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I got a harsh education in what a lifetime warranty means for a kokatat drysuit today. I bought a kokatat meridian dry-suit in fall 2013 mostly on the basis of that term "life-time" warranty, and kokatat's stature as the big dog dry suit company in the business.

Having already had a dry suit go down hill quickly i lubricated the zippers with 303 every couple weeks while in use and kept the suit clean. The suit stayed dry for about 5 or 6 trips and then became more and more porous until the neck gasket ripped after about 8 months and I sent it in for repairs. It cost a little over 100 dollars to repair including shipping costs to and fro. Similarly the suit was water tight for a few trips and then deteriorated.

About 6 months later the zipper stopped working and I sent it in again. This time two pressure tests were needed ($20 each), the suit had to be cleaned ($25), and the neck and wrist gasket were replaced ($67.50 and $35.50), and with labor, materials, etc., and shipping each way it was around 250 dollars. Same story; a few good trips and then I'd be soaked to the skin each time out.

I sent the suit in again a couple weeks ago, and first thing got a peremptory request for authorization to clean the suit ($25). I felt the suit was clean so I expressed my displeasure succinctly and politely and got this reply:

My supervisor took a look at your suit and deemed your suit un-repairable. It has been worn out. There is no need to wash it now. It will be sent back at no charge.

I naively thought lifetime warranty applied to the owner of the suit. Here is kokatat's clarification:

Lifetime refers to the suit not the owner. You destroyed your suit and the life of it is over. It is un-repairable. Our warranty is through Gore-tex and gore-tex holds us to rigorous stipulations. Gore-tex will not take your suit back and so we cannot. If you have a problem with our warranty send your suit to gore-tex and see what they say.

The tone of the communication isn't "sorry about the bad news about your dry suit," it's more like "fuck off you presumptuous piece of shit," but my only interest in all this is to have a good dry suit to go kayaking in when it starts raining here again so that doesn't matter to me.

To summarize: Your kokatat dry suit is warrantied for as long as kokatat wants to warranty it. The lifetime of the suit can be expediently deemed over when convenient. Was my drysuit actually "destroyed"? I'm not an expert but I don't think so. A hole in the skin of the suit in one of the booties, some abrading of the goretex around the torso, but very much salvgeable. I surmise that they were unhappy about my complaint about the cleaning charge and chose to throw this in my face.

I guess it's my fault for not understanding what lifetime warranty meant in this context. In my defense lifetime warranty can in fact mean lifetime of the owner and does for many products. Consumer products says lifetime warranty has no universal standard or definition so you have to read the fine print.

I feel a bit hard done by because the other outfits that make kayaking stuff are so generous, helpful, and accommodating with gear issues. Anyone who has warrantied a jackson or dagger boat can understand what I'm talking about probably. The warranty is spelled out at purchase and honored quickly and without having to pay for and arrange shipping for the boat. That kind of treatment really makes me want to do business with those companies.
 

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I got a harsh education in what a lifetime warranty means for a kokatat drysuit today. I bought a kokatat meridian dry-suit in fall 2013 mostly on the basis of that term "life-time" warranty, and kokatat's stature as the big dog dry suit company in the business.

Having already had a dry suit go down hill quickly i lubricated the zippers with 303 every couple weeks while in use and kept the suit clean. The suit stayed dry for about 5 or 6 trips and then became more and more porous until the neck gasket ripped after about 8 months and I sent it in for repairs. It cost a little over 100 dollars to repair including shipping costs to and fro. Similarly the suit was water tight for a few trips and then deteriorated.

About 6 months later the zipper stopped working and I sent it in again. This time two pressure tests were needed ($20 each), the suit had to be cleaned ($25), and the neck and wrist gasket were replaced ($67.50 and $35.50), and with labor, materials, etc., and shipping each way it was around 250 dollars. Same story; a few good trips and then I'd be soaked to the skin each time out.

I sent the suit in again a couple weeks ago, and first thing got a peremptory request for authorization to clean the suit ($25). I felt the suit was clean so I expressed my displeasure succinctly and politely and got this reply:

My supervisor took a look at your suit and deemed your suit un-repairable. It has been worn out. There is no need to wash it now. It will be sent back at no charge.

