Immersion Research Dry Wear
Most companies that make kayaking gear today started out as a group of people making gear in someone’s garage. They were kayakers who wanted a better piece of gear for themselves and their friends to use. They cared deeply about making the best product possible because they were going to entrust not only their own lives to their product but also the lives of their friends. Over the natural course of time those companies grew into the businesses we know and love today. They are the companies that make the tools that allow us to pursue our passion on the water but did they lose something along the way? Sometimes I get the impression that our paddling companies may be forgetting their roots. Sometimes it seems that profits and the bottom line are what is driving decisions and policies at these companies. That may be the norm for other industries but in paddle sports we are just too small. I need a product designed, manufactured, and sold by people who know first hand what I am going to do with it. I want a product that embodies the spirit of the river and embraces the lifestyle that goes along with it. What happened to those companies? Immersion Research is still one of those companies in many ways. In more ways perhaps than any other. They are a small company based in Confluence Pennsylvania. The people who work there are paddlers who are just as stoked to squeeze in an early morning paddle before work as the rest of us are. They know first hand what our gear needs to be able to do and stand up to. They live the river lifestyle and they still care very much about making the best possible piece of gear, not only for their customers but for themselves and their friends.
IR Double Stitched Outer Gasket
I have been wearing an Immersion Research dry suit & dry top for a couple months now and there are a few features that really stand out to me. The first is this double stitch thing they do with their neoprene outer gaskets. At first I didn’t know what it was for. I just thought it looked kinda weird, but I soon realized it is very functional. As you probably already know, the sun is one of the biggest killers of latex gaskets. Every other company that sells dry tops & dry suits uses something to cover the latex gaskets. IR is the first that I have seen to use this approach, and it is the first that I have seen that actually works. The extra stitch ensures that the latex gasket stays covered all day. I have been wearing this gear every day since March (about 5 months now) and I have not once seen my gaskets exposed to the sun. This superior sun protection will ensure that your gaskets last longer and keep you drier.
Plastic Dry Suit Zipper
If you you’ve had the same dry suit for a few seasons and you have one with a metal zipper you are probably familiar with wrestling your zipper open or closed. For me it was always the relief zipper. Didn’t seem to matter how often I cleaned it or how much of that zipper lube I used. When I really needed to get it open it was almost a two person job. With the plastic zippers on my Immersion Research dry suit I’m finding I don’t have to ask my friends for awkward favors any more. The zippers slide smoothly and are just as water tight as the metal ones. Another bonus is, if you are wearing your suit in salt water, you don’t have to worry about corrosion on the plastic. IR offers both a front and a rear zip dry suit. Whatever your preference, IR has you covered.
Latex Dry Suit Socks
Prior to getting an Immersion Research dry suit, I had seen latex socks on suits but never worn them. I had some reservations about them since I typically always had to replace my gaskets every year. (I wear my dry gear almost every day.) I was worried that these too would break down at the rate of the other latex components. I haven’t had my IR dry suit long enough to know how that is going to play out but I have found one unexpected plus to these socks over the other style. The are comfortable. Since they are latex they stretch and conform to your foot when you put them on much like any other sock would. They then fit inside your creek shoes without having all the extra material bunched up beside your toes and on the sides of your feet. I definitely prefer these for comfort over the fabric ones. The latex socks come standard on the Arch Rival dry suit but you can custom order either sock on the 7 Figure or Arch Rival suit.
IR Dry Suits and Tops Fit!
I started kayaking in 1997. Coincidentally that is the same year that IR started making kayaking gear. I have worn a lot of different things in that time. I started out in slalom racing and then moved to freestyle kayaking. Most recently I have been moving back toward racing and starting to dabble in sea kayaking. I have not worn any other dry top or dry suit that fit me the way the 7 figure does. It is cut to perfection. It leaves me so free to move that I forget I’m wearing it and yet it doesn’t have all the baggy extra material of other tops I’ve had in the past. I used to get my dry top and dry suit a size up to be sure to have room for layering and movement, but I ended up with a bunch of extra bagginess that felt like a sail when I was swimming. With the 7 Figure I don’t have that problem any more. It doesn’t matter if i’m play boating, creeking, or looking for whales off the coast, the 7 Figure moves with me and never gets in my way.
Customer Service, Repairs, and Warranty
Warranty. Everyone wants to know about warranty. We will spend twenty to thirty thousand dollars on a car that only comes with a 36 month limited warranty, but if we are going to spend $800 on a piece of gear for our recreation time we want to know that it is going to out live us. IR has an industry leading warranty but we don’t seem to know about it. They guarantee their product against defects in the material and the craftsmanship for life. Now lets be fair and dive into the details of what that means a little. If a seam starts to come unstitched, that is a defect in craftsmanship and it will be fixed. If you fall down a hill at the put in and tear your dry top, that is not a defect. Not to worry though, IR will repair this kind of accidental damage at a very reasonable cost. Their customer service is the best I’ve seen anywhere. When you contact them you can rest assured that the person on the other end is a kayaker and knows exactly what you are talking about. They use this same gear themselves. I bought my first Lucky Charm skirt when they first came out. After having it for a couple years and wearing it on the river around 500 times the deck started to get little holes and it wasn’t so dry any more. I got on the instant message service on the Immersion Research web site and told them what was happening and asked what they could do. They had me send in the skirt. They patched the deck with some neoprene and sent it back to me. The whole process took 10-14 days maybe and I think it cost between $20 and $30. I got another 300 – 400 days out of that skirt before finally retiring it. Can you guess what skirt I got next? If you guessed another IR you’re right. I’m now using the new royal and loving it. A few weeks ago I paddled 6 laps on the NF Feather and didn’t have one sponge worth of water in my boat the whole day. I know from experience that I’m gonna get a lot of days out of this skirt and when it finally does wear out IR is going to be there to help me extend its life a little further.
The River Store now has some demo IR tops available in the store. Feel free to stop in and check them out. You can see for yourself that these are top of the line industry leading tops made by a company that is still that group of paddlers in the garage at its core. Please leave us a comment and tell us what your thoughts are about Immersion Research gear. Good, bad, or indifferent we want to know what you think.