Layer me up!!

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Grian
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Layer me up!!

Post by Grian »

Please help me dress head to toe for cold water immersion, bearing in mind the following criteria...

a) versatility, ideally the top layer to be wearable in spring / summer

b) ease of taking 'comfort breaks' for a female - drop seat may not be the solution as folding kayak seat has a high back and it might catch there on re-entry.

c) manoeuvrability, I'll be attempting self-rescues a great deal

d) warmth, I feel the cold at the best of times and once cold find it hard to warm up, hands and feet tend to go numb if there is a seam or pressure - most neoprene gloves have this effect.

e) dryness... I am thinking the reed paddle suit for example may otherwise meet these criteria but is not as dry as others?

This looks quite nice as a winter base layer, does anyone have experience of it please? http://www.immersionresearch.eu/product ... nion-suit/

Thank you!

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by ruralweb »

The reed paddle suit is NOT for you. As the name implies it is a paddling suit intended for infrequent swims NOT a dry suit - it will leak round the neck and wrists if your spending lots of time in the water also it's quite delicate so lots of rescue practice will result in damage
Mal

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MikeB
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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by MikeB »

Well, while it's at the other end of the spend scale, my partner ended up with a Kokatat women specific drysuit and a Palm one piece undersuit which has a drop seat. She reports that the combination works well.

This said, the drop seat zip arrangement on the K/tat suit may catch on a high'ish backrest. She has no problems with the backrest in her Capella though. Certainly worth checking if at all possible with your specific boat.

Other options to consider might be the Peak suits with their slightly unusual leg entry system. Although a female pal of mine has one, and says it's not the perfect solution. Catherine considered it and didn't like it much either.

As to other thermal layers, I use Arc'teryx tops and bottoms, and find them excellent. So that sort of set-up would allow you to drop the bottoms as necessary. They come in different weights / thickness. I often layer with two different weights and find that combination works really well in winter - then I just use the medium weight ones for the rest of the year. They have a nice neck opening (with a zip) and that also adds to temperature control as you can either have a nice high collar, or a v neck opening.

I'd also suggest a "buff" - I find the latex neck seal on a drysuit doesn't keep me warm, and even with the neck of my thermals closed to the high collar, I'll be much warmer if I put a fleece buff on top. And of course some form of hat.

I'm much against gloves. They can make life difficult in a rescue as anything thick enough to provide warmth will probably make it difficult to grab decklines and deal with spraydecks. For me, I found the ideal compromise to be open-palm mittens. These provide plenty of warmth in use, but you can quickly remove either the entire hand, or even just thumb and index finger, and then quickly put them back in. If you've had to take the gloves off, it's a hassle getting them back on. Pogies are also popular, but my experience with them isn't good. Some years ago, during a rescue, I was left with useless hands after about 15 mins - that's when I went to the open palm mittens.

Hope this helps.

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Grian
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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Grian »

Very helpful indeed, thanks.

I'm prepared to spend more to ensure maximum comfort, having reassessed my dodgy false accounting system my priority is safety and comfort not cheapness!

The open palm mits sound like they might be the thing if its possible to get fingers out easily. I saw a pair of glove-mit hybrids recently, closed mitten back, open palm, separate finger slots - however they made it difficult to release the spraydeck following a capsize, despite being thin it wasn't possible to feel through them very well, so I'm quite nervous about that risk. It may be that if my core is well insulated my hands will suffer much less than otherwise and so it won't be an issue anyway. But would be good to have something along in case I really needed to warm up at any time, numb fingers being as risky as gloves!

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by MartinG »

I hate wearing gloves for paddling, sometimes they slip along the paddle which is very bad news. I feel that I've less control over the paddle too. During winter I have some Lomo gloves that I put on just before getting out of the boat. They keep my hands from cooling down quickly as soon as I stop paddling.

Keeping your wrists warm is really important for warm hands. Make sure you've got full length sleeves or thin fleece tubes to put over your lower arms. You can make them from old fleeces. It makes all the difference. Latex seems rubbish for warmth.

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Grian
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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Grian »

Thanks Martin, wrist warmth makes a big difference to me in everyday situations so that makes sense, in fact I wonder what I could fashion that would in effect make an extended cuff over my wrist and the back of my hand... fleece would just get wet I guess. I notice the stuffing for the buffalo line of clothing maintains warmth even when wet, maybe something made with that kind of material would do the trick.

