Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Trouser Spotting

Ewart has recently updated some kit (found he had sold it or given it away due to an enforced break from paddling). Take it away Wokka! 

Here is my guide to dry trousers at AS Watersports and how I went about selecting a new pair ( I will tell you what I choose in a bit). 
I started by deciding what I was actually going to use them for, I have a drysuit for paddling in the depths of winter be it white water or sea, fishing or any paddling in really bad conditions or just cold water (trips abroad). So it was some thing to compliment this where you need protection but just not as much. 
I've started doing a lot more "sports touring" ( up to class 3 in a touring, hybrid or even small sea kayaks) but its never that punishing and much less chance of a capsize or swim. But the weather can still be bad, there are still portages and the need for dryness and comfort in and out of the boat. 
In the past I have always had latex ankle seals with a normal height waist. This has mostly been fine, a bit damp on the odd swim but not a drenching. (quick rope work from friends!)
There is now not as much choice in trousers with latex ankle seals, the trend from manufacturers is for built in fabric socks. 
This is for a couple of reasons. One, its easier to manufacture, producing latex goods is messy, hot and smelly work. Its not easy to do. Latex is a pretty raw version of rubber and because of this its a bit vulnerable to tearing, perishing, and splitting, as many of us have found out when getting changed and discovered a split just before getting on the river. It does offer a good seal but its not with out its weaknesses. 
Two, built in dry socks can be made more easily, can be made much wider at the top of the sock (latex socks only come in a few sizes, from any manufacturer) and can be more easily replaced when they wear out. (and to be honest, they will.).
However, Yak still use a latex ankle seal on their Chinnock trousers and as far as latex goes its pretty thick and definitely gives a good seal. 

So, what I wanted was: A tough outer fabric that will stand up to bashing around on Dartmoor and sloping fish over them but not to heavy for doing some walking and wearing in warmer (spring/autumn) weather.

I like the high chest/ salopette style, a little extra protection when not wearing a cag. Perfect for touring and fishing. The neoprene or fabric upper also gives a nice firm fit and makes it just that bit more difficult for water to come in with the event of a swim. 

Socks, did I want them? Undecided really but the as the choice is limited it was almost made for me. With only one pair of trousers with latex ankle seals or neoprene cones (semi dry). Socks it was. 

Style, of course this is my priority! You have to look good on the river bank don't you? 

Here's what I tried and what I thought.

Palm Neon Pants:

A neoprene cone at the ankle instead of a latex seal or sock. Very comfortable at the seal and durable because of the neoprene. A single waist wraps up with nice sticky velcro and neoprene waist band. These are great but not quite enough for winter use. Sit on tops in spring, playboating or warmer water.

 Palm Neon Pant RRP £104.95 Buy Now

Kokatat Tempest Pants:

These were high on my list. Really light feeling 3 layer Hydrus material and built in socks. Again a single waist but with plenty of adjustment, even on my belly. These have a nice fit, not too baggy and tapered towards the foot. Sensible pricing for the material and quality. No nonsense grey to match anything. 

Kokatat Tempest pants. Hydrus 3 RRP £129.85 Buy Now

Yak Chinook Trousers:

Excellent value dry trousers. Sturdy but light weight trousers for the price concious paddler. These feature a nice twin waist system that allows you to tuck in your cag into the waist band of the trousers for a good seal. Reinforced backside and knees add to the durability. If you don't like the fabric socks these are the trousers for you. 

Yak Chinook Trousers £109.95 Buy now

Kokatat Whirlpool bib:

I really wanted these, infact they were definitely the object of my desire and number one on my list! They have a great feature I've never seen on a pair of dry trousers or salopettes before or since.
As well as a nice high chest, with adjustable should straps they have a built in twin waist system, just like your cag! This really is awesome and makes for a super dry fit even with out a cag. These really fitted the bill for touring and fishing and for white water they work just as well.
Why didn't I buy them then? Arrggh, they just didn't fit me well. I have short legs and long arms and torso.  A bit tight on the crotch (in a medium) and long in the leg but they will fit more normal shaped paddlers. Still love them though and they might get a second chance if the ones I have don't work out.

Peak Storm pants:

Now we are getting there. The next few items are all quite desirable as well. 
The Storm Pants from Peak are tough (tick), no nonsense high chest dry pants. Not quite a salopette but the neoprene waist does sit quite high. These have pockets which I like. The only things I don't like are the lack of proper adjustment at the waist, only a draw cord and no wrap around cuff on the ankle.  However, I still think these are great value and perfect for any one looking for a no fuss dry trouser at a good price. They were a mostly a good fit, socks not too big for my small feet but a touch long on the leg as with most of the trousers here. The lack of a wrap around waist seal here might be an issue for slimmer paddlers, the neo waist fits ok but its not super snug. 

Peak Explorer Pants:

Ooh, coming to a finale here!  Number 2 on my wants list and still really like them. Really tough material, reinforced in all the right places. Splash proof pockets where you would expect them, by your hands, not half way down the leg. Now that we are getting in to the higher end of the ranges you expect to find a pee zip. The Explorer has the Ti Masterseal Zip in a vertical position, the most usable relief zip I have seen on paddling gear yet.  Things that niggled me but shouldn't bother a taller paddler where the elastic shoulder straps, I just felt they didn't stay in place and again no wrap around closure at the waist. The twin waist feature is great and works well with a cag to make a really good seal, in a quick dunking you are pretty unlikely to get any water in, especially if used with a close fitting spraydeck. Without a velcro outer cuff on the ankle the long length ment the bottom of the pant dragged on the floor. Not ideal as it would just get super mucky and wear through very quickly like a teenagers jeans.
A very good pair of trousers though and again it was the longer length more than any thing that held me off.

And now to what I ended up with. Not my first choice initially but in the end they fitted well and fitted the bill.

Palm Ion Bib:

These are level pegging with the Peak Explorer salopette and there's not much between them in terms of performance. Both have really hard wearing outer fabrics, built in socks, pee zips (the Ion bibs is horizontal but actually is well placed. 
The high chest neoprene is topped with a nice mesh material that is very comfortable against the skin and doesn't feel that sweaty. The shoulder straps adjust in the right place and have a nice bit of padding.
A wrap around velcro tab on the waist really helps give a snug fit at the waist and when the inner waist of your cag is tucked in and you fasten over the top the seal is reassuring. Fit wise they are still a touch short in the crotch and long on the leg (not somthing stumpy boy here is going to avoid!) but with an adjustable velcro tab at the ankle I can stop it dragging on the floor. The cut is a little more generous on the lower leg and the overall look is a bit more snowboard pant. I opted for the bright yellow ones, I've got no reason to hide, however after a few uses they do show the dirt, even after a good scrub. The socks aren't overly baggy and I haven't needed to get any bigger boots to accommodate them. (my Water Tennies work just fine).

Palm Ion Bib RRP £259.95 Buy Now

I will report back on how these hold up. So far I've done a 27 mile overnight touring trip A few paddles on the canal including some SUP paddling and a few grade 1/2 moving water trips 
After a bit more action we will see how they go and give a full review. 

UPDATE: 02/11/14:
The Ion bibs have now done a full winter season with lots of paddling, white water and sea. Have to say they have stood up to the job nicely and will do this season as well. I've had a bit of a hard time keeping them clean, but that's my fault for getting yellow ones and generally being a mucky pup. 

Early morning SUP on the Exeter Ship canal.

Body Surfing Triple 3 on the Dart loop.