I naively thought lifetime warranty applied to the owner of the suit. Here is kokatat's clarification:

Lifetime refers to the suit not the owner. You destroyed your suit and the life of it is over. It is un-repairable. Our warranty is through Gore-tex and gore-tex holds us to rigorous stipulations. Gore-tex will not take your suit back and so we cannot. If you have a problem with our warranty send your suit to gore-tex and see what they say.

The tone of the communication isn't "sorry about the bad news about your dry suit," it's more like "fuck off you presumptuous piece of shit," but my only interest in all this is to have a good dry suit to go kayaking in when it starts raining here again so that doesn't matter to me.

To summarize: Your kokatat dry suit is warrantied for as long as kokatat wants to warranty it. The lifetime of the suit can be expediently deemed over when convenient. Was my drysuit actually "destroyed"? I'm not an expert but I don't think so. A hole in the skin of the suit in one of the booties, some abrading of the goretex around the torso, but very much salvgeable. I surmise that they were unhappy about my complaint about the cleaning charge and chose to throw this in my face.

I guess it's my fault for not understanding what lifetime warranty meant in this context. In my defense lifetime warranty can in fact mean lifetime of the owner and does for many products. Consumer products says lifetime warranty has no universal standard or definition so you have to read the fine print.

I feel a bit hard done by because the other outfits that make kayaking stuff are so generous, helpful, and accommodating with gear issues. Anyone who has warrantied a jackson or dagger boat can understand what I'm talking about probably. The warranty is spelled out at purchase and honored quickly and without having to pay for and arrange shipping for the boat. That kind of treatment really makes me want to do business with those companies.
Sounds like you got a lemon, I would try to escalate this further.
 

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That sucks... The kokatat warranty only really seems to kick in if the goretex goes bad. Another thing to note when kayaking during the summer months you sweat a lot and it may seem like your suit is leaky when in actuality it is just perspiration.
 

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Not sure if tyberesk has the best advice there to "escalate," further. But couple things to note and if you're respectable about dealing with them they may change their tune.

1. Unfortunately you may have pre-maturely destroyed your zipper by, "lubricating" it with 303. 303 is by no means meant to be used on zippers. It actually dries them out further and deteriorates the surrounding material. There is a product called zip tech specifically designed for lubricating drysuit zippers. 303 is meant to be used on gaskets but it is merely sun protection. To actually lube and protect gaskets you need Seal Saver, except it's no longer made, but I think McNett may now make a different but similar product for gaskets.

2. Cleaning of the drysuit is a tricky one but understand that Kokatat spends a ton of time with your drysuit when you send it back and cleaning it should not be their job. A drysuit works so so so much better when it's clean and to really clean it you need to use a wash product like Nikwax Tech Wash. The pressure test will not work on a dirty drysuit because it will cause leaks where the dirt is clogging the Gore-Tex pores. From my recollection water tests only cost $5 and the shipping brings it to $20ish. Maybe they've changed the policy though.

3. I'm having a hard time believing the suit was soaking you to the bone after 5-6 uses and this may be why tyberesk thinks it's a lemon. I've owned numerous Kokatat drysuits and none have ever leaked that quickly. My norm would be for it to stay bone dry through around hundred uses, then send it back and get a hundred more.

4. From my customer service experience with Kokatat I also have a hard time believing you "succinctly and politely" expressed your displeasure and that then, all of the sudden your drysuit was deemed unrepairable.

Maybe something is missing from the story, maybe not, but I would advise again succinctly and politely expressing that you'll either pay for the suit to be cleaned or, if they already sent it back to you, clean it and send it back and have it repaired again. On my oldest drysuits I've always used NikWax Gore-Tex tach wash to clean then TX direct Wash-In to return the suit to a DWR like finish where water will bead off it, after getting it back from Kokatat repairing it. Also wearing socks on the outside of your booties is a great way to save the socks on the suit. How hard of use are you putting this bad boy through?
 

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I'm not sure if I have enough grounds to call bullshit or a troll alert, but the original post doesn't make sense to me. So here goes...

I have two Kokatat suits, Goretex Meridian and Hydrus Meridian. I've sent the both back to Kokatat for service and I've been very pleased. I managed to tear the Hydrus suit twice in the right shoulder during some upside Class IV down antics. They repaired both for $20 plus shipping each incident. No issues.

