Breathable top and farmer john advice

I see folks wearing the splash top or dry top with a farmer john neoprene suit quite a lot. Most often I see them wear the suit on top the the neoprene, But I’m wondering if they would be drier with the top under the neoprene suit. It would be harder to remove but it would also take longer for water to enter at the vulnerable waist seal.

Has anyone tried it both ways?

Yes this does mean that after my horrible experience with three gaskets blowing out on a “New” suit, I am considering getting something besides all neoprene gear for the spring.

Not sure what you are referring to
When you say breathable splash top, are you referring to a Gore-tex (or other breathable fabric) paddle jacket without gaskets?

When you referred to your seals blowing out, where you describing latex seals on a dry top?

For spring time whitewater kayaking I often preferred wearing a Gore-tex dry top with latex gaskets over either a shorty wetsuit, or a farmer John type wetsuit. I had a nylon dry suit, which I would use for winter and early spring open boating.

With the Gore-tex dry top over wetsuit combo I was more comfortable than wearing my non-breathable nylon dry suit and I was warm and dry as long as I stayed in the boat. If I took a swim, I would of course get wet and be less comfortable, but I knew I wouldn’t become incapacitated or die from hypothermia.

Maybe a semi-dry top or dry suit of a breathable fabric with neoprene gaskets would work best for you?

Did you try it under the wet suit?
I’m wondering if you’d be drier longer swimming with it under the wetsuit?

I have never worn a wet suit over a dry top, dry suit or splash top. I tend to buy rather large dry tops, dry suits or paddle jackets. This is partly because my arms are about an inch longer than average for my size and I need at least a men’s large size top to allow enough arm mobility, especially for rolling. Wearing a snug-fitting wetsuit over a somewhat baggy top never occurred to me, but I suspect it might bind the arms a bit.

If the top were a breathable fabric, I doubt it would breath much through the overlying wet suit. That is probably a moot point because having the wet suit against your skin probably prevents evaporation just as effectively.

A wet suit is only really effective in limiting the water exchange rate next to your skin allowing your body to warm the water and limiting conductive heat loss. I can’t see how having the wet suit on top would allow it to do much more than function as a wind breaker, but again, I have never tried it.

my guess
Paddling jackets tend to be pretty baggy in the chest and shoulders to allow the space you need for a full range of motion. Wetsuits on the other hand are skin-tight, by necessity. If you put a drytop under a wetsuit, you’d create space for more water to get in and out of your wetsuit, and you’d have less range of motion as well.

In my experience, dry tops don’t keep you dry when you swim, but they do keep you warmer. Your torso layers will be wet under the drytop if you swim, but they’ll still insulate, and the drytop prevents evaporative cooling after the swim which is the most important thing. If you always stay in your boat, a double-skirted drytop will more or less keep you as dry as a drysuit (but not if you wear it under your wetsuit).

nice for top to cover spray skirt
I’ve often used my splash jacket or dry top (depending on temps I’m in) over my farmer john. My splash jacket (a Kokatat) seals fairly well for being just a splash jacket at least enough for quick rolls. Having the jacket go over the spray skirt helps keep more water from getting through the tunnel. Plus it gives more range of motion for me and an easy option to take off the jacket if it gets too warm. I strongly suspect it would be uncomfortable under the wetsuit unless your wet suit is so loose as to not be much help in staying warm.

Wetwear works by…
trapping warmed water against your skin, as someone said above. Trying to stay dry under a wetsuit, even if it would work by putting the top underneath (I doubt it) would make it harder for wetwear to work the way it is supposed to.

As to staying dry… short of a full out dry suit with everything in good repair, or perhaps the bib two piece system used by Kokatat, water will find its way in if you give it enough time. It’s just sneaky that way. All the semi-dry stuff dioes is slow it down.

If the temps are warm enough that’s not a problem. A good splash top or dry top can trap enough warm air and block wind so that, with a little exertion and a kind sun, you aren’t going to go out from hypothermia even if the under layers are wet. But winter is not such a time in most of the country (or any of it if they are getting snow in Dallas today).

Sounds like its not a good idea
Sounds like you are saying I’m safer to stick with a neoprene top if there is not enough sun or it is winter?

What sort of air and water temperatures are you asking about?

Breathable is a bit of a myth

– Last Updated: Feb-09-11 2:44 PM EST –

ANY material on the market today can be easily ""overloaded"" with copious amounts
of liquid sweat when doing sprints, hard workouts, and rising outdoor temperatures.

Thinking you're going to stay completely dry in a breathable fabric suit
under all conditions just won't happen. You will build up "moisture"
and be "damp" in a breathable top or drysuit.

