Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Below, I provide gear reviews of various types of equipment, mostly related to kayaking, like gloves, paddles or boats.

A good metric of whether a piece of gear is of good value is whether you would replace it with the same(or new model) of the product when it gets lost or damaged. Or, if you would look for something else.

If you find that you would replace it, it is probably a good value or fit for your needs and if not, it might not of been worth buying. I try to include this in my descriptions of kayaking gear, so if you see an “I’d by it again” rating, it means I think it is a pretty solid(or at least a good value) product.

Bear Island Circumnavigation: Breaking in the Lendal Cadence Paddle

For the past couple years, I have been using a Werner Cyprus, which is a great paddle overall, however, I have bought two of them and the locking ferrule broke on both of them. I’ve written about this in more detail here, but the end result is I was stuck with a taped together two piece paddle.

When it came time to buy a new paddle, in this case for an upcoming trip where I can’t just throw my paddle into the back of the truck and instead need a working two piece paddle, I simply couldn’t justify spending any more money on a two piece Werner, given how many issues I’ve had, as well as heard/seen, with their ferrule.

I began to look for alternatives to the Cyprus and ended up getting a Lendal Cadence, as the paddle was a similar size/weight to the Werner Cyprus, but uses a locking lever, their version is called a Leverlok, as opposed to a spring powered push button locking system like Werner’s.

I took it out on the lake right after I got it, but this weekend, I was able to put it through its paces a bit, during a 17 mile circumnavigation of Bear Island.

For the most part, we didn’t do a ton of surfing, but I did catch a few waves and there was plenty of rough water, so I got a good feel for the paddle.

Trip Stats

  • Total Distance: 16.98 Miles
  • Max Speed: 13.21 MPH
  • Average Speed: 2.98 MPH
  • Moving Average: 3.17 MPH
  • Duration: 5.7 Hours

Description of Trip

This was my second time circumnavigating Bear Island, although the first time we paddled in the Intercoastal Waterway, while this time we hugged the rear of the island.

We had the tide working in our favor and the wind to our back as we left Bogue Inlet and paddled ocean side to Bear Inlet, so we made great time following the outgoing tide and then had a very nice push to our back.

We did a bit of surfing on our way down. There was a sand bar or low area most of the way, so the waves would break once a little ways from shore, then again once they got closer. We spent most of our time in-between these two breaks.

We ended up being a bit early coming through the inlet and the water was still quite low, making it slow going as we made our way behind Bear Island. The swell in the inlet itself was a lot bigger, or at least consistently bigger, than what we had paddled through, but there was a relatively short area where it was actually breaking and we made it through without incident.

After completing our circumnavigation, we paddled out one more time into Bogue Inlet, then turned around to ride some of the following seas and play in the confused seas on our way back to our put in.

First Impressions of the Lendal Cadence Paddle

Obviously, it will take some time, like a a year or so, to generate a useful review of the Lendal Cadence paddle, so I will do a followup once I have used it more. However, my first impressions are quite favorable.

The paddle is light, but feels quite strong. Unlike the Cyprus, which has a round handle, the Cadence has an oval shape to it. This will take some getting used to, as I’ve not paddled an indexed paddle for any extended period of time, but it was comfortable.

Rolling, surfing, and other paddling maneuvers were comfortable using the new paddle.

Compared to the Cyprus, the biggest difference is the surface area of the paddle blade, as well as not having the buoyancy feel that you get with a Werner foam blade.

The Cadence has a surface area of 570 CM, compared to the 610 CM of the Cyprus. (In retrospect, I think I should have gotten the CadenceX, which has a surface area of 650 CM.)

However, even with the reduced paddle size, I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with my partner who was paddling using a Cyprus.

The difference in buoyancy will take a bit of getting used to though, as that really does make the Cyprus have a very light feel and is a noticeable difference between the two paddles.

The Leverlok is great so far and seems like a far superior design, but really the real test will be in a year or two to see how it holds up. However, as it stands right now, it appears to be a much better thought out and engineered system than Werner’s locking ferrule.

Werner’s Poorly Engineered Adjustable Ferrule System

I have owned two Werner Cyprus Paddles, which is one of their nicer carbon fiber high angle paddles. I love the design of the paddle, it has a great weight, and the added buoyancy of their carbon blades is great.

