Do Dry Tops Work??????

I recently read a small article (from a link in another post) that said that dry tops generally fail after submersion.

Is this true? (with a true-dry top and not a semi-dry top)


No, My shorty dry and semi dry work

– Last Updated: Nov-05-04 8:33 AM EST –

fine after swimming. It is the pants that leak.

Mine works
My Stohlquist dry top works just fine - first time, every time I’ve ‘gone swimming’ in it.

Could you clarify meaning of works?
Do you mean is there water infiltration through wrist and neck latex gaskets, or through the torso, probably you are referring to how much water gets in when you have a double layer mated to a spray skirt?

Mileage varies. Some friends find little or no, depends on the skirt, the method used in the top, how careful, rolling or vigorous swimming, whether you have a bib with it that you can sort of roll together, how much water may leak where your spine is, and how important it is to stay somewhat, mostly, nearly, or completely dry.

My dry top works well when the double tunnel is locked down on a neoprene skirt. In a recent surf session the only leakage I noticed was when a wave broke on my head and blew a litle water past the neck seal. When I peeled off the top my insulating layer was only slightly damp, and that was after several good thrashings and rolls. My experience in whitewater and rolling on flatwater is similar – as long as I stay in the boat, I stay dry.

Swimming is a whole different story. My drytop/drypant waist seal is only a simple overlap, and it does leak.

Got Roll?
If so, It works fine when you’re the boat. If you swim, water infiltrates through the waist area.


Water infiltration…
Yes, water infiltration is my concern…when swimming mostly.

I do have a roll, but you never know.

I am concerned about getting a dry top for very cold water conditions and then having it fail on me if I have to swim…which could be dangerous.

I am debating over getting just a dry top to combine with either dry pants or a wet suit, or to get a whole dry suit.

I guess another issue I did not think about is that if you were to wear a dry top over a farmer john type wet suit, the water from the wet suit may “wick” its way up into the upper body. What do you think?

Is the dry top sufficient for cold water use (50 degrees) if you happen to have to swim? Will it leak so bad as to defeat the purpose? I don’t mind some dampness I guess, but don’t want to end up in a hypothermia/cold shock situation.



Swim in a dry top = getting wet
that’s the way of it.

Unless you are using a double skirted dry top, neoprene skirt and a dry bib for pants. Then you roll up the bib with the inner skirt. Instructions on the kokatat web site. Acceptable but not perfect. Lots of work to get into and out of. go for the full suit if you can but $ sometimes dictate choice of gear, A dry top with fleece under it and a wetsuit is in no way the same a a drysuit, not even close. In cold water for a long immersion it’s a huge difference.

Do folks really think that a gasket around your middle will keep water out during an active swim lasting over a minute? A dry top without mating to a bib is only really dry if you roll the boat up, (and double skirted is dryer).

A drytop is pretty good for WW
I went all last winter with just a drytop and a farmer john. I never swam so it was fine. Of course if you swim you will get wet. But Getting a little water in the drytop while paddling is no big deal (like a wetstuit wicking water) its not bad to get a little wet. You will not even notice it if you have on the right stuff underneath. In whitewater you are normally not going to have to be in the water for as long of a time as touring. If it was really cold and touring deffintly go with a drysuit. Well maybe unless you are with a group of skilled paddlers and can always roll. A drytop should be fine for water to 50. I would deffintly recomend getting some sort of wetsuit (farmer john - hydroskin ect) for underneath though. Cause when you do swim a drytop by itself is no good.


Saying the water is 50 degree, doesn’t really say too much. Is it sufficient? Don’t know because there are variables only you have a better idea about.

First of all, how good are your skills vs. the conditions you’re going out in and what is your level of support from partners, if any? A short swim, say under 10 minutes, is certainly doable with a 3mm neo farmer john, rashguard top and a drytop over it. I bought a drysuit to santa cruz surf festival last March. Air temps were in the 70’s and water temp was 50. I couldn’t stand the thought of being in a drysuit. So I actually bought a FJ and a drytop on sale from the vendors booth and used that for the weekend. I didn’t swim but if I did, I would not be in the water for more than 5 minutes with the support boats around. I swam in the same combo several weeks ago with water temp of 51 and air temps of 40’s. I was perfectly fine, temperature wise, for the 10 minutes or so in the water (the trashing is another story).

