KOKATAT GMER DRY SUIT AND WOOL CORE REVIEW
BY KYLE SMITH
Kyle’s already done a Kokatat GMER review for us. Since the weather is cooling off, we figured that it was time for another review on this legendary piece of gear. This guys has put his dry suit through more abuse than just about any paddler out there; let’s check in and see how it’s holding up for him.
The Himalayas can be cold, very cold. Snow running from the peaks of massive mountains such as Everest provide some chilly river conditions. It is not a place that you want to go without a drysuit. This is a fact. I found this out on one sunny day as a team from the US, including myself, bombed through whitewater that seemed to double in size each time we whizzed past larger and larger tributaries. We started out on a moderately sized creek. Now we were flying down a steep Indian river with no clue where we were going or what lay downstream. I suppose this is the nature of checking off first descents some times.
Coming around the corner of one particularly large and committing rapid, we began to be funneled into a tighter and tighter channel. Little did I know, it was about to terminate in a big water 15-footer before continuing to rage downstream. No-one said anything about waterfalls! Needless to say, exhausted with forearms pumping, I plugged the drop and found myself underneath the curtain being hammered by a significant portion of the flow, or so I thought.
Out of breath amongst the dark chaos, I pulled my skirt. I swam in the cold brown Himalayan waters of the Karun…like a fish. Making it to shore, I watched as my boat dipped around the corner into the unknown.
Throughout my time in the Himalayas, paddling and exploring the regions whitewater, I practically lived in my Kokatat GMER. We shared some special moments. Moments that can only come from exploring Arunanchal Pradesh, India while afflicted by dysentery.
Paddling through the glacier melt of Southern Patagonia’s Rio Bravo in April only reinforced my love for this drysuit and the Kokatat layering system this past spring. I watched Santi, one of my paddling partners, recirculate in an eddy wearing only a drytop and an old stohlquist fleece after taking a massive hole ride with another boat surfing atop him. A total of 4 people swam within that 100 yard stretch that day, brutal. 3 out of 4 were wearing a Kokatat GMER. Hypothermia would set in for 1 of them as we searched for his lost Remix 79 for 2 more hours. Santi paddled my boat to avoid losing more body heat. I clung to the back of another paddlers boat and swam through rapid after rapid of glacial melt, dry in my Kokatat GMER, my hands like blocks of ice.
I have used the same Kokatat drysuit now for nearly 4 years. To remember just how many missions it has been on I have to label the locations: Pacific Northwest Little White land, Idaho bigwater world, Nepal, Indian intestinal terror fest, New Zealand sand fly city, Washington season of wetness, South Fork Slammin Salmon, NorthFork Hootenanny, 5 months of Futalefeu, Oregon, Idahome Creekin, Colorado Crush fest and then some. I have sent it in twice to Arcata for servicing, which is just a hop skip and a jump for the Postal Service no matter where you are in the US. The Kokatat GMER is a work horse, it will work hard for you, but you have to give it some love every now and again. You don’t buy a car, let the engine-oil burn out and throw away the vehicle. After the sweet little old ladies at Kokatat patch up the beatings that I put on this piece of equipment with love, I know that I can be confident that it’s dry once again. This time, I look inside at all of the patches with pride, battle-scars of adventures past. If you think that drygear should never get holes in it, you obviously haven’t hiked through enough briar/blackberry patches. Where I would have turned most dry gear into fancy fishing waders by now with the slice of a knife and a tube of aquaseal, I continue to trust my Kokatat GMER for the most intense and grueling missions of all.
The best part about Kokatat? The warranty is insane. Their dry gear is backed by a lifetime guarantee from both Kokatat and GORE, the producer of GORE-TEX. BoomBam! No other company has that going on as far as I know.
Also, they have some incredible layers that have been engineered to mate specifically with Gore-Tex material. The Kokatat PolarTec PowerDry material has been engineered from the depths of Kokatats basement research facility. I like to think of it as a bombproof bunker where dirtbag paddlers can run to in the face of apocalypse. Paddlers will live off of spam and be clad in comfy vapor wicking fleece and merino layers. There will be underground waterfalls and … I digress.
These layers manage body heat and perspiration in collaboration with GORE-TEX dry material extremely well, and the merino-wool mix helps to cut down on that smelly boater funk, a nice function when you find yourself in the same layers for days or weeks at a time.
Other drysuits may be less expensive or may look sexier, but the Kokatat GMER is hands down the most quality suit on the market right now; Not only for it’s quality and durable construction, but for it’s warranty backing, local production and reparation station.
If I retire my Kokatat GMER anytime soon, I will quickly be ordering another one using the GIZMO option, Kokatats personal design program that allows a person to customize the fit to their specific measurements. Who does that!?