Gill Marine Verso Drysuit review in a sentence: Cleverly designed by a team of watersports experts, the Verso Drysuit is comfortable to wear and has a rich range of features that make it an excellent choice for everyone from sailors to stand-up paddleboarders and kayakers.
Founded five decades ago by dingy sailor Nick Gill, Gill Marine is a brand that grew organically out of the sailing community, producing performance-orientated gear tailor-made for use on and around the water. In more recent years, the Gill design team have widened their focus, and now the British brand makes technical apparel for all sorts of saltwater sports and activities.
The comprehensive Gill range now offers both highly specialist sport-specific apparel and gear that can be used for all kinds of aquatic adventures. A super versatile piece of kit, the Verso dry suit falls into the latter category. Excellent for dinghy sailing and yachting, it also boasts features that make it perfect for paddlers, from river runners to sea kayakers, canoeists and stand-up paddleboarders.
Sometimes, in an attempt to please everyone, you make no one truly happy – and we did wonder whether this might be the case with the Verso – so I took it out to put it to the test in a wide range of conditions.
Gill Marine Verso Drysuit review: price and availability
The Gill Marine Verso Drysuit is available now for an RRP of £650 in the UK, €850 across the EU, $850 in the US, and AU$1,216 in Australia. The standard version is Graphite coloured, but a special edition is currently available in Bluejay (the price is the same for both).
Gill Marine Verso Drysuit review: specifications
- Design: Rear entry, full body suit with hood
- Materials: XPLORE+ 3-layer waterproof and breathable fabric treated with XPEL water & stain repellent technology; inner neoprene Dryseal gaskets
- Zips: TIZIP MasterSeal waterproof and YKK AquaGuard
- Sizes: XS–XL
- Gender: Unisex
- Colours: Bluejay / Graphite
- Key features: grown-on hood with 2-way adjustment; adjustable overskirt; soft fleece inner chin guard
Gill Marine Verso Drysuit review: What's a drysuit and I need one?
Dry suits are near-enough essential for anyone who wants to enjoy outdoor watersports in the colder months, but they can continue to make many activities much more comfortable well into spring and early summer when the water is still decidedly chilly. And if you’re spending any extended amount of time in ocean water, which stays stubbornly shivery all year round, then a dry suit is a wise investment.
As a rule of thumb, if the temperature of the water you’re paddling/playing/sailing in is lower than 16°C / 60°F, or the combined temperature of the water and the air is less than 50°C / 122°F, and you’re planning on spending any more than 30 minutes or so getting amongst the wetstuff, then you’re going to really appreciate the protection a drysuit can offer.
A drysuit will keep you dry – clue in the name – but how warm you stay depends largely on what you wear beneath it. Dry suits – unlike the best wetsuits – are designed baggy to accommodate thermal underlayers, so you can dress accordingly as the seasons turn and the water and air temperature change.
Gill Marine Verso Drysuit review: design
The Verso is a rear-entry dry suit, which makes it easy to get into, but not so simple to securely do up. Unless you are double-jointed, you will need to enlist the help of someone else to get the main zip done up properly (and undone, too, for that matter). The good thing about this setup is that you don’t end up with a great big zip right across your chest, which can be uncomfortable with a PFD (life jacket) on. The downside is it’s very hard to use it for solo adventures.
The inclusion of a ‘grown-on’ hood is one of Verso’s major USPs. You just don’t get many dry suits with integrated lids. And there might be a very good reason for that – with helmet-wearing whitewater kayakers and others probably finding this feature fairly redundant in the majority of circumstances.
But, more than anything else, the Verso is designed to be versatile, and during activities such as SUPing and sailing, and even kayak touring, where windchill is much more of a factor, there can definitely be a call for such a hood. Especially one carefully constructed to be comfortable and to facilitate easy breathing (thanks to the laser-cut ventilation) while still providing fantastic face protection and keeping the elements out. The hood can be rolled up and stowed away by using a toggle, although subsequently releasing it if you change your mind is fiddly.
Below the hood, around the neck, there is, of course, an inner Neoprene Dryseal gasket to keep water out, as there is on the cuffs. The Verso is designed to allow thermal layers to be worn underneath. External booties can be worn over the top of the integrated waterproof-fabric socks, and an overlayer can be extended and tightened with Velcro to prevent these from becoming waterlogged. There are more Velcro fasteners on the cuffs for use with gloves.
The Verso has an adjustable overskirt for kayakers. Other features include a PFD-friendly sleeve pocket with a YKK AquaGuard zip for keeping valuables safe while you’re on the water. There’s also a relief outlet, sealed with a TIZIP MasterSeal waterproof zip, so you can answer calls of nature without having to take the entire suit off (the Verso is a unisex design, however, so you would need to use a Shewee or similar to avail of this feature as a woman).
Gill Marine Verso Drysuit review: performance
I first tested the Verso while paddleboarding on a frigid lake in London in the icy grip of mid-winter, where I was massively grateful for the protection it offered me. I was determined to test the suit properly and made sure I jumped in the water, which was hovering somewhere well south of 5°C.
Even though I wasn’t wearing much in the way of thermal protection underneath the suit – just a T-shirt, shorts and neoprene socks – the Verso didn’t let any water in, and it protected me from the northerly wind that was whipping across West Reservoir next door to Finsbury Park that November morning. I was completely comfortable for the entire session.
I have worn the Verso on several adventures since, SUPing and kayaking through the remainder of winter and well into spring, and I am still very grateful for the protection it offers me during longer paddling sessions in choppy conditions (when I enjoy the occasional surprise swim while SUPing) since the water temperature remains chilly.
I have been testing a ‘large’ Verso, and I find there is plenty of room beneath the suit for thermal layers, from thick socks to base layers and fleeces. Now the outside air temperature is warmer, and the water itself is less frigid, too; there is less need for layers.
Gill Marine Verso Drysuit review: verdict
Overall I have been extremely happy with the Verso, which has proven to be every bit as versatile as it promised to be, without any serious compromises that impact its performance. The hood can often feel superfluous, but when called into action during freezing cold mornings on a SUP, it’s an absolute godsend, and the vented face guard is ingenious. The main materials are reliably waterproof, and the zips feel bombproof.
The neck seal did once let in a little bit of water, but I had ill-advisedly dived face-first into a wave while wearing it, and, to be fair, the water may actually have snuck in while I was burping the suit (expelling trapped air by holding the neck gasket open) in very wavy conditions. On balance, given it was a one-off, I’d say it was user error rather than equipment failure.
The rear entry system has its good points, but the fact that you require the help of another person to seal the suit is definitely annoying. I like early morning solo escapades, and if there’s no one around to help, you’re left on the beach or riverbank looking like a contortionist having a fit, trying to get that zip closed. That said, this is an excellent, highly protective, attractively priced, richly featured dry suit for people who enjoy a range of water-based activities all year round.
Gill Marine Verso Drysuit review: also consider
You are unlikely to find a dry suit with such a comprehensive range of features and applications as the Verso in this price range, but there are some great suits out there. For female paddlers looking for a model with a drop seat, the NRS Women's Navigator GORE-TEX Pro Semi-Dry Suit (retailer link) offers a rich range of features and good thermal protection, but thanks to the use of Gore-Tex, it is more than twice as expensive. The intro-level Palm Cascade Suit (also retailer link) is similarly priced to the Verso but doesn’t offer a broad range of features or uses.