However,  in what is relatively short order given the cost of these paddles, both have had problems with the locking ferrule system, which holds the two ends of the paddle together.

I bought my second Werner Cyprus assuming that I had been too rough or careless with the first and that this was the reason the button failed and would no longer work to lock the paddles together. The second one ended up failing similarly and like the first one, the button just never seemed to work that well.

As a result of my experience, in addition to talking with others who have faced the same issue with Werner’s two piece paddles, I think it is likely less to do with me being careless and more that their adjustable ferrule system is poorly engineered or designed.

The Problem With Werner Two Piece Paddles

Ultimately, both my Werner paddles failed in more or less the same way.

The button stopped pushing up on its own, would no longer reliably pop-out and lock when you pushed the paddles together, and sometimes it was nearly impossible to get the paddles apart.

After only a few paddles, I noticed something was wrong with the button on my first paddle and reached out to the guy who I purchased it from, a Werner Dealer, who provided instructions on how to wash out the paddle.

This was my first high-end paddle and admittedly I was a bit rough on it. Although it got washed well with clean water after each use, I hadn’t really understood how sensitive the button was, so had pushed it down too far a few times(which is a no-no with Werner paddles). I also had to do a repair on the blades after doing some whitewater with it and banging it on a rock.

So, when it got to the point where it wouldn’t consistently lock on it’s own, I decided to buy a new one believing that I just had done a poor job taking care of it.

I was much more careful with my second Cyprus, making a point to never push the button down further than necessary(because it will get stuck) and never taking it to the pool, because I thought maybe it was the chlorine that caused the spring/button not to work on the first paddle.

I got a bit more use out of this one, but it ended up failing in the same manner as the first.

I think the problem is several fold:

  • Internal Spring: The spring is either too weak and/or made of poor quality metal for a coastal environment.
  • There is no guide for the button, so if you depress it further than the depth of the shaft(only a few millimeters), it gets stuck and won’t come back up(this is compounded by spring issues)
  • I believe as you put the two ends together, the button needs to be depressed a little bit and is supposed to move down slightly on it’s own and then pops back out locking. However, the guide/internals pieces that force it back up don’t appear to work well.

The above are my best guess after having given the issue some thought and discussing it with other paddlers, but it is possible there are other things going on.

The end result though is that I have a two-piece paddle that I just tape together, as a piece of electrical tape works better and is more reliable than the Werner Ferrule System.

The Paddle is Fine, You Just Suck at Washing Out Your Gear

If you do any research on this issue or talk to people about it, undoubtedly you are going to get advice on how the paddle needs to be washed out after each use and depending on how close you are to the person, how poorly of a job you are doing.

In fact, when I contacted Werner about this and more or less provided all the same info in this posting, they started out the email with:

I am sorry that you have been experiencing some issues with salt and grit in your ferrule systems.

It isn’t surprising they lead the email with a warranty get out of free card and while it is entirely possible I just suck at washing out my gear, I am one of the more anal people I know about washing my gear.

All my gear gets washed out after each use with clean water as soon as is possible, which is often less than 1 hour after I get off the water. Doesn’t matter if it is lake, river, pool, or salt water, I spray everything down after each paddle.

After my first Werner Paddle failure, I was even more diligent about caring for my paddle. I generally use this process:

  • Spray paddle completely top/bottom
  • Take paddle apart, spray again, making sure to get inside/outside of the ferrule
  • For the piece with the button, extra time is spent spraying off the inside.
  • Then, while the button was working, I would work the button slightly while sprayin inside and out of paddle
  • When the button stopped working on its own, I used my long finger to push button up/down slightly while spraying inside/out
  • When that no longer worked, I used a piece of metal to carefully work the button while spraying inside/out
  • Spray inside of paddle, outside of paddle, button area, etc one last time.
  • Let dry so water drains from paddle
  • When putting it together again the next time you use it, inspect and clean with water

From discussing this with others, I have heard soaking them and using a bit of dish soap may help. And in fact one of the times it got stuck together, I was able to get it free by soaking it at the lake, while pulling on it under water for 20 minutes.

