The Mytholog

Cold Water Danger Not Limited to Hypothermia March 05 2014

It's almost impossible to discuss the dangers that drysuits protect you from without sounding kind of…negative. But drysuits are safety gear, facts are facts, and we're mostly adults here. So let's face some cold hard truths. Mainly cold.

Hypothermia is often viewed as the biggest danger associated with cold water immersion. And when one sees figures showing that even in ice-cold water, it can take an hour or more for hypothermia to kill, it makes cold water seem not so very dangerous after all. "Plenty of time to self-rescue or get rescued," you might think.

Not so. According to the National Center for Cold Water Safety, death from cold water immersion can come in several forms:
Cold Shock: When your body is suddently immersed in cold water, you lose control of your breathing. In other words, you gasp uncontrollably, often several times in a row. If your head is underwater when that happens, your lungs will fill with water and you can drown almost instantaneously.
Gradual drowning: Because you lack control over your breathing, it can be difficult to time your breaths relative to waves. If you survive cold shock, you might drown by stages as you take repeated gulps of water into your lungs. It only takes about 5 ounces of water – about two big swallows – down the wrong tube.
Heart Failure and Stroke: Immersion in cold water causes extreme, instantaneous increases in heart rate and blood pressure. If you're susceptible to heart failure, this can trigger it.
Physical Incapacitation: After about ten minutes in really cold water, you lose muscle coordination. You will be unable to perform a boat empty-and-reentry or swim any distance. Hypothermia or gradual drowning become the inevitable result.
Circumrescue Collapse: A significant percentage of people who are pulled alive from cold water die of heart failure within moments of rescue. The reason is obscure, but it may be due to a precipitous drop in blood pressure or to cold blood suddenly circulating from your limbs into your core.

Accidents happen to everyone, and people who "never capsize" have simplynot capsized yet. If you paddle in water below 70F (21C), the thermal protection of a wetsuit or drysuit is a must.

More information on drysuits and cold water.

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Packing Drysuits for Travel February 20 2014

When packing a drysuit for travel, it's important to do it right. Over-bending the expensive entry zipper can damage it and render it useless. This video shows step by step how to pack the suit to protect the zipper. If you prefer to read, a transcript appears below the video. 

Transcript (not verbatim)

One of the most important and expensive parts of a drysuit is the watertight entry zipper. We want to take good care of that zipper, because if it gets kinked or over-bent, it won't function properly. When we pack a suit for travel, we won't fold it or roll it up like a normal piece of clothing, and we certainly won't just stuff it into a drybag or duffel.  We'll fold it AND roll it in a special way to protect the entry zipper.

Lay the suit out flat like we have here, face up. The zipper should be closed, and the flap over the zipper should be closed too. Fold the right arm at a right angle over the zipper, then fold the left arm down parallel to the zipper, so both arms are at right angles to each other.

Fold the legs up the waistband, then fold the lower half of the legs back down. What we have now is nice, square package.

Here's our zipper, from this corner to this corner. Take the two opposite corners and fold them in together.

Now we're ready to roll up the package. Take a towel, or a bundle of clothing, and roll the suit around it. The towel ensures that the zipper never gets bent to a really small radius when the drysuit is in your duffel with other gear.

Once it's rolled, you can take a gear strap or a piece of cord, and secure the rolled-up suit. Then you're ready to pack the suit into your duffel, along with your other gear.

Make sure you protect the entry zipper from over-bending when you pack your suit. Take care of your drysuit when you travel, and it'll take care of you on the water. 

More information on drysuit use and care:  How to love your drysuit.

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Why Are Drysuits So Big? February 12 2014

Drysuits look huge. When you're about to try one on, it's the first thing you'll notice. "Ridiculous," you'll think. "It's taller than I am! I must have the wrong size."

You'll be surprised.

Try that enormous suit on, and it magically shrinks to fit you. Or maybe it's the other way around: a drysuit is such an awesome thing that, as soon as you put it on, you become bigger, more powerful -- better looking too!

A front-entry drysuit has to be big for a few reasons:

  • After you pull on the bottom half, you have to get your head through the entry zipper. The torso has to be extra long so that the top of the chest fits completely over your head.
  • Drysuit fabric doesn't stretch at all, so the legs have to be cut extra long to allow you to bend at the knees.
  • Because you'll wear a full suit of insulating clothing under the drysuit and need unimpeded freedom of movement, it has to be big around at every location: shoulders, armholes, chest, hips, etc. 
  • And if your suit has sewn-on drysocks, they add another foot or so below where your pants would normally end.

