There have been a few different waterproof one-piece suits on the market in recent years from the likes of Endura and Leatt, amongst others, but did you know the guys from Dirtlej were the first back in 2017? The German brand has since refined that first version and now has five men's and two women's variants available. I've been testing the Core version, so how does it compare to the best MTB jackets and the best waterproof MTB trousers?
Design and specifications
The Dirtlej Dirtsuit Core Edition is a true one-piece garment, and not simply trousers and jacket stitched together like some offerings. It has been designed for enduro and big days out on the mountain in the filthiest conditions and features a three-layer membrane to keep you warm and dry. This is the heavy-duty version – Dirtlej does make suits in lightweight fabrics for warmer weather.
It's made with a DWR-treated waterproof fabric rated to 18,000mm and with a breathability rating of 15,000g/m2/24h. Ratings on waterproof fabrics can be vague at best, but those numbers put it in the pretty reasonable at keeping the rain out and just about average at letting your skin breathe category. As our own Guy Kesteven neatly summed up in his 'nothing is waterproof' article, a lot of what and how that breathability number affects you is down to how much you sweat and what other layers you are wearing at the time.
To counter the boil-in-the-bag feeling, the Dirtsuit Core Edition features six large zipped vents to help you control temperature. You can even zip off the legs below the knee if you find you are getting too hot with knee or shin pads on. All of the front pockets have waterproof zips in a contrasting bright yellow, and two pockets on the rear. These aren't sealed but have handy drainage holes to prevent mud build-up, though I didn't find any use for them in testing.
It has fully taped seams, too, and uses a few stretch panels and reinforced materials in key wear areas. Its one-piece design and robust material could be too stiff in use, so to counteract this it uses a wide elasticated band on the back just above the waist. It also has a harder-wearing section on the seat area and the inside of the ankle to prevent excess wear and damage when pedaling.
The hood is large and fits well over a helmet and has two toggles to adjust fit in two directions and a neat peak that fits well over a proper trail lid. It can be tucked away, too, should you not need it, though if it's wet enough for the suit, chances are it's worth covering the vents in your helmet to keep warm and dry. The sleeves use a similar cut to the hood peak with an extended section with a velcro adjuster that covers the wrist and part of your hand. This felt strange when I first tried it on, but it actually does a great job of preventing cold spots and wet base layer sleeves.
One of the big problems with an all-in-one suit is sizing, as you can't mix and match bottom and top sizes as you might with a separate setup. However, Dirtlej does a very good job of trying to combat this with five different sizes in this particular suit, as well as women's specific versions and even a Loose version for the larger built riders out there. There is a very detailed size finder on Dirtlej's site, and after a bit of measuring, I went for the large version which fitted my 175cm and 84kg frame well.
The Dirtsuit comes in three different colors. I had the Sand version, which gave me strong Ghostbuster vibes but it also comes in a subtle Blacklabel or fetching Steel Blue.
It's been one of the wettest winters here in the UK for years, and in such conditions when the temperature drops, the Dirtsuit Core Edition has been fantastic. It's as waterproof as anything else I've used, and the DWR coating has held up well throughout testing. Dirtlej does have a section on its site on how to maintain your outfit, and it offers its own cleaning product, too, which should ensure good service for years to come.
The breathability was less of an issue when the temperature was below six degrees or so when its ability to trap heat is a bonus, but much above this and it soon gets sweaty inside. Plenty of vents are fine on longer climbs but can be a bit of a faff when doing many shorter, steeper climbs. I also found it difficult to know exactly what to wear underneath. The upper body was easy as I would layer up with my usual choice of base layer and possibly a mid-layer if it was really cold, but the lower body was harder to work out. I sometimes wore just a short liner, which works well for keeping cooler. The feel of a damp waterproof on bare knees isn't the best, but I would easily overheat if I wore anything full-length underneath. Not such an issue when the temperature drops, but something I found tricky to balance on less cold days.
The suit's ability to hold on to your body heat would work well for bike park uplifts or wet, muddy days in the mountains, where you nearly freeze to death on exposed ski lifts. Cleaning up after would be much less traumatic than normal, as you could simply hose the worst off at the lift station and still be warm and dry underneath. I found it worked well on an e-MTB, too, where the more constant but slightly lower exertion levels meant I could regulate my core temperature more easily.
The fit worked well for me, but I would advise carefully paying attention to the sizing chart. There is an adjustment at the waist, wrists and ankles, too, but it's for fine-tuning and doesn't alter the basic cut of the suit. The material has a pretty solid feel to it, but despite this, it doesn't feel restrictive in use. The cut is loose but not too baggy and doesn't flap about much, with plenty of freedom in the shoulders and plenty of length in the arms for full coverage in the riding position.
Being a one-piece, there are no gaps for water or mud to get in, and being completely clean once you take it off at the end of the ride is a great feeling. However, I wonder if you would get similar levels of protection using a dungaree style trouser and jacket setup with the added flexibility of using different jackets and no need to run anything underneath the lower section.
The quality from Dirtlej is outstanding. It is finished well and is full of neat features, and although the Sand color was polarizing amongst riding buddies and my kids, I quite liked it, though I'd probably go for the Steel Blue version out of choice. At $390 / £310, it's not cheap but more affordable if slightly less flexible than Madison's premium Dungaree and DTE jacket combo, which retails at $532 / £398. It does a great job of keeping the elements at bay, making riding in deep winter a bit more bearable, and giving you one less excuse for not getting out on the trails.
A superbly well-made garment for the worst weather. It fits well, is waterproof, and although not the most breathable, has plenty of options for cooling down. Its ability to keep you warm, dry, and clean made it my go-to item for wet trail rides this winter.
It's not as flexible as a separate jacket and trouser combo, and you need to be careful when picking your size, but if you are the sort of rider who rides in all weathers, the Dirtsuit would be a worthy investment for keeping you out on the trails through the depths of winter.
Tech specs: Dirtlej Dirtsuit Core Edition
- Price: $390 / £310 / €349
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL (women's specific and a loose cut version available too)
- Colors: Blacklabel, Sand (tested), Steel Blue
- Materials: DWR-treated waterproof