I'm going to look again at the blog post of Douglas's where it was so cold the water was freezing on their paddle shafts - surely they had something on their hands!! I'm sure i'm coming across as a right sissy but the only time I paddled through sea that had thin ice my hands were so cold that on getting back to land I had to operate the house key with it poking out of my clenched fist, I'd still got feeling but no dexterity! I wonder if I'd have been able to operate a radio or plb, never mind reattach a spraydeck...

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by MikeB »

MartinG wrote: Latex seems rubbish for warmth.
Yes - the other possible problem is most latex cuffs are quite often so tight, they probably don't help blood supply to the hands. One of the secondary benefits of the openpalm mitts I mentioned is that the cuffs are long enough to cover the latex seals, which I find helps a lot with warmth.

For on-shore, Catherine has some thin gloves she often uses - they are actually intended as liners for thicker mountain type gloves. They work extremely well - you can actually even eat wearing them. I've just reminded myself I need to get some. Around £25 though.

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Jonathan. »

If you can afford it, Kokatat is not to be beaten and will keep you comfortable - and safe - where other drysuits won't.

I seem to remember reading about a new Kokatat cag, and bib and trousers that could be worn either as separates or worn zipped together as a drysuit. Don't know if it's available in the UK or in women's styles, and it won't be a cheap option.

But worth investigating, perhaps?
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Grian
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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Grian »

Its their 'switch zip' system, and it is here, and it is in women's styles... I am hoping someone will have a cheaper alternative because it really seems to tick all the boxes. Except, a) their designer must be a man, the only explanation behind a top with a broad band of colour across the middle, on a garment already unflattering b) its obviously eye-wateringly expensive. But its value-for-money that counts!

Would anyone like to buy a pair of binoculars...

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by elveys »

I'm on my second IR union suit. First one lasted about 6 years and then started to wear the knees through (open boating). I consider it to be one of my best bits of paddling gear. I don't find it gets too warm in milder weather, it dries quick, is warm when wet and very comfy. I tend to wear it under a drysuit or separates and only very occasionally do I feel the need to add an extra layer on top. This is the male version so not sure about the rear relief system on the female version. Always amazes me how the neck goes back after I've climbed into it!

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by GrahamC »

I like pogies if it is cold and windy, not the neoprene sort but flat heat reflective (Suzy) ones from Marsport. They are meant for marathon paddlers and are very easy to get in and out of. I also have a Reed Chillcheater balaclava. I keep this is in a small waterproof bag in my BA (so it stays dry and doesn't get wet smelly if I don't use it). It is great for immersion, rolling in ice water is no problem and also in cold driving rain. I will also second (third or fourth) the Kokatat drysuit - its breathability lets you dress for immersion without overheating too much.

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Grian
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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Grian »

I find it really hard to believe you can get in and out of the IR suit NECK without stretching it irreversibly!

Reed balaclava added to list.

Really no other company seems to be in the kokatat league...

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by MikeB »

Grian wrote: Reed balaclava added to list.

Really no other company seems to be in the kokatat league...
I have a Reed skull cap - it's great. Not fond of the rest of their kit. Correct - K/tat is in a league of it's own. There really is no substitute for Goretex. We've not mentioned socks. Warm ones are good - -

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Jonathan. »

If you have a trip to the US planned, you might want to do any Kokatat shopping stateside where it is significantly cheaper.
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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by PlymouthDamo »

A warning about Kokatat: whilst their gear is undoubtedly well-constructed, and they're the only company Goretex allow to make paddle-suits, their customer service is unbelievably bad. You will read stories about Kokatat delighting their customers by replacing old Goretex drysuits with brand new ones, however my understanding is that this only happens where a problem can be attributed to the Goretex material itself (i.e. delamination) so it will be the Goretex manufacturer that foots the bill. Last year, I had to contact both Kokatat and Palm about problems with their products. Palm were exemplary, whereas Kokatat's level of customer service was something that a lazy disinterested teenage shoe-shop assistant from the 1970s could only dream of.