Where does all this extra fabric go when you put the suit on?

The upper torso remains big. You'll notice the entry zipper tends to stand out far from your chest. You need a lot of this extra room for full arm and shoulder movement and torso rotation. Your PFD will contain and hide all that extra fabric.

Even after your feet take up the length of the drysocks, the legs remain long. You simply need that extra length so that you can sit, bend your knees, etc. The cuffs may sag down over the top of your booties, but as long as you tighten the waist belt or drawstring, things shouldn't droop down too far.

There's one more factor that allows that apparently huge suit to fit you so well. When you put it on, you get bigger.

Don't believe me? Try it yourself.

 

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More information on drysuit sizing.

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Read Newsletter Issue #2 February 07 2014

Issue #2 of News from Mythic Gear is now online here.  

Contents Summary:

  • Stay Simple to Stay Cheap
  • New video: How to Store a Drysuit
  • Owner's Manual download
  • Cheapest drysuits in N. America
  • Shipping schedule update: Feb.18 still looks good.

Thanks for reading!


Download our Drysuit Owner's Manual February 06 2014

We just sent our drysuit Owner's Manual to the printer. Having spent a lot of time writing, revising, and reviewing it, we think it does a really good job telling you everything you need to know about drysuit usage and care. In fact, we think it's useful for the owners of all drysuits, regardless of brand. So we reformatted it so that anyone can download it and print it on 8.5" x 11" paper. Enjoy!

Download it now.


Drysuit Storage February 05 2014

Proper storage techniques will prolong the life of your drysuit by protecting its latex gaskets, watertight zippers and breathable waterproof fabric. This video goes through the procedures step by step. If you prefer reading, a transcript (not verbatim) appears below.

 

Transcript

A drysuit is a valuable piece of safety equipment that can help prevent hypothermia when you're canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, rafting, or sailing in cold weather. It also makes it comfortable to go boating in colder conditions, so you can extend your paddling season. But it's a pretty specialized piece of gear and you have to treat it right if it's going to give you good service over the years.

When we store a drysuit, we're most concerned with protecting the rubber gaskets. Most gaskets are made from natural latex, and they degrade with exposure to sunlight, ozone, and excessive heat. We can't stop that process completely, but we can slow it down so that your gaskets last longer.

Never put a drysuit into storage without first making sure it's clean and totally dry. For cleaning instructions, visit the Mythic Gear website at mythicdrysuits.com.

Dust the gaskets with talcum powder. This will help prevent them from getting sticky, especially if they're exposed to heat.

Treat the zipper with a zipper lubricant. You can get these online. I use paraffin, which is a lot cheaper. You'll find it with the canning supplies in most supermarkets and hardware stores.

Use a nice, wide coat hanger for the upper part of the drysuit. Don't use a bare wire hanger.

Most drysuits are so long that the feet would drag on the floor on your closet. Use another hanger to lift the feet off the ground.

If you're going to be using the suit again soon, just hang it in a closet and close the door to protect it from sunlight. If you're putting it away for several weeks or months, take a big black trash bag, pull it up from the bottom, and twist-tie it around the hangers. That will help prevent ozone degradation.

Here are a few more tips:

DON'T STORE YOUR DRYSUIT:

  • in a concrete room (e.g., most unfinished basements)
  • in a room that gets very hot (like an uninsulated attic)
  • in a room with machinery or lamps that produce ozone
  • where it's exposed to sunlight
  • when it's dirty or wet

Take care of your drysuit when you store it, and it'll take care of you on the water. If you have any questions, please get in touch. Thanks for watching.

More information on how to use and care for your drysuit lives here: How to Love Your Drysuit.

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E-Newsletter Launched January 29 2014

Today we launched News from Mythic Gear. Since we haven't established a firm schedule for it yet, we'll say it's an "occasional" e-newsletter. Please check it out, then enter your email address at the bottom of this page to receive it. We won't spam you or sell your address to anyone, ever.


How to Put on a Drysuit January 21 2014

The first time you put a drysuit can be a little tricky, so this video goes through the process step by step. You'll learn how to enter this unusual, one-piece garment, how to avoid damaging the delicate watertight gaskets and socks, and how to purge the excess air from the suit after it's on.

