Kokatat Gore-Tex Meridian Relief Men’s Dry Suit with Relief Zipper and Socks
Sizes Tested: L and XL
- Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric with Cordura reinforced knees and seat
- Front Entry zipper
- Relief zipper
- Over-tunnel for kayak skirts
- Gore-Tex socks/booties
- Height: 6’2”
- Weight: 200 lbs.
- Waist: 34”
- Inseam: 34”
- Chest: 44”
- Feet: 11.5 US
- Wingspan: 75.25”
Total days Tested: 300+ (between two suits – see Sizing section)
Locations Tested: Pacific Northwest, New England, Norway, and Quebec
The Gore-Tex Meridian dry suit is Kokatat’s high-end dry suit for whitewater and sea kayakers, and it is often regarded as the standard by which other dry suits are judged. People who own other dry suits often say things like “It’s no Kokatat, but it works pretty well.”
So just how deserving is the Meridian of this “untouchable” reputation?
Kokatat provides a sizing chart for their dry suits, but as I found out first hand, if you are in between two sizes, opt for the larger of the two.
My dimensions put me at the top end of the range for a size Large Meridian, and the low end of the range for most of the dimensions of the Extra Large. I was concerned about having too much fabric around my waist and chest in the Extra Large, so I went for the Large.
It turned out that my shoulders are just a bit too wide for the Large, and I ended up in a suit that was just a bit too small. After a season and a half I got tired of the poor fit, went for the Extra Large, and haven’t looked back.
The seat and knees of the Meridian are reinforced with Cordura fabric to keep the waterproof fabric underneath from getting damaged, and Gore-Tex booties are sewn into the suit. The suit’s latex neck and wrist gaskets have light neoprene over-cuffs for protection, and the ankle gaskets have over-cuffs with hook-and-loop closures that can be used to take up extra cuff fabric.
The Meridian also comes with an over-tunnel with hook-and-loop tabs that allow it to be tightened around your skirt tunnel, limiting the amount of water that can enter your boat through the skirt.
A suit’s zipper is its most important component, as it’s most likely to fail if not taken care of properly. The Meridian’s zipper is a metal-toothed waterproof zipper originally manufactured for diving dry suits. It has helped keep me dry without fail for over 200 days through swiftwater rescue classes and during my out-of-boat experiences.
This isn’t absolutely guaranteed, though. Some careful maintenance is required to make sure a metal zipper remains waterproof.
I have babied the Meridian’s zipper, making sure it stays free of dirt and sand, does not get bent, and is well waxed. If a tooth gets misaligned or the zipper is bent, the metal zipper is no longer waterproof, and you’ll have to have the entire zipper replaced (which will cost you ~$400). Some companies are beginning to manufacture polymer zippers which are more flexible and more durable than metal ones, while still being waterproof. I think we can expect to see plastic/plymer zippers on more and more dry suits in the future, possibly on future iterations of the Meridian.
The Meridian is a front zip suit, so it is easy to get in and out of alone without too much contortion, but, compared to a rear entry suit, it allows some water to leak into your boat between the zipper and skirt tunnel—which isn’t ideal for play boating in very cold water.
There is also a relief zipper below the over-tunnel, which is a must-have feature on a dry suit. And Kokatat is one of the few companies to offer a women’s version of the Kokatat with a drop seat.
Material and Breathability
The Meridian is made with Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric, one of the best waterproof/breathable fabrics available. (For more information on technical fabrics, check out our Outerwear 101.)
The Gore-Tex Meridian breathed well during periods of low and moderate exertion. The only time I noticed the limitations in breathability of the material was on a trip down Chinook Creek in Washington in a fairly bizarre, diabolical set of conditions. The temperature of the air was 85° F, which resulted in a lot of ultra-cold snowmelt water in the river. I was fine when I was in or near the water, but during the portages out of and away from the cold river, my dry suit turned into a sweat suit. But I think this is to be expected in those sort of conditions with any waterproof fabric, no matter how breathable. And in general, the Meridian’s Gore-Tex fabric did a significantly better job of keeping me comfortable during moderate activity than any non-breathable dry gear I have ever used.
Dryness / Waterproofing
On the water, the Meridian does its job very well. The suit keeps me dry and the cut of the Meridian in an XL is generous enough that I do not feel restricted when really reaching for a stroke. I really have no complaints about the Meridian’s waterproofing or general on-water performance in any area, but again, its design does mean that it’s not ideal for use while playboating. While the range of motion afforded by the XL is more than enough for any playboating move, its front entry design means that after a long play session your boat will accumulate a fair amount of water. This can be a bit of a pain when the weather is really cold, and getting out of your boat to dump out water means exposing more of yourself to the conditions.
If you are primarily looking for a dry suit to extend your play season, it is worth considering a back-zip, or rear-entry, dry suit (like the Icon from Kokatat, and the offerings from Immersion Research).
Water can make its way in through the Meridian’s skirt tunnel while creeking and river running too, but only in significant amounts when you get seriously beat down or while running high volume rivers with lots of crashing waves. I have only rarely found the amount of water coming in through my skirt while wearing the Meridian to be a problem.