I just got my Goretex Meridian back from pressure test and service. I've had this suit since Fall 2012 and I paddle over 100 days of whitewater a year, wearing a drysuit all but 3-4 months. It seems I spend most of my time in a drysuit. I'm on my second set of gaskets, replaced at 1.5 years at Kayak Academy. They had a faster turnaround and are an authorized repair center. I sent the suit back this time because I felt if needed a pressure test for age and my socks seemed a bit more damp than from just sweat during a SWR class this year. They patched around 35 pinholes in the suit for $20 plus shipping. Once again, no issues and I'm happy.

You thought the suit was clean? Did you wash it before you sent it in? If not, it wasn't clean. I wash mine in a large commercial front loader with Nikwax Techwash before I send it in. I'm courteous enough to not subject the person repairing the suit to my stank ass and river funk.

There is no such thing as being completely dry paddling. Layering under a drysuit is an art. Too many layers, you sweat your ass off and get soaked from sweat. Too few layers and you are cold, but dryer. It's an art. I can't believe your suit "became porous" after just a few trips. If I paddle hard, I sweat, it's that simple. Goretex breaths, but it's still more waterproof than breathable, as it should be. Tell me you aren't wearing cotton under the suit.

Lifetime warranty does not mean you get to a lifetime of free suits whenever you wear them out. The warranty applies to a defect in the fabric or construction. It's not a suit of armor, its only fabric. Suits wear out, it's that simple.

Your story is not the typical customer service experience I hear about from Kokatat. It sounds to me like you sent in your abused and river funk laden suit in twice expecting them to give you a new one and now you must flame them in the public forum they called you on it.

If I am wrong, I apologize, but that's what I get from your story. Best of luck finding a suit and service your happy with. Be safe out there.
 

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The tone of the communication isn't "sorry about the bad news about your dry suit," it's more like "fuck off you presumptuous piece of shit," but my only interest in all this is to have a good dry suit to go kayaking in when it starts raining here again so that doesn't matter to me.
You're not the only one that has recently had a bad experience with Kokatat repair/customer service.
I was treated very rudely by their repair department when I complained about them not standing behind their product that was delaminating after very light usage.
Contacting customer service got me nowhere--they just referred my complaint back to the repair shop.
I was being polite and reasonable, and the garment was clean.
I'd been treated fairly by them in the past--maybe there's a new regime...
 

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Just to clarify, how long have you had that suit?

I will admit that for as much as these cost I will seriously re-consider my purchase of one since they are defining their warranty subjectively. When I have voiced my concern about the cost of these suits it is always the warranty they use to justify it.

I'm asking about how long you have had it because there is no such thing as a suit that will last forever, but it sounds like you haven't had it for very long. The other guys above shot back so quickly that they sound like they are either Kokatat or are affiliated with them so I will ask questions because I'm hoping that their customer service "tone" is usually better than this.

T
 

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I have to agree that their "lifetime warranty" is pretty bogus in comparison to the warranty program of other technical apparel manufacturers. I sent two clean suits back last year, both old and worn out but still functional, which were also deemed "unrepairable." On one of them, the gore-tex was legitimately delaminating and when I brought this up and asked if it would be covered by their lifetime warranty I got the same unsatisfying response as those above. The really painful part is that they returned the suits with a catalog that touted their industry unique "lifetime warranty" on the inside cover. Kokatat still makes the best dry gear out there, but take their warranty claims with a grain of salt before you drop $1000.
 

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I'm not affiliated with Kokatat. I have two suits and a drytop. My three experiences with repair and customer service have been favorable. I paddle Class III-IV whitewater water year round, at least 100 days the last three years with most of that in a drysuit.

I feel some paddlers do not understand you cannot stay completely dry in any circumstances. You will be wet from sweat, especially if you paddle in humid areas like the southeast. The placement of your skirt and PFD interfere with the breathability of the suit. Some may interpret this as a "failure", which it is not.

I don't have an explanation for the change in customer service from Kokatat. Perhaps the warranty has been abused and this is the first indicator they may be going to a change in policy? Who know? REI changed their lifetime warranty.

I'll still buy Kokatat as long as the products and services are good.


Just to clarify, how long have you had that suit?

I will admit that for as much as these cost I will seriously re-consider my purchase of one since they are defining their warranty subjectively. When I have voiced my concern about the cost of these suits it is always the warranty they use to justify it.

