Dec 18, 2012 at 11:59 am #1297170
Companion forum thread to:Dec 18, 2012 at 3:14 pm #1936413
@richard295Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Great job on your comprehensive and balanced review!Dec 18, 2012 at 5:43 pm #1936463
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
If the bottom is most at risk of abrasion I wonder if the top and bottom could be separated? Getting your bottom half wet would be bad but not as bad as getting completely wet.Dec 18, 2012 at 8:41 pm #1936518
@holdfastLocale: Bergen, Norway
Great review and superb use of the video medium. A glimpse into the future of BPL gear reviews?Dec 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm #1936530
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
I'm impressed the neck gasket shipped so little water during a WW swim. My experiences with such things have been rather different.Dec 18, 2012 at 9:54 pm #1936532
It's finicky, and takes some practice to secure properly (as with anything, I suppose, right?).
It's helpful to have a second person crank on it tight so you know what your limits of comfort are. When you find the limit, that's how tight you want it.
When watching others secure the neck gasket, they invariably (instinctively, perhaps?) made it too loose. When I'm helping someone else, I tend to choke them first, then back off. I suppose that's because I come from a whitewater latex tunnel rock-n-roll background rather than a zip-t trail hippie background (ah sorry! couldn't resist!).
Anyway, when I swam (sans PFD), my neck spent a bit of time below the surface and yes, water seeps in. Probably wicks along the inner surface of the neoprene.
But when I swam (even whitewater) with my whitewater PFD (I'm wearing that one in the swim segment in the video) – you can see how high that makes me ride. So when I was in whitewater, I just bobbed up and down and went under the surface intermittently only — so not a lot of opportunity for water entry there.Dec 18, 2012 at 9:56 pm #1936533
Joe — perhaps. Experimenting. I like doing video reviews in combination with a written summary type review that hits the high points like this. We're looking at refining and standardizing our reviews further so this is one of those experiments.Dec 18, 2012 at 10:44 pm #1936543
I know I mentioned the desire to have a 3L WPB fabric in a UL drysuit, but I also hope Alpacka takes a look at the new 2.5L eVENT.
I have the Westcomb Focus LT Hoody that uses this fabric and it may just be my favorite WPB fabric in terms of feel (and I'm sure I won't be disappointed by its breathability).
It's only a little stiffer, which I think is good for a garment that spends a lot of time wet. Having the garment plastered next to your inner layers, which is what happens with really supple fabrics, doesn't bode well for breathability, or insulating ability.
2.5L eVENT with a stiff-ish taslan face fabric just may be the perfect fabric for this application. It would be worth the extra $100 over the Pertex used currently in the Stowaway…Dec 19, 2012 at 6:22 am #1936575
@fluffinreach-comLocale: no. california
Thanks Ryan !
this is sooo cool. a pakboat + dry suit combo opens up all manner of possibilities for northern lunacy.
there's just about nothing a guy couldn't get across with them, and a sense of humor.
it would be nice to fall thru bad ice (which occasionally happens and there's not much to be done about it), and it not be quite so interesting an experience.
it does however sort of have the aroma of "gear bloat" to it though.
i can see the "i need a backpack, and an alpacka, and a pakboat, and a sled, and a new drysuit, and a parka …. looming on the horizon.
nice work Ryan.
ps… RHIP .
one can not help but notice that our Ryan gets the alpha cool drysuit review, while others handle the more prosaic subjects, like "menstrual distress at high altitude", "green phlem, and tarp camping", etc …
ahh.. it's good to be the king.Dec 19, 2012 at 9:11 am #1936609
Daryl and DarylParticipant
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Please forgive me if this was addressed in the video. My computer's sound isn't working so I could only watch the visual portion of the video.
Doesn't condensation build up inside the suit?
I think I would be soaking wet in no time with a fully enclosed suit…even a waterproof/breathable one.Dec 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm #1936692
@Daryl, Yes condensation does buildup in a breathable drysuit. It is still better than any other option. Anything more breathable would be unsafe in cold water paddling.
I often go all day wearing a drysuit in the winter. The condensation does build up, but I'm still dry enough to be warm.
I also tend to take breaks when possible and open it up to air out.
Regarding the price:
I have worn out two drysuits and being that this one is probably less durable than the drysuits I wear, I'd be afraid to pay that much money for one.
The only consideration is that you tend to not wear one for long periods of time when packrafting so wear may not be an issue?Dec 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm #1936748
Stephen brings up a good point regarding wear/durability in the context of packrafting vs. say, kayaking.
A packrafting dry suit may be subject to more wear than a regular dry suit because it will be used more for:
1. Non-paddling activities (rain gear, bushwhacking, etc.).
2. More packrafters exit their boat in flips, so swimming involves more banging/scraping on rocks, desperate lunges in tamaracks, scrambling to the shore, and other epic panics. Kayakers tend to eskimo roll back into leisure. (this doesn't apply to the select few who've mod'd their boats with thigh straps and have mastered the eskimo roll in a packraft).
For "hard" whitewater (this is whitewater where I know I'm going to be swimming a bit), even on a wilderness trip, I may opt for a more durable dry suit. Then again, I may not be doing that type of water on a wilderness trip due to risk of something bad going wrong in a remote environment.
The scenario where I think the Stowaway will shine are long packrafting treks with moderate whitewater in foul climates or shoulder seasons. For me, this is springtime in the Northern Rockies when the rivers open up through the end of "cold water (runoff) season" — late March through mid-July — Bob Marshall Wilderness and Teton Wilderness ski-rafting and trek-rafting come to mind.
