I bought myself an IR (Immersion Research) Arch Rival drysuit for a trip to South America, and it got some pretty heavy use over the 6 months I was there as it’s not always as warm as it looks!
It’s had some long multi-days and endless hikes through forests full of spikes, been in strong sunlight pretty much the entire time and all the abuse you’d expect from a long paddling trip. I’d guess I used it around 3-4 times a week (as my cag had no neck seal) and the river water is usually really cold!
First impressions of the IR Arch Rival drysuit were positive, the fabric was light and flexible meaning it was good to wear, and the fit was as good as any other suit I’ve used. The blurb on the website says that the OX fabric is a bit stiff when new, but I really don’t think this is that noticeable.
I was initially a little bit worried about two features I’d not had before, latex socks and a shoulder zip.
The zip goes across your right shoulder, and then under the waist tube, and has an extra little cover and zip to cover the waterproof T-zip instead of leaving the (expensive) T-zip exposed.
I thought this arrangement might get in the way when carrying a boat, but it didn’t at all.
Having now had both a shoulder and front zip arrangement on a drysuit I still have no preference, but I will say that the extra cover zip did get a little annoying now and then.
The latex socks are still holding up no problems after 6 months of hiking in them with just straight in my shoes with no outside socks. I cut a small nick in one on something sharp, but a small bicycle inner-tube patch sealed it up completely, much easier than on a fabric foot.
I feel that the advantages of the latex feet are that small holes like that are easy to identify and fix, whereas my old fabric socks would just leak slowly through the fabric after a while.
I do a stupid amount of hiking for my kayaking and the socks have held up better than I would expect.
I wore the suit in all sorts of conditions, hot/cold/icy/glacial water etc., and was dry pretty much all the time. I don’t sweat loads but still had minimal condensation on the inside after a long day of hot weather paddling. I would get the occasional jet of water down my neck as there is no Velcro on the neck, but this seems to happen to some people more than others.
The suit material itself has held up very well, the fabric is lighter and more flexible that on other suits I’ve had, yet it shows minimal signs of wear after a lot of use, and is still waterproof as well (aside from a couple of small pinprick holes after I spent 12 hours rolling around in thorns, but that was to be expected as the thorns went through the suit, my thermals and a few centimeters into my legs).
The only real annoyance to me from the suit was the Velcro seals around the wrists, they were not strong enough, and would keep undoing when I went through a big wave/hole and flapping around. However I have been told that this has already been addressed with the new 2015 models where they have put a bigger bit of Velcro on.
It is a lot lighter and nicer to wear than my old Typhoon suit, and is miles ahead of my Palm Torrent when it comes to waterproofness and durability of the material. For £400 RRP I would seriously consider getting another of these over any other similar priced drysuit.
There were a few little bits that I didn’t like, but overall the suit has been very good, and most importantly has kept me dry (unlike some others) and looks like it will do for a while.
Review: Lee Royle.
Images: Lee Royle, Rory Woods