Wesley's Wild World of Kayaking & the Jackson Action Wagon (JAW)

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Field Testing the New Kokatat Idol Dry Suit in CO

This past June Brian Vermillion, Jamison Evans and I loaded up for a road trip to southern Colorado for a week long whitewater kayaking and mountain biking adventure.  In preparation for the trip both Brain and I decided to purchase the new Kokatat Idol Dry Suit, because we knew we were going to be facing snow melt water temperatures in our paddling adventures while in state.  The new Idol design looked like it could be the perfect versatile immersion protection outerwear garment we needed for our paddling trips in CO.

The new suits arrived a few weeks before our trip and I was instantly impressed with the quality and design upon unpacking the Idol from the package.  I ordered my Idol in the standard XL size to fit my body size of: 6’-4” height, 230lbs, 40” waist, 36” inseam and size 12 foot.  The size and trim of the XL suit is a great fit on me and it does not constrict any range of motion I would need for paddling or portaging. 

Here is the link to my photo essay I posted about my new Idol with some details about the product:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153461369128205.1073741882.552848204&type=1&l=8cff1f40c4

Here is a link to a very thorough initial review that was posted on the BoaterTalk Forum by dersu:

http://boatertalk.com/forum/BoaterTalk/1052518375

I agree with most of dersu’s observations and thoughts in his review for my initial opinions on the new Idol Dry Suit also.  Another initial observation I had about the new Idol was the paradigm shift in replacing the standard over-the-shoulder zip or cross chest zip with a fully separating waist zipper.  Kokatat has created a versatile dry suit with the new Idol design.  The Idol can be worn as a dry suit when full immersion protection is needed, or it can be layered down to a drytop or paddling pants.   I will reiterate dersu’s point that the zipper system takes a bit of practice to master, but since it’s the physical equivalent of belting up your pants, it’s easy to get on and off with some practice, and eliminates the bulky drop seat for the ladies.

After a few practices changing in and out of my Idol at home, I packed the dry suit to travel to Colorado.  While packing the two piece dry suit I realized one of the first advantages of the new Idol was the reduced bulk by being able to fold each garment separately.  My folded pants and top could be placed side by side reducing the overall bulk my normal one piece dry suit takes up in my Shred Ready Gear Bag.

We arrived in Colorado to find BIG water from the combination of late season heavy snow and rain.  The first 3 days of our paddling trip was spent on the Arkansas River.  We enjoyed some huge flows on Royal Gorge, Pine Creek Rapid, the Numbers and Brown’s Canyon.  Despite the big water flows and sunny temperatures in the 80’s we still needed to wear dry suits, because water temperatures were still in the low 40’s with the heavy snow melt.  My new Idol performed flawlessly dry each day in the big water, even with giant lateral and breaking waves crashing over my head relentlessly.  There was not one single drop of river water in my dry suit throughout the whole week long trip. 

Midweek during the trip we headed west over Cottonwood Pass and down to Crested Butte to change the paddling pace with some creek boating on Daisy Creek and Upper East.  The water temperatures on these runs were literally near freezing in the mid 30’s.  The Idol kept me feeling nice and warm with my IR K2 Union Suit as an under layer in these colder waters. 

However, Colorado in June is a double edge sword with cold water and hot dry air temperatures during the day.  The light weight material of the Idol with the Cordura-reinforced Gore-Tex fabric makes the suit exceptionally breathable.  The Idol’s breathable fabric kept my perspiration in the dry suit to a minimum while paddling and hiking to the river with my Jackson Kayak Karma on my shoulder. 

I discovered that hiking in the Idol has several advantages.  Being able to wear only the pants with the integrated socks of the dry suit keeps me cooler hiking on hot days with my boat, because I don’t have to wear the dry top and deal with the bulk of having to tie it around my waist.  I can also stuff the dry top of the Idol into my boat while hiking which reduces the possibility of snags and tears of the suit with tree branches.  Wearing only the Idol pants also lets me cross creeks with dry feet and have hiking gaiter protection from brush/undergrowth.

The Idol also makes shuttling much more convenient and courtesy to the driver.  After coming out of my dependably dry Jackson Kayak and IR Royale Spray Skirt off the river (if I don’t swim!), I can zip the dry top off from the pants, throw the top with all the other wet gear and jump in the vehicle’s seat with dry pants to run up to catch another lap.  That’s a win for both dryer and faster!

Relieving yourself in the Idol has its pros and cons depending on your gender.  If you’re a female the SwithZip System is far superior to deal with than the traditional drop seat zipper.  I have had to help my wife a few times zip the drop seat and understand the awkward nature of that action.  If you are a male the SwithZip System is going to a few seconds longer to gain access to go #1 than the traditional dry suit relief zipper.  However going #2 with the Idol is way easier for us guys than a traditional dry suits.  Unless you have a men’s union suit on as a base layer…  These are real world struggles!

The Idol’s two piece design also cuts down on the time needed to hang dry after a day on the water.  I found that hanging each garment separately on my cloth’s line allowed for better ventilation of the pants and top, which allowed for perspiration to evaporate more quickly out of the suit.  Thus I never had to put on a damp and stinky dry suit the next day!

The last day of our trip, before heading home, we paddled the Taylor River at a 30 year record high flow.  The extremely cold water on this run once again was no match for the warmth and protection the Idol provided me.  When we got to the take-out I packed up my Kokatat for the long journey back home.  My expectations for the Idol had been far exceeded by its performance and changeability during our trip.  I look forward to using this dry suit again in the fall and winter here in the southeast with all of its adaptability to different climate and water temps.  If you are in the market for the best dry suit currently offered, make sure you check out the new Kokatat Idol!

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