Don’t Blow a Gasket

I’ll never forget the first time I ripped a neck gasket. I was three days into a two-week solo sea kayak trip on Lake Superior’s north shore. It was early May and ice still sheathed the sheltered bays; my drysuit was a critical margin of safety against the deadly cold water. When the latex seal shredded, so did my confidence. I fretted away the cold evening. The next morning I resolved to jury-rig a duct tape repair. It was ugly but it worked.

When I got home I replaced my first gasket—a project I’ve repeated just about every two seasons ever since. Neck, wrist and ankle gaskets are a drysuit’s weakest links. Fortunately, they’re easy to replace at home. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • New latex gaskets (can be ordered from your drysuit’s manufacturer or purchased at your local paddling shop)
  • Aquaseal adhesive (one small tube is enough to install one neck gasket and two wrist gaskets, with some to spare)
  • Sturdy cardboard (or better, ¼-inch plywood) cut in a circle, 10.25-inch in diameter; sand smooth if using plywood
  • Sturdy cardboard (or better, ¼-inch plywood) cut in a “donut”-shaped ring, with an outer diameter of 10.25 inches and an inner diameter of 7.25-inch. Cut this ring in two to create two U-shaped pieces and sand smooth if using plywood
  • Sturdy cardboard cut in a 8-inch-diameter circle
  • 1 medium soup can (19 oz.) or yogurt tub (22-24 oz.) for replacing wrist and ankle gaskets
  • 60-grit sandpaper
  • Two-sided tape; masking tape; waxed paper
  • 8-12 spring clamps
  • Scissors
  • 303 Protectant

Start by removing the damaged gasket(s) with sharp scissors. Then, prepare new gaskets by sanding the inner ½- to 1-inch of the latex seal; this will ensure better adhesion.

For neck gaskets, peel back any collar material and use the large, 10.25-inch disk as a working surface; cover it with waxed paper, apply two-sided tape and slide this piece of cardboard or plywood inside the drysuit, so that it closes off the neck hole.

Next, install the eight-inch diameter disk inside the bellows portion of the new neck gasket. Set the neck gasket upside down and apply a thin, continuous bead of Aquaseal. Make sure there are no gaps.

Carefully center the neck gasket over the neck opening. The U-shaped pieces of cardboard or wood can then be positioned over the inner lip of the gasket and held in place with spring clamps (clamp to the inner disk). Use more clamps if you are using cardboard. Allow the repair to cure overnight. (See top image.)

For wrist and ankle gaskets, peel back any extra cuff material around the sleeve or leg. From the inside of the garment, insert an appropriately-sized can or plastic yogurt tub into the opening of the sleeve or leg. Slide the gasket in place (it should be slightly stretched) over the opening and roll back the lip. Apply a thin, continuous bead of Aquaseal, ensuring there are no gaps. Carefully roll the lip of the gasket over the fabric of the sleeve, and wrap tightly with masking tape. Allow the repair to cure overnight.

The best way to promote long-lasting latex gaskets is to treat them regularly with a UV-inhibitor like 303 Aerospace Protectant. Apply at least once a month during the paddling season, and once before storing your drysuit in the off-season.

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The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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