Drysuits for the Rest of Us January 09 2014

"So why are you creating a new drysuit business?"

I get this question all the time. Of all the startups I could launch, and of all the products I could make and sell, why concentrate on something so obscure that most people don't even know what it is?

Except that paddlers know.

And paddlers often don't have a ton of ready cash hanging around.

And I'm a paddler, so I know.

I'd been relying on a wetsuit for years but, last spring, while spending a long day poling down a stream in Maine, I got fed up with it. The water was cold enough to need some kind of thermal protection if I fell in. But the air temperature was high, and the thick, black, rubbery farmer John became hot to the touch -- and that was just on the outside. Inside, I was roasting. Enough, I thought. Time to bite the bullet and buy a drysuit.

So I started shopping. Kokotat, Stohlquist, NRS, Amazon, Google, Google, Google...damn! I just couldn't find anything I could afford. Most suits seemed to start at around $600, and $1,400 wasn't even the ceiling. The lowest price I found for a paddling drysuit was $450, and that was for a discontinued model, from a retailer I'd never heard of.

Current drysuit choices from one of the biggest paddlesports gear companies range from a low of $585 for a closeout (!) to well over $1100 (!!!) for "Expedition" and Search-and-Rescue models. Nice stuff, truly, but not within everyone's price range.

 

I pondered: why are drysuits so expensive? And as I read and re-read the product descriptions of all those admittedly fine drysuits on the market, it occurred to me that they were way better than they need to be for most people. They all feature fancy, brand-name fabric. They all have extra layers of a different fabric on the knees, elbows, butt -- just about every place where the suit might possibly touch something else. Expensive latex socks or ankle gaskets where nylon socks would do the job just as well. Pockets. Hoods. Retro-reflective, SOLAS-approved tape. And enough color choices to satisfy a carnival clown.Or Lady Gaga. (But I repeat myself.)

No wonder those suits are so expensive! With all that quality and all those features, you'd feel safe taking one on a two-month expedition across the Canadian Shield, a North Sea crossing, or a first descent of some obscure Chilean Class V rapid that can only be approached via 175 km of continuous Class IV.

Most of us don't need a suit that good. Most of us fall into a spectrum that ranges from "casual" or "recreational" paddler to "weekend warrior" and what we need is really pretty simple: a suit that will keep us warm and dry. Period.

Picture an automobile market where the only choices are Mercedes and BMW. Yeah, nice cars! But I can't afford them. How about a Camry, or even a Corolla? True, I won't get the leather-lined, mahogany iPod holder, but I can live without it, thanks.

 
"Must be nice" vs. "what we can afford"

 

Maybe I'm just cheap. But so are a lot of my fellow paddlers. I figured that if I wanted a cheap, basic drysuit, maybe they would too. (I'm not afraid of the word "cheap." I've had business consultants tell me not to use it -- "cheap sounds cheap" they say. I disagree. "Cheap" is honest. You, I, and everyone else knows what it means. And I sure did a lot of Googling for "cheap drysuits.") So I started looking for suppliers who could understand what I wanted to accomplish and were willing to think creatively and shave their margins to help me get there.

Working together, we found a good, economical fabric that's waterproof and breathable -- maybe not as breathable as an $1,100 drysuit, but good enough is good enough, right? We looked for other ways to cut costs without compromising basic functionality. Pockets, hoods, and reflective tape? Gone! Reinforcement patches? Ditto. Color choices and custom sizing? So sorry: you'll have to go to our competitors for those.

We kept what's needed to make a drysuit work as it should. The fabric is waterproof and breathable, and it has a nice supple feel too. The zippers and the gaskets came from SCUBA equipment suppliers: they're not just waterproof, they're especially rugged. The nylon socks are more durable than latex socks or gaskets, and you can wear nice bulky socks inside them so your feet stay warm. We went into production with just two models: the base-model Sobek (the "cheapest" drysuit in America) and Enki Relief (identical to Sobek with the addition of a relief zipper, making it the cheapest relief drysuit around).

As a paddler on a budget, these are exactly the suits I would buy. Decent quality, fantastic price, no bells or whistles.

Safe, comfortable paddling shouldn't be the exclusive prerogative of people with a lot of money to spend. And that's why I got into this business: to help paddlers like myself get the kind of thermal protection they need at a price they can afford. 

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