The old orange, black and grey Palm Stikine drysuit became a favourite for many coaches. I’ve heard it called ‘the sea kayak uniform of Wales’, so popular was the design.
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The new Stikine looks different, feels different and, I hope, will last a lot longer than the old one.
Because from my experience, and from the experiences of others I’ve read online, Palm appears to have had problems with de-lamination of its drysuit fabrics. We’ll come to that later. You might also want to compare the Stikine with the Palm Aleutian reviewed by Solent Sea Kayaking.
First let's run through the stand-out features.
The new Stikine is a nice, deep plum colour, coming close to the colour of the women's Element dry suit. The recommended retail price suggested by Palm is £550.
There are much tougher abrasion resistant patches on key contact points. Indeed, the elbow sections feature kevlar for impact protection. The sleeve is cut to articulate and there are no underarm seams. There's Cordura 550D Ripstop abrasion resistance on the seat and knees.
The neck and wrists have natural latex gaskets and are covered (protected?) by generous adjustable cuffs, below which there is reflective detailing. Pulled tight, the cuffs still fit into pogies.
The chest ‘handwarmer’ thru-pocket has a removable fleece insert. The zips are said to be waterproof although I have't tested this. Anyone want to be first to risk their electonic car key?
The old Stikine had a very tight waist section. Designed to cover the top of the spray deck, it was too tight for sea kayaking for all but the skinniest paddler, and I know some people cut theirs off. The new waist section is greatly improved. Still adjustable, still able to cover the top of the spraydeck, it is far slacker and consequently far more comfortable. But does htis mean the suit might slip down?
That's when you use the adjustable, internal over-shoulder elasticated braces. These are detachable, which is just as well as the rear clip digs into my back when I wear my PFD.
There's also a small 'waterproof' zip pocket on the left shoulder. The feet are made form Palm's XP250 fabric with Cordura 300D soles. The rest of the suit is made form Palm's XP250 Toray 4-layer fabric. Which brings us onto the key question - will it last?
In my experience, Palm has a superb reputation for customer service. They replaced Liz's Element dry suit when it delaminated - the layers of fabric began separateing allowing water to enter.
They also replaced my first Stikine when it delaminated. And my second when it did the same. That's how I come to have this new one - it was not a journalist's 'freebie'. As I've only worn it four times, it's far too early to tell whether this fabric will last longer than the others. But no company can continue to replace dry-suits at that rate!
On 10th November I e-mailed Palm to ask whether they acknowledg the delamination issues, or whether they regard the fabric of the new Stikine as an 'improved' fabric, but I've heard nothing yet.
I should come clean - Palm ‘sponsored’ me in 2008, to the extent that they gave Liz and I two light cags and 2 PFDs for our Scottish Sea Kayak Trail book. These have performed superbly. I’m only selling the PFDs (on e-bay if you’re interested) because I’ve replaced them with Palm Kiakoura Tour PFDs which are even better. They also leant me (yet another) dry suit as my Stikine was with them for assessment and subsequent repair for de-lamination.
My interim thoughts on the new Stikine paddling dry suit.
* much improved design
* too early to judge whether delamination issues are solved
* I would not now be tempted into buying a cut-price old 'orange' design.