Review: Palm Aleutian Drysuit
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.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.
SummaryThis 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.
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.
• 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
Size options: S / M / L / XL / XXL