Also – for travel. I'd happily toss the Stowaway into my checked airline bag with my packraft to run the occasional roadside whitewater on a business trip. It's half the bulk of my regular drysuit.Dec 19, 2012 at 7:00 pm #1936765
Thanks for the superb review, Ryan. Probably one of the finer gear reviews on the site, if not the entire web, right now.
Any chance that the Focus LT will be considered for a review? I hear Westcomb puts out some quality gear, but finding unbiased evaluations of their newest jackets surprisingly has been next to impossible
-JamesDec 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm #1936777
Yes, Focus LT Hoody review in the queue. Here's the short version: superb breathability; excellent fit, styling, detail finishing; decent hood; great wrist cuffs; good articulation; but – 9.2 oz…size M. Definitely not the ultralight jacket we were all hoping for.Dec 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm #1937001
In Vermont we're doing a lot of Nordic Skating on lakes when conditions are good i.e. no snow and smooth ice. Do you think this suit would stand up to sudden falls through the ice without getting punctured?Dec 21, 2012 at 11:25 pm #1937359
However, even if it did get punctured, you are going to slow water entry enough so that you have time to crawl out.
Good application of this dry suit.
My concern would be the breathability. I think cardio nordic skating in this thing would be miserable.
RyanDec 24, 2012 at 3:02 am #1937868
@sparticusLocale: Atlantic Canada
What size drysuit were you testing? If it is not to personal a question, what is you hight and weight? It would help with sizing perspective. Alpacka told me that for someone 6'1" and 200 lbs to go with a large, but I'm curious if that would be a tight fit.
Yours looks like it is a very loose fit.Jan 1, 2013 at 11:09 pm #1940089
@mckittreLocale: Seldovia, Alaska
I'm surprised you'd really use it to replace rain gear on a trip. I find almost all raingear gets trashed so quickly (granted, this is generally with lots of off-trail use in cold and wet parts of Alaska where raingear is needed much of the time) that I can't imagine risking the drysuit that way. I guess you could put it under cheaper raingear when walking, though, and probably reduce the weight of insulation you otherwise need to be comfortable rafting in cold conditions?Jan 2, 2013 at 7:02 am #1940133
I think it would be fine for occasional trail or in camp use. If your trek involves a lot of hiking or some bushwhacking you'd better think twice.Jan 16, 2013 at 6:16 pm #1944519
@romandialLocale: packrafting NZ
Nice review, Ryan.
Having had to bushwack in even the beefy Kokatat dry suit for days in devils club mixed with alder and bark-beetle kill, I found even the heavy duty drysuit gets hurt. But it is a nice, warm set up when walking through the car-wash brush of rainy coastal Alaska.
What I would like to experiment with is a superlight drysuit like Alpacka's but with a burly wind garment worn on the outside for protection. Maybe somebody here could suggest a material (Kevlar?). The burly wind garment (two piece/top and bottom) could also be used as simple wind gear for non-rain situations as it can get chilly walking around in adrysuit in simple wind, even the "breathable ones" because of the high humidity in the suit convects heat faster — unless a vapor barrier suit is worn first.
This latter point suggest that it might be possible to go a step further and use the comfy Stephenson vapor barrier top and bottoms inside a superlight and maybe not so breathable (but cheaper) one-piece dry suit, again with a burly wind cover.
The vapor barrier keeps insulation dry from sweat, the drysuit from rain and river water, and the wind jacket keeps abrasion to the light suit at a minimum.
The scenario described above is a new take on the problem of how to dress for everything, land and water, while keeping insulation dry and not having to use waterproof gear for windy conditions.Mar 3, 2013 at 5:44 pm #1961020
Although a good insurance policy in winter, is a drysuit necessary if one were to do 100% flat water, like a very slow, calm river?
Or could I get by fine with the things I already have: neoprene socks, farmer john wetsuit, appropriate base layers and insulation (fleece), rain jacket, neoprene mitts, and hat.Mar 3, 2013 at 6:59 pm #1961049
@Travis, The problem with neoprene is that it is heavy, especially a 3mm farmer john. I had considered a drytop and farmer john combination because it would be more durable over time than a drysuit, but the weight made it not a good option for me.
It might be fine if you don't mind the extra weight, but I'd combine it with a drytop for cold water.Mar 3, 2013 at 7:05 pm #1961052
Thanks Stephen. If I were to go out in winter, it'd be on a pretty rare basis. Most of the packrafting water here is either too dangerous in winter (Great Lakes), frozen over (small streams and inland lakes), or too far away. So the cost of a drysuit isn't really worth it.
I can deal with the weight of the neoprene as I'm not carrying it far or long. But if I decide to go out and try it, maybe I can pick up a used drytop somewhere.Mar 3, 2013 at 7:48 pm #1961065
@Travis, you can fined reasonably good drytops in the $200 to $300 range. My expericance has shown that a farmer john wetsuit with a relatively inexpensive drytop can last much longer in adverse conditions, but as stated the combination is much heavier and not recomended by many in very cold conditions.
I am not of that opnion, because of the reliability aspect. Drysuits are much less reliable and so in rough conditions, the drytop/wetuit combo is safer.
Jon Turk, the famous arctic kayak expedition dude, wrote about the problem he had with drysuits and the reason he ended up with the farmer john wetsuit/drytop combination.
My experiences have been similar to his, but I'd have to say that for packrafting I'd stick with the drysuit only because my handicap required that I pack light.
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