What Does it Cost to Wear a Drysuit? March 25 2014

We've heard fans of other brands of drysuits comment that their suits, although more expensive to purchase than Mythic Gear's, are a better deal overall. They cite two arguments:

  1. The suits are more durable; i.e., you get more use out of them.
  2. With the lifetime replacement warranty, they cost less over the user's lifetime of drysuit paddling.

Although it hasn't been demonstrated, we think there may be some truth to #1. As a cost-saving measure, Mythic Gear eliminated the fabric reinforcements that some drysuit makers put on the knees, elbows and butt. Getting rid of those reinforcements confers some advantages (lighter weight, better breathability), but we don't question that they enhance durability.
Regarding #2: while a lifetime warranty is certainly a nice feature, it obviously doesn't come free. Drysuits from the most popular manufacturer cost 3 to 5 times as much as Mythic Gear's. So how great a deal is that, really?
We decided to find out. Each of the charts below compares the cost-per-use of drysuits at five different price-points:
$225: the price of the Mythic Gear Sobek, North America's lowest-price drysuit (1-year warranty)
$325: the price of Mythic Gear's Enki Relief, the lowest-price relief suit (1-year warranty)
$450: approximate price of the next-cheapest drysuit on the market (1-year warranty)
$600: approximate list price of the least expensive drysuit from the best-known manufacturer (lifetime warranty)
$1,000: approximate list price of a mid-priced drysuit from the best-known manufacturer (lifetime warranty)
The four charts compare different levels of annual usage: 12, 25, 50, and 100 times per year. Note that the scale of the vertical axis changes from chart to chart.
The charts assume that every drysuit lasts 5 years, regardless of usage, and all suits are replaced at years 6 and 11. Users of the three less expensive suits replace them with identical suits at the same price at years 6 and 11. (Obviously, we're ignoring inflation.) Because the two more expensive suits are covered by lifetime warranties, users incur no additional purchase expenses during the 15-year period.
Using a 5-year life cycle is arbitrary but at least it's objective. We have no data on the number of uses to be expected between failures for our suits or anyone else's. And drysuits are often replaced for reasons other than failure (e.g., when the user gains weight). Maintenance costs are ignored: we assume that gaskets and zippers, neither of which are typically covered by warranty, need to be replaced at equal rates across all drysuit price-points.
So let's look at the results. Discussion follows the charts. Click the charts to magnify.

Overall: During the first five years, cost per use is in direct proportion to the cost of the drysuit, so the suits that are less expensive to purchase are less expensive to use. At years 6 and 11 there is some crossover, where one or both of the suits with lifetime warranties become either temporarily or permanently more economical than some or all of the "cheaper" suits, depending upon price and level of usage.
12 Uses per Year: For paddlers who only use their suits a few times at the beginning and end of the season, the $600/lifetime warranty suit becomes the most economical at year 6 and remains there through year 15. The $225/1-year-warranty suit is in second place between years 6-11, after which the $1,000 suit overtakes it for second place. The $450/1-year-warranty suit becomes the most expensive at year 6 and remains there through year 15.
25, 50, and 100 Uses per Year: For more active paddlers, the $225 suit is the best deal through year 10, after which the $600 suit becomes slightly more economical.
Obviously, some of the assumptions we've used may not apply to you. But we feel it's a useful analysis, and the first one we've seen that compares the value of drysuits on a per-use basis.
In conclusion: several factors go into determining what drysuit makes the most economic sense:

  • purchase price
  • warranty
  • durability
  • the amount of usage it will receive
  • the likelihood that you'll want or need a new suit independent of durability (e.g., weight gain, desire for different style or features)
  • the likelihood that you'll still be paddling on cold water 6 or 11 years down the road 
  • cash flow. This is obviously one of the most important concerns. Just because something might be cheaper over the course of 10 or 15 years doesn't mean it's a good use of limited resources now. That's why consumers don't buy toilet paper by the truckload.

Download this article as a PDF (includes data in spreadsheet)

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