I have been asked to write a review of my new Palm Sidewinder Torrent drysuit. I will give it my best shot, but please keep in mind that this is the only drysuit I have ever tried, and that I write these words after using it only once. To top it off, I did not swim in it.
First, when examining the garment at home, I understand why a drysuit like this one comes at a price. It must have taken many hours to produce it, with its many sealed seams, intricate details and the use of different materials. As far as I can tell, the materials are of very high quality, whether it is the waterproof zippers, the three-layer breathable fabric, the neoprene parts or the latex neck and wrist seals. The seals, by the way, are safely hidden underneath velcro adjustable protectors. Cordura fabric is used on wear areas like the bum, knees, shoulders and elbows. The craftsmanship is simply outstanding.
The suit has rear entry and is very easy to get into, and the leaflet contained some useful hints about how to pass the seal over the head without ripping it. The only worrying bit was that when opening the zipper for the first time, it was very, very tight. Greasing it with the silicone grease provided made it a lot easier to pull, but I still have problems closing it by myself. I will have to apply some more grease and see how it goes.
As the air temperature was only 2 above freezing on the day of the test, and the water temperature not significantly higher, I wore two woolen long-johns, an HH Lifa base layer sweater and two woolen sweaters.
I am quite pleased with the fit (I am 6'2" with a 34" waist and got an XL size). Before getting in the kayak I did feel that the suit did not have to be so generously sized around the legs though, but once aboard it did not matter.
The suit comes with sewn-on socks or booties, and I have split feelings about these. They have a written warning on them, cautioning the user to wear protective footwear. I improvised by using an old pair of sandals, but I still feel the socks are the suit’s Achilles' heel. If I ever wear or tear a hole in my suit, this is where it will happen. And even if I tighten the suit around the ankles with the velcro adjuster, it will not be watertight as a latex seal. On the other hand, with thick woolen socks underneath, it was nice being able to walk into the freezing cold water and still feel warm and dry.
One of the details I appreciated when stepping into the sprayskirt, was the wide neoprene waist belt that fitted over the sprayskirt's tube. My thoughts went to the Eskimos who had their jackets sewn into the skins of their kayaks.
Once on the sea, I felt very secure. The suit was really a self-confidence booster. Like mentioned, my feet had not felt cold at all when wading, yet when my cotton gloved hands got wet my fingers numbed almost instantly. With proper gloves, I should be able to stay operative for quite some time after a capsize. When starting to paddle I could feel the stiff zipper on my back, but quickly forgot about it. There are no underarm seams, again proof of great care about details. What I did not so easily forget, was that I was overheating even when paddling below my normal speed. I had kind of expected that – I am used to dressing for winter activities like cross-country skiing and will normally wear considerably less than I did now. But you are supposed to dress for the sea temperature, not the air temperature, right? Another thing was the BA I was wearing over the suit, which effectively sabotaged the suit’s breathing capability, resulting in a very sweaty back. Perhaps I can safely rely on the suit alone, but I really feel better when wearing the BA as well, so I guess I just have to live with it. My arms felt dry though.
When rinsing the suit in the bathtub après-paddling, the socks again made me think. Without them I would just have flushed the inside of the suit and hang it to dry. As it is, I will have to turn the legs inside out to make sure no water is hiding in the socks after the outside is dry.
To sum it up at long last; I am very happy with the Palm Sidewinder, and I am sure it will serve me well for years to come. The wife already wants one.
Oh, one last thing: I had planned on storing it hanging in a cupboard in the laundry room. This will not happen though, as I was reminded that rubber should not be stored in the same room as electric motors. They generate ozone that will age rubber quite efficiently, ask any tyre guy. Consider yourself warned, the leaflet does not mention this. (Click here to see what Google finds. Interesting).
(Editors Note: Ah! A central heating boiler has an electric pump! Which explains why my old dry cag's seals died so quickly in my boiler cupboard. And a laundry room will have a washing machine and possibly a dryer - both of which have electirc motors - - )
"Erling", November 2005