In 1971 Kokatat (which means ‘into the water’ in native American) began making paddle sports clothing and protective equipment in Arcata, California. Since then it has gone from strength to strength working closely with Gore-Tex building an impressive reputation for quality dry suits backed by their lifetime guarantee.
It’s been 6 months since I received my shiny new Meridian Gore-Tex® dry suit. Since then I’ve put the suit through the punishment of my daily whitewater freestyle and river running activities. In this time the suit has stood up well against the environment. I’ve used it in a range of locations for all aspects of my sport, from steep creeking coaching and guiding in Scotland, (where I am constantly alternating between river and bank side activities) to freestyle coaching (where predominantly bank-side coaching can have the effect of cooling you rapidly if you don’t have the right kit). The suit has worked well in these changing environments and proved excellent in meeting the requirements of moving between periods of relative motionlessness (when filming or observing) to the high exertion of paddling guiding or demonstrating.
This, plus the resistance to abrasive rock and sand (whilst scouting, bank side coaching and providing rescue cover), the extended periods of damp storage (not having much chance to dry between work and play in the UK), and in more recent weeks extensive exposure to UV sun and the dry climate of Arizona, has left me impressed with the overall performance of the suit.
This durability is partly down to the Gore-Tex Evolution 3.21 construction (which is an immersion specific fabric), but also to Kokatat’s experience and ability to produce garments with performance cuts (and if requested a customised fit) that maximises movement and performance and minimises the garments self-wear. This has been evident over the winter season, as the suit is showing little fatigue and still keeps me dry.
The drysuit is comfortable to wear on the water, with no restrictions to movement when both river running or freestyle paddling. This freedom also applies to off the water when moving around the bank to provide safety cover or whilst trekking in to the rivers. The breathability of Gore-Tex is really noticeable here, as it keeps you dry and comfortable for extended periods of exertion.
In general I found getting in and out of the drysuit (via the waterproof optiseal chest zipper) to be easy. The suits optiseal metal tooth zippers are easy to maintain, although these are slightly more rigid than their Nylon zipper options. I personally would suggest going for the nylon zip as these are more flexible and are less susceptible to packing damage.
The drysuit is designed to be minimal, fashionable and durable and offers some clever builds (in addition to the immersion specific Gore-Tex) such as;
- Self-draining neck & wrist neoprene over-cuffs (this avoids the need for Velcro, which has a tendency to scuff the suits outer protective material over time).
- A dual-adjustable over-skirt incorporating an adjustable Velcro waist band to form an effective seal over the spray deck.
- A bungee draw-cord for a secure fit of the inner dry suit.
- Self-draining Cordura seat and knee patches for added protection in the high abrasive areas. This has been incorporated well into the design, and the cordura stays close fitting to inner Gore-Tex layer.
- Finally there is a self-draining zipper chest pocket sizeable enough for a mini dry pack.
Of course as we push our own performance, and that of our equipment, we at times can go too far. In my case, I punctured my suits dry sock (and foot) on a cactus whilst scrambling up the side of a gorge. So it’s good to know that Kokatat not only have a life time guarantee, but are renowned for their excellent after service. I’m about to put this to the test and return my suit to the pressure testing and repair services (accredited by Kokatat and Gore-Tex) provided here in the UK.
For more information on the Kokatat range please click here -> Kokatat