As for their products: yes, their Goretex drysuits are probably the best on the market. However, I'm not a fan of full drysuits for paddling as I seriously overheat in summer. Therefore, I was interested in a two-piece solution, which would allow me to mix and match tops and bottoms as necessary. Kokatat have two options: (1) the Icon suit where the trousers attach to the cag via a waterproof zip and (2) the Whirlpool bib trousers which have a clever alternative to a zip to attach them to the dry cag.

I wouldn't touch their Icon drysuit with a bargepole. Yes, I'm sure it's excellent, but if anything goes wrong with that zip, then you're stuffed - it's a proprietary item and the clowns at Kokatat would have a field day ignoring whatever you tell them and finding different ways of telling you to get stuffed. As a diver, I know that zips on drysuits can be problematic and expensive - but at least they are universally-available, so you're not forced to go back to a particular manufacturer to get them replaced. The other problem is that if you wanted to mix-and-match different tops with the trousers, you're limited to Kokatat's mega-expensive products, fitted with that proprietary zip.

Their Whirlpool bib trousers are a clever-but-flawed idea. That's what I'm using, and although they don't keep the water out, they are well-made, and as I don't swim very often, and tend to stick close to shore, I'm persevering for now. However, knowing what I do now, if I was looking for a new dry suit system, I'd make my own improved version of the Whirlpool. Very easy to do - get a set of high waisted dry-trousers and fit (sew then glue then apply seam-repair tape) a long external skirt (silicone rubber) on the outside, and do the same on the internal skirt on a dry cag. Both skirts would need to hang down as far as your thighs so you could roll them up together to your waist. You could make some velcro straps to hold this rolled-up section in place round your waist, or just stick with kokatat's approach - i.e. pull your spray-deck over it. This would be easy to put on and take off, be 100% dry and you could quickly/cheaply convert as many cags as you like to work with the system.

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Jonathan. »

That's not my experience with Kokatat.

http://www.systemxeurope.com, Kokatat's UK-outlet, has now had my drysuit for pressure-testing and patching on three occasions, and I've been delighted with their service.

They do the job quickly, they don't leave you guessing about any stage of the process, and their charges are clearly set out on their website. Doubtless, I shall use them again in a few months.
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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Owen »

Lomo undersuits are cheap and warm, usually just wear a thermal Tee-shirt underneath anything else will be to hot even when it icy. No female releve zip though. Reed balaclavas are fantastic. Palm short neoprene poggies are much easier to get into than the long ones. For the feet, wool walkers socks inside your dry suit and Lomo boots outside.

You can spend £1000 on a Kokatat suit or you can get a cheaper suit, the chance of ripping the material on barnacles first time out is the same. The cheaper suit is less painful to replace.

For food stops etc having a storm cag/old army poncho to throw on over everything including your BA will help stop you getting chilled.

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by PlymouthDamo »

Jonathan. wrote:That's not my experience with Kokatat.

http://www.systemxeurope.com, Kokatat's UK-outlet, has now had my drysuit for pressure-testing and patching on three occasions, and I've been delighted with their service.

They do the job quickly, they don't leave you guessing about any stage of the process, and their charges are clearly set out on their website. Doubtless, I shall use them again in a few months.
My bad experience with Kokatat kicked off with a phone call to SystemX. They tried to convince me that, as I'd bought the 'Hydrus' rather than Goretex version, the severe water ingress I was experiencing was normal. SystemX only dropped this line after I'd been in direct contact with Kokatat (who certainly didn't want that claim made about their product) after which, it was then claimed that I was donning them incorrectly.

I suspect the contrast in our experiences with SystemX/Kokatat is that my problem concerned a fundamental design-flaw, rather than a straightforward repair. Essentially, Kokatat's Whirlpool system won't work because the skirts are far too short, and too uneven, to create enough smooth rolls to keep the water out in the way that a dry-bag does. I'd suggested a number of options to Kokatat to rectify this, but they were not going to play ball.

I'll hold my hands up to having a jaundiced view of Kokatat/SystemX based purely on my one and only experience of them - they may well be much better than I say they are. However, I can be entirely objective about my main point i.e. the design flaw in their product. I've worked out why their double-skirt system doesn't work, and in doing so this has highlighted a cheap and easy home-modification which should make most 2-piece drysuits work.

