By Benjamin Orkin
Note: Benjamin Orkin tested this and other items on a 95-day canoe trip in Canada’s Northwest Territories last summer.
Forget dry pants — it's all about the dry bibs for Northern canoe trips! The Kokatat Whirlpool bib offers the same quality design, materials, and construction as their top-of-the line drysuits and other Gore-Tex products but in bib form.
After nearly 40 days of bushwhacking upstream through thick willows, wading through ice-choked waters, or just sitting in the canoe and paddling, I found them to be incredibly comfortable, durable, versatile — and dry. I also came to appreciate the standard built-in relief zipper on long open water crossings or busy days. The built-in Gore-tex socks were a godsend for keeping my feet warm and dry. Honestly, I was somewhat skeptical of the elastic suspenders, but was pleasantly surprised to find that they didn't twist and were comfortable enough to paddle in all day. On warmer days, I could peel off the suspenders; the tunnel design on the waist was strong enough to hold up the bibs. On colder or rapid days, I often paired the Whirlpool Bib's with an Anorak paddling jacket, using the double tunnel design to stay 100 percent dry.
The fact that the bibs had zero holes after many weeks of bushwhacking, slamming shins into the sharp edges of ice flows, and gracefully tripping over slick boulders, speaks loudly to their durability. As compared to dry pants, the bibs seemed to offer a drier and more comfortable option for integrating with drytops. The additional protection is worth its weight in gold. I can't count how many times I was grateful to have armpit high protection when tracking or lining the boats and accidentally took a step that plunged me way past my waist. Gripes? The chest pocket is too small to be taken seriously. The lack of color options can be a pain if your buddy has a pair because it's almost impossible to tell whose bibs are whose. Another feature I often missed was a simple thigh pocket.
All said, the Whirlpool Bib is another outstanding product from Kokatat that offers serious water protection and unmatched versatility.
–Read more about the gear that got Ben and Sam Orkin through their 1,300-mile expedition.