Regardless I think the steps I take to wash it out would be sufficient to keep it in working order.

Tips for Getting it Together

Before the Werner paddle got to the point where it didn’t really work at all, I had a few tricks that seemed to work for getting it together:

  • The button only needs to be depressed very slightly. Don’t push it any further than needed to take apart or put together.
  • Use long finger to push button up from inside
  • Fill both ends with water and slam them together, combing with finger trick. The water pressure seemed to force button out
  • The button will work itself up as you paddle, so often it will start out a little depressed, but by end of day actually pop out. So, if it is locked, don’t worry if the button is still a bit depressed
  • If they are stuck together, try putting the paddle behind your knees crouching down slightly and pulling apart. I’m not sure why this works, possibly because it forces you to keep the two ends straighter, but I have seen this work in some cases.

Other people I have spoken with have described similar sorts of tricks and several mentioned carrying a screwdriver or wood piece of some sort as a fix in-case it came apart while on a trip and they needed to get the button back out.

Taping it Together

Even when I was able to get the paddle apart, I would often use tape on it, as it wasn’t actually locked. After awhile of fighting the button, I decided it was better to just leave the paddle taped together and turn it into a one-piece paddle.

A bit of electrical tape around the seam is effective and it had gotten to the point I never knew if I would be able to get the paddle together at the put-in. On multi-day trips, I was scared to take it apart, because I didn’t want to end up without a paddle in the middle of know where.

An Un-Official Survey

I initially thought this was something I was doing until a surf session a year or two ago. One of the paddlers had the same Werner Cyprus I use and had taken it apart during lunch break, but could not get it back together. I showed him my finger trick and was able to get it locked and we finished up the day.

A few months later, I met a different paddler who had a Werner Cyprus paddle and was having issues at the put-in getting it together. I showed him the filling the paddle with water trick, as my finger trick didn’t work, and was able to get it locked.

A little while after that, someone I know who had bought a bent shaft Cyprus described his frustration with the locking system.

After this, I began to realize that maybe it wasn’t just me and so whenever I see someone paddling with a Werner I ask them about it(that is how I got the soaking/dish-soap tip).

To date, I personally know 4 people with Werner Cyprus paddles with the same issues described above. I also know 3 others who I’m not sure what paddle they have, but have faced this issue.

Among these people are instructors, trainers, dealers, and some very advanced paddlers. Most have indicated that they know others with this issue and that it is a fairly common problem with Werner Paddles.

At least one person has received a warranty replacement for it, but said it was years ago while there were issues with Celtic paddles breaking and thought Werner might have been a bit more keen to fix the issue given the time.

Does this only happen to the Werner Cyprus?

4 of the people I know with issues also have Cyprus paddles, although I’m unsure what the other 3 used(they had all switched to Celtics). The Cyprus is a great paddle otherwise and one of their top rated, so it could be just that serious sea kayakers are more likely to go with the Cyprus more than anything else.

However, one of the people has an old fiberglass Shuna, which works as you would expect even though it has been his spare paddle for years and probably doesn’t get washed out as well as his main paddle. It isn’t clear if it is the model or they changed designs at some point, but the button on his Shuna feels great.I also know someone else with a new Shuna that feels a lot better than mine, although to be fair, it has only been used a few times as of the writing of this post and only in very sanitary conditions.

I think it is more likely that the common thread, is that everyone I have talked to is a coastal kayaker and most are very active, with 1+ paddles a week.

Conclusion

Despite how much I like the design of the Cyprus, my next paddle is not going to be a Werner. I am leaning towards a Celtic paddle, as I think the lever-lock system they use seems to be vastly superior to Werner’s.

While I would probably recommend a one-piece Werner, I would not recommend anyone that is a serious paddler(especially a sea kayaker) go with a two piece Werner Paddle.

I think at the end of the day, even if it is truly an issue of grime/sand/dirty getting in there, which I am not convinced is 100% of the problem, I feel like the fact that it happens at all and seems to be rather common is indicative of a larger problem with the design.

