Bib & Drytop vs Drysuit

Looking for opinions. A friend and I are having a “Conversation” right now about the attributes of each. She has a Kokatat drysuit and I need one. I will take the plunge ASAP but before I do this I was looking for any opinions more directed to the Kokatat Bib in combination with a “Good” Drytop. Is this a reasonable option to the drysuit? Who has this combo and does it leak? The combination of the two start getting close to the cost of a drysuit. Should I just take the plunge (metephorically speaking)? I know about the arguement of “what is your life worth”, but I am kinda tight with my money and I am having trouble justifying a $700-900 purchase for a few winter (whitewater) paddles, but I sure would hate to miss any either.

Help! Thanks to any and all in advance.


If you have the
time and patience to make sure the separate tops and bottoms are rolled together perfectly each time you put them on, they can make for a good system.

On the other hand, a full drysuit with a pee-zip and booties is an absolute dream come true.

This weekend I purposely swam in Lake MI. Air temp 22F, water temp 36F. Wearing a Kokatat Gore-Tex full drysuit enables me to do this without worrying about it leaking. With the attached booties, I also need not worry about winter paddling shoes/boots. I wouldn’t be so confident in the seperate tops and bottoms.

Consider the cost of the gear over the number of years it will be used. A Kokatat Gore-Tex suit also holds it’s value rather well and can be re-sold a few years later for a decent price if so desired. Few other “wearables” have this benefit.

the two piece system works great…
especially for whitewater! I use Kokatat Bibs with Goretex booties and a relief zipper with my breathable NRS Revolution dry top. I am completely dry and comfortable in it even when rolling in the coldest waters. The two piece system is great for whitewater in that I often use the bibs with a shorty dry top to make a shorty drysuit. The increased flexibility from a shorty drytop is awesome for spring/summer playboating. I also like the shorty dry suit under my tuilik for rolling practice as it is much less restricting when used under a tuilik.

If you do end up getting a full dry suit, make sure you get one with a double tunnel (Kokatat Meridian, Palm Stikine, etc.) since you’re a whitewater paddler.

To me the key advantage of a 2 piece
drysuit is flexibility. I have 4 drytops, a shorty, a Palm, a Chillcheater and Kokatat Wave. If I blow a neck gasket I can bring along another. In warmer temps my shorty is a useful top. When I go on a longer trip I prefer the Reed Chillcheater as it has a gaping neck and no latex gaskets to break. Nor is there a long zipper to maintain on the bibs. In WW or ocean rock gardens in moderate temps the drytops mate well with neoprene farmer john’s for a bit more padding in case of a swim.

The disadvantage is that it is a bit more expensive than a drysuit. Also, in order to make sure it is truly waterproof you need to be vigilant on rolling the undertunnels carefully. Also, in order to air out on lunch time it is slightly more of a PITA to take the drytop off then it is to simply undo the zipper of a drysuit. Your call, I like the versatility of a 2 piece system but like everything else there are elements of a single piece suit that are simpler.

Augustus Dogmatycus


In my experience - well tested in the river, and in the tub! Roll-together dry bibs and dry top do not seal well enough to actually keep you dry in the event of a swim. For cold weather I’d still prefer that combo over a wetsuit, but it’s no comparison to a prpoer drysuit.

And they are a pain to try and roll and unroll if you need to pee.

That combo might be OK for kayaking, but I think most open-boaters agree to just go straight for the drysuit.

Not sure what you are paddling.


Whitewater Yak
And I WILL be swimming. Not because i want too, but because I am “talently challenged”.

Thank you everyone for the posts.


I have tested and retested in cold,
rough water and mine has never leaked. The key is to mate the inner and outer tube carefully and roll at least 3 times. Lots of rescue prractice swimming never a drop. We use it for surf, WW and Sea paddling. I have the Gore model with relief zip and booties. So, I do not have the problem with rolling and unrolling to pee or whatever. Have a friend with a nylon model that had no relief zip and wondered why anyone would buy such a thing. I have a pair of bibs by Chillcheater without the overband and those do allow water in. We were practicing rescues in some bumpy water last summer and without the inner tunnel feature I had a pint of water from about 10 minutes in the water.

Augustus Dogmatycus