Immersion Research 7Figure Dry Top Review

I’ll be completely honest, I bought my Methyl Blue 7Figure Dry Top because I already had a 7Figure Dry Suit in Lime Green and couldn’t quite convince myself it was a good idea to have two dry suits just because I couldn’t decide which colour I liked best.

Flying Start

Photo: Kirstie Macmillan, Paddler: Mathew Wilkinson, River: Tryweryn

I didn’t really need a cag, as my 7Figure Dry Suit isn’t too heavy to wear in the Autumn (even though it’s nice and toasty in the Winter), and my Rival Shorty Cag is pretty effective at keeping me comfortable even when the Summer sun starts to fade away.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve had several moments of rational thought on the subject since buying my 7Figure Dry Top though, and I still don’t regret the purchase; it’s great having that extra flexibility in my gear selection for those days where the weather could go either way, or it’s right in-between the perfect temperature for a shorty cag or a dry suit.

The 7Figure Dry Top also isn’t just half of the dry suit; it shares many of the same benefits, like super comfy yet highly durable material, surprisingly high levels of dryness that are yet to fade and a great fit, but it also adds in fuss free neoprene over-cuffs at the wrists.

I gave the dry suit 5 stars, so this probably deserves 5 and a half – it certainly blows any other dry cag I’ve ever owned out of the water, and in the water is exactly where I want to be (or preferably on it)!

Immersion Research 7Figure Drysuit Review

This thing is UNBELIEVABLY comfortable, and I don’t just mean the super silky material that feels almost like it’s flowing through your hands when you first unwrap it!

Not-so-Low Force

Kayaking becomes somewhat of a spectator sport when you’ve lost your boat, but at least I was dry! Photo by Martin-In-Teasdale.

I’ve had drysuits from several brands that have either been way too snug (even when I’m not being overly optimistic with my size choice), or make me look like MC Hammer and thwart my efforts to gracefully traverse even the lowest of fallen trees; the IR 7Figure Suit has no such issues, so I spend much less time squeezing air out of it and barely notice it’s there when I’m moving about on/around/in the river.

I’m probably the definition of an average paddler, so in the 12 months I’ve been using this suit it has seen several rough swims, a few hacks through dense undergrowth and plenty of clumsy moments getting into and out of kayaks, and it’s still bone dry and going strong.

I could complain about the neoprene over cuff of the neck being a little loose or say that the rear entry zip could be slightly better placed, but compared to the other dry suits on the market right now, that would be like saying my gold bars are a little too heavy, or my new Ferrari isn’t quite the right shade of red… This suit is great, and so is the price, so go buy one!

(P.S. I also love the unobtrusive neoprene waistband that keeps the suit up when you’ve taken off the top half, and the bright colours are beautiful!)

Don’t Lose Your Kit, Label It!

I’ve scrawled my contact details (and some funky designs) on to various items of paddling kit using many different implements over the years; Paint Markers, Sharpies and even Radiator Paint have been previous favourites, but I’ve been introduced to a better solution…

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2 Sheets of Toughtags and some offcuts of other colours they were kind enough to send me for a purpose you’ll see later…

Toughtags are fantastic! They don’t scratch, crack or rub off and it doesn’t matter how bad your handwriting might be, as they’re printed in an easily readable font!

It can often be difficult to write legibly on smaller items of kit too, which is another advantage of Toughtags, as even the smaller font sizes are still clear.

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Two labelled carabiners, and one in progress; Toughtags were originally designed for climbing gear so are perfect for this!

If you’re on a safety course, or dealing with a real life whitewater rescue situation, it can often be a pain in the bum to work out whose carabiners and pulleys are whose after everything has calmed down again; labelling them with Toughtags is a great way to make yours immediately identifiable.

For us kayaking types, Toughtags even offer an extra-long tag that will wrap around any size of paddle shaft (probably one of the most lost items when on the river!) – just send them an email asking for the longer tags!

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Comparison of the regular sized Toughtags (top) and extra-long Toughtags (bottom).

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Labelling my Werner Sho-Guns with the extra-long Toughtags.

Labelling your kit doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it back, but with no real GPS tracking option that is compact, waterproof, affordable and has a long-lasting battery, it’s the best chance you’ve got; it’s even mandatory at places like Lee Valley (so they know who to blame when a stray item jams the pumps!)

Make sure you include an email address and phone number (with international dialling code), so that whoever finds your kit has plenty of options to get in touch with you. If you have any specific medical needs you could even have these printed on Toughtags to stick on your helmet incase you’re unable to communicate those needs to the emergency services after an incident.

The strong, waterproof glue and durable material of Toughtags isn’t just great for kayaking kit, the offcuts shown in the image at the top of this article were used to replace the tattered colour coding labels on my tent poles, and they’re still going strong too!

