First look: Palm Cascade & Palm Spark Drysuits

Drysuits (aka surface immersion suits) are what many paddlers turn to when combating off season brine missions. Giving a dryer ride than their neoprene brethren, these garments can be more favourable paddling attire – especially during winter.

Palm Drysuit

Strike a pose – Tez and Tim vogueing it up Palm Equipment are a premier brand offering solutions for all blade wielding enthusiasts and produce a wide range of applicable apparel. Sitons laid hands on Palm’s Cascade and Spark to see how they fared.

EH?

Prospective newbie drysuit owners may be thinking: ‘what’s a surface immersion suit when it’s at home?’ The difference is these babies are designed to keep you warm and cosy but aren’t manufactured with continuous immersion in mind, like a dive suit. Most of the time you’ll be in your boat and above the water – not in it. This isn’t to say that you’ll end up soaked and close to hypothermia, should you fall in. In fact, the reality will be quite the opposite. It’s important, however, to know and understand the differences.

AND ANOTHER THING…

Surface immersion suits and drysuits won’t keep you warm without appropriate under garments. Clambering into one of these as naked as the day you were born, will result in paddlers being just as cold (if not chillier) than had you bombed headfirst into the drink without any protection. Layering yourself up will help maximise furnace levels. A decent base, mid layer and finally suit itself, is the best combination for staving off frostbite.

A NOTE ON CONDITIONS

Winter season 13/14 will go down as one of the windiest and wettest on record. It’s also been incredibly mild – relatively speaking. This last statement will no doubt come down to personal tolerance thresholds, but trust us when we say, warmth levels have remained average or above for weeks on the south coast. Ultimately this has meant less protection needed during paddle missions.

Tez heading out in the Palm Cascade During testing air temperatures were reading sub 10C and therefore perfect for assessing the Palm Cascade and Spark.

FIRST LOOK

Palm’s Cascade is billed as the brand’s entry level surface immersion suit. The level of finish, attention to detail and manufacturing quality would have put this at the top of the pile a few years ago. Cascade spec – • 1610g weight (L). • XP 3-layer fabric. • Nylon 320D reinforcements. • 3D articulated cut. • Latex gasket neck and wrist seals with adjustable outer collar and cuffs. • Velcro adjustable neoprene waistband. • XP 4-layer socks with Nylon 320D soles. • Flexi TiZip MasterSeal front entry and relief zip (the pee flap!). • Elastic draw cord waist, reinforced elbow, seat and knees and reflective details. The Spark is a mid range suit and has a large fan base who love the design and what it offers.

Palm Equipment’s Spark surface immersion suit Spark spec – • 1512g weight (L). • XP 3-layer fabric. • YKK AquaGuard zipped chest pocket. • 4D articulated cut. • GlideSkin neck seal with Latex gaskets, adjustable Velcro cuffs and neoprene foot gaskets. • Flxible TiZip MasterSeal rear entry and relief zip. • Retaining inner neoprene waistband and reflective detailing.

GETTING SET

Our gangliest tester (Tim, who measures 6’5”) found it a little tricky to get inside the Cascade. Broad shoulders and longer arms meant a Houdini esque contortion exercise was needed – eventually he got there though!

Tim beelining towards the beach Surprisingly Tim was accommodated better by the Spark. On paper this shouldn’t have been the case, as it’s a size medium, but highlights the suit’s versatility. Increased leg length and manoeuvrability were also appreciated. Tezs’ smaller stature meant a looser fit on the Cascade but excess material was easily locked off with Velcro wrist and ankle features.

GETTING WET

Heading into the brine, a bit of chop was kicking up ensuring a good deal of spray was flung about. Both the Cascade and Spark repelled salty seawater efficiently during the pinch upwind. Even with PFDs firmly in place it was noted how unrestrictive the two suits were – ensuring maximum propulsion and manoeuvrability was kept through strokes.

Tez vibing on Palm’s Cascade surface immersion suit Warmth levels stayed on the up and by the end of the session, the sub 10C conditions were no match. Bodily warmth certainly wasn’t lacking – in fact both paddlers were extremely toasty. So much so that a layer needed to be removed or face overheating.

FULL IMMERSION!

After mucking about in the wavelets the inevitable immersion test was called for and dutifully both paddlers chucked themselves overboard. Bobbing about like marine debris gave the chance to investigate if any more cold could be felt – happily this wasn’t the case. Remaining comfortable, even as chilly water enveloped their bodies, both paddlers had smiles at the end of the session.

Tez floating… Once back on land the suits were inspected and surprisingly there was little to no water creeping past seals. Zips and gaskets did their job admirably and both the Spark and Cascade performed well. Base layers were a little moist but this was down to sweat evaporation rather than saltwater seepage. *** If you want full length socks added to the Spark then you can always get Palm to fit these for you – quality service! ***

…and Tim floating…

SUMMING UP

Palm’s Cascade and Spark surface immersion suits are cracking bits of kit. Both offer superior levels of comfort, manoeuvrability and function. Specs and features are super high end with loads of thought and design traits built in. The Spark arguably has a better entry and exit zipper and the GlideSkin neck seal is a touch more comfortable. Both suits stave off chill amazingly well, even after unceremonious dunking’s. Styling is top notch, although some may prefer less lairy colour ways… For the sit on kayaking crowd both the Cascade and Spark would be worthy choices to keep you going through colder months. If your tendency veers towards surf paddling then we’d recommend the Spark as this offers a tad more performance. The Cascade would be a great choice for less hectic water states. For more info on both the Cascade and Spark head over to www.palmequipmenteurope.com

Style, comfort and function