I'm asking about how long you have had it because there is no such thing as a suit that will last forever, but it sounds like you haven't had it for very long. The other guys above shot back so quickly that they sound like they are either Kokatat or are affiliated with them so I will ask questions because I'm hoping that their customer service "tone" is usually better than this.

T




Sent from my iPhone using Mountain Buzz
 

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Lifetime warranty- you expected your drysuit to last or be replaced or serviced by kokatat for the rest of your life? That doesn't sound entirely reasonable to me.

Charging for a pressure test is news to me- either Kokatat changed their policy or maybe you pissed someone off?

Being a bike mechanic, I can understand charging a cleaning fee before maintenance is done. People bring in dirty bikes that can take 20 minutes to clean to the point that they can be properly serviced. Time and cleaning supplies aren't free so we need to cover costs somehow.

I don't mean to bash your post, just trying to make sense of the situation as I have had nothing but extremely good experiences with kokatat- my drytop is going strong after 9 years and my drysuit is still solid after 5 years. Hopefully that trend continues.

Good luck finding a suit that works for you!
 

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Kokatat isn't perfect, but I challenge you to find a better solution for a drysuit. I don't think it is out there. All drysuits are fragile garments and we put them through a lot. ALL companies, not just Kokatat, will take their warranties on a case-by-case basis. They will side against the customer sometimes and not others. It's not a perfect system.

Its likely that you were sweating inside your suit and that is why you felt that it became wet so quickly. Also, some amount of water will always come in through the wrist and neck gaskets.

Neoprene is a perfectly good solution if you can't handle the realities and expenses of owning a drysuit.

My two Kokatat suits have faired better than other suits that I've owned and tested, and their customer service has always been relatively fair with me.

I completely agree that they should be more upfront about the fine print of their warranty.
 

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Kokatat used to go over and above to replace and repair their products. When my brother sent back his drytop for repairs a few years ago they just sent him a brand new one free of charge. That is probably beyond what is reasonable, but people came to expect that kind of service.

I have heard quite a few stories recently of their customer service swinging back the other way. If, as I've heard a few times, a 1st year drysuit starts having issues - that should be well within the lifetime warranty.

There has to be a happy medium somewhere.
 

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I have had a GMER since 2005 and it has gone in for repair probably 5-6 times. I think in the last couple years they did raise their pressure test prices, but I have always been charged. It always comes back with with way more pin hole leaks patched then I would have thought. They have always treated me well in the past.

Given the life I have gotten out of my suit and some of the newer features I will most likely upgrade this spring. Hearing this is a little concerning, but like REI, a business will get its return/repair policy abused and have to start taking a stand. Especially if their upstream provider (Gore-Tex) is saying no, not saying OP doesn't have a legitimate gripe in this case.

Customer service is about communication as much as anything, and it seems they could have said no a little softer for sure. Hopefully they continue to stand behind their products and deliver the quality gear that has gained them a large following. Will be interesting to follow.
 

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NRS has GMERs for $800 right now. It always takes a little of the sting out to know you saved enough to buy a drytop too and extend the life of your suit.
 

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That sucks.

I have a 13 year old well used Stohlquist rescue vest. Zipper blew out a couple weeks before a Grand trip last summer. I sent it in hoping they would fix it and fully expecting to pay for the repair - it wasn't a warranty request. Not only did they fix the zipper, but they rushed the repair in order to get the jacket back to me before the trip, and charged me nothing... not even the shipping.

Sorry for the thread jack.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Regarding how I use the dry suit, I mostly paddle class 4 and 5, around 70 days a year, most of which is in a drysuit. I bought this suit about 2 years ago. The local runs I paddle most frequently are the little white salmon, the green truss section of the white salmon, upper trout creek, opal creek and its tributaries. This area is definitely hard on drysuits. When I say soaked to the skin after a few uses I mean that if I paddle the little white twice in one day in February my clothes would be saturated with water and my skin would be wet. Most of the winter time paddling in the PNW is cold enough that sweating is not an issue if you aren't hiking your stuff in. But without doubt in the spring or early summer I've used a drysuit and gotten too hot and soaked everything from inside out. For base layers I wear a polypro onesie and a onesie fleece suit which stays decently warm even when it's pretty wet. But it makes a winter kayaking road trip not very appealing because putting on wet gear on the second day out is fairly unpleasant.

