For the recreational paddler, equipment should last a decent amount of time. However, the more you paddle, the more wear and tear your equipment will accumulate. It’s not unheard of for those who are involved with coaching or guiding to wear out gear within a season. I’ve seen drysuits fail within a month’s use on the river – which would probably equate to 1-2 years for a recreational boater. Good kit isn’t cheap unfortunately, so here’s some tips to get the maximum life out of your most expensive piece of clothing – your drysuit.
- Wash off any dirt after your river trip. Grit grinds in to the fabric of the material causing accelerated wear. This will also help to keep your kit smelling slightly better… slightly.
- Wear socks over your drysuit socks. Both fabric and latex drysuit socks will last longer if you protect them from rubbing inside your footwear. It tends to be the feet that will leak first on a suit. Also, think about where you stand when getting changed. It’s much better to get changed on a mat, or a towel than to walk around a gravel car park in your thin latex socks.
- Lubricate any zips. You can easily trash a brass zip by failing to lubricate it often enough. When the zipper gets stuck, more force is needed to make it close. You then pull the zipper hard, snapping a tooth off. The zip then tends to rip at that point, meaning that you need to replace the most expensive part of your suit. Bad times. Likewise, Tizips can sometimes suffer from the “pencil case” effect. Without lubrication, you can force the zip closed slightly wrong, meaning that when you flex the zip the first time, the zip will burst open. I’ve had this happen to my back zip, whilst rolling – never again! Applying the correct lubricant often will avoid these problems. Obviously, the more you paddle, the more you should do this.
- Look after your latex seals, as they’re integral to the suit. Sweat, natural skin oils and sun lotion kill latex, so it is important to wash your seals in clean water often to remove these traces. I have seen a marked improvement in the life of my seals after using Mcnett’s Seal Saver as well. I have a five year old cag that is completely dead, except for the seals, which were maintained with this product. Likewise, friends have had good results using unscented talcum powder or 303 protectant (as recommended by Kokotat.) As well as nourishing the latex, it also makes it easier to put the seals on, meaning you are less likely to rip them. I find myself applying this a lot more now that I am guiding every day.
- Store your suit correctly when not in use. Leaving it hanging up with pressure on the neck seal can damage it over time. When putting it in to storage for a long length of time, I find it better to roll the suit up and leave it in a cool, dry environment away from direct sunlight. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions as to whether the zips should be left open or closed as well.
- Check for lifted seam tape and pin prick holes in the material. If the suit is still within warranty and you’re quite precious about it, some repairs can be done by the manufacturer. However, if you find yourself away on a trip, or don’t want the hassle of sending it back, good results can be had with using Aquaseal. It’s the stuff of legend and can bring suits back from the dead…
Having replaced a few neck and wrist seals I can honestly say it’s not as daunting as you imagine. The most important things are finding the right size former to place the seal on and getting the glue mixed correctly. I prefer to send my personal kit back to the manufacturer to have this done though, whilst having the material and seams checked for damage as well. My thoughts on replacing seals are this though:
– Bostik creates a strong seal and is easy to change seals again, if the replacement breaks. You can sand off the old glue and put the new seal on top. However, it doesn’t make financial sense to do so, unless you have several seals to do, as the glue has a short life once opened.
– Aquaseal is much easier to work with, but much harder to change a seal the next time. Trying to remove traces of old aquaseal to glue a replacement on can take a long time, so I would only use it if I didn’t expect the suit to last much longer, of if repairing gear on a trip.
*Obviously you should refer to the manufacturer’s care instructions before doing anything in this article)