I’ve been frostbiting since high school, where I first crewed in Interclub dinghies on Sunday mornings. In those days, I just wore regular spray gear. I didn’t know any better. Later, at Hobart and Williams Smith, I continued frostbiting, but they just called it spring season, and we wore drysuits from February through May.
Lately, I’ve been frostbiting with an intrepid fleet of Sunfish sailors at the Barrington Yacht Club in Rhode Island—and still wearing a drysuit. I recently got a chance to check out Mustang’s Women’s Helix Dry Suit. What particularly interested me was that it is specifically designed for women.
Let’s start with one of the most important parts—at least for women. First, a little history. At some point, drysuit designers started adding front “relief” zips for men, which was great for them, but didn’t help us at all. Then, the butt-hatch concept was born, allowing you to take care of business without removing all of your gear. Amazing! But the downside is that butt hatch zippers tend to make regular contact with the boat and so the zippers had a hard time holding up. And sometimes you even needed help from your friends to deploy the hatch.
Enter Mustang’s “Helix” zipper, which winds from the right side, armpit area to the left hip. It’s really out of the way for the sailing I’ve been doing. If you take your lifejacket off, you can still go about your business without pulling off the sleeves or neck seal and do so unassisted. They clearly got the placement right. What this means for women is you can stay hydrated and therefore on your game all the time. I have heard of Opti sailors who were taught to just pee in their dry suits—gross. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen college sailors refuse to drink water because they don’t know when they will have an opportunity to use the bathroom. No way any game should be played.
Having worn a number of drysuits over the years, I’ve developed certain preferences. I like Gore-Tex booties (rather than latex booties) and latex neck and wrist seals (rather than neoprene seals). While neoprene may be a bit less prone to chafing, I’ve found that it stretches over time, and you end up with a gap at the back of the neck that water always seem to find. On rainy days, I’ve found neoprene tends to seep a bit—another bummer. With Gore-Tex booties and latex seals, the Mustang Helix checks all the right boxes. The latex is also trimmable, so with careful scissors work you can get them to fit just right. And there are fabric cuffs at the neck and wrists to protect the latex and create a snugger fit.
I’ve been wearing Mustang’s Meris Bibs for a while, and I love the integrated kneepads. They are so low profile that I didn’t realize they were there until I knelt down the first time. You don’t realize how often you’re banging into things until the blow is softened by this glorious kneepad. Now I find it impossible to go without them. So, it was a pleasant surprise to find the same kneepads in the Helix Dry Suit. Kudos to Mustang for recognizing a good thing! There are adjustable tabs on the outside of the suit to help you position them just right, and if kneepads are not your thing, they are easily removable.
Mustang also offers an awesome one-piece base layer that works perfectly with this dry suit, the Women’s Kazan Dry Suit Liner. Not only is it quite warm, but the waffle-textured fleece traps heat, not sweat—ingenious! And here’s a bonus—most drysuit wearers know there is nothing more irritating than when the top base layer separates from the bottom base layer, exposing skin to the dry suit. This suit solves that problem. While the Kazan Liner is one-piece, it has a built-in drop seat, but it’s long enough on the top that it will not become untucked. It’s basically an adult onesie that I’ll not only be wearing under my dry suit but around the house all winter long!
Probably TMI, but I can attest that you can pee on the water with this dry suit and one-piece base layer combo—a sure test for any dry suit/base layer combo. $169.99. Also available in a men’s version. The drysuit is made with three-layer “Marinespec BP” fabric. Knees, seat and socks are 500D Cordura, making them beefy enough to resist abrasion. $999.9
Amanda Callahan is the Head Sailing Coach/Assistant Athletic Director at Roger Williams University.