Gear Review: Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties

As a kayaker, the quest to find comfortable and practical shoes is something that most people spend a good deal of time(and possibly money on.) Among whitewater boaters, actual shoes like Astral’s Brewer are often quite popular. Others prefer dive booties or booties more geared towards kayaykers, like NRS’s Freestyle or Desperado water shoe.

I’ve not tried any sneakers yet, but have tried several types of sandals, along with high top and low top booties of various brands. However, at least for ocean work, my favorite so far has been the Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties, which are a mix of 3MM neoprene and rubber.

What I like most about them is that they are low profile and thin, but still sturdy enough that you can hop out on an oyster bed or walk across a gravel parking lot and not worry too much about slicing up your foot.

Recently, I gave up half of my old pair to the Ocean Gods and so have been using a pair of NRS Kicker Remix’s for the past month, but they are just a bit too thick.

The Remix’s, as well as other booties I’ve tried, have a very thick sole, which wraps around the toe and heel. This can be great in terms of protection, but don’t have a lot of flex to them and add some length onto the booties. So, in a smaller cramped boat, they tend not to be very comfortable to me and I can’t move my feet around as much as I would like.

The Ultra Flex Booties, on the other hand, are thin and while the toe and heal are also surrounded by the rubber sole, the rubber is much thinner and more flexible, so that they are close to being barefoot. The thinness of the Sea to Summit booties, compared to most other booties I’ve tried, gives me a lot more toe room in the boat.

Like most things, they aren’t the best shoe for all situations, specifically river whitewater or very slick/rocky areas, but are great for ocean/coastal play.

The Pros:

As stated above, the biggest pro is how thin these are. The sole is made of rubber, but is very thin and flexible. When you are in a low-volume boat with limited foot room, makes a world of difference.

Other booties that I own or have seen have a much thicker sole, thicker neoprene and/or additional insulating material. This adds a lot of size to the shoe and ends up being pretty uncomfortable to me after even a relatively short time in my touring/surfing boats. This is less of an issue in my Dagger Alchemy, but in my NRS and Impex boats, which are smaller height/volume wise, normal booties just end up being too rigid and big.

The Cons:

The biggest downside to the Ultra Flex Booties is that the sole is slick, with almost no traction/grip. The marketing on the package specifically describes the sole as having a lot of grip, but that really isn’t the case. While it does have a raised imprinted design, they provide little traction on wet slick surfaces, and it is thin enough that it will wear out relativity quickly when walking on any surface other than perhaps sand.

I’m sure works well for gripping a surface like a stand up paddle board, but it has little traction on little rocks or other similar surfaces. You will slide around if you hop out and I’m always very cautious when getting out on a slick surface when wearing them. When I went to Baja California last year, I purchased a pair of NRS Kickers, as I wanted something similar, but with a good bit more traction for all the rock/slick areas we would encounter out there. I’m not super found of the Kickers, but they do have decent traction.

You can see in the below picture what the tread looks like on a new pair vs a much used pair:

Can you tell which one is new?

Another downside is that, like most(all?) booties, they hold in water and don’t drain. So, the first time you hop out of your boat in water deeper than your ankle, you are going to have wet feet.

Of course, this isn’t that much of an issue when wearing a drysuit, but otherwise, over the course of a long day of kayaking, your feet are going to get wet and stay wet. I usually drain them out prior to getting into my boat, as well as keeps some water out of your boat, but even still your feet will be wet/damp. Of course, it isn’t generally cold, as the neoprene works well for keeping you warm, but if you don’t like wet feet, the Ultra Flex booties might not be for you.

They are also thin, which is my main reason for liking them, but if you are going to be doing a lot of walking, they aren’t great. A good metric for booties is whether you can walk across a gravel parking lot without thinking too much about where you step and these pass that test for the most part, but are on the border and not comfortable to walk long distances in.

Overall Rating

Despite not being good choices for river work, due to not having much, or really any, traction, these are my go to booties when surfing at the beach or doing a coastal paddle. I also wear them at the lake, although do still have to make a conscious effort to avoid rocks and other slick surfaces.

If you are going to wear them over your drysuit, you will probably want to get one size larger than normal, so you have room for the drysuit’s socks.

Rating: I’d Buy it Again!

