ClothingReviews

Mythic Gear Drysuit Review: a Budget Drysuit

reviewing the Mythic Gear drysuit in waves

The water temperature on my home waters of Lake Superior seldom rises above 55°F. For most of the year, it’s much lower. It’s not unusual to have temps in the 30s even on the summer solstice. The warmest I’ve seen the big lake is in the 70s after unusually calm stretches of weather in August when the air temp reached into the lower-80s. It doesn’t stay that warm long. It can literally drop from the 70s to the 40s overnight. I’ve seen that happen several times when 5 to 6-foot waves mix the surface water with the colder water just a few feet lower. Because the lake is so cold, some sort of immersion protection is important. The choice boils down to wetsuits or drysuits.

hansel_bryan_160226-267Except in the middle of summer when I wear a wetsuit with a drytop, I like drysuits. Drysuits are easy to get into, you can adjust your base layers to account for the weather and if the suit has a good fit, it moves with you and doesn’t chafe – that’s not something I can say about almost every wetsuit I’ve worm. I see the value in high-end drysuits and my personal suit is a Kokatat, but many people can’t afford a Gore-tex suit. Mythic Gear is a company that wants to make drysuits more affordable for the market that can’t or won’t spend the $1000 for a high-end suit.

Over the last paddling season, I’ve tested Mythic Gear’s Matsu. The Matsu is a dead simple drysuit with features reduced to just those that are needed to make a drysuit. Mythic Gear made the suit from a 3-layer waterproof-breathable, nylon fabric in red. It has British-made latex neck and wrist gaskets, an across the chest waterproof zipper with a nylon and hook-and-loop fastener cover and Oxford-cloth drysocks. The only frilly feature is reflective piping. It’s pretty basic. Coming from a high-end suit, I definitely felt the missing features. It lacks an overskirt, pockets, protective neoprene over the latex gaskets, a Velcro waist belt, reinforcements on the knees and seat, and a relief zipper. But at $325 that’s expected, and when you think about it, it isn’t much more expensive than a set of waterproof-breathable rain jacket and pants.

hansel_bryan_160226-208Fit-wise I found that the suit did okay. The fit was small. I usually wear a large and ended up using a XL for the test. The socks were still tight despite the larger size. I wear a US11. The fit was loose but not baggy, except around the waist where it felt big. I found getting into and out of the suit more difficult than my regular suit. While I can’t put my finger on why I had difficulty getting the suit on and off, I suspect the zipper at the shoulder isn’t long enough. I found it was easiest to put my left arm in and then put my head into the suit without punching through the neck gasket, and then put my right arm in. Finally, punch my head through. Reversing this was the easiest way to get the suit off. There’s a bungee cord at the waist to help draw the suit into your waist. It helped make the suit feel less loose in the middle, but wasn’t necessary after I put on my neoprene skirt. On the water, the suit is loose enough that it doesn’t get in the way, but it doesn’t have the refined fit like my Kokatat does. I never experienced any chafing.

 

Under low to moderate exertion, the waterproof-breathable fabric seemed to move the moisture away from my body and kept me comfortable, especially on colder days. As the air temps moved in the 60s, I felt warm and started to wet out clothing. Under high levels of exertion, I often overheated. With water temps as cold as it is on Lake Superior, it’s easy to roll to cool off. After a particularly hard workout/rock garden session in 50°F air temps, I overheated so much that I had to hold a balance brace for several minutes just to cool off in the suit. While I might have overheated in my Kokatat, I could definitely feel the difference between the low-end fabric of the Mythic Gear suit verse Gore-tex in its ability to transfer moisture. When using the Mythic Gear suit, my layers were soaked out completely from sweat after high-intensitive paddling sessions. Again, that isn’t unusual after a strenuous paddling session, but it seemed more than I was used to from Gore-tex. This was less of an issue during winter paddles when the temps ranged from 15°F to 30°F. In those temps, it did a good job of keeping the heat inside and blocking the wind.

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The most important feature of a drysuit is whether or not it’s dry. I’ve seen a paddler go into the water using a low-end suit that leaked. He didn’t have a good day during the training that we were doing. You don’t want be the person that’s wet in his drysuit. Not only is it dangerous and life threatening, but you increase the risk to your fellow paddlers who have to deal with your wet drysuit. The Matsu is dry. To test this I swam in the big lake, rolled many times and held long balance braces. After the first test of walking into the big lake, the suit kept my clothing completely dry. Moisture did build up while paddling, but it was primarily sweat.

hansel_bryan_160226-328It’s hard to come to a final conclusion on this drysuit. It’s dry. The fit is okay. The fabric doesn’t breathe as well as Gore-tex, but comparing it to a high-end Kokatat suit feels like comparing a four star hotel to a budget motel. They’re in different leagues and not really competing against each other. Both could achieve high ratings in their respective categories. If you don’t have the money to afford a high-end suit, you won’t buy a high-end suit. By comparison, the price of the Mythic Gear Matsu seems like a bargain. And that price could help put more people into drysuits. Just don’t expect high-end performance. If you only have $325 to spend, then this suit is for you.

