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.
Interested to see how the 'delamination' issue pans out. I'm just about to post a review of the Palm Aleutian drysuit which I have been hugely impressed with but as with your review - it's too early to comment on delamination. It also uses 4 layer XP250 fabric, with cordura 300D for the high wear areas.
Will follow this post with interest.
Is the 'handwarmer' pocket closed on the backside? In my Aleutian Expedition the backside is made of netting. I lost a brand new mobile phone that way. It would be nice to get dry suits without any pockets. That would be better AND cheaper. The zips seem to be OK though.
Yes, the back of the chest pocket is closed fabric, the same fabric as the bulk of the suit I believe, and not mesh. This might be something Solent Sea kayak comments on in his Aleutian review.
The Aleutian has a fleece backside to create a fleece 'tunnel' between the zips. Behind the fleece tunnel is a mesh pocket. Either end of the fleece pocket has a velcro opening to access this mesh pocket. (Hope this makes sense!)
Hi Solent Sea Kayak - it makes sense, but I'm not entirely clear.
Does that mean you can 'vent' the suit by opening a pocket? Or if you leave a pocket open, will water enter?
No you cannot went the Aleutian Expedition suit by opening a pocket. The hand warmer pocket is situated on the outside of the spray deck tunnel and is separated from the inside of the dry suit. Unfortunately the back of the pocket is made of mesh so if you roll or make a wet exit the inside of the pocket is wet, wet wet. The fleece pocket and all other stuff inside the pocket will be soaking wet. This is not a clever idea. I cannot get to the pocket anyway because of my personal floating device and have therefore removed the fleece from the pocket. Apart from this big pocket the Aleutian is very nice. Starting winter number three my old XP200 version still keeps me warm and dry.
It's a while since your review, is your Stikine still a dry suit? Or has it sprung a leak? Are the feet still dry? Is it holding up, i'd love to read a follow up review.
What a good idea! Thanks for the suggestion.
The quick reply is that it's holding up really well. I used it a couple of weeks ago to do some rescue practice and previously when we were filming, with no problems at all.
However, I've paddled in it a lot less over the last couple of years. I suspect that, as my paddling slowly improves, so dos my confidence in my ability to stay upright.
I will be taking it on a two-week trip to the Outer Hebs in June and will probably use it there. I'll aim to write a propper update to this review when I return.
Thanks agan for the idea.
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