There are 4 survival suits spread out on my floor right now. Immersion suit. Gumby. The Oh-Shit suit. One of these:
I put one on and walked downstairs, mostly to see if I could don one in under a minute and to make the dirty fisherman laugh. I made it and he laughed. Success!
They all smell like the worst combination of diesel, mildew, and zipper lubricant. The lobster-boy hands made it very hard to pull the zipper up to my nose. Since I am shorter than the suit, the zipper folds and bends, making it hard to pull up. The hood is very tight, even on my little peanut head. My hair was in a ponytail and I think that contributed to the ill fit. I didn't like being in it at all and had a hard time taking it off. I had to lay on the floor and stretch out far enough that the zipper straightened and I could reef it down.
Three of our four suits were manufactured in the mid-to-late 80's. We have one that was made in 2004. (How we ended up with gear that new I'll never know). Two have supplementary flotation bladders around the middle. I have those inflated to test them. Most of the reflective tape is old and worn. One of the flashy lights still works--woot--the other expired in 1995. (For those playing at home, I was a sophomore in high school when that safety light expired.)
I hope I never have to deploy one of these outside of a drill. The thought of floating in the cold Pacific in one of these orange monstrosities scares me. Knowing that we carry an Epirb, life raft, flares, and these suits is cold comfort. All of these need annual maintenance. The age of our gumbies require inspection every 6 months. (Ha, I wonder if the suit made in 1985 liked watching My Little Ponies too.)
Nothing was every really maintained on Leona or Axel before we owned her. I don't really enjoy fixing things or replacing perfectly good batteries every 6 months. I blanch at the cost of repacking a life raft. It all sort of sucks--like 95% of boat ownership--but it's a necessary chore. Will I be swimming for the life raft one day wondering if the batteries in my emergency light are still good? No.