Gaskets are fairly fragile, deserve respect, and need to be treated with
tender loving care. They don't like a lot of tugging, pulling, clawing, etc.

Regular unscented talcum powder on the seals will help

EVENT Laminate from BHA Technologies is some of the best stuff out there

Leading the pack of tested materials was the eVent laminate which, depending on relative humidity,
was between 1.3 and 3 times more breathable than the next best material, Gore-Tex XCR.

A while back most manufacturers could not make the switch over to eVent because they
were under contractual agreement with Gore-Tex. There was proprietary machinery
and licensing contracts limiting any of the manufacturers from switching away from Gore-Tex.

winter here in Raleigh
The air is usually in the 50’s and the water is 35 to 45 in the winter when I paddle in the winter. I’m usually in a sit on top because it is much easier to dress warmly and cool off. Also the sit on top is more comfortable with all the cold water gear on and rescues are much easier.

I may be a wuss but I don’t think I’d use anything but a drysuit for water temps below 50F. But this reminds me of another reason for the top OVER the wetsuit… When colder I will add some fleece under my jacket but of course OVER the wetsuit (again it would fit too tight under the wetsuit).

agree in part
I agree with your comments regarding the breathability of fabrics. I suspect any of them will feel clammy when paddling hard.

But if you are merely wearing the suit and not breaking a sweat, Gore-Tex is certainly more comfortable than coated nylon.

The biggest advantage I see to the Gore-Tex fabric, at least that used by Kokatat, is the durability. I have a Nylon Kokatat dry suit and a Gore-Tex Kokatat dry top both nearly 20 years old. The dry top fabric has held up much better than the dry suit has. It is also more supple which makes it more comfortable to wear.

Although the breathability of the E-vent material may exceed that of Gore-Tex, not everyone is enamored of its use as a dry suit/top material:

I have never had an E-vent garment, but have looked into the possibility of getting one as an alternative to Gore-Tex. I have read statements from a few who have owned them that they are not as durable as Gore-Tex for whitewater use.

Thanks for all the responses!
Thanks for all the great responses here. I’ve learned some things and I think I’ll be shopping for a new top and maybe this time not a neoprene one!

No - not saying that

– Last Updated: Feb-10-11 7:36 AM EST –

I may have understood your original question. I thought you were asking about the use of a dry or splash top underneath the neoprene, and that's what I said was a poor or maybe useless idea.

However, neoprene alone as a top is a bad idea if you happen to take a swim and end up back up in the air. If there is a cool wind - and I had this happen on a summer day with a little bit of a squall that had only dropped airs temps into the mid 060's - the basic neoprene that paddlers tend to buy will NOT protect you against wind chill. If anything, it'll get you there faster. I got out of the water one summer after rolling practice when a little summer storm came up, wearing a wet suit, and was shivering badly within all of 4 minutes. So the temps you are talking about definitely take a wind blocking layer over the wet suit should you actually capsize.

I also had not realized you were talking about a SOT, where everything is exposed to the weather. In that case, personally I'd say you need to wait for considerably warmer temps than you are talking about, stay near shore so you can change out quick should there be a capsize, or go dry.

Sounds better
I replied above too - dry is more in line with those temps.

^echo this^

Anything you put under a wetsuit will be pressed against your skin and may become quite wrinkled and uncomfortable. Some fabrics will wick cold water into your wetsuit and defeat it’s thermal properties (cotton is rotten, as the saying goes).

I often wear a polypro shirt under my wetsuit without a problem, but there are times when I rushed or was careless and didn’t get all the major wrinkles out. Usually, I regretted it later. I found that the tighter the fabric is to the skin, the better.



– Last Updated: Feb-28-11 7:44 AM EST –

If the neoprene isn't tight against the skin cold water will flush between the neo and skin. That's why if you wear neoprene you want it good and snug with no water getting in.

In response to some comments on breathable fabrics, I have Gortex, Palm and Shohlquist. All three breath well, although I find Sthohlquist is the best. When I do break a sweat the moisture is wicked away and the vapor evaporates though the breathable fabric.

I was out today. It was almost 70 degrees and water temp of 55. I heated up but didn't feel any moisture because it's being wicked away and evaporates.

When I removed my dry suit my base layers were slightly damp but dried out right away.

(This is after a vigorous work out against 15 knot winds and current in 70 degree hot sun and I would sweat in short sleeves.)

You should be careful with water temps below 50. I did some rolling today in 55 and you would be surprised how fast you can get cold.

the only problem with wearing a drytop
underneath your wetsuit is when you try to mate your drytop and spray skirt. Then you have to wear your spray skirt under your wetsuit too, which sort of defeats the purpose of a spray skirt.