Dry (pants) bibs? How effective?

I already own a reasonably nice drytop (Bomber Gear “The Bomb”). As such, mating it to a quality dry bib seems attractive. I know a drysuit is the ultimate solution, but I already own the top. I don’t plan on using the combo beyond rivers and smaller lakes.

Do any of you have experience mating tops/bottoms of different manufacture? Also, previous threads mention a skirt helps keep the seal, but how essential is it? I canoe part of the time; does it make a huge difference?

My goal is to be safe and dry for at least 1 hour of immersion. Will a combo work?



With one my setups, Kokatat Wave drytop, Whirlpool bibs, Snapdragon skirt over the rolled up seal, after 45 minutes water will have worked its way in and layers will be wet. Drysuit if you are really looking for an hour although the goal should be to not be immersed for an hour . . .

went that route
with the same drytop (nice, right? the thing is 6 years old if it’s a day and still wears like iron and is still dry -rugged) and never liked it.

too much bulk in the middle (mine and the gear) and despite the many ways you try to fold or re-fold or finagle…water finds a way in.

so for paddling with little chance of immersion? sure. paddling when maybe it’s very, very important that i don’t get wet? not so much.

Not very
My experience – and that of other folks who have posted here – is that a drypant/drytop combo won’t work for a long swim. The only exception seems to be the Kokatat roll-together design.

Drypants seem to be used mostly by whitewater folks, who generally don’t have long swims. They’re good for protecting you from the water sloshing around inside your boat.

drybibs are excellent!
I use the Kokatat dry bibs with goretex socks and a relief zipper mated with lots of dry tops (Bomber Gear, NRS, Stohlquist, etc.) with good success. A properly mated 2 piece system (at least 3 rolls and preferably even 4) with a nice tight sprayskirt over the whole thing is bomber. I’ve done extended practice swims, hours of playboating, and hours of rolling practice with very little water. I think its comparable to a dry suit (which I also have) but with increased versatility. I went on a canoe trip a couple weeks ago and chose to use the bibs instead of a dry suit for comfort reasons.

my wife uses a combination like that
(although her top is from kokatat). The usual flip while trying new moves leaves her dry. But a swim through a violent rapid and she needs a change of cloth. I can only guess that a prolonged immersion even in flatwater won’t keep you dry for long: you’ll move around and fight to stay alive…

My wife uses the
2 piece steup and so far she has not had a problem with it. She has gone swimming with it and we have worked on self and assisted rescues and hers has never leaked. Maybe the one diffenence is that I roll it and not her. Maybe with me doing it I can see all the way around and make sure there is a flat and nicely rolled seam, just a thought. She uses the Kokatat (sp).

Dry-bib, not pants.
Let me clarify that I’m thinking about a dry-bib (Kokatat) to mate with my Bomber Gear drytop, not just regular dry pants that don’t roll up with the inner tunnel.

My title might have been a little misleading.


key points
The key points here are:

  1. It has a relief zipper
  2. It was used with a skirt

    I used bibs without a relief zipper - anything but convenient. And I used them for ww canoeing, no skirt - not as dry as a dry suit if you do some rolls or take some swims.


same here
I canoe…

Oh, about 79% vs. 99.9%
You know…kind of like what you advised someone in the semi-drysuit thread.

Thanks for making my point.

– Last Updated: Nov-25-06 2:55 AM EST –

The setup questioned in this thread would have latex neck, wrist and ankle seals (unless I had booties installed). In this case, the roll up seal is the potential weakness, which is why I'm asking questions and have a high safety threshold (one hour in the water).

I take my life seriously, which is why I have high standards for the equipment I use. I want the maximum protection possible. If the drytop/bib combo doesn't meet them, I won't trust it, nor would I suggest anyone else should.

I want my setup to be functionally as effective as a quality drysuit, not semidry.

Do you have anything else constructive to add to this thread?


more direct
OK, I’ll be more direct now that I see your criteria about being in the water for an hour.


At least they didn’t for me. The weakness was where the rolled-together seam bridged the gap of my spine.

I had a non-breathable gear and was getting quite wet, from very brief swims while ww canoeing, but I wasn’t certain whether it was just sweat or river water.

So, I got geared up and hit the bathtub. It was river water - the bibs & top leaked at my spine, and that was 10 minutes lying in a tub, not an hour moving around in real water.

Now I also know it was river water because I paddle in a non-breathable drysuit, and I know how little I sweat compared to the water I was getting in the bibs & top.

Maybe there was something weird about my bibs & top. Maybe my back/spine are an odd shape. And it was still a pretty useful combo for my ww canoeing needs, but I don’t trust that combo in the way that it sounds like you’d like to. Get a proper drysuit.


If you dish it out, you’d better expect some of the same back at ya.


I personally wouldn’t bother with a semi-drysuit so that’s not the point. It was your blasting of other people’s reasons for using a semi-drysuit I was referring to.

In lieu of a tight fitting spray deck…
I’m pretty handy with a sewing machine. For lack of better terms, I wonder if a small neoprene corset or cumberbund placed snugly over the mating folds would stop or help slow down combo-drysuit leakage.

The reality is that a bib with booties and a relief zipper installed probably isn’t significanly cheaper than a drysuit from Ravenspring. A bitter pill to swallow for a cheapskate such as myself.


tried it
I used a wide, wrap-around, Velcro, neoprene back support “cumberbund”. I’m sure it helped, and it turned out I also liked wearing it for the support/posture, but it doesn’t do anything for the bridge/gap at the spine and I wouldn’t trust it for long immersions.


sounds like…

– Last Updated: Nov-27-06 1:09 PM EST –

...the combo may not be the best solution for extended cold water immersion for the same reasons a semidry top/suit isn't. Material is waterproof, it's the seals and possible points of entry that are the problem.

If you're talking about limited exposure and kinder conditions I think it would work fine depending on your skills. I tend to think increased ability gives one more latitude in deciding what to wear.

A good neo skirt is well worth the expense.