I have been using a Sweet Protection Shadrach dry top for the last couple of years when it gets a little warm for a full dry suit. It has served me well has stood up to the test of time. For 2014 Sweet protection have released the new Supernova dry top and thanks to the guys at Sweet I have been able to give one of the new Supernova dry tops in Gunmetal blue a good test for review here.
Now I must start off with the fact that Sweet kit is pretty expensive. The Goretex Pro shell Supernova retails at a huge £399. Now that this is out in the open and out of the way lets consider what you are getting for your hard earned cash.
Now this is the third piece of paddling kit that I have tried that uses Goretex as its main fabric material. It’s hard to judge whether or not this makes the top drier on the inside than any other as conditions of use are so variable but I can say that the face fabric has a great feel and you can guarantee that due to Goretex’s strict conditions of use that all of the seems will be taped and sealed to exacting tolerances. After many years of use all of my other Sweet kit is holding up really well.
On the material, well it feels pretty robust and is noticeably much heavier than the Shadrach. This suggests to me that the Supernova will stand up to some pretty harsh use and come back fighting for more. Certainly from the time I have spent with it and the number of portages and climb outs that it has gone through it is holding up well. The elbows have some additional and even heavier duty ripstop Cordura fabric to defend against rock hits and potential tears.
The fit of the Supernova (for me) is simply superb. Rather than being a jacket that has been designed and built up as a basic shaped garment the Supernova has been built to ensure that it fits a paddler well and has been shaped to ensure that this happens. It has to be one of the best fitting cags that I have worn. Arm length is spot on as is the body length. At 6ft 2” I with a long body I sometimes find that some tops are a little short in the body and arms but this is not the case with any of the Sweet products I have tried. Now don’t make the assumption that the sizing is out of proportion. A few mates of mines of various sizes (but all require a large top) have tried the Supernova and have found the fit just as good. Once on the superb fit negates the heavier feel of the fabric. There is no restriction of movement from either the design or fabric as I was able to achieve full movement whilst both paddling and swimming!
Both the neck and wrist seals are of a high quality. The neck seal is protected by an additional neoprene neck cone and the wrist by Velcro adjustable neoprene seals. On arrival I did cut the rubberneck gasket to ensure that I could wear it in comfort and still remain dry. This was a super easy process and a much-preferred approach rather than hoping that the seal will stretch out over time, or even force it to stretch which I know some paddlers do.
I haven’t experience any noticeable leaks at any of the seals or the waist. I did get the odd drip down my neck but this is comparable to every other cag I have owned and says more about the shape of my neck rather than the design and fit of the top.
A chest pocket with contrasting zip is also included but this is not fully waterproof, although I have found very little water if any actually gets in there. Both this pocket and the outer neck gasket have water drain vents just in case water finds its way through.
The body tunnel is an interesting one and has been taken from the design of the Shadrach. The inner part is made from the same fabric as the main jacket and includes a rubberized strip along its bottom edge to help the tunnel stay in place. The outer is a combination of the normal jacket fabric and neoprene. It has been designed to give a nice wide opening for getting on/off yet can also be adjusted (without excess fabric) to produce a good seal around the spray deck tunnel. It works incredibly well.
The Supernova is available in two colours the Gunmetal Blue as seen here and Catchup Red. Now the gunmetal blue isn’t a colour I would normally go for, however after testing the Intergalatic dry suit last year in the same colour I do really like it. It’s definitely a colour that looks better on the water and is a little bit different from the usual. To contrast the blue there are several little details in orange. The Sweet Strutter helmet and Shambala shorts are also available in the same colours if you want to be fully colour coordinated.
The Supernova is a highly technical dry top with all of the key features you would ever need. It’s tough, robust and should happily give season after season of top service. I love the fit and I love the performance. Buying a dry top at £399 is an investment and should really be seen as such. My Sweet Shadrach has provided a great level of protection over the last few years and I can see that the Supernova will clearly do the same.
Super elastic Yamamoto neoprene, lycra on both sides
Thick latex bottleneck neck gasket inside
Engineered for unsurpassed freedom of movement in GORE-TEX® Pro
GORE-TEX® Pro inner waist tube with taped seams and super grippy silicone elastic hem
Neck tube drain hole
Articulated arms for unrestricted movement
Thick latex bottleneck wrist gaskets inside
Wrist cuff and gaskets with cuff grab made of unnapped velcro Yamamoto neoprene
Waist seal tube of unnapped Yamamoto neoprene with grippy rubber inside
Chest pocket with zipper access
All-new Hypalon Velcro waist adjustment for a tight and secure fit towards spray skirt.