Dry Wit or Wet Suit?
So now, you could spend the morning walking with me, quite amazed.
As I’m Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed – d. bowie
Let me say right now, that I know nothing other than my personal experiences and that may not be anything like anyone else’s experience. I’m just a person who uses the gear, not an expert in anyway conceivable way. – Ok, So that being said. . .
I’m learning a lot about drysuit recently. One VERY important point is that a drysuit is NOT always dry. If you are not in a circle of experts you really have no good way to learn this. Someone posting such and such “mm hydrostatic head” or so many “g”s per “m”s per hour certainly does not remember what it was like to look for your first drysuit. Numbskulls like me are left hoping that the bigger numbers in the equations are better while assuming that a drysuit is dry. As manufacturers make their suits more economical they will also need address “lay-people”. As Homer Simpson said to doctor Hibbart, “Hey doc, can you dumb it down a bit?”
As you may know if you follow my wandering journal, I recently just purchased a Palm Classic drysuit as an upgrade to MY old NRS extreme. The Classic is Palm’s “Mid-Range” drysuit. They also offer the Stikine (tm) which is their top-of-the-line suit. I chose the Palm Classic for price & quite frankly, socks. You just cannot find such a great looking suit with fabric socks for the price. Oh, yes and It’s a damn good looking drysuit as well! I’m aware that kokatat is the “God” of drysuits and It’s also very possible that someday I may lay down the $1000 for the top-of-the-line Kokatat suit, but not anytime soon I’m afraid. Just don’t have the reddies. By the way if you think I have a sock obsession, you’re right. keeping water off your feet and out of your drysuit is not a small matter. Mary has NRS dry pants and top and is always getting water up to her knees.
My NRS Extreme has latex socks and was by every definition a DRY suit. No question about it. It is also non-breathable. But on the other hand, in the dead of winter that hardly seemed like a downside. You can bet next January I’ll still be in my big yellow NRS. It’s warm and completely dry. I have not tried their new breathable version but I certainly wonder if it’s as warm and cozy as my old “body bag”. They also removed the socks in the new version. (as of this post)
The Palm classic lists from around $400 US and includes; (from their website)
- Latex seals on neck, wrist and ankles are all protected by adjustable neoprene over protectors.
- Fully articulated sleeve design for unrestricted upper body movement.
- Seamless crotch and articulted knees for freedom of movement for the lower body.
- Adjustable draw cord waist.
- Diagonal Super Seal ™ Ti-Zip ® zipper for ease of donning and doffing the garment.
- Hard waering Ripstop Cordura ® on elbows, seat and knees.
- Reflective piping on sleeves for added visibility.
- XP-200 (tm) fabric socks.
- XP-150 ™ breathable Nylon 6.6 Ripstop shell
At this price you do really get a lot of good stuff. I’ve had my Palm Classic out 3 times now and have been generally pleased with it. Day one was about 2 hours, mostly in the warm water of lake Columbia rolling and rodeo recoveries. Day two was an 11 mile journey on Lake Michigan and just in the water for a minute. Then yesterday I was out at Devil’s Lake in freaking cold water. I put in about 3.5 miles before working on rolls and taking time to swim. I spent about 15 minutes in the water specifically to see how the suit performed and although I was not really uncomfortably cold, I did have to keep moving a bit to keep warm. I note this because I was wearing the same under layers that I would have worn in the NRS for this environment. All Icebreaker, which by the way is fantastic.
The simple conclusion I came to is that the Palm Classic is my “almost-drysuit”. On the longer day paddle it was great to have a breathable suit. The Palm is very comfortable to paddle in. It’s almost like not having a drysuit on at all. In cold water, I defiantly have to wear more warm layers in the palm then the old non-breathable NRS. If I spend a lot of time in the water I will have damp areas under the zipper and at pressure points. This has been my experience on each occasion. I’ve also noticed a distinct cold spot across my back shoulder area, however this vents out and warms up with time once I am out of the water for a few minutes. My impressions was that whereas I felt like I could swim all day in very cold water in my non-breathable NRS, there would be a time limit in the Classic. The only other downside was that originally the collar barely went over my head. Not the latex, that’s supposed to be tight but the cloth collar meant to protect the latex. I had to do a little non-warranty customization to get it go over my head even slightly comfortably. But then It’s probably just my fat head.
In the end I will paddle with the Palm from March to December. I really do love it. However, when the world freezes around me I’ll pull out my old non-breathable NRS. I’m pretty certain that anyone who is not quite as crazy as me and knows enough not to paddle on below zero days will be really pleased with the Palm. And at this price really opens the door for more people to have some additional safety on the water. In the end that’s what it’s all about.
Now I have to get some gear loaded if I’m going paddling this afternoon!