Gear Review: Glacier Glove Premium Waterproof Gloves

After having durability issues with a pair of NRS Maverick gloves, I solicited some advice from KayakHipster when we commented on the same Reddit thread and he recommended I try out Glacier Glove Premium Waterproof Gloves. I gave them a shot and have been quite pleased with them, although have only had them for about 5 months now.

Unlike the Maverick Gloves, Glacier Gloves do not have a molded/elastic style cuff and instead use a piece of Velcro strap to form a seal with the wrist. They are made of 2MM Neoprene and have a fleece lining. The model I went with are referred to as the Perfect Curve Glove, as the fingers have a curve at the knuckle which I believe is intended to prevent fatigue. The curve seems to work well and is a good fit, as when I’m using them, my fingers are typically wrapped around the paddle shaft.

The gloves work great over the cuff of a drysuit, as because there is no elasticity to the glove’s cuff, it slides over the drysuit easily and forms a water tight seal. However, even when you wear them without a dry suit, they work well and are quite comfortable.

One of the things I like about these gloves is how much more durable they feel. You still need to be careful, but I am much less worried about them tearing if I grab something like I do with the NRS Maverick’s which tore when I was pushing a branch out of my way the first time I used them. I have had to do one repair on them with some Neoprene Glue, but this is due to a paddling problem I have and not really indicative of the gloves quality.

About the only ‘problem’ I’ve had with them is they are really warm gloves, so with the fleece, they don’t make great summer gloves. However, this isn’t really a downside and I’ve still paddled with them during the summer. Just like most things, you have to get them wet to cool off.

For me, these have proved to be really solid gloves and the way they integrate with a drysuit is awesome! They are super warm during the winter and provide a nice fit.

Rating: I’d by it again

Gear Review: NRS Maverick Gloves

When I first started paddling, I received a pair of NRS Maverick Gloves as a gift. The Maverick Gloves are made out of 2mm neoprene, with a pretty tight cuff that keeps water from getting into the glove.

I was still quite new at paddling and so these were my first pair of paddling gloves and ended up using these gloves for at least a year. Currently they are going for around $50 at a number of retailers, however REI has them on sale for about $30(which is what they cost several years ago.) They appear to be on the way out, as NRS currently has them listed as a Closeout product, so if you do want them, now would probably be a good time to buy some.

From a fit/comfort standpoint, these are pretty neat gloves. The texture of the palm provides a good grip, even when wet, and they are really warm in the winter. During the summer, they can get a bit hot, although they are thick gloves and this is to be expected and really once you get them wet not that big of an issue.

Unfortunately, from a durability standpoint, the Maverick/Titanium gloves did not hold up very well for me. You have to be incredibly careful taking them on/off, so that you do not damage the cuff. Both of mine ultimately tore at the cuff area and I had another friend who had to put some additional neoprene glue on his after tearing them the first day. The advice from the manufacturer is to roll up the cuff prior to taking them off, but I’ve found with the tightness of the glove, it is still quite easy to tear the cuff area.

The gloves themselves also tear quite easily and the first time I had them out, I pushed a branch out of the way and ripped the fingers.

Certainly some of this is due to me being too rough on them, although this is indicative of some other people’s experience with them as well. By the time I retired them, the cuffs were falling apart, there were tears in between and on several fingers and cracks going up from the cuff. Despite that, they were still comfortable and warm, just no longer water proof/resistant.

So, for my paddling style and use, they didn’t end up being a great fit, although I did use them for over a year and they really are quite comfortable. I’ve always thought that if I went into it with the understanding I would be replacing them every 6-12 months, they would be pretty awesome gloves.

A new version of these is available for 2016, which has a different style cuff, but otherwise look to be quite similar. While the cuff is a bit different, with fewer seams, they still get the same manufacturer warning/instructions about rolling up the cuff when putting them on. It would be interesting to try one of the new versions and compare it to the older Maverick Gloves.

Rating: If I was sponsored and could replace as needed, I would definitely buy again. Otherwise, I would be cautious if the durability in their newer version is similar to the maverick’s I tried.

