Review: Palm Aleutian Drysuit

Palm Aleutian Surface Immersion Suit

Palm Aleutian Surface Dry Suit

The Palm Aleutian Immersion Suit is Palm’s sea specific drysuit sporting a number of features not usually found on general purpose/white water drysuits. Over the past 3-4 months I have been putting the Aleutian through it’s paces in a range of conditions on day and night paddles.

Introduction

Paddling, particularly in the winter months, demands that we dress appropriately. You will often hear me stating that I ‘dress for the swim’, thats to say I wear suitable clothing to cope with immersion whilst I hopefully effect a self-rescue. To that end a dry-suit is a highly desireable piece of equipment.

The Palm Aleutian Immersion Suit certainly looks the business. Bright yellow XP250 fabric with black ‘wear patches’ on ankles, knees, elbows and other stategic points. With the addition of reflective piping and patches it provides an excellent level of visibility, particularly key if you plan to paddle at night.

Description

Wrist Seal

Wrist Seal

The Aleutian is fitted with latex neck and wrist seals, fitted boots and T-Zip rear entry and relief zip to ensure it remains water-tight. The wrist seals are protected by over cuffs with strong velcro seals. Ankle cuffs are present to allow you to tighten the legs over wetsuit boots. The latex neck seal is protected with a high collar (which also contains the roll-down hood). This colar sports a deep, water-proof zip.

The waist has draw cord allowing you to cynch the drysuit tighter at the waist. It also uses a twin-seal system allowing you to trap the wiast tube of your spray deck. The rubber/velcro tabs that allow you to tighten this are very strong and hard wearing.

Re-enforced Seat

Re-enforced Seat

The arms and legs of the Aleutian Drysuit are articluated and have hard wearing Cordura 300D patches across the elbows, knees, ankle and most of the backside/rear thigh area. The design has also ensured that there are no underarm or crotch seams to aid comfort. The arms have two 2 small pockets with waterproof zips.

The front of the Aleutian has 2 hand warmer pockets, lined with fleece and accessed via waterproof zips. A relief T-Zip is positioned to allow male paddlers to relieve themselves without removing the drysuit.

With regard to reflective patches, piping runs the length of the arms and legs. Across the shoulders and on the hood are larger reflective patches.

The hood is a roll down affair, stowed in the collar of the Jacket. It has a wired peak and is volume adjustable via a draw cord at the rear of the hood.

In Use

Neck Zip

Neck Zip

I found the sizing interesting on the Aleutian. I’m 5’9″ so not tall, but I have very broad shoulders so needed an XL as the arms felt too short in a L. I worried it would swamp me in terms of length however it I have found the fit to be excellent. There is plenty of room to cope with a layering system under the suit without it feeling tight or restrictive. Similarly, out of the boat, clambering about on the shoreline I have not found the suit in any way restricting to my movements.

Out of the box, the latex neck seal is unlikely to fit properly. It is worth stretching this for some time before you consider trimming it. I found I needed to take a reasonable amount of the neck seal to get a tight but comfortable seal. I’ve yet to experience any discomfort from the neck seal and apart from the inevitable trickle of water when you moving your head/neck about it has remained watertight during rolling practice.

Donning the suit is relatively easy. The T-Zip was very stiff initially but eased naturally and with plenty of lubrication now runs smoothly. As with all rear-entry systems, there is an art form to being able to open and close the zip however the reasonably sized toggle and loop make this slightly easier.

Top Half

Top Half

In the boat, the Aleutian Suit is very comfortable to wear. I have not felt at all restricted and have not suffered any rubbing. It has kept out some very rough weather and when combined with suitable thermal/fleece layers is very snug and warm.

In warmer conditions, when I am dressed for the swim I have experienced some condensation as the suit struggles to breathe sufficiently, however I feel this is the price you have to pay for dressing appropriately for unforeseen circumstances and is something that occurs with all drysuits. When the air temperature is lower the Aleutian has breathed well and I emerge with dry clothing after a hard paddle.

