Latex Free Gaskets
If you paddle in cold temperatures, you’re familiar with dry top and dry suits, so you’re also familiar with the often-cursed wrist and neck gaskets found on these garments. For the most part, these gaskets are made with latex because nothing is quite like it. It’s cheap, easy to glue or tape, and has a remarkable ability to stretch many times it’s original size and then retract back over and over and over again. Despite the fact that sometimes they can feel constricting and make getting in and out of your dry top a struggle, most people find latex gaskets tolerable and they do a pretty good job of keeping water out of your suit or jacket.
If you have latex allergies, though, these gaskets are a non-starter. As a result, we get many calls from customers looking for a decent latex gasket replacement that will allow them to paddle in cold temperatures with their latex-tolerant friends without getting a radiation-like burn around their neck and wrists. This article will help explain the options available, and discuss the pros and cons of each.
To make a long story short, currently there is nothing quite as good as latex for dry suit/jacket gaskets, despite a real need for such a thing. We'll also point out that there are only a handful of companies making latex gaskets in the world, with most (if not all) gaskets found on kayaking garments coming from one company in England. We point this out because we can say with a high degree of certainty that all kayak gear manufacturers are looking for great latex alternative, and the minute it’s available, we’re all going to be offering it. Basically if we (or any other gear maker) don’t have latex free gaskets, none of us do. In any case, on to the solutions.
Silicone is totally hypoallergenic and has even better stretch than latex, making it a fantastic option for anyone with a latex allergy. Though there have been companies making silicone gaskets for a number of years, we haven't found a good way to adhere them to our gasket receivers until recently.
Historically, the problem has been that nothing sticks to silicon except more silicone, which is a lousy adhesive. The companies that sell these gaskets also sell a two part plastic ring/clamp set up that is used to cinch down on the edges of the gasket, and then in turn you can glue this ring to your garment. This works ok in dive suits, but it’s awful for kayaking. The rings are clunky and sized large enough to fit over your head and hands and generally are unbelievably annoying in use on the river. Additionally, they could potentially catch on a strainer, quickly turning into an added hazard.
However, after a bit of research and design, we've found a way to attach silicone gaskets to our suits in a way that is both comfortable and secure. The downside to silicone gaskets is that it takes a bit of work to build a new gasket receiver, so the costs of this alteration are a bit more than a traditional latex option.
Double Neoprene Gaskets
Yes, like the neoprene foam used on spray skirts and wetsuits. We actually make a class of garments called “semi dry” tops which feature a neoprene foam neck seal that keeps a good amount of water out and is significantly more comfortable than a traditional latex gasket. In an effort to offer a drier seal using a neoprene gasket, we're now offering a double neoprene gasket conversion.
While this won't be nearly as dry as a latex or silicone gasket, most customers will find this to be a much more approachable option. Keep in mind, this won't be a "dry" option in the same sense as other gasket types, but if you value comfort over dryness, a double neoprene gasket may be something to consider. It will keep water from pouring into your garment and is best suited to three season paddling.
Still have questions?
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