 

P.S. I felt a strong sense of irony when completing this article, as I’ve recently lost my own, unlabelled kayak – should have followed my own advice!

My Manbag is Better Than Yours

Several months ago, I bought myself a Watershed® Ocoee Dry Duffel Bag from Go Kayaking North West, and I honestly think it’s the best step forwards in equipment I’ve made since I moved from separates to a drysuit; here’s why:

Everything is Now in One Place*

Coaches say this all the time on Rescue courses, but it really does help to have all your emergency kit in one, easily accessible place – now if anything happens on the river, I can just grab my Ocoee and have my First Aid Kit, Small Group Shelter, Phone, Simple Repair Kit, Warm Hat, Survival Bag, Head Torch, Snacks, Warm Drink and Car Keys on me for whatever the situation is.

Better still, if I’m not near my boat or I’ve already got my hands full (metaphorically or literally), I can just ask someone else to ‘go grab the orange bag from the back of my boat’ – no long lists, no confusion, no faff.

(*My more ‘immediate’ rescue kit like a Knife, Whistle, Sling, Pin Kit and Throwline are usually even closer to hand in my BA pockets or elsewhere on my person.)

It’s INCREDIBLY Dry

During a canoeing trip on the Spey, I had my Ocoee under the seat with Waterproofs, Suncream, Lunch, Drinks, a Camera, Snacks and a few other bits in; despite plenty of splashes, some rain, being left outside overnight and a fair few hasty closures before hitting a bigger rapid and getting swamped, there wasn’t once a single hint of moisture inside the bag over the whole 3 days.

There’s a great story on Watershed’s blog about an Ocoee that was lost in a river for 3 months, you’ll be amazed at the ending…

The Build Quality is Reassuringly Reliable

The bag fits snugly under the seat in an open boat, and even though it’s been dragged in and out of there many times against the gritty bottom of the canoe, as well as regularly being stuffed in the back of my kayak and yanked out again by one of the straps, there isn’t even a hint of wear or weakness.

The US Military use these too, so I’m sure there’s plenty more than just canoeing and kayaking that it’ll withstand! Much better than worrying about your bag being plagued with miniature holes if you treat it roughly.

It’s Just the Right Size

Being duffel style, the opening of the bag (measuring around 33cm) is along it’s longest side, so it’s super easy to see exactly what’s inside and get to the bigger items without having to take everything else out too. The Ocoee is also an ideal size to carry all the essentials and still fit in the back of your kayak (it’s around 15L capacity and measures roughly 23 x 41 x 20cm), so you don’t have to fuss with lots of smaller bags or part-fill a bigger bag and then struggle with hundreds of folds on the closure and having to squeeze out loads of excess air.

Watershed also do a bigger Chattooga Dry Duffel, and an even bigger Yukon Dry Duffel, as well as loads of other cool things like Padded Dry Duffels for Cameras and Kayak Airbags that double as Storage Bags.

It’s Really Easy to Carry

The integrated carry handle feels strong and is super comfy to hold, which is great as the bag could get heavy if fully loaded with camera kit. The bag itself only weighs a little over half a kilogram, which isn’t unreasonable compared to other ‘heavy-duty’ duffels.

If you’re filling the Ocoee full of heavy equipment, carrying it for long distances or need your hands free, you can purchase a separate Shoulder Strap which is a great addition!

Plenty of attachment points on the bag mean you can easily mount the shoulder strap where you like, or attach the bag to something else you’re carrying, as well as being able to easily secure the bag in your boat so it won’t float off during a swim or if you get swamped.

It’s Highly Visible

Ok, this may not be an exclusive feature of Watershed bags alone, but it’s still good to know that if I put it down anywhere and forget where it is, the light fades or worse still it floats off, it won’t be too hard to find again thanks to the bright orange colour.

You can also get the Ocoee in Blue and Clear, or if you don’t want to be seen, it comes in Camo, Black or Brown too!

It’s Easy to Use

The ZipDry® Closure is really quick and simple to seal, but incredibly effective; it does need lubing regularly though to make sure it closes fully. This type of closure is much more reassuring than a fold closure, and you can fold it down too for extra peace of mind; it’s also easier to leave a little gap for squeezing air out.

Better still, you can get the Ocoee with an inflate/purge valve, so you can get all the air out to make fitting the bag in the back of a kayak easier, or so you can ensure you have enough air in the bag for it to float if you’re canoeing or rafting.

Also…

Another thing that really impressed me about Watershed’s products was the option to order them without packaging, which not only saves you money, but is also even more environmentally friendly than recycled packaging.

Lunch on my Own Private Island

The flask peeks out to check if the coast is clear, little does it know that Mat is watching, and thirsty!

The Watershed Ocoee is absolutely amazing for canoeing, kayaking, rafting, general outdoors use or anything; it might look a little like a handbag, but with all the advantages it brings, I couldn’t care less!

Have you ever used one?