2015 Dagger/Wilderness Systems Footbrace Recall

foot_peg_1Last weekend while at the beach, both the footbraces in my Dagger Alchemy broke. The footpeg on the right snapped first while breaking out through the surf and the left footpeg snapped about 30 minutes later. As it turns out, there was a recall for 2015 model confluence boats(Dagger/Wilderness Systems) that used the KeeperXL and Slidelock XL Footbrace system.

Per Dagger’s site:

With these systems the foot pad, adjustment wand, or pivot carriage may deform or break if a heavy load/impact is placed on the outside portion of the footpad.

After a call to Confluence’s support line, they shipped out a new pair of Basic Slidelock Footraces within a couple days.

Hopefully the new pair will hold up better, although I have been contemplating replacing them with an aftermarket NRS set, which has metal rack and looks to be sturdier. At the end of the day, I really don’t need to be able to quickly adjust the footpegs, so strength/reliability is more important than being able to quickly adjust the footpegs without having to reach inside the boat.

I’ve had my Dagger Alchemy for less than a year now and have really enjoyed this boat. Its got a ton of use so far. It rolls well and is long enough to get proper tracking, but short enough to be very maneuverable. For me, it fits nicely on the river, flat-water, and in the ocean, making it a very attractive boat. This was actually the first time taking it into the ocean and it was a friend that snapped the footpegs. Fortunately, the failure happened in about as safe a place as it could of and no-one was injured.

It is hard to say if they were already warped/broken by the time he started using it or if he positions his feet differently than me, which triggered the failure. In anycase, they should not have failed that easily.

My friend has an older Alchemy that he has had for several years and has not had any issues with that or his other boats. His footbraces are similar to mine, however the foot peg on his boat is slightly smaller than mine

Below is a gallery of the failure, as well as some of the affected footbrace’s


Affected Boats(Per Dagger/Wilderness Systems Website)

Dagger Boats: Alchemy, Roam
Wilderness Systems Boats: Tempest (excluding PRO models) , Zephyr (excluding PRO models), Focus, Polaris 180, Tsunami (excluding PRO models), Pamlico 135/140, Tarpon 140/160, Thresher 140/155, Any 2015 Course Control Rudder Model/Configuration

Gear Review: Kokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian

I first got to try out a drysuit when doing some winter paddling at the beach. The person who took me out was kind enough to let me borrow his Kokatat Goretex drysuit and we had an awesome day playing in the ocean and intercoastal waterway. On my third and final beach landing that day, I came out of my boat coming into shore and had to walk in, rather than paddle.

I was immediately sold on what a great piece of gear a drysuit is and how it is essential if you want to continue paddling during the winter.

Unexpected submersion in cold conditions is one of the leading risks a paddler faces. The greatest risk is during winter, but cold water can be dangerous even when it is hot outside.

Everyone swims and cold water exposure can quickly result in a life-threatening situation. While certainly not a magic bullet, a drysuit can help mitigate this danger and downgrade the threat warning from life-threatening to just extremely serious. Similar to a PDF, by wearing a drysuit, you have one less thing to focus on during an emergency situation.

I knew I had to get one and began looking at different types of drysuits, mainly focusing on Kokatat brand drysuits due to their reputation in the industry. Inevitably, this leads to the Goretex vs non-Goretex debate.

Goretex has been around since the late sixties and is well known to be durable, water resistant, and breatheable. It is used in a lot of outdoor gear and is well respected when it comes to drysuites. This reliability and brand recognition comes at a cost, so Gortex gear is usually a bit more expensive than non-gortex. While non-gortex materials exist, Goretex remains the standard that they are compared against and many don’t hold up.

One alternative to Goretex is Kokatat’s Hydrus 3L material, which is available in a versions of their Meridian Drysuit. Hydrus 3L is a less expensive alternative to their Gortex line and carries a lifetime warranty.

After going back and forth a great deal, I ultimately went with the Kokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian Drysuit. I have done an initial review of the Meridian below and included some background on the features and a brief comparison of the Goretex and non-Gortex Meridian.

** At the time of this review, I have one season of use as a metric. I will update this in the future, as I have had more time to use the drysuit. **

What is Hydrus 3L Material?

suit_oneHydrus 3L is a material produced by Kokatat that is a relatively new, especially by Goretex standards. It is three layer fabric manufactured and sold by Kokatat.