Each year, Mythic’s lineup changes. You can view the current lineup here: Mythic Gear Drysuits

2016 Models

  • Sobek: America’s lowest-priced drysuit. Breathable fabric, integral drysocks. SCUBA-quality gaskets and zipper. $280.
  • Enki Relief: Identical to Sobek with the addition of a relief zipper. $349
  • Kiwa: Enhanced breathability, sophisticated tailoring for greater comfort and freedom of motion, beefed-up drysock fabric for durability, reflective strip across chest for visibility, relief zipper, SCUBA-quality gaskets and zippers. $459
  • Matsu: This is the suit I tested. It’s identical to the Kiwa except that it has no relief zipper. Mythic Gear is not making this suit for 2016 but they have some remaining in Small. $325

Further Reading: How to Choose a Dry Suit for Kayaking


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Mythic Gear Matsu on loan in consideration for review publication.

3 comments

  • It may just be me, but I felt there were contradictory phrases in this review.; was it a good fit or not,?if it stayed dry, what was the moisture other than “mostly sweat”? If it’s the same as the Kiwa, why is it so cheap, because it has no relief zipper? I think this is more about affordability than quality. I certainly wouldn’t skimp on a pfd because it was a lot cheaper, would you?
    Not convinced. I’ve had two dry suits, one a kokatat regular, (non goretex) and the other a used ocean something or other supposedly semi breathable. Neither leaked but I sweat like crazy and my concern is heat transferrance through conduction from extended periods in the water. I need someone to address that issue, as rescues in bad conditions take longer than in perfect conditions.

    • I don’t think it’s contradictory. I’ll try to answer your questions below:

      * Was it a good fit or not? The fit was okay. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad. My Kokatat Meridian is much better. I wrote about how it fit and gave my opinion. There’s a difference between objective statements and subjective opinions. I gave both.

      * The moisture was mostly sweat. In every drysuit that I’ve owned, I get some water in through the wrist gaskets, especially after long paddles. That could be from the shape of my wrists or it could be common. I don’t know, because I haven’t really asked anyone else. It’s not much, but it ends up there. It isn’t enough that I worry about it, because it isn’t something that concerns me for safety.

      * Why is it cheaper than the Kiwa? As I wrote, “It’s identical to the Kiwa except that it has no relief zipper.” I didn’t ask Mythic whether or not that was the reason the it was more expensive. I would assume that it part of the reason, because waterproof zippers are expensive. It could also be inflation in material costs. I don’t know. Do you need me to find out, because I can drop him an email?

      * Would I skimp on a life vest because it was a lot cheaper? Depends on the vest. Life vests have to meet certain safety standards, so you have a minimum level of safety that you’re starting from. Because of that I shop for the features that I want. On my sea kayaking vest, I wanted rescue belt, VHF pocket, a pocket for a compass and keys, a knife and strobe attachment point and the ability to add a hydration pack. I ended up with the Kokatat Guide because it had those features. It was a Type V vest, so safety concerns didn’t even cross my mind.

      * Heat transference through conduction from extended periods in the water: You’re going to lose heat in the water both through conduction and convection. A drysuit helps prevent convective heat loss by serving as a membrane to prevent direct convection with your skin. Conduction is the transfer of heat from your body through the membrane to the water. While a drysuit will provide some protection against conduction, it’s actually the insulation you wear under the drysuit that prevents conduction. So, you have to have insulation under the suit to protect against heat loss from conduction. Nylon doesn’t offer much protection against that type of heat loss. Depending on the thickness, a wetsuit will provide more protection than a drysuit against conductive heat loss — unless you wear enough insulation under your drysuit. Make sense?

      I just want to note, that I’m not writing reviews to convince you one way or another. I’m just writing my impressions of the gear that I’m reviewing. I don’t care one way or another whether you buy it or not. I do care that I write an honest review of my impressions. I didn’t find anything dangerous about this suit, otherwise I would have stated so. Would I buy it? No. I’d save my money for a Kokatat Meridian, which is the suit I own. Would I buy the Kiwa at $459 if I didn’t want to spend the money to get the Meridian? No. I’d save my money and buy a Meridian.

  • Thanks for a good, candid review. I can afford a Kokatat but am not in situations often enough for me to look spend that much. I just ordered a Mythic and will use it in Tennessee whitewater. As an L3 canoe ACA IT I am familiar with the types of conditions you describe.

    I do enjoy your photography!

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