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 PFD, by wearing a drysuit, you have one less thing to focus on during an emergency situation.

After this short swim, 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 drysuits. 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 most of these materials 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. **

*** As of 2023, I used this suit for 8 seasons before it was warranty replaced after suffering a broken zipper and sending it off for repair, where an inspection revealed some delamination. Please make sure to checkout the updates section for more info.

What is Hydrus 3L Material?


Hydrus 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.


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.

* This has changed since the original purchase and they do now carry the gortex version. At the time of this update, the Hyrdus retails for $1,099 and the Gortex is at $1,499.


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.

Update: Please check the below updates section for more details, but Kokatat stands behind their product and it makes sense to pay them, at least once every so often, to replace gaskets, so that they can inspect the suit.

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


At 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 taken advantage of having a drysuit by paddling in some cold and inclement weather, which otherwise would not have been an option.

I’ve done many rolls 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…)


I have left the review above mostly intact since originally publishing it, aside from some grammar fixes and a bit more info info to the warranty section. I have provided further updates below, the most significant of which is the 2023 update, where the suit was warranty replaced.

In the eight years of using this suit, I have put it through it’s paces. I used it in the Ocean extensively, both Pacific and Atlantic, on various whitewater trips, on calm rivers, and on the lake. Generally speaking, I have been pleased with the suit and it has not let me down.

I believe with any drysuit, regardless of material, if you aren’t sweating in it, you probably aren’t expending much effort. To that end, I think it ends up being hard to quantify the actual breathability of the Hydrus 3.0 L material outside of perhaps a lab environment.

I certainly almost always come out of the suit wet, but with the proper type of layers, I’ve rarely had issues where I was uncomfortably wet(see 2023 update) during paddling and compared to other types of suits, where I have seen paddlers pour water out after a long session, I think this one compares well.

Since my original purchase, the cost of these suits has increased by approximately 38%, however the Gortex Meridian has similarly increased and MSRP is currently $400 more expensive than the Hydrus version. From a design perspective, other than the metal zipper and the Gortex material, I believe the two suits are otherwise very similar, so I’m still not convinced the Gortex fabric is worth paying $400 more for, especially with a brand like Kokatat, where they stand behind their work with a good warranty and craftmanship. With that said, the suit was warranty replaced due to delamination after 8 seasons, so this probably bears some consideration.

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.

Update 11/2019 – I replaced the wrist gaskets

Update 9/2021 – I updated the neck gasket again.

Update 11/2023 – On my final cold water paddle of 2023, I believe around March, after 8 seasons of use, the front entry zipper got stuck and one of the teeth broke.

While I did use Zip Tech Lubricant on it, I was not as diligent as I probably should have been and it is possible this was the root cause, although I suspect I may have damaged it, or at least put it over the edge, while trying to get it unstuck as well. (As an aside, if your zipper ever gets stuck, don’t try to force it and take time to try to clean and get it working again)

After some debate, and looking at the cost of a new suit which starts at around $1100 now, compared to around $800 MSRP when I originally purchased mine, I decided it was worth it to get it fixed and then likely buy a new suit, with this one being used as a spare.

The process for a zipper replacement is much more involved than gaskets and I also wanted to have Kokatat test the suit and properly fix a couple patches I had done years ago. So, I decided to pay to have the zipper fixed. I washed it thoroughly and packaged up the suit and sent it off. About three weeks later, I received notice that they had found some delamination and were warranty replacing the suit.

While washing it, I had noticed one spot in particular that looked off and I did seem to be a bit wetter than usual on my last few paddles with it. Although that can be hard to judge and could be unrelated, as it could also be a leaky gasket, small hole, or just the fact that towards the end of the season, you almost always end up at a point where it is really a bit too warm to wear the suit, but the water is still pretty cold.

I think my main take away, other than the fact that Kokatat stands behind their warranty, is that it is worth paying them to replace the gaskets at least once every few times. This is because while repairing the gaskets they will not only pressure test and inspect the suit, but, I imagine within reason, they will also patch the suit to fix any small holes and ensure it is in good condition.

The new suit is similar, but has some improvements, including a velcro patch over the front relief zipper and I look forward to (hopefully) getting at least as many more years out of the replacement suit.

8 thoughts on “Gear Review: Kokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian

    1. Jonathan, sorry for the delay in the response.

      Yes, I am still pleased with it. I am on my second season now and the suit still seems to be holding up well. I went out yesterday for a nice New Years paddle with it!

      At the end of this season, I am going to do a short follow up review(or at least an edit to this review) so that I can comment on how it has held up after two years of use.

  1. Hi are you still happy with it? I am also thinking about options as winter is now starting in new Zealand

  2. Yes, still going strong and no major issues. I developed two small pin holes in the bootie sometime last year, which I noticed this winter. I patched them both and haven’t had any other issues.

    This summer, I am going to replace the gaskets and probably send it off to Kokatat for a leak test.

    I’ve talked to one person who has had delamination issues with their Hydrus 3l Drytop, but I have used my drysuit rather extensively, at least during winter months, for the past couple years now and haven’t had any issues. I’ve also talked with people who have had delamination in their gortex so I’m not sure his issues were exclusivly an issue with the Hydrus material, which also carries a lifetime warranty.

  3. Thank you for your review:) Helped me a lot. Especially others follow up questions every year that are you still happy or would you still buy it again. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for the review! I’m wondering if you still have the same drysuit after 4 years and whether it has held up ok? Thanks

  5. Hi John, insightful review. I am comparing the Gtex and Hydrus 3 Meridian suits.
    Hows your Hydrus suite doing now, 5 years on?
    Thanks and Happy paddling

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