Drysuit trials (and some tribulations)

Pam in Palm Aleutian drysuitA couple of years ago, I mentioned on this blog the fact that Alan and I had each taken ownership of a Palm Aleutian drysuit. Being that sufficient time has now passed to form a valid assessment of their performance, it’s perhaps appropriate for me to share our findings. The drysuits have been in regular use over the past 2 years, probably being worn an average of once per week in the past year, although Alan had a bit of a break last winter due to injury. The suits have been subject to regular immersion through rescue (including rolling) practice, but no abuse. They are always rinsed thoroughly after each wearing.

After about six months, Alan noticed that his feet were constantly damp after a paddle.  Whilst on a camping trip last September, my neck seal split and we took this as an opportunity to send both drysuits back to Palm for neck seal replacement, and repair of Alan’s suit’s feet. Palm replaced both the neck seals and the feet on both dry suits in record time, charging only for the seals. The leakage that Alan had experienced was recognised as a design flaw and Palm are now using new, improved materials for the feet which they had duly attached to our suits.

Disturbing scenes

Disturbing scenes

Fast forward a year, and Alan’s drysuit  is experiencing leakage that is manifesting around the backside area, requiring a towel on the car seat on the way home to spare his blushes. A fellow Royal West club member kindly loaned him a sophisticated drysuit inflation device, involving a pump and several plastic bottles to allow testing of where the leak might be emanating from. In scenes reminiscent of a horror flick, anyone stumbling across our bathroom might have been alarmed to see us drowning our chubby (and headless) paddler “hostage”, but it was all in the interests of scientific research*. We then became fairly certain that leakage could be traced to the rear entry zip area.  It was not long after this that we noticed that the suit is, to our despair, delaminating substantially primarily in the middle back area, but also in small areas elsewhere. The delamination is visible as bubbly ripples where the top layer of the fabric is separated from the lower layers.

Being that I have worn my suit a bit more than Alan has worn his, one would expect that it would have been showing greater signs of wear and tear. Aside from the neck seal, however, which needs replacing again, my suit has performed remarkably well with no leaks being detected. It too, however, is starting to show signs of delamination. Interestingly, Alan’s suit is much more faded than mine.

The Aleutian is not a cheap drysuit, so we are a little disappointed that, after 2 years – and well out of the one year warranty – we are now faced with the prospect of replacing ours. The need to replace the latex seals is entirely expected, but delamination seems  premature. Browsing online, we’ve discovered a few other folks with the same issues, eg here.

Rather than incurring continued repair bills, the more prudent thing might be to look for an alternative suit. We have now turned our attention to the Typhoon range and so far we have not heard or read anything bad about them. Their 3 year guarantee is also very attractive.

* No headless, chubby paddlers were harmed in the testing of this drysuit.

6 Comments

  1. PO says:

    *COUGH*……kokatat…..

  2. pamf says:

    Ooooh Kokatat – cough and, indeed, splutter! But I know, you get what you pay for and they do have a good reputation. Just a little pricey, plus not sure about repairs etc in the UK.

  3. Dan Thomas says:

    My Kokatat semi-drysuit has seen me through three winters with no complaints at all but the zip broke in May this year. It isn’t fatal – it still works – but every time I do it up I wonder whether it will come undone again or if I will have to cut my way out with a Swiss army knife. I can get the zip replaced for a price but I don’t want to because for all I know it may carry on working for years and the suit is (surprise, surprise) showing the first signs of delamination. So now I have a dilemma. Do I replace the zip even though the suit is showing its age, or wait and see in the knowledge that catastrophic failure will undoubtedly happen at the most inconvenient moment possible?

    I had been warned not to expect more than a few years use from a drysuit so I suppose I can’t complain. People say that Gore-Tex is better value long term than Pay-Less-Tex but the up front cost is scary indeed.

    Dan

  4. pamf says:

    Hi Dan – I understand that dilemma. I’ve been questioning how worthwhile it is to get my neck seal replaced now that the suit has started to delaminate. Since posting I have, however, taken the leap and purchased a Typhoon Multisport. The 3 year warranty was most attractive and it’s a lovely suit – just got to slacken off the superduper-tight neck seal (or risk strangulation). I will, however, probably also keep the Aleutian going until it gives out completely. Is it a bad sign when you somehow find yourself in possession of 2 dry suits? I am going to have to set-up a drysuit replacement fund for the future.

    Hope you don’t end up sleeping in yours!

  5. I am currently bartering my time at a local shop to get a Kokatat drysuit. My wife thinks I am nuts, where as, Sean thinks I am a genius.

  6. pamf says:

    Jeff – That makes perfect sense to me. You must explain to your wife that this will spare her the pain of seeing an inflated credit card bill. In fact, you are doing her a favour! And, it is keeping you safe in the freezing waters of – er, Florida. And, think of all the potential clients who will come flocking to you when they see you in a Kokatat drysuit 😉 Hope I’m helping here.

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