Kokatat Whirlpool bib trousers: a clever idea, but...

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PlymouthDamo
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Kokatat Whirlpool bib trousers: a clever idea, but...

Post by PlymouthDamo » Sat Sep 12, 2015 10:31 am

I've always been keen on 2-piece gear as all the drysuits I've ever owned have been made of excessively heavy material, so you boil in the bag. The problem with a 2-piece system is that they just don't keep you dry if you go for a swim. I recently saw a pair of Kokatat Whirlpool Bib trousers in a local retailer and I was very impressed with the idea: basically, they incorporate a long outer skirt that hangs down from the top part of the bibs. This corresponds to the inner skirt you get on most dry cags. All you have to do is roll these two skirts up together, similar to rolling up the neck of a dry bag, and then position your spray deck tube so it holds this rolled up section in position and prevents it from unrolling.

I bought a pair thinking the system should work - it's tried and tested with dry bags. However, it just doesn't, and the two reasons for this are (1) the outer skirt on the trousers (and the inner skirt on the Kokatat cag which I later bought to try and improve matters) are elasticated, so not flat, smooth and uniform in the way that a dry bag opening needs to be, and (2) the skirts are not positioned at a sensible height - by the time you've got 2 and a half rolls in them, you're up by your armpits where the tube of your spraydeck will never reach them, and it's almost impossible to do up the back bit unless you're double-jointed.

Kokatat's customer service, contrary to what I'd been expecting, are truly awful. Their approach is to reply to your emails without reading them with the sole intention of talking their way out of actually lifting a finger to help. Their UK distributor were no better: their opening gambit was to try to convince me that getting drenched within one minute was normal, but after a brief exchange of emails they'd changed their position to that I was using them wrong as they were unaware of anyone else experiencing problems with water ingress like I had.

However... I'm not going to send them back as this idea is a potentially brilliant one for people like me who prefer the flexibility that a 2-piece offers. If you own a sewing machine, 2-part glue and some drysuit seam repair tape, it's quick and easy to customise the skirts on dry trousers/cags, or even add skirts to kit that doesn't have them. Take a pair of normal drytrousers and add an outer skirt (preferably attached at chest-height to bibs, although you could possibly make this work attaching it to the waist of normal trousers) which hangs down to your thighs, then add/alter the skirt on your cag so it matches up. Then you can easily roll the two together several times up to your mid torso where it can be easily clamped under your spray-deck tube. The system may be improved further by using velcro around the hems so that you start by lining up and fastening the two skirts in the correct position before rolling them up.

The materials and the build quality of the Kokatat kit that I've bought seem excellent, so I've got high hopes of having an effective system once I've made the alterations as described above. However, in future I'll buy sensibly-priced kit and make these alterations, e.g. I'm planning on buying/customising a cheapo Palm semi-dry cag to use on the hottest days of summer. (Palm's cheapest kit definitely doesn't match Kokatat for quality, but their customer service is far better and I can get three of their tops for the price of one of Kokatat's.) This now goes on my 'things to do' list, but once I've made these alterations I'll report back. I'd say this was definitely worth thinking about if you've got 2-piece kit which you wouldn't trust on a swim.

Owen
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Re: Kokatat Whirlpool bib trousers: a clever idea, but...

Post by Owen » Sat Sep 12, 2015 11:04 am

Sounds like a hell of a lot of tight material around your middle, very restrictive and uncomfortable.

PlymouthDamo
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Re: Kokatat Whirlpool bib trousers: a clever idea, but...

Post by PlymouthDamo » Sat Sep 12, 2015 11:22 am

Owen wrote:Sounds like a hell of a lot of tight material around your middle, very restrictive and uncomfortable.
That's potentially true for the original Kokatat design which includes a tight neoprene section at the hem. (Although I haven't found it to be noticeable myself.) However, if you go down the self-build route you can make the hem wider and non-elasticated. Look at a fabric dry-bag when it's closed and imagine the rolled section sitting just above your waist. Not an issue.

tobym
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Re: Kokatat Whirlpool bib trousers: a clever idea, but...

Post by tobym » Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:26 pm

Did you get any success with this project, and have you any pictures?

Toby

PlymouthDamo
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Re: Kokatat Whirlpool bib trousers: a clever idea, but...

Post by PlymouthDamo » Fri Oct 28, 2016 12:14 am

I'm ashamed to say that I just haven't got round to it. My most recent excuse is that I've been building kayaks - about to complete my third one this weekend. What I have done is buy the materials, and take apart an old dry bag, thereby discovering they use a strip of plastic, sewn into the webbing opening, to ensure there is a flat, wide mating surface

Once I've finished this latest kayak, my final job will be to convert my first one into a 3-piece sectional boat and then I'll be a free man again. I think sorting out the Kokatats should be a quick and easy job, but I just haven't felt the urgency - I spend all my time rolling, so have probably become over-confident about the chances of me taking a swim. As soon as I've done anything I'll report back on here.

Graham T
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Re: Kokatat Whirlpool bib trousers: a clever idea, but...

Post by Graham T » Fri Oct 28, 2016 7:46 am

The idea works
Musto used to make a two piece system for dinghy sailing I owned and was able to swim pretty well indefinately without water ingress certainly as long as ever wish to for testing purposes.
the two skirts were made from like a heavy duty neck or wrist seal hung down to about the crease of your buttocks and rolled neat and tight together up to your normal waistline. The top did have an outer cover with draw cord to cover/protect the roll.
There was no noticable problem racing in these so im sure you could have kayaked in them as well, the only thing would be the spray skirt would be unable to come as high up.
There is a Canadian guy who makes dry trousers and Tuliqs with the option to join them at the waist, if I ever use my Kokatat dry suit or two piece systems enough to wear them out (unlikely) I plan to give his kit a go.

geoffm
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Re: Kokatat Whirlpool bib trousers: a clever idea, but...

Post by geoffm » Sat Nov 05, 2016 8:49 pm

I've got a Whirlpool bib (now leaky) and find them super useful, but never bothered to put the two piece drysuit idea to the test, too much faffing about and like you say, impractical. It's just a shame that no one else makes a similar product. BUT, I must completely agree on your comments about Kokotat's backup service, bloody awful. I sent a drysuit and bibs to them (in the US) and they both came back leaking, and they wouldn't rectify the problem. I now use Immersion Research gear and honestledly, it is awesome. And the backup....whenever I email them I get a response from the owner. That's pretty unique these days from a big company.

Geoff

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