Originally designed by surfers in North Devon who liked to tackle the waves year round, the dryrobe has fast become ubiquitous in the world of outdoor swimming, surfing and watersports. As the versatility of the overcoat-cum-changing-robe has become more apparent, however, dryrobes have begun popping up in other outdoor scenarios across the UK: On campsites, at triathlons and in almost any outdoor environ where keeping warm and dry sounds vaguely sensible. To find out what all the fuss was about, we zipped up the latest long-sleeved version of the dryrobe Advance and headed to a campsite to test it out.
Described by the company as “the most versatile changing robe” the idea behind the dryrobe is simple and extremely effective: Combine the windproof, rainproof outer shell of a trench coat with a synthetic lamb’s wool inner lining that will keep you warm and dry, then over-size the dimensions so that the wearer can slip their arms back through the sleeves and get changed underneath. The result of all this extra changing space is a rather bulky item – it’s far bigger than anything else on the coat rack – which is a small and inevitable downside. We initially intended to take the dryrobe on a weekend trip to Ireland’s Atlantic Coast, the perfect place for a test, but left it behind because we were travelling with hand luggage only. Unless you’re wearing it onto the plane, the dryrobe is not a conveniently small, hand luggage item. Fortunately, however, they also now sell a compression sack, so you can stuff the robe in and pack it down to a far smaller size. This is an additional item to buy however.
To start with, we headed to the dryrobe’s homeland, the beach. In the shadow of Happisburgh Lighthouse in Norfolk, we embraced the chilly challenge of a dip in the North Sea and scampered across the sands for a brief swim. The waterproof outer of the dryrobe meant we could leave it on the wet sand without worrying about it getting damp (as you would with a towel) and pile our clothes on top. Back out (as quick as a flash), the dryrobe was quickly on, with robust zips that weren’t bothered by a bit of sand and salt. Changing underneath was easy – while a towel was still used, the inner lining also draws water away from the skin into the pile of the fabric, to help regulate body temperature – and, more importantly, changing was discrete. Walkers wondering why we were swimming on a cold spring day were spared the flash of a bare bottom.
Walking back to the car we noted a handful of other features. The hood cocoons you away and lends extra warmth, while, inside, there’s a big, deep pocket, an MP3 pocket with a hole for headphones and there are outer pockets with the same hard-wearing zips to protect them from the rain too. If you did wear it onto an airplane, it would certainly increase your pocket capacity.
While swimming tested out the dryrobe in its original format (and it has now become a go-to item for all of our spring swims), the real question was whether the dryrobe was versatile enough to be useful on a regular camping trip. With a ferry ticket and no luggage restrictions we packed the dryrobe alongside some other items to review – the Camping Gaz Party Grill and the Coleman Mackenzie 4 tent among them – and headed off to France.
Easter seemed the perfect time for the dryrobe. The long weekend and the newly extended days of British Summer Time hours make it a hugely popular date for camping, yet spring weather often means cold evenings and potentially showery weather. It was with some degree of irony, therefore, that Easter 2019 broke every temperature record in the book in the UK and was similarly sweltering in northern France. As a result, the daytime was largely too hot for an item like the dryrobe but there were still key areas where it came into its own.
The very best place for the dryrobe to be put to use when camping was, of course, when showering. Zipped up in the dryrobe Advance with a towel and wash bag, we could travel to the communal shower block without bundles of clothes and hang the robe on the single hook provided in the shower cubicles. No clothes on the floor of the cubicle, no spray dampening the undies, no buckaroo-style hanging on the hook. Out of the shower, into the dryrobe and back to the tent problem free, where changing was easy, dry and discrete. If you don’t like the awkwardness of showering in a cubicle and changing into your clothes in the same damp space, the dryrobe scores a real win here.
By evening, the dryrobe was also a great asset, working nicely as a warm, long overcoat. It pays not to be too precious about it – which can be tough given the price tag – but once you accept the dryrobe getting dirty and muddy it really comes into its own. If the kids come back from running around in the woods and want to sit still and relax, you can throw it over them and keep them warm without a bother. The outer shell can handle getting muddy and it can be cleaned with a regular washing in the washing machine. Combine that with the sheer cosy, warm feel of it and it makes total sense on a camping trip.
In all, it was a shame our main test of the product came on such a hot weekend but it’s clear from our general use of the dryrobe that in cooler weather and, certainly, in wetter weather, the dryrobe is a versatile bit of kit. It’s for this reason it has become so popular at sporting events in the UK. When you're tired, cold and/or wet, you can throw it on over anything and it’s sure to warm you up and lift the spirits. For camping, it would be most in its element when combined with water. Waterside campsites and riverside campsites are some of our favourite spots to pitch and after a quick swim or splash about, we’ll always have the dryrobe to hand from now on.
- UK manufactured (still based in Devon) and high quality materials.
- Warm, dry and comfortable; ideal in cold weather.
- Versatile. Not just for swimming but useful for camping and all outdoor events.
- Good storage pockets and robust zips.
- Washes in conventional washing machine.
- Pricey. At £110–£130 (depending on size) it’s not cheap but we’re willing to pay more for something UK-made.
- Bulky. There is a compression bag available but this is an additional £30.
The dryrobe Advance Long Sleeve is a large item that doesn’t suit lightweight backpacking trips but for general camping holidays with a car it is an excellent bit of kit. When you want to get changed discretely, it does the job excellently. For sporty campers it’s extremely versatile (good for mountain biking, swimming and outdoor events too) and comes into its own in cooler temperatures and against the UK’s unpredictable weather. For campers who want to extend the season, camping in spring and autumn, it’s a great addition to the closet.
The dryrobe Advance Long Sleeve is available now (RRP from £110). Visit dryrobe.com for further information. Cool Camping were provided with a dryrobe Advance Long Sleeve free of charge but were not paid for this product review; opinions are our own.