I like the reflective patches which are well positioned. With the amount of night paddling I’m currently doing I would prefer to have larger patches ate the wrists as well at the piping that already exists.

Waist & Relief Zip

Waist & Relief Zip

The relief zip is very welcome, as are the hand warmer pockets when on the shore during/after a cold paddle. The arm pockets I am less concerned about and have not found a valuable use for them yet.

With regards to durability, to date I have found the Aleutian Immersion Suit to be exceptionally hard wearing. I spent quite a bot of time during paddles jumping in and out of the boat, clambering about/kneeling/lying on the shore to take photographs so the suit gets quite a hammering. It has held up very well and has no visible signs of wear. I am careful to clean and dry the suit properly to ensure to prolong the lifespan.

I have read comments on some sea kayaking sites about other Palm drysuits suffering from delamination, however these seem confined to earlier models/fabrics and so far all comments regarding the XP250 fabric have been positive. This is something I will monitor closely, however having used an Aleutian Cag (which also uses XP250) for 18 months or so I have had not issue with delamination.

Summary

Drysuit Sock

Drysuit Sock

This is a superb piece of kit and I am super impressed by the quality and well thought out nature of the Aleutian Drysuit. If you are looking for a Sea Kayak specific drysuit (or one to combine sea paddling with Open Canoeing) this should be high on your list of Dry Suits to try. Drysuits/Immersion suits are obviously expensive and with a recommended retail price of £499 this is no exception. However, when compared to a Kokatat Dryuit which retail at £1000 or thereabouts it seems a more reasonable price.

With such a good feature set for Ocean Paddling, particularly the hood and hi-vis colours & reflective patches/piping and hard wearing yet comfortable design this is a serious contender.

Twin Waist Sea

Twin Waist Sea

Hood & Neck

Hood & Neck

Collar

Collar

From The Palm Website:

Designed specifically for extended use in the ocean realm, the Aleutian performs to the highest standard providing protection, visibility and comfort.

Features include:

• Natural latex gaskets at neck and wrists with adjustable over cuffs
• Articulated sleeve panelling with no underarm seams
• Flexible Ti-Zip rear entry and front relief zippers
• Ergonomic, volume adjustable, storm hood designed to provide full movement when wearing a helmet underneath.
• Water-resistant zipped front and sleeve pockets
• Velcro adjustable neoprene waistband with asymmetric cut for improved fit
• Adjustable internal waist drawcord
• Seamless crotch and pre-bent knees
• Cordura¨ 300D at elbows, seat and knees
• Breathable XP250ª Toray socks with Cordura¨ 300D soles
• Reflective detail at hood, neck, cuffs and ankles

Fabrics: XP250ª 4-layer fabric/Cordura¨ 300D reinforcement
Colours: Saffron/Black
Code: AW150
Size options: S / M / L / XL / XXL

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9 Responses to Review: Palm Aleutian Drysuit

  1. Craig Davison January 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    “As with all rear-entry systems, there is an art form to being able to open and close the zip however the reasonably sized toggle and loop make this slightly easier.”

    I just purchased a Palm Sidewinder Torrent drysuit with the identical TIZIP rear entry system, and am thus far unable to figure out how to successfully close/open the rear entry zip when suiting up solo. I assume that attaching some sort of tether to the zipper toggle will be necessary, but I haven’t attempted that yet.
    Would love to get some tips from the review author and/or any readers who have mastered the “art” to this task.
    All replies are appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Craig Davison
    cwdavison@gmail.com
    Dalton, Georgia
    USA

  2. Dunks January 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    Hi Craig, I wrote the review so hopefully can give you a couple of pointers.

    You are right, there is an art form to this but I paddle solo 99.9% of the time and always suit up solo.

