| Outside magazine, April 1995|
"Unisex" sizing still means "men's." When it comes to casual apparel, I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and revel in the extra room. When it comes to an expensive technical garment like a drysuit, however, I want it to fit right. So it was with much hope and some skepticism that I greeted Kokatat's new line of technical paddling garments designed specifically for women.
I'm slender and a little taller than average--not what you'd call petite--yet even the "small" unisex suits I've tried have been too long in the arms and legs and, at the same time, too constricting in the rise. In its top-of-the-line Gore-Tex Front Entry Dry Suit, however, Kokatat has addressed some fundamental differences between men's and women's bodies, with the same meticulous attention to quality and function that's behind all of its technical paddling apparel. What I noticed first was the absence of excess fabric drooping at my wrists and ankles. And sitting in my kayak, I could rotate my torso and reach up, out, and forward without feeling the suit pull anywhere. The women's suit is cut fuller in the hips and thighs to prevent binding, and it has a "diaper seat," with no seam running front to back at the crotch, so there's no chafing there. (Men still have to suffer that seam.) Kokatat also shortened the torso, lengthened the rise, and slightly narrowed the shoulders.
Besides a fit that I can appreciate as a woman, the suit has some smart features that I can appreciate as a paddler. The accessible, waterproof zipper running diagonally across the chest makes the suit easy to get into and out of. Its neoprene collar and overcuffs protect neck, wrist, and ankle gaskets, and the seat and knees are thoughtfully double-layered for extra reinforcement.
Kokatat also offers custom options to add reflective tape, a hood, latex socks, sleeve or thigh pockets, or a drop seat. That's a lot of choice for women paddlers whose only previous option was a drysuit sized for men.
$554. Options range from $10 for reflective tape to $150 for the drop seat. From Kokatat, 5350 Ericson Way, Arcata, CA 95521; 800-225-9749.