One of the great things about Puget Sound, my home waters, is that you can go boating in the middle of winter—the temperature of its waters is never far from 50°F. One of the not-so-great things about the Sound is that when you go boating on in the middle of summer the temperature of its waters is never far from 50°.
Many years ago my father was sailing a small boat far from shore when he capsized. The skipper of a cabin cruiser motoring nearby had seen the boat turn turtle, pulled up alongside, called out “You know you can only live 15 minutes in that water,” and then hauled Dad aboard. If you wind up in 50° water, dressed in street clothes as my father was, you may last longer than 15 minutes, but if you aren’t able to recover from a dunking on your own or get rescued, your time is as good as up. In short order your thinking will get muddled and your hands will become almost useless.
A drysuit, combined with insulating layers worn underneath it, can protect you from the detrimental effects of cold water. You’ll be much more comfortable in one made with waterproof/breathable material that can transfer moisture from your skin to the outside and keep you much drier than one made of non-breathable material, but the cost of such drysuits—from $700 to $1,000—may be prohibitive to many. Mythic Gear set out to lower that price barrier and now offers drysuits in a range of $250 to $395.
Mythic’s drysuits are made only in stock sizes, one of the ways of keeping the price low. The Matsu model I reviewed was an XXL, the size I needed to fit my 49” chest and my size 13 feet. An XL would have been a better size for the rest of me, but the extra fabric wasn’t much of a problem; the loose fit provided plenty of room for insulating layers underneath and enough slack for a free range of motion. The Matsu has an adjustable elastic waist cord to keep it from drooping, but by squatting or wading out into the water, I could bleed extra air out of the suit by lifting the edge of a gasket, and with the suit a bit “vacuum packed” around me, it didn’t feel at all bulky.
The Matsu, like other Mythic suits, doesn’t have all the details often found in other, more expensive drysuits— multicolor styling, pockets, reinforced seat and knees, and Velcro-cinched overcuffs at the ankles, wrists and neck—but the basics are all there. The sewing is first-rate, and the seams are all backed up by heat-sealed tape. The latex gaskets are supple and stretchy and, as expected, just needed a bit of trimming to customize the fit. The neck gasket has a pronounced bulge molded in; with the extra material I could turn my head to look over my shoulder without having the gasket tug at my neck. The integral socks have an extra layer of Oxford cloth and are seam-sealed inside and out, nice touches for an area susceptible to wear. The waterproof entry zipper does its job of keeping the water out. While a short relief zipper is a feature on other Mythic suits, there isn’t one on the Matsu. I didn’t miss it—I have a relief zipper on one of my other suits and I rarely use it.
When I took the Matsu for a dip in Puget Sound, the water was painfully cold on my bare hands but, the drysuit did its job well, keeping water out and warmth in. I had a full range of motion for my arms to swim. The water-repellent treatment on the outer laminate of fabric does a great job shedding water, allowing the fabric to breathe better and reducing evaporative cooling when exposed to the wind.
At $325, the Matsu has a price that should encourage more boaters to invest in a piece of equipment that provides comfort and safety in foul weather and cold water.
UPDATE: 12/12/19 Mythic Gear’s web site URL is no longer valid and it appears that the company is no longer in business.
Mythic Gear has a one-year warranty for its drysuits and sells the Matsu for $325.
Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats Monthly.
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