Immersion suits, or as they are more commonly known, dry suits, have become increasingly popular over the last few years.
Gone are the days when the only suits available were heavy and restrictive, made for sports like diving or sailing, and only used by bearded rescue rangers, or canoe lifeguards who spent all their time in the water and could hardly move in them.
Modern suits have come on a bit since then and are now designed and built specifically with paddling in mind and offer performance and manoeuvrability.
The 8 Best Dry Suits
1. Kokatat Gore-Tex® Meridian Dry Suit
US manufacturer Kokatat have long been one of the market leaders in dry suits and now thanks to much improved European distribution network, they’re starting to make an appearance in UK canoe shops.
We tested their flagship model the highly regarded GORE-TEX® Meridian dry suit with the additional relief zipper and GORE-TEX® socks.
It is constructed from Evolution 3.21 oz. nylon 3-layer GORE-TEX® and has latex seals on the neck and wrists, protected by additional self-draining punch-through neoprene over-cuffs.
It has a self-draining, zippered chest pocket with key clip, dual-adjustable overskirt that incorporates ‘hook and loop’ compatible neoprene, and an adjustable bungee draw-cord at waist.
Heavy wear areas are reinforced with Cordura patches.
The all-important relief zip and the diagonal chest zip are both brass-coil waterproof Optiseal zips.
The bright yellow and black colour-way was certainly easy to spot on the water, so a winner in terms of safety considerations.
Getting in to the suit was a piece of cake due to the chest zipper entry, but some of our testers didn’t find it that comfortable under their buoyancy aids once on.
The general consensus was that although a chest zip is easier to get on unaided, a zip across the shoulder reduced wear on the zip by flexing, and provide a more comfortable, free, feel.
The GORE-TEX® did feel very light on, which added to the suits appeal.
All the seams were well placed and tapered, although there was no taping on the neck seal, this was simply glued.
Over all this is a quality piece of kit and it’s pedigree shines through in the standard of build and some nice design touches.
If you’re looking for a chest-zipped suit then this could be the one for you.
2. Palm Stikine Dry Suit
This is another suit with an impressive and proven pedigree.
This design was originally created for source-to-sea expedition on the powerful and fearsome wilderness river, the Stikine.
It went on to become a bit of a classic and it’s fair to say started the demand for paddling specific suits in the UK.
Designed with hardcore paddlers, and harsh environments in mind the Stikine is built from Palm’s own XP250™material, with Cordura 550D Rip-stop in high wear areas and super-tough padded Kevlar impact protection on the elbows.
It is clear that Palm have built on the suits original features and combined that with some cutting edge design to produce a suit that is as uncompromising as the river environments that it is used in.
It also features natural latex neck and wrist seals with adjustable over cuffs.
The highest quality YKK brass-coil zippers for entry and relief zips, both with protective covers.
Water resistant front-zipped pockets with a removable fleece hand-warmer, adjustable and removable elasticised inner braces, Cordura 550D Rip-stop reinforced seat and knees, a Velcro adjustable waistband with asymmetric cut and Velcro adjusted wrist and ankle cuffs.
Deserving of a special mention are the XP250 socks with reinforced Cordura 300D soles for serious toughness, and the excellent articulated cut, which means no seams in the high-wear under arm and crotch areas.
Despite its burly, heavy duty build the great cut of the Stikine meant that it was comfortable and very easy to wear.
The red colour-way was again a hit with safety conscious testers and is a good choice for a product that will appeal to a lot of coaches and professional users.
The hand-warmer is a very nice touch and came in to it’s own while waiting for shuttles, or standing on the bank inspecting, protecting or coaching.
Removing any seams from the under-arm and crotch areas is a big plus.
There’s no danger of them restricting movement or rubbing, add to that the fact that with all the perspiration being generated inside a suit, while the paddler works hard, these areas are particularly prone to damage by deodorants and sweat etc., it’s a smart idea to keep them clear.
Palm have also redesigned the built in fabric socks to remove seams from the high-wear area near the toes.
The Stikine carries a fairly chunky price tag, but overall we felt that the cost was more than justified in the construction, materials and design performance it provides.
It would certainly be our suit of choice if we were heading off on a big trip, in inhospitable climes so it gets our ‘Hardcore’ award.
3. Typhoon Multisport Pro Dry Suit
Typhoon has been designing and building immersion suits for sailors and divers for many years, and they’ve now turned their attention to a paddling-specific model, complete with a three-year warranty.