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Jonathan. »

If you're worried about the possibility of buying something with a serious design flaw, then surely the solution is easy?

A bit of online research should surface any critical magazine reviews and reports by disgruntled customers. After all, anyone who has paid the best part of a thousand quid for a drysuit that leaks and puts them in danger of hypothermia is likely to have a sense of grievance they want to share with fellow paddlers.

The one time that approach fails is if you're at the front of the queue for something nobody else has got. Which is one reason I'm rarely keen to be an early adopter. Much better to learn from others' hard won experience.

As for Owen's point -

"You can spend £1000 on a Kokatat suit or you can get a cheaper suit, the chance of ripping the material on barnacles first time out is the same. The cheaper suit is less painful to replace."

Don't know about other manufacturers but it's worth remembering that Kokatat suits can be patched and their life extended significantly. You gets what you pays for.
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Grian
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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Grian »

A new version of their first totally zippable suit http://www.systemxeurope.com/products/k ... juvnmxybwh

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by PlymouthDamo »

Jonathan. wrote:If you're worried about the possibility of buying something with a serious design flaw, then surely the solution is easy?

A bit of online research should surface any critical magazine reviews and reports by disgruntled customers. After all, anyone who has paid the best part of a thousand quid for a drysuit that leaks and puts them in danger of hypothermia is likely to have a sense of grievance they want to share with fellow paddlers.

The one time that approach fails is if you're at the front of the queue for something nobody else has got. Which is one reason I'm rarely keen to be an early adopter. Much better to learn from others' hard won experience.
At the time I was buying I had absolutely no suspicion or worries about any serious design flaw - I happily skipped into the shop with a fist-full of money, ready to buy what I thought was going to be a great bit of expensive kit from a top-end manufacturer. I was naively confident, as these bibs have been around for nearly 10 years and I'd done all the online research I could. Try it yourself: other than a silly pixelated YouTube video of someone putting them on, all you'll find are a few reviews, often conflicting, but all failing to critically assess how, and whether, the unique double-skirt-sealing design works. I've now rectified that - any potential purchasers Googling this kit, will now find my posts warning about the too-short, too-creased double-skirt system. This at least gives them the heads-up to check for themselves whilst trying them on in the shop, instead of doing a 'King Canute' like I did: i.e.kidding myself that two or three rolls of creased fabric would be enough to keep the sea at bay.

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Owen »

Jonathan. wrote: As for Owen's point -

"You can spend £1000 on a Kokatat suit or you can get a cheaper suit, the chance of ripping the material on barnacles first time out is the same. The cheaper suit is less painful to replace."

Don't know about other manufacturers but it's worth remembering that Kokatat suits can be patched and their life extended significantly. You gets what you pays for.
Yes you can patch suits, and not just Kokatat ones, but it won't be as strong or as reliable as the original material. You get what you pay for but is a fancy label worth that much more than the rest, I don't think so.

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by MikeB »

I got my K/tat suit in 2008. It's absolutely fine. And I accept that what counts is days paddling, of which it's had a few! It had one warranty repair which was free and quick, and has been to SystemX for testing and a few small patches. Cost for that was very reasonable, and quick service too.

I was very impressed with my first K/tat cag which had about 5 years of heavy use and, other than wear and tear to the shoulders from ba straps, was essentially otherwise fine when I sold it. It was even on it's original wrist seals.

I am rather less impressed with the replacement cag I have to say. The material is lighter than the one it replaced, which was the heavy G/tex used in the drysuit. Bought in 2012, this cag had worn through in some places by mid 2015! I have to say I wasn't impressed with K/tat who merely quoted "wear and tear" and eventually I took it up with SystemX who patched them for free, and even replaced the wrist seals as a gesture of goodwill. Now, it's fine and nicely faded.

While I would have preferred a £500 cag to have been a bit more durable (!) I accept that it is very comfortable to wear, and the breathability FAR exceeds the so-called breathable Palm cag I had for a year between K/tat ones. On the subject of Palm, my Palm sallys lasted a year before leaking - they do indeed have excellent customer service and they replaced them. The replacements leaked after a bit and Palm repaired them with a replacement seat panel. Now, as they are out of warranty, I just accept that I'll come off the water with a rather damp bum. If, however, I've been wearing the K/tat drysuit, I'm 100% dry other than a little dampness round the chest. Which is understandable as I'm wearing a neoprene s/deck and a ba, so "breathing" through that lot isn't happening.