    First off, I wash the drysuit very regularly and lubricate the T-Zip. I used the silicone lubricant that came with the drysuit but this was such a small tube that is was used up very swiftly. I am currently using a similar lubricant that I found in a larger tube at my local hardware store. Other people use beeswax to perform the same function.

    Whether you use beeswax or silicon regular lubrication makes a huge difference to how smoothly the T-Zip runs – an amazing amount of difference.

    Secondly, the angle of pull is very important. I found it difficult to master at first but realised I was pulling the zip at the wrong angle so it was meeting too much resistance.

    Thirdly, once I get the T-Zip part way across, I find pinching the two sides of the zip together ahead of the zip helps it runn smoothly when it is a bit sticky.

    Undoing the zip? The aleutian has a short toggle on it already with a loop. It is possible to attache a longer leash to this using a simple larks foot or a small karabiner. I know some people who then hook this over the roofrack or similar and use a turning motion away from the roofrack to undo the zip.

    My main advice is to lubricate well and practice. This is all I have done and have no problems now, whereas when I first used the suit I often struggled.

    Hope this was helpful and maybe some other readers can offer their own tips.

    Cheers, Duncan

  3. Craig Davison January 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    Hi Duncan,
    Thanks for the helpful (and fast!) advice.
    I actually called Palm USA yesterday and they were likewise emphatic about the necessity of lubricating the zipper for good results.
    The “hook to the roof rack” technique makes great sense, as I really can’t see any way that you can contort your body sufficiently to reach back and pull the zipper, even with an extension attached.
    Do you suggest this method for zipping up as well as undoing the zip?

    Thanks again,
    Craig

  4. Dunks January 30, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

    Hi Craig,

    I’ve only observed people use the hook on the roof rack technique and they used it to unzip.

    I can contort my body. I’m a big built 5’9 so not a waifer thin paddler. Here’s my method.

    I hold the left cuff of the suit in my left hand with my arm out straight out to my left hand side at shoulder level and grip tight.

    I then reach my right arm behind my head as if scratching my back and grip the zipper pull. From here I pull the zipper as far shut as I can – this requires me to jiggle my left arm a little to keep the direction of the pull correct.

    Once its as far across as I can I switch so my left hand goes over my right shoulder, grabs the zipper pull and finishes the job.

    I must stress that until I seriously lubricated the zip I struggled but with a very well lubricated zipper this works a treat every time.

    I hope my wordy description makes sense – this could be a good little video tutorial! I may have a crack at that tomorrow but it’s night time here in the UK and I’m off out for a night paddle shortly.

    Hope this helps, any other questions please ask.

  5. Craig Davison January 30, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    Great instructions from across the pond – thanks again Duncan!

    I also managed to find several videos on You Tube addressing the self-donning rear entry drysuit topic. These may prove helpful to others reading this post.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tk436Dcnus

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FiI7kNapRQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNfECXLEaT8

    Best regards,
    Craig

  6. John November 15, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    Hi,

    This review is now almost 2 years old. How as the suit performed over this period?

    Thanks

    John

  7. Dunks November 15, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    Hi John,

    The short answer is very well! These would be my notes:
    1. The colour has faded quite a lot – simply through to the Sun when out paddling in cold but sunny conditions as well as being dried out on the line during sunny weather.
    2. The neck seal split last year – no faults here, simply wear and tear. Replacement cost around £30 from a local repair shop.
    3. The zips are slightly corroded but care washing it off has kept them working fine.
    4. The actual T-Zip still works perfectly – I lubricate it regularly so all good.
    5. No signs of delamination.

    Overall, I have been very pleased with the suit! Hope this information helps out.

  8. John November 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    That’s helpful Duncan. Thanks for the update.

    ATB

    John

  9. Shane Anderson June 22, 2013 at 2:20 am #

    Thanks for posting! I also do a lot of solo paddling, but until now have not figured out how to zip my dry suit by myself! I am now going to try your suggestion of the roof rack/tether idea!

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