KOKATAT GMER REVIEW by Kyle Smith
- Height– 5′ 9″
- Weight– 165.819
- Sponsors– The Middle Fork of the Salmon, Adventure Guides, Mom and Dad, Chris Currie Inds, Liveagape.com
If you live in Idaho, or anywhere its cold for that matter, you better learn how to properly layer for the inclement weather. If you kayak there, you damn well better do the same for paddling. In Northern Idaho, when the melt hits the watershed, the kayaks, friends, spirits and gear bags hit the road. No questions asked. Amongst them all, I hope you have your dry suit stashed.
The Kokatat GMER is by far the most quality dry suit I have had the pleasure of putting through the ringer. I’m in an abusive relationship… with kayaking, my gear takes the brunt of it all. This dry suit takes the hits and keeps on wicking… Get it? Moving on. Last spring, I spent close to 60 days practically living in the GMER. In return, it kept me smiling on those sunny/ snowy/ sleety/ below 32F/ rainy/ hand numbing/ hike out through the frozen muck/ beer well earned kind-of-days.
Kokatat is, to the best of my knowledge, the only manufacturer currently producing GORE-TEX drysuits. This is due to their capacity to uphold the demanding stringent manufacturing processes and material construction that has put the proud waterproof heavyweight , GORE, on the top since the 70’s. GORE-TEX is debatably the most durable breathable water proof material of ALL TIME. It’s found in almost any sport demanding technical outerwear such as Patagonia’s alpine line. Can we say “Everest?” But wait! Kokatat has some special sauce that no one else does. It’s called ‘ GORE 3.21’ and it’s a proprietary material produced in the deep dark bowels of Kokatat’s research facility. Imagine bat man’s R&D dept mixed with the Chemistry lab that only 500-level-course students got to go in. Bunsen burners, smoking beakers, schematics, things I don’t understand in general, the whole show. The entire suit, including the booties, is made of the stuff.
The trick? Don’t let water IN, yet let body vapor OUT before it beads up and makes your feet extra soggy. Vapor has a higher energy output than liquid, making it more transferable. GORE-TEX lets vapor funk get out via tiny pores, but keeps liquid i.e. water droplets or man eating waves from getting in. Therefore, this “drysuit” unlike many others is actually a “DRYSUIT. Period.” It’s science people! Not a fan of GoretranasaurisTex (it’s a big company now’a’days)? Good luck trying to cuddle at days end with those swamp feet.
- Continuing on the rant of materials, Kokatat uses their tried and true YKK fortress-esque waterproof zippers for the entry/exit zip as well as the relief zip. Not even the Trojans could sneak by those suckers. Staying well hydrated and having what seems to be the bladder of an 8 year old, has left me to believe the endurance of these zippers is still unrivaled. Regular zip-lubing is always good form though. Kokatat goes as far as to ensure consumers that this zipper DOES NOT FAIL. If there is an issue, they will service and or replace it. Simple as that. Other companies don’t offer this. Why? Because other companies outsource to China while Kokatat is right here in our backyard, Arcata, CA.
- One of my favorite features of the GMER line is the usage of neoprene around the neck and wrist gaskets. Stretchy neoprene is sewn and seam taped into the fabric at the wrist and neck to give initial protection from would-be wet intruders as well as take the initial beatings that UV rays put on latex gaskets. It’s not pretty driving 2 hours when a favorite creek runs, only to have a gasket blow at the put-in from ultraviolet deterioration. No duct tape required with this suit, which can not be said for some.
- If your like me and put off replacing gaskets regularly, the inevitable dreaded gasket tear happens. Have no fear. Send it to the boys and girls in Arcata. Not only will they fix the gaskets, but they will pressure test for leaks, refurbish wear spots, patch holes, and give your dry suit a massage with a happy ending before sending it back to your doorstep. Well…the latter may be pushing it, but you get the gist.
- The fit is a nice change compared with producers that try to get by with cuts that accommodate quantity, not quality . The GMER does away with that surplus fabric that bunches and inevitably constricts when mobility is most important. Kokatat’s cut fits in almost all the right ways. No restrictive shoulders, and an athletic fit.
- For those out there looking for some serious bomb proofing above and beyond Kokatat’s standard iron clad dry suit construction, they did put out a special edition GMER called the GMEL, fully swathing the wearer in Cordura from the waist down. Normal construction has abrasion and hole resistant Cordura patches on knee, elbow, and behind. If you are anything like me and find yourself slogging through anything other than pillows and cotton candy during scouts or portages, than most of your leaks are likely to be in the legs of dry wear. This edition is the answer.
- Crotch fit -I have found the (M) to fit my build almost perfectly. My torso is not extremely long though. On those with longer torsos, you may find that when snugging into your kayak the crotch rides a little high, especially if the suit is not properly purged of air. Pull a Michael Jackson and readjust before snapping that spray-skirt closed. Or just take advantage of the Kokatat custom fit program and get the suit built to your needs!
- Cost – Quality of this caliber is not cheap. MSRP for one of these bad boys is right around $1029.95. Definitely not the the most dirtbag friendly price tag on the market. In response to that; you never regret quality, especially when you can practically see the water molecules freezing as they are about to collide with your face, or an “out- of-boat” experience presents itself on a brisk spring morning/afternoon …depending on your sleep habits.
At the end of a cold day when you pull that GMER off only to find dry under layers, you won’t regret throwing this piece of gear into the duffel. When you find yourself in a bind, there are very few companies that can match Kokatat’s customer service or warranty… If any. Every piece of a Kokatat drysuit is WARRANTIED FOR LIFE. If nothing else, one thing is for sure. When the zombies attack, this will be in my go-to zombie fighting wardrobe.
When Rowing season ended in the states this past fall, I headed to Nepal for some classics, to India for some 1st D’s, and New Zealand to study Boofology 436. All on a dirtbags budget. My limited edition GMER is/was in the bag, and I had no qualms about it, especially when paddling Himalayan run-off. When I get back stateside I won’t hesitate to send it in for it’s much needed sensual massage.
Paddle smart! Paddle hard! Stay safe and always carry a throw-bag!