Among the other people I paddle with none have ever gotten 100 bone dry uses out of a drysuit of any make. I love having a new or recently repaired suit that actually does stay dry. It's amazing to go paddling for 3 or 4 hours and have dry socks at the end of the day. I wish every time out would be like that. The suggestion to wear socks outside the suit is a good one that I will try.

Before sending the suit in I filled a large sink up with warm water and scrubbed it with a small bristle brush but I didn't wash it in a washing machine.

To clarify the exchange I had with kokatat, this is what I sent them after they said the suit needed to be cleaned:

"Ok, yes wash the suit. I would like the suit to be water tight. I also would like to register my displeasure at the nickel and diming that goes on with the warranty process. Was the suit spotless and in pristine condition? No, it is a heavily used dry suit, so it has some residual discolorations. I don't think it was dirty by the standards of a 2 year old, frequently used dry suit. If the suit stayed water tight for more than a few trips I could stomach the hundreds of dollars these repairs cost. As it is this will be my last Kokatat dry suit. It is too expensive to own and maintain for its quality."

Rereading it now it still sounds "succinct and polite" to me. I am probably going to give the Stohlquist Amp a try.
 

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I got no dog in the fight but when you say "As it is this will be my last Kokatat dry suit" you are shooting yourself in the foot. From any business' standpoint, customer service is about keeping the buyer happy so you may get future business and/or referrals from you. You gave them the FU, so they gave it right back to you. You gave away all your leverage by being pissy. Now you've come to the internet to bitch. Why?
 

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Based on the reported use, I'd say this is consistent with my experience. When I was hiking into runs, portaging around in the devils club, in the water with ropes in creeks, and all that stuff, I also never got 100 "bone dry" uses out a suit. Doing that kind of boating, I actually found I was better off using an old beater nylon suit that I could repair with aquaseal.

But since I've quit swimming the gnar and portaging around in the thorns, my suits last much much longer. That kind of use is going to destroy a suit over time.

Like you, I found tons of patches and constant dampness.

Buy suits used, buy non breathable suits, and maintain them yourself. Also consider wearing hydroskin under the suit -- you get additional warmth, floatation, and padding.

Now that I don't abuse my suits all the time, I also wash them with no soap of any kind, in a front loader and hang them to dry after every single use. That has made a big difference.

But creeking, in my experience, isn't a sport anyone has really figured out a bomber drysuit for.

Another protip: buy a cheap trashed suit with a good zipper, and you can replace a busted zipper. It's just like a raft patch and a heat gun and 2 part stabond are all you need. I've done it a couple of times and salvaged functional backup/spare suits that way.
 

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Just a little interesting to me. I have had a goretex drytop for 10+ years. Being lazy, I send my drytop back to Kokatat for Gasket replacement. They do a great job and have leak tested the top w/o charge a couple of years ago. A lot of days with the drytop has resulted in exterior fabric wear along a seam. (Lets in a lot of water.) I wasn't even considering a warranty claim. I used some epoxy glue on the worn fabric. A hack until I buy new.

I mostly use a drysuit now. IR. Maybe not a GMER, but IR customer service has been good and suit good enough. I was too cheap for the GMER and liked the rear entry only offered by IR at the time.

OP, chalk it up to experience and try another brand. You should get a pretty good price selling it used.

SD
 

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This is the big problem with pissy little whitewater boaters, if you can't afford to play stay home. Whitewater gear and equipment are consumable items. Now you know why some companies will not be held hostage by internet slander or don't go above and beyond in the first palce. Business's try to be good to customers THEN ITS EXPECTED. If I don't get something for nothing I stomp my feet and go to an internet forum and bash them. We are loosing too many quality whitewater manufacturers because of this type of entitlement from boaters. Eventually these companies will say enough bull shit its not worth dealing with these jokers, "watched it happen once already this year with my cat frame manufacturer " this is the only sport where I see it actually going backwards because people are so "dirt bag is cool" they want to be cheap and not take responsibility for wearing out there gear. Not saying this is you, but it is getting to be an epidemic. We need to start treating these manufacturers better that build our gear or pretty soon it will be a real crap shoot to get anything quality.
 
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