With fall officially here, I thought a drysuit primer might be in order. First things first, I sell drysuits so I'll get that out of the way. That being said, I've sold them for 14 years so here's a break down if you're considering a suit this fall. Air / Water Temps
It used to be that drysuits were only useful in the depth of winter as they were PU lined nylon that didn't breath and offered very little in the way of thermal regulation. Some suits are still just rubber bags but the vast majority are now made with breathable materials.
The result is that you layer up or down under the suit to match the day's weather and water temps and can comfortably ride in a modern drysuit for 3+ seasons of the year.Breathability
This is a key aspect of new suits. Ours uses a proprietary PU breathable we call Ventor
that works incredibly well in a salt water environment but there are other options too, including the ever recognizable Goretex.
The key question is if the material has a proven track record of salt water use as some breathable materials suffer when exposed to the crystals that form with repeated salt water use and drying cycles.
Breathability is also closely tied to waterproofness. As your DWR coating on the suit breaks down, pours in the suit will clog with water making the suit less breathable and allowing dampness in. We've assembled a good resource listing various products that will help preserve the life of your suit here
but, suffice to say, you want to be sure you're buying a suit that can easily be reconditioned with a DWR conditioner such as Nikwax's TX Direct
Gone are the days of the heavy, stiff brass zipper. Today's zippers are softer, lighter, easier to maintain and use. However, that doesn't mean all suit entry systems are equal!
Common zipper formations are the self entry across the chest
design or the assisted entry across the shoulders
Only Ocean Rodeo suits feature our patented Captive Zip
design which allows for an easy self entry combined with our unique "standby mode" wherein you can leave the neck seal off and zip the jacket up to protect from the elements when rigging up or packing up.
Regardless of your choice, you are going to want to carefully consider the entry system used on your suit as it will affect not only your time taken to get ready but also could impact on your pre/post session comfort. Zipper
I mentioned how far zipper technology has come and the development continues to this day. However, even with the lighter, smoother zippers, zipper maintenance and care will be an important part of your suit experience.
Your suit should ship with a silicone based lube to keep the zipper running smooth. If you get beach debris in the zip be sure to clear it out and don't torque on the zipper pull if you snag some material, back the zipper up to clear the obstruction.
When you travel with your suit - don't fold the zipper, keep it flat and smooth. Kinks will cause leaks! Seals
Lots to cover here. 1st of all, seal choice. Currently, Ocean Rodeo uses latex seals for all of our consumer suits. This is because we feel they offer the best balance of water protection, low profile feel, adaptability to user size and repairability.
However, some brands will use neoprene seals which are slightly harder to repair and do tend to let some water in but can be perceived to be more comfortable by some users.
Bottom line, you should research seals a bit before you buy and should likely try to try a suit on to see what suits you best. Seals don't need to be tight to be dry
. This is a huge point. If a seal is tight, it is uncomfortable and can cause your hands or feet to get cold for lack of circulation.
Seals simply need to be smooth and flush against your skin and only moderately 'snap' tight. They make their seal by having a slight layer of water build up between your skin and your seal. To ensure you stay dry pull the seal up to the smooth part of your wrist or ankle and ensure it is flat and flush with no trapped under garments allowing water to wick in.
Seals can be cut back too to open the diameter of the opening but you are best to 1st stretch your seal overnight over a wine bottle (wrist / ankle) or kitchen pot (neck) to let the rubber relax before you cut it. Fit & Finish
One of the single biggest reasons to buy a drysuit is not for the warmth, it's for the flexibility and range of motion. Face it, a 4 or 5mm (or 6 or 7!) wetsuit sucks for mobility and range of motion.
Try on your prospective suit. Bend over, touch your toes, walk through some of your favourite moves, make sure the suit does not have any binding or pinch points and that it will enhance your riding, not hinder it!
Many brands offer suits that will meet your needs. For our Soul
line of drysuits we spent close to 2 years working with our designers to refine the fit and finish of the suit so the result was a clean technical look that offered excellent range of motion.
The result is a suit that - we think? - is the only suit on the market with a flat crotch seam, allowing you to do the splits if you're able and an unparalleled range of motion. In fact, the innovative Captive Zip design was 1st conceived of as a way of moving the zipper off your shoulders or chest in order to ensure an easier range of motion in your shoulder pockets.
Again, every suit has their merits but range of motion is key - try your prospective suit on before you buy or find a brand that supports returns if you're unhappy with the fit when you get it home. The Wrap Up
Drysuits have come a long way and are now a legit option for 3+ seasons a year with the breathable materials and simple maintenance.
Consumers should consider price point when buying and what various price points get you. Key features to consider and to try before you buy are the fit / feel of the suit, relief zipper and if that is important to you, the entry / zipper system and how it affects your fit and if it is self entry and the materials used in construction, what are their track record and how do they hold up in the environment you'll be using them?
Post questions here, happy to help answer and - absolutely - welcome to seeing other brand managers from the other suit companies jump in on here too.
John Z ~ OR