck seal open with a couple of fingers?It allows the excess air to escape and gives a slightly slimmer profile as well as removing the risk of that air encouraging a body immersed in water to float at an inconvenient attitude.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    You might be able to stretch that neck gasket out a touch. Maybe shove a kid’s size basketball in there for a few days, or whatever you can find that is round and the approx size of your neck.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    THanks I learned about burping the suit and also thanks I have a road pylon/cone I've been stretching it on. There seems to be some differing opinion in this online. Stretched overnight a couple times. Stillgives me a headache shortly after putting it on. Now if there could just some saiiing weather that combines clearish skys with wind. Lately it's been clear and dead calm, or stormy . Maybe I should go jump in the water and test the suit. The Winslets next door do it every morning in bathing suits. Crazy #@%^&$^%$ English people!
    Last edited by Toxophilite; 01-01-2023 at 05:53 PM.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Did a 3 hour cold weather 'sail'(actually floating, rowing and ghosting wind has been fickle and non existent on decent days) have carefully trimmed 3 rings off the suit's neck seal, Probably a total of 1/2"
    I tested it each time after some stretching (overnight) It felt a little better each time but only actually tolerable this last time.

    I managed to survive and almost enjoy myself despite some larynx crushing and or helium voice depending on whether the seal was above or below my adam's apple. Going to try a longer bout of stretching to see if that does the trick.

    It was mostly my extremities that were cold. I had thick wool socks inside the latex booties with thin wool dress socks overtop to make it easier to put on my everyday boots and protect the booties. Feet got cold, Usually I wear 2 pairs of wool socks and boots
    Made tea after a couple hours as it felt colder today.

    I could basically wear my normal clothes under the suit. Might buy one of those undergarmets eventually.
    Probably pick up some neoprene boots tonight, I have gloves already.



  31. #31
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    You need an inner wicking layer - Helly Hansen polypropylene layer LIFA is the best I've found for wicking and staying dry, then a layer of simple high insulation fleece of Polartec 200 for example top and bottoms or an all in one 'wooly bear' or onesie as the kids would call it.

    I use the LIFA ones with a zip down the front for mountain biking too so pay the extra for the front half zip. Long sleeve to protect your elbows if you fall off your mountain bike on a downhill.



    A walking waterproof peaked insulated breathable hat that covers your ears and has an understrap under your chin to keep wind off. Ear coverage is essential. This one from Douglas Gill is ideal.



    To get air out of your drysuit, once its on, bend over and open the neck seal and it'll evacuate alotof the air and excess. No farting in a drysuit. You'll live to regret it when it comes off.

    Its normal to adjust the neck seal if needed.

    To have warm feet size up your shoes so they don't compress your foot/ sock. I had cold feet even with proper Henry Lloyd boots untill I did. Think my feet are 9.5 uk but wear 10.5 sandal with vibram non marking sole that just velcro on. The velcro closure is alot easier than laces with drysuit and floatation etc.

    With a drysuit, shoes, flotation jacket etc you'll be toasty but you won't be able to 'swim for it' effectively, so make sure your boats recoverable, you now need each other.

    You don't want normal boots with a drysuit, they'll fill with water, then leave your feet heavy and cold.

    You want something like this that drains and a decent sole in 2 sizes bigger...I'd take your thick sock and drysuit into the sports shop to get a loose enough fit, otherwise you'll end up too tight. Its the air insulation around your foot that keep your foot warm, the shoe just needs to provide abrasion resistance. Shoe like this with full drainage.



    I use drysuits...a thick Musto HPX ocean racer one that I got relatively cheap (unused after a cross Atlantic trip by someone) as otherwise they're pretty expensive, and a thinner dinghy one for summer that I bought 20 years ago from Ravenspring (UK). The thick one is a bit hot in the summer and the thin one a bit cold for winter. I have to say the HPX one does a very good job keeping wind off around my head. For the ultra committed dinghy cruiser, they are probably worth the extra if its all you do. If your really in trouble of note the HPX ones have an inflation tube so you can increase air inside and float if you're awaiting serious rescue: becomes a 'survival suit' as the oil rig worker wold call it. As Andrew said above, they get bought for cross atlantic event things, barely used or not even out the bag, then sold for half the price.