It is constructed from Quad-ply breathable fabric with Cordura reinforcing on the high wear areas of the knees, seat and elbows.
The rear-entry zip is a brass-coiled BDM version and features Typhoon’s ‘Hypercurve’ zip position.
Other features include Quad-ply fabric socks, latex neck and wrist seals with neoprene, adjustable over protectors, pre-bent arms and knees, internal braces and an elasticised waist.
This is a tough, no frills, which was pretty comfortable to wear; it did in our opinion however fall down in a few areas.
Firstly our test model came without a relief zip, and we’ll say it now, don’t even think about buying a suit without one of these.
Struggling out of a suit to stand their steaming in your thermals to answer a call of nature is no laughing matter.
Typhoon does offer this as an option though, so we’d certainly opt for this if purchasing a Multisport.
Secondly the rear brass-coil zip has no fabric flap or covering system and is so unprotected. We’d certainly like to see this amended on future versions of this suit.
Thirdly although the build quality of the actual suit was good, the overall finishing was a bit poor compared to the rest of the suits on test.
The neoprene outer seal was roughly trimmed and the thick single-lined neoprene outer cuffs made it a little bit bulky and uncomfortable in that area.
Although some of the testers liked the gunmetal grey and black colour scheme of the Multisport others felt it wasn’t ideal from a visibility, safety point of view.
Having said all that, at the price, the Multisport does what it says on the label and for a suit using brass coiled zips, and laminate breathable material represents great value for money. Not to mention the impressive three-year warranty that Typhoon offer.
It is reasonably comfy, kept us dry and after four months of use was still standing up well and looking in good shape.
4. Torrent Suit
This is the latest version of Palm’s very popular mid-level Sidewinder Torrent immersion suit.
Like the Stikine, this has been completely redesigned for 2009 and is basically a brand new model.
The articulated cut and seamless under-arm, crotch and toe areas are the same and it is constructed from Palm’s XP250™material with Cordura 300D reinforcing in all the high wear areas and padded Kevlar impact protection on the elbows.
The Torrent features rear-entry and relief Ti-Zip zippers.
Other features include natural latex neck and cuff seals with adjustable outers, water-resistant, zippered chest pockets, adjustable, removable elasticised inner braces, Velcro adjustable neoprene waistband with asymmetric cut for improved fit and reflective, hi-vis detail on cuffs, neck and ankles.
Along with the other Palm suits the cut of the Torrent is just excellent for paddling, it’s comfortable and allows perfect freedom of movement. Due to the more flexible Ti-Zip this is further emphasized on the Torrent.
Although supposedly not as 100% watertight as a brass-coil zip we found the Ti-Zip to perform above and beyond, and we never experienced any leakage, even during deliberate extended swims.
The new seam arrangement in the socks makes them very comfortable and they fitted really nicely in to our river shoes.
Off all the suits in this test, this was by far the most popular with the test team, who felt that it offered a great balance between performance, durability and comfort. This is why we awarded it the Best in Test.
5. LOMO Renegade Suit
LOMO manufacturer and sell direct to the customer via the Internet or their own shops, so are able to be unbelievably competitive on price.
The Renegade is built throughout from their Breathable Lomotex 4000 3-Layer Hydrophobic Material, with Cordura reinforcement on the knee, arm, ankle and seat areas.
For a suit of this price, it’s packed with features including rear-entry Ti-Zip, complete with protective rear flap, a relief Ti-Zip, latex seals on the neck and wrists with adjustable outers for added protection. Latex socks and an adjustable neoprene and Velcro waist tube.
We expected the LOMO suit to be good value, but the quality of the build and attention to detail on a suit of this type was excellent.
The bright yellow wasn’t all the testers cup of tea, but from a safety perspective, it’s great.
It is clear that the team at LOMO have put time and effort in to getting this suit right and in our opinion they’ve done a rather fine job.
Our only bugbear was the latex socks.
It is a tough job being a sock on an immersion suit, grit, brambles, sharp rock, long toenails, and latex isn’t renown for being the toughest of materials.
We would certainly recommend wearing an additional pair of neoprene socks over the outside to protect them.
Apart from that, we found this to be a comfy, hardwearing suit that represents a lot of suit for your pounds.
If you’re on a tight budget, but still want to stay warm and dry during long days on the river and multi-day trips then the Renegade is going to be right on the money, so it’s no surprise that we would recommend it.
