We checked in with Matt Porter, Product Manager and Customer Service Supervisor at Kokatat, for advice on extending the lives of drysuits. His advice:
1. Keep your drysuit out of direct sunlight whenever possible. UV degrades both Gore-Tex and latex, shortening the life of the fabric and the gaskets.
2. Avoid insect repellent and sunscreen. DEET is particularly destructive of latex gaskets; sunscreen is also rough on them, so apply it at least 15 minutes prior to putting on your drysuit to allow the sunscreen to soak into your skin. When you reapply, avoid getting it on the gasket.
3. Rinse your drysuit in fresh water, with the zipper closed, after paddling in salt water. Hang it to dry on a wide hanger with the zipper open one or two inches.
4. Clean your drysuit with fresh water. If it smells bad, use a drysuit shampoo or a gentle, bleach-free laundry soap.
5. Never put your drysuit in a top-loading washer; the agitator may rip it.
6. Lubricate metal-tooth zippers with hard wax; use non-wax lubricants on plastic zippers. Plastic zippers should be lubricated every other time you wear your drysuit.
7. Protect drysuit booties by wearing socks and being careful not to walk or stand on surfaces that might damage them while you're changing.
8. Transport your drysuit loosely rolled with the zipper open one or two inches.
9. Store your drysuit in a dry area on a wide hanger with the zipper open one or two inches.
10. When the DWR wears out (and it will!), try ironing the Gore-Tex fabric on the nylon setting to reactivate it. If you decide to re-waterproof it, use a spray-on product, not a wash-in product, so that it doesn't get on the inside your drysuit. Dry it with an iron (on the nylon setting) or a hair dryer; never put your drysuit in a clothes dryer.
Routine maintenance, such as gasket replacement, can be done at home. Other repairs, such as leaks and tears, should be done by the manufacturer.