    I have to say I got a modern triathlon weysuit (for swimming from my beach hut) and was amazed by how seemingly dry I remained. Still not my choice for dinghy cuise sailing, but if I was in some high performance dinghy and expecting a dunking, the modern wetsuits are very flexible to get on easier and seem to keep you pretty dry, couldn't hardly feel the cold water when I used it. Much better than they used to be. There's maybe 4 weeks in the summer when a shortie is the right clothing and thats it.

    If anyone hear is a funny size, legs or arms etc, and in Europe, my first drysuit I got from Ravenspring UK, an Uno, who actually make on site, and they custom fit to your size for no extra cost which is good service. I think I once had new feet put on it, and they didn't charge much. Internal braces, elasticated back, they're well designed and are a very good dinghy drysuit.

    https://www.ravenspring.co.uk/shop/u...-zip-fl-104-35

    I bought dad a Henri Lloyd thick 'ocean racer' drysuit like the HPX ones, for his birthday once. If I remember, it too had been accross the Atlantic in a bag, from a Lymington chandlers sale rail. After a few years constant dinghy use, the Goretex started to become less breathable, so they asked to look at it after he rang them to see if it needed a special wash or something, and they promtly sent him a brand new one by return. It was a maybe 5 years old - out of warranty etc, hadn't bought it from them or even new, but showed Henri Lloyd have good customer service.
    Last edited by Edward Pearson; 01-03-2023 at 08:50 AM.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Hey thanks very much. You have such thorough and excellent information. It really is a whole new world of stuff to learn. My core was quite warm, Footwear seems to be my biggest need right now. I was thinking a size larger but 2 sizes probably makes more sense. I'll probably get a sou wester for a hat. Yesterday I was wearing a fur, military style hat

    Too bad they didnt have outfits that didn't look sporty. I don't know the last time I wore anything garishly coloured with a logo on it. On my dry suit though it's comparatively drab I'm probably going to sharpie out all the Helly hansen logos. Too much advertising.
    Not a real concern though. Just hate being a billboard. I guess being dead is worse
    .

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Dry suits

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    It's a one-piece Gore-Tex (or similar) suit, kind of like a snowsuit. I find I don't often wear a drysuit when rowing, as the risk of capsize is much lower. But it's fairly easy to undo the top and leave it tied around your waist. From there it's pretty fast to get fully suited up if conditions get worse.

    Once you get the technique down, it's not too bad to put one on in a small boat. You do need a certain degree of shoulder flexibility, and it seems ludicrously hard at first. Eventually it's hard to remember why it ever seemed difficult to put on or take off. But it does take some experience to get comfortable with the process.

    Semi-dry, I think, often means a neoprene neck seal. This is far more comfortable, but will let a few drops of water down the back of your neck. I think the trade-off is well worth it--I'd never wear a suit with a latex neck seal. The wrist cuffs are usually latex even in a semi-dry suit.

    I usually wear Teva sandals over the booties. I'm sure boots would be fine, but might need to go slightly larger.

    Hope that helps. I often wear foul weather bibs and a rain jacket these days, rather than the full dry suit. But for early/late season, I think a drysuit is smart.

    Tom
    Just received my Kokatat Supernova, easy to don in my work clothes, like the neoprene neck gasket, think it will work well. Sorting out the insulation layer and foot gear, gloves and hat. Thanks to all for the input, love the idea of getting out earlier this year!

  34. #34
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Wrocław, Poland
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    14,755

    Default Re: Dry suits

    I think you picked a good suit--good luck with it. It makes "dress for immersion" a lot more achievable in spring/fall (or summer in cold waters).

    Tom
    Ponoszenie konsekwencji!

    www.tompamperin.com

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Aug 1999
    Location
    Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK
    Posts
    29,747

    Default Re: Dry suits

    Lots of good advice on this thread.

    I will just add the conventional wisdom that if you wear an “offshore” type dry suit you should wear a 275N life jacket/ PFD and not the usual 160.

    I bought these and I’m glad I did; they are the very best available and the price reflects that, but we have found them so comfortable that I saved the cost of buying 160N ones as well.

    https://www.teamomarine.com/products...t-deck-harness

    This advice doesn’t apply to dinghy or kayak dry suits which are worn with a buoyancy aid, of course.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

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