6. NRS Men’s Inversion Kayak Dry Suit
NRS are another big name from over the pond that is beginning to make an appearance in UK retailers.
The NRS Inversion suit is made with highly breathable and waterproof 210-denier TriTon™ fabric with Cordura® fabric reinforcement on the seat, while the knees are protected with an additional layer of TriTon™.
The Inversion features a heavy-duty YKK waterproof chest-entry zipper, which allows easy entrance and is covered with a hook-and-loop sealed flap for extra protection.
Other features include an adjustable neoprene waist tunnel, latex neck and wrist seals, with stretchy outer cuffs, with adjustable hook-and-loop closures on the neck, wrist and ankles to protect the latex gaskets and snug over your footwear. A YKK relief zipper, latex socks and a handy pocket on the sleeve.
This was a popular suit amongst the test team and they felt the grey and orange colour scheme and extensive reflective piping was a good compromise between good looks and safety/visibility.
The chest-zip entry made it easy to get on and off and it felt slightly less restrictive when on than the other chest-entry products on test.
The build and finish quality where top drawer, but again we were disappointed to see delicate latex socks.
As we said with the LOMO latex, these are never going to last very long in this area, and it also makes your feet sweat badly, which can not only lead to deteriation of the latex, but to cold feet!
Apart from the sock niggle, we liked the Immersion and it’s a great suit for the price.
7. Palm Element Dry Suit
The Element shares all the performance and build characteristics of the Torrent, but all-importantly with a female-specific, dynamic and articulated cut.
Palm describes the colour as Plum, but our testers were adamant that it is dark pink.
They’ve a bit of a thing with women’s kit being pink, or almost pink.
It certainly gives advance warning that a ‘lady’ is coming down the river and one tester in particular noted that it clashes perfectly with a red boat.
We found the fit really excellent, apart from the feet, which on our test suit were more than sufficient for any big foot, and left excess material floating around on the more petite hoofed amongst out testers.
The arms were a perfect length and there was adequate room for movement in the torso, even with the most ample bosom, and multiple winter layers fitted comfortably underneath.
Climbing around on portages proved that there was just enough material for full body movement, but not so much that there was excessive bagginess in the fit.
Liz, our main tester on this suit was surprised to find that the ‘medium’ was the right size for her at 5’8″ (she did go to a shop and try the large). So wonders if a petite female would find the ‘small’ to be small enough.
We found the Element to be completely dry after spending an hour wading up a river!
Comfort was great and we didn’t have any problems getting a ‘pull-on’ BA over the zip.
The waist tie was great for keeping the trousers up once the material was damp.
The seals were really comfortable and the Velcro used on the neck and wrist seals does not attach itself to longer hair.
The relief-zip was a big hit, and the relief zip and She-Wee were successfully navigated, but our testers strongly recommend practicing with the She-Wee in the shower first!
One suggestion that came back from the test team was that they’d quite like to see a pocket for that particular device included on the suit.
Our testers over all conclusions were that Palm has created a suit that is tailored for the female form.
There would be great difficulty rivaling the fit and comfort of the Element and they’d highly recommend this suit for any female paddler.
8. Yak Titan Suit
New from equipment manufacturers Yak is their Titan Drysuit.
Constructed from extremely durable, medium weight 3-layer breathable fabric, with Cordura 600D reinforcing on the knee and seat areas and brass-coil rear-entry zipper and relief zip.
It also features latex neck and wrist seals with glideskin neoprene outers, a full adjustable neoprene waistband, reinforced fabric socks, self draining chest pocket with key clip, inner braces and a useful tri-laminate repair patch.
We’re sorry to say that of all the suits on test, the Titan sat badly with the test team.
There were just too many little niggles with it, that added up to a generally negative response.
The brass-coil zips aren’t really up to the same quality of the ones used on the other suits on test, and the rear entry zip didn’t have a protective flap, although the relief zip did.
The cut of the suit wasn’t great either with the top feeling very restrictive, due to the zip in our opinion, and the bottom half of the suit excessively baggy around the bum.
We were disappointed by the quality of the finishing too.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s OK, but when compared to other suits in the test at a similar price it simply doesn’t stand up to the comparisons, and there are better suits available that offer more performance and comfort for the money.
There it is, the 8 best dry suits put to the test by the CKUK test team.
We hope you found the results useful, and if so please do check out our other clothing and footwear reviews.