From what I have been able to find, they started selling equipment under the Hydrus 3L name in early 2013. However, it appears to be based on, or possibly just new branding of, a different material of theirs called T3.

The material itself is described as being ‘exceptionally waterproof and breathable’ on their website. Three years ago during the initial initially launch, it was described as “slightly less durable and breathable [than Gore-Tex]” by their sales and design manager Jeff Turner.

There doesn’t seem to be a ton of technical documentation on it and at the time of this writing, I could not find a write up describing it in more detail or the build process on Kokatat’s website.

Since there isn’t a ton of information easily available on how Hydrus 3L holds up, I did a quick check on craigslist to see if anyone was selling old suits. Goretex drysuits are more common, however I was able to find several people selling used Hydrus suits of various styles(mostly the less expensive angler) and one person selling an old T3 suit, which is a little comforting.

Pricing

Kokatat describes the Hydrus 3L as a drysuit for paddlers on a budget and price was definitely a motivating factor for me.

The non-Gortex Meridian retails for about $300 less than the Goretex Version. Through the use of my REI coupon, I was able to get a Hydrus 3L Meridian for around $450 less than the Goretex version, so about 58% of the retail cost of a Goretex suit.

Of course, this isn’t a truly fair comparison, as REI does not sell a Gortex version of the Meridian. Had they and I was able to use my coupon for it, this would of been a much more difficult decision.

Warranty

Kokatat offers a limited lifetime warranty against defect or workmanship on the Hydrus 3L drysuit, which definitely offset the concern of going with such a relatively new and under reported-on material. Knowing that if something does go wrong with the material or drysuit, I can send it back to have it repaired provides some reassurances when moving away from the tried and true Goretex brand.

Having said that, in the grand scheme of things, if a safety product fails you when you need it, a warranty and not having to pay a few hundred dollars(or even a thousand dollars to have it fixed/replaced isn’t all that important. However, it is certainly reassuring that they are confident in it enough to offer this warranty.

Differences in Construction Between the Hydrus 3L and Goretex Drysuit

I’ve compared my Hydrus 3L Drysuit to a Goretex version and the construction and design of the suits appears to be quite similar. To the naked eye the only real difference, aside from the material, appears to be that the Goretex version uses metal zippers, while the Hydrus Drysuit plastic toothed TZIP zipper.

It is possible there are other differences in how it is built, however they were not apparent and both seemed to have been sewn in similar manners, with markings to indicate who made them and/or inspected them, similar support around the Knee and butt, etc.

My Thoughts After a Season of Use

suit_twoAt this point, I’ve gotten about a season of use out of my Hydrus 3L Drysuit. So far, it has held up well and I have definitely took advantage of having a drysuit by paddling in some cold and inclement weather.

I’ve done a ton of rolls, been out of the boat a number of times to practice my cowboy re-entry and get a feel for what the cold water feels like, as well as a couple unexpected wet-exits while paddling in surf. I’ve not had any issues with water seepage or felt insecure in my suit at any time. I would say that I am pleased with the purchase and that the suit preforms well.

In comparison to the Goretex suit, the materials look similar, although the Hydrus 3L is not quite as flexible and feels a bit different from the Goretex version. I believe it is a bit heavier as well, but this, nor the difference in material makes it uncomfortable.

The material feels like it is quite strong, although I do always wear booties and am careful when walking in the woods or other places where something might snag on it. At this time, there isn’t any abnormal wear/tear on it, nor has it given me any reason for concern when in the water.

Too Early to Call It?

If you were to ask me now, I would definitely recommend the Hydrus Meridian. I have not regretted my decision to buy it and the drysuit is my favorite piece of kayak gear.

However, with only a season of use, it is still kind of early to call it for certain. The proof will be in how well the Hydrus 3L holds up after several seasons of use and beyond.

I’ll update this review if/when anything changes, but at this point I think it is a fine drysuit.

Rating: I’d by it again (but, hopefully won’t have to…)

Update 12/2018 – I had to replace the drysuit neck gasket recently, which is to be expected. I’ve also had two small pin-holes in the foot of suit, which I have had to patch, but like the neck gasket, that is probably just normal wear and tear.