Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dry Case armband and Boost drysuit problems

In a couple of previous posts, I said good things about the Dry Case armbands and the O'Neill Boost drysuit. But while my initial impression was very good, I have recently had problems with the armbands and the drysuit.

What I liked about the Dry Case armbands is that they use a vacuum which (a) prevents water from coming in, and (b) indicate if the case has a hole. Unfortunately, one Dry Case armband stopped holding the vacuum after just a few uses. Here's a picture:
The hole is hard to see on the picture. It is where the extra piece of plastic that holds the armband is attached to the main case. Pull on the armband, perhaps during a crash, opened a hole in the case that lets the vacuum out and water in. Fortunately, that happened when I was using the armband for a GT-31 GPS, which is also waterproof, so nothing got damaged; if this had happened with a phone, this could have been a costly failure.
Another Dry Case armband that I had ordered recently failed right away - here is the picture:
Here, the piece of plastic that is glued to the case to push the arm band through came off right away - apparently, is was not glued on properly. If that had happened on the water, I would have lost the armband and the GPS or phone in it! Fortunately, this happened at home, and I was able to return the defective arm band to amazon.com.

So, as wonderful as the vacuum idea is, the attachment of the armband to the Dry Case is a major weak point. Any stress, for example from a crash while windsurfing, can cause the little piece of plastic glued to the back of the case to either come off, or to rip a hole. I have bought a total of 3 Dry Case armbands in the past 6 months, and all three failed quickly (although in one case, I cannot rule out "operator error", since I had lent the GPS to a freestyler working on loops). In contrast to the Dry Case armbands, the Aquapac armbands have the attachment integrated into the case, so it cannot fail in a similar fashion. Until Dry Case changes their design, I will go back to Aquapac armbands.

Now to the O'Neill Boost drysuit. I bought one of these "baggy" drysuits in November 2010, and used it perhaps 10 times since then. It's main attraction was the price - at about $420, it was quite affordable. But when I used the suit again last fall, there seemed to be more and more water coming in. A close inspection showed air bubbles under most of the tape that sealed the stitches, and immersing the suit into water showed that water was indeed coming in there. Fortunately, this happened just before the one-year warranty expired, so I was able to return it back to the shop and get it replaced. However, the replacement took about 6 weeks! Not sure why simply sending a new suit would take so long. I was able to keep sailing in a semidry suit since it was unusually warm. But if this had happened a few weeks later, the suit would have been out of warranty, and I would have missed a lot of sessions.

Our friend Jeff also bought a Boost suit, although in his case, the suit had been hanging in the store for a couple of years, and was on sail. His suit also developed a leak within about a year, which Jeff decided to fix himself (apparently quite a messy procedure). I guess you get what you pay for - the top-of-the line Kokotat drysuits that our friends Dani and Sabah bought cost more than $900, but they come with a lifetime warranty, and Kokotat seems to be very good about honoring warranty claims.

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