Are semi-dry tops dangerous?

-- Last Updated: Sep-29-04 3:31 PM EST --

I was thumbing through a coastal kayak book at Borders and read something that I've never heard of before- semi-drytops in cold water might be dangerous. To roughly quote, this was the reason given . . .

"drywear obviously work by keeping cold water off the paddler's skin. Wetsuits work based on the neoprene and small amount of water warming up and insulating the body. But potentially, semi-dry tops and bottoms can allow larger amounts of cold water to enter and contact the skin without any ability to protect the paddler."

Does this make sense to anyone?

yup makes sense to me.
Of course a well fitted semi dry top with a neoprene farmer john underneath would be a nice intermediate level of protection. it would allow a little water in through the neck and waist but the farmer john should keep you relatively warm.

A Little Better Than "Splash Wear"
If you roll quick, won’t be much seepage. In full submersion over time, it won’t do much to help. As the other person said, what you wear underneath increases/decreases safety factor.


Not to worry
I did a lot of rolling around in a basic paddling jacket before I owned a dry top or dry suit and it let in very little water. A little water isn’t going to kill you and fleece under nylon acts somewhat like neoprene. The water will warm up and although you lose some thermal efficiency, unless your clothing is really marginal for the conditions, you’re not likely to get into any trouble.

Personally, I wear a dry suit or dry top most of the time. Once you trim the seals to fit comfortably, there’s not any real advantage to going the semi-dry route, IMO.

Small advantage… I own both semi and
drytops. My Palm semi-drytop has a neck closure which can be opened for ventilation (the Palm breathes also) when I am paddling the Nantahala, where I rarely need to roll. The wrist closures are nearly watertight, and keep cold water away from my arm insulation.

I also have a Stohlquist goretex drytop. The wrist gaskets were not designed to be trimmed, but have stretched to fit. The neck gasket is very heavy rubber, and so resists neck turning. I would prefer the older, thinner neck gaskets, which lasted a long time for me. So, I wear the Stohlquist happily when it is really cold, or when I am likely to be rolling. Otherwise I may choose the Palm so I can loosen the neck.

Drytops are Wicked Dangerous!!!
I was in REI and I tried one on. Then I tried to take it off and my head got stuck inside and my hands got tangled up over my head in the sleeves and I wandered around for a while bumping into stuff and scaring the other shoppers. I surely would have starved to death if it wasn’t for the brave sales girl who finaly wrestled that thing from my head.

Of course now they want to bill me for the rescue…

Yeah and i had one that the Rubber gasket nearly strangled me!!!

you shave your face, it wouldn’t get stuck around that’s extra two inches of hair. :wink:


I am actually REQUIRED to shave for work… other wise my Gas m ask wouldn’t seal correctly…

Wetsuits too!
I remeber trying on wetsuits on a sweltering muggy August day in the tiny changing room of a non-air-conditioned shop. I wasn’t sure I would make it out of there…

Tommy has more hair one side of his chin than I have on all of my head.


I tried on a wetsuit

– Last Updated: Sep-30-04 1:49 PM EST –

in a warm shop too, and it was so tight I felt like a zit that was about to pop. Then I tried on a drytop and got incapacitated just like Tommyc did - I had to call the sales girl to get me out of it. Very humiliating. I just can't stand being squeezed like that - it makes me feel like my blood pressure is so high that I may have a stroke any second. So I got a goretex Kokatat ReAction semi-dry top with the neoprene neck closure, and have been really happy with it. I wear Mysterioso and polypro underneath, and have been warm in water down to 45 degrees. I wouldn't trust it, though, for any prolonged immersion, so I stick pretty close to shore and carefully select the conditions I venture out in during cold weather.

Dangerous? Rubbish…
I have a semi-dry cag - I bought it because they are cheaper than dry cags and it doesn’t strangle you and you can get it on or off by yourself.

Of course it isn’t as well sealed as a dry cag- I get a little seepage around the wrists and neck. I have deliberately swam with it in Grade III water and it kept me pretty much completely dry.

There are pros and cons to both, but in no way is a semi-dry dangerous!