Christmas present advice. To Dryrobe or not to Dryrobe?
Are you thinking about buying a Dryrobe right now? Either as a present for yourself or for someone else? Dryrobes are a great gift idea – who wouldn’t want a warm, waterproof and windproof tent to hide in whilst getting changed? Dryrobes have an excellent reputation amongst their customers, and having tried them ourselves, we think it’s a well-deserved reputation. They’re well designed, well thought out and fantastic quality.
But are there alternatives that are just as well designed and thought out, and just as good quality? We decided to find out?
The minimum requirement, in our mind, was a high quality waterproof and windproof outer layer, and very warm high wicking inner fabric. These requirements mean that we’re reviewing five products from just four companies, The Dryrobe Advance short sleeve, the Dryrobe advance (long and short sleeve variants), the Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak (long and short sleeve variants), the Palm Poncho Grande, and the Smoc Smoc change robe.
Changing robe sleeve length
Short sleeve or long sleeve depends very much on preference. Some people prefer short sleeve for easier arm movements to make getting your kit off easier. Some prefer a longer sleeve for added snuggliness.
One of the criticisms we have of the Dryrobe short sleeve is that the wind tends to whistle up your arms in cold weather. The Charlie McLeod has a small and simple design advantage in that it has a push-button fastening on the sleeve that allows you to make the sleeve narrower and reduce the gap. But being push button, it’s either fits your wrist or it doesn’t.
The Palm poncho with no sleeve makes getting changed a little easier (freedom of arms), but this is at the expense of snuggliness.
The Smoc Smoc has the best of all worlds. It’s a long sleeve with lots of space, and with a velcro wrist fastening that allows you keep the wind out of those cold arms once you’ve got dry!
McConks think that having a zip is essential in a change robe. We love the Palm Poncho for its ease of use, but actually, pulling a poncho over a cold, shivering, tired wet body can be surprisingly and frustratingly difficult. A reversible zip that can operated from either the inside or the outside gives the Dryrobe and the Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak the edge over the Palm Poncho in our opinion.
SmocSmoc give you the choice, with either a full length zip or a half zip poncho. Full marks against to Smoc Smoc for listening to the consumer and providing exactly what they want!
The Dryrobe and the Palm Poncho are a slightly different shape at the shoulders to the Charlie McLeod. The horizontal shoulder line of the Palm Poncho and the Dryrobe are comfortable enough on the poncho style and the short sleeve robe. But this feels slightly odd on the long sleeve version of the robe. The Charlie McLeod had a more natural fitting that felt more comfortable without impacting on ease of getting changed. And it also meant that you don’t look out of place wearing the robe as a coat! The SmocSmoc also feels and looks natural to wear.
Warmth and weatherproof
The long sleeve options from both Dryrobe, Charlie McLeod and SmocSmoc are definitely warmer on those really cold days, and even the short sleeve options keep the warmth in more than the Palm Poncho. All of the products stand up well in very wet conditions with no obvious leaks or wet patches, although only DryRobe and SmocSmoc have taped seams to keep you totally dry in those truly miserable wet days.
The Smoc Smoc lining deserves an extra shout out here. It’s bamboo rather than plastic, therefore is much more snuggly than any of the other robes.
All of the robes offer enough room inside to make changing safe and secure. Although they differ in length by up to 20%, we didn’t think the length actually affected ease of changing or modesty preservation at all. All of them were long enough, and none of them felt too long. So the other key features here are how easy the robes are to get on, and how easy to get your arms inside. And all of the products have their strengths and weaknesses in this respect. The longer the arm length, the more difficult it is to retract your arms inside, especially if they’re wet. So in this respect the Palm wins. But the lack of a zip makes the Poncho more difficult to get on or off, so the Dryrobe and Charlie McLeod products score for ease of getting on. Again, Smoc Smoc, providing a half zip gives the best of both worlds. We still prefer the ease of access with a full length zip, with the associated risk of full frontal nudity that entails, but accept that might not be everyone’s cup of tea 🙂
The Dryrobe, Charlie McLeod and SmocSmoc products come with a surfeit of pockets. The McLeod and DryRobe have at least one waterproof zipped pocket, and two internal pockets and two external pockets. The exact configuration differs slightly, with only the Dryrobe having zipped external pockets, but only the Charlie McLeod having zipped mesh internal pockets. All of the products have warm lined external pockets to warm up those cold hands. The lack of internal pockets on the Palm Poncho was not really a concern to us, but the lack of any zipped pockets was. Although the absence of zips at all on the poncho mean that there is less that can go wrong or break.
We like the fact that the SmocSmoc and Charlie McLeod products come with a sturdy double pull string bag that double up as a standing mat. We also like the additional microfibre towel that is thrown in with the McLeod. If you want a storage bag for your DryRobe compression bag, you’ll need to fork out another £30, and there is no storage option available for the Palm poncho.
SmocSmoc are a small UK company who make their robes in the UK! This means that they make what they need and limit wastage. They carefully source their materials and support smaller independent suppliers where they can. The smocs are finished off by hand and checked over before putting into their own SCRAP bag. These waterproof bags are made using scrap leftovers from each smoc. You can use your SCRAP bag to collect bits of scrap plastic off the beach too!
The SmocSmoc and McLeod long sleeves robes come in at £120
The DryRobe advance is available at £140.
The Palm Poncho Grande is £70
Sustainability and eco
The SmocSmoc wins hand down in this regard
The bamboo lining is so much more eco friendly than the plastic lining you get inside the other brands. Not only is made of natural materials rather than petrochemicals, but the natural bamboo lining doesn’t shed microplastics all over the beach/lake/river!
So which is the best changing robe / dry robe in our opinion?
If you’re a taller or larger person, you get better value from Charlie McLeod or Palm. With a £40 or £50 XL penalty for the short sleeve Dryrobe, the Charlie McLeod offers all of the same features, with a few additional ones of its own at 2/3 of the price.
If you want the snuggliest, most weatherproof option, then the Charlie McLeod long sleeve is 100% the best option. With the ability to adjust the hood, sleeve and waistband, the cloak’s ability to keep the weather out far surpasses the Dryrobe’s. Windsurfers and kite surfers used to rigging in icy, rainy, blowy conditions will particularly benefit
If you want maximum colour variety then the Dryrobe advance is the robe for you. With the biggest array of outer colours, and the only option providing a choice of inner colours, Dryrobe is the choice that allows you to match your robe to your style or kit.
If you want the lightest modesty protector that takes the least space in your luggage, then the Palm Poncho Grande is the option for you.
Need more detail? Download our features list and detailed comments for each product.