If you can trust your roll, self and assisted rescue to under 5 minutes in the worse conditions that you plan to be in, then I think the drytop, farmer john combo is fine. If you go out alone alot, you may want the additional time that is bought by a drysuit (and a VHF radio for that matter).

Right now, our water temp is hovering just around 50 and under and air temps definitely plummeting under 50 in NE. I expect I won’t be wearing anything but a drysuit until June next year.


more on bibs
Dry bibs properly mated with a double tunnel dry top and a snug neoprene skirt will not let water in and is in fact a perfectly good dry suit. Depending on your flexibility and finger dexterity, properly mating the two will either be a challenge or a snap. With practice this has become easy for me and I can suit up just a few seconds behind the dry suit guys. You do have a bulge accross your chest from the roll which may or may not bother you. I have swam with this combination several times and have done numerous roll practices and have come out bone dry. Well maybe not bone dry, but dry enough as my wrist tendons tend to allow a tiny bit of water in. For whitewater (short swims), this is a great setup. However, for sea kayaking, I’m not sure I would trust my life to this setup as it is not as reliable for long emersions.

Thanks, having not used the system
I appreciate the perspective from one who has.

I would not wear a farmer john under a
drytop. One will suffer constriction around the middle from the farmer john, the sprayskirt, and the inner and outer tunnel of the drytop. Also, the shoulder straps of a farmer john just add to interference with motion.

Here in Atlanta, I wear a drytop over Patagonia neoprene paddling shorts. These are high in the waist so that the dryskirt tunnel closures and the sprayskirt effectively seal the waist. I cannot wear any full leg covering if I am paddling C-1 because of too much constriction of circulation behind the knee. I did take one swim out of a kayak in this setup, after getting stuck in a hole on the Cartecay, and after struggling out and swimming the boat out of the hole, I was still pretty dry. The C-1 setup is even drier because the skirt is down around the hips, not up around the waist.

One other note about kayak sprayskirts and drytops. Most skirts have very high tunnels to keep water out when you paddle a kayak in the summer without a drytop. In winter, with more under layers, that high tunnel can be quite constricting, and in fact you may have to turn the top of the sprayskirt tunnel down to avoid interference with the inside of the inner/outer drytop tunnels. My solution is simple. I cut the sprayskirt tunnel down several inches, leaving just enough for effective mating with the drytop. This eases getting in and out, and reduces constriction.

The Opposite…

– Last Updated: Nov-06-04 4:21 AM EST –

"drytop. One will suffer constriction around the middle from the farmer john, the sprayskirt, and the inner and outer tunnel of the drytop. Also, the shoulder straps of a farmer john just add to interference with motion. "

This seems a matter of personal physical built and the size of the wear one has. I am actually very comfortable wearing my farmer john and rash guard under a medium size drytop. This combo is more comfortable than my drysuit which is size small. I got the small drysuit because I'm short but fairly stocky. I wear a fleece bib and a rash guard under the drysuit and am okay with that. But once it's colder and I have to try squeeze in another pair of tights and another top, I feel really constricted but will do that so I can paddle through the winter. My next drysuit, which is expensive, will be even more so because I will try to go custom size

Speaking for myself only, if I were paddling in the conditions in CA, I would wear neo FJ, rash guard top or two under a drytop. This combo works for most of my ww and surfing. I have never noticed any restriction on movement because the seperate pieces can be sized differently to fit better.


Same here
Just got a drysuit, but was practicing rolls (including some undesired swimming) in water that was running at 52 degrees up to two weeks ago with Farmer Jane, long sleeve mystery top and a full latex gasketed drytop (with a relatively wide band to mate with a skirt or drypants). I was plenty mobile, and dry as long as the roll worked. Got a bit damper around the middle and definately colder when it didn’t - I wouldn’t be OK in any form of shorts in those temperatures. Would have been a lot drier in the case of a swim had I also had drypants that matched to top…


matching pants
I have the dry pants to match my dry top - Stohlquist.

And even when ending up swimming there was very minimal leakage.

My drysuit’s main advantages are that it is a hell of a lot easier to put on and take off AND with Goretex booties I am wholly dry and warm (wicking underwear, rash guard and fleece under).