I appreciate that there is a fairly big gap between a Lomo suit and a K/tat one in terms of price. I also recall standing on the beach one lunchtime, after a morning spent doing wet rescues and such-like, and watching one of my pals literally emptying his Lomo suit of a considerable amount of water. And it wasn't sweat either.

Will I buy more K/tat? Yes, because it fits, I like it and it works. It is, however, eye-wateringly expensive. But nothing beats G/tex. I can't comment on the roll-together-seal concept, except to say that I paddle with someone who uses it and has found no issues. He does report that it's not 100% watertight, but doesn't expect it to be.

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by PlymouthDamo »

MikeB wrote:I got my K/tat suit in 2008. It's absolutely fine.
From what I've heard, I've no doubt they're excellent. I've got one in the boot of my car waiting to be delivered after I replaced a torn neckseal - having had a good look at how it's put together, it's clear that it's a well-made bit of kit. Still, a bit of competition in the market wouldn't hurt, i.e. another manufacturer being licensed to use Goretex or one of its high-end alternatives.

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Irish Sea »

PlymouthDamo wrote:
MikeB wrote:I got my K/tat suit in 2008. It's absolutely fine.
From what I've heard, I've no doubt they're excellent. I've got one in the boot of my car waiting to be delivered after I replaced a torn neckseal - having had a good look at how it's put together, it's clear that it's a well-made bit of kit. Still, a bit of competition in the market wouldn't hurt, i.e. another manufacturer being licensed to use Goretex or one of its high-end alternatives.

The Sweet Intergalactic uses Gore-Tex:

http://www.sweetprotection.com/whitewat ... it&pid=832

"the new Intergalactic dry suit is constructed entirely of the toughest GORE-TEX® PRO ever made.

With its Ocean Technology® membrane it is the best laminate GORE has on offer. It is especially made to perform under the most gruelling condition from the wildest and coldest remote rivers to sailing in the Antarctic Ocean. The textured Polyester face of the laminate is extremely durable as well as being static and will prevent any clinging effect to your body. All pockets and details are stitched and taped for extra reinforcement."

Looks like an interesting bit of kit. Probably more targeted towards the whitewater paddling crowd. Roughly the same price range as the Kokatat suits I think.

Anybody got experience with this one?

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by MikeB »

Interesting. A pity they don't offer a sea cag / suit. (With a hood).

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Robert Craig »

MikeB wrote: ... I am rather less impressed with the replacement cag I have to say. The material is lighter than the one it replaced, which was the heavy G/tex used in the drysuit. Bought in 2012, this cag had worn through in some places by mid 2015! ...
Similar experience with the same [Kokatak] jacket. Mine bought about 2011, leaking badly. I've just sent it off to SystemS with a repair request, but I'm not hopeful that it's repairable. I'll report here.

Before it leaked, the jacket was wonderfully effective at keeping me dry from both rain and sweat (I don't do swimming). I could paddle day after day in the same clothes, whereas those paddling with me were always damp at th end of teh day.

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Robert Craig
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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Robert Craig »

Message from System X

"Hi Robert

We just got your cag today and after an initial inspection we would have to say that it is beyond servicing.

I will return the Jacket along with the cheque that you sent on Monday.

Regards"

A bummer after so few years ... it's cost me several pounds every time I've put it on

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by MikeB »

That's a bummer. Not fabulous is it? I have a Goretex outdoor jacket which was bought 2007 and only retired this year. Worn almost everyday as a general purpose jacket, also as my hill jacket, it's got no noticeable wear in the places the K/tat cag did, and is to all intents and purposes still perfectly serviceable. Oh, and it's replacement cost less than half what it will cost to replace the K/tat.

While I like K/tat - they really need to look seriously as the product. Unless the current offering is using improved material over my 2012 cag (which is presumably the same as yours) then it has to be questioned whether it is actually fit for purpose. Like you, I find it's very effective. But clearly not very hard wearing.

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Re: Layer me up!!

Post by Grian »

Thats disappointing, to say the least! Is this issue with durability limited to the cags, or are more recent drysuits also less sturdy?

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