dry suit or top and pants

I already have a dry top, would adding drypants be advantagous or should I really suck it up and go for the drysuit w/ relief zip. I’m primarily a w/w kayaker with a strong combat roll ( on & off side), if a really sucky brace. (okay, I’ve really, really, really got to work on the bracing).

No question. I did some advanced scientific testing on this in my bathtub. There is no way that the pants & top can fully seal around your the groove of your back/spine. You get wet in those.


Another angle- fast water 250 x colder!
Another way to look at this is that water removes heat 25 times faster than air if water is calm, that is not moving. 5 knots of current removes heat 10 times faster yet or total of 250 times faster than air. OK, you get caught behind a waterfall in fast water, even in a drysuit you need to get out of there, let alone if your system leaks. Some folks say they get it pretty dry, I myself don’t want to count on it, especially in that situation. Judge for yourself of course.

Two Piece drysuits leak on most people. Suck up and get that one piece

Kokatat Bib
about $160. If your dry top has a tunnel, it will mate with it and if carefully mated, be just as dry as a dry suit. My scientific testing was 15 minutes of swimming in 35deg Donner Lake last December.

definitely bibs or a full suit
Bibs mated with a dry top with a double tunnel will be as dry as a full dry suit. Of course mating the two garments is tricky (practice it!) and it does add some bulk around the waste. A full dry suit with booties and a relief zipper is the most comfortable option, but the bibs are a more affordable/flexible option with close to the same level of protection. I specified

“close” as there is another opening (even though it is triple rolled and pinned tight by a spray skirt) for water to enter and it cannot be as safe as a full on dry suit. I have been out in December with my 2-piece dry suit on and have been completely comfortable although mating the two pieces with frozen hands is rather challenging.

For a whitewater boater
a combo. would be fine. Since you spend most of your time on smaller rivers, always close to land, you will not be in the water for more than a few minutes. Even if your combo. leaked a bit, it certainly would not be dangerous for a short swim.

If the money is not an issue, get the full suit.

Are you talking a bib and double
tunnel. Nothing less than that rolled into each other should even be considered a dry setup.

yes - rolled tunnels
A bib with a tunnel rolled with the inner tunnel of a dry top. Sometimes even using a short dry top and a full dry top, and wrapped with a neoprene back brace. Quadruple protection! Water still finds its way through the roll, and its a huge hassle to pee or air out at lunch.

I thought it was sealed and that I just sweat that much or that the older pants were leaky, until I: 1) tested it squirming around in the tub, and 2) got a drysuit.

I disagree with those who say the rolled together approach is “as good as a drysuit,” at least for my body it wasn’t.

But I agree it’s not serious for short swims in small rivers, just less comfortable, less dry, less warm and less convenient than the real deal over the course of a day.

Not sure about skirted paddling, I was using it for ww canoeing cold rivers.


p.s. If you use the CCR forum, my picture of this bathtub test.

One-piece drysuit
More than a few people have posted here about giving up on drytop/pant combos and ultimately going to a drysuit. I’m one of them.

If you swim in a 2-piece, you will get some water inside. How much depends on your activity level as well as how bad the waist fastener is (mine was a scrawny bungie cord tightening up a neoprene band). Actually swimming (not just being immersed, but swimming as in “crawl” or “sidestroke”) means you’ll get a lot more than a trickle. I got enough that I could barely walk onto shore, where I discovered just how much water was in the legs. Must’ve been a couple of gallons when I opened up the ankle gaskets.

The 2-piece is OK as long as you stay sealed inside the boat. That’s a big IF.

I would not waste any money on the 2-piece ensemble, because there’s a good chance you’ll end up buying a drysuit. Might as well go straight to drysuit.

a question
How about a farmer John wetsuit for cool weather canoeing? Is it enough??

Thanks Tony

It’s better than nothing. I paddle rivers that are cold all year, but if the air temperature is hot, I wear a farmer john in the summer, even in the shoulder seasons if it’s warm. But in cool weather on cold rivers, I go with a drysuit.

So, it depends on air temp, water temp, your own body and tolerances, and, of course how likely you are to take a dunk. I tend to paddle more conservatively when wearing my wetsuit – if I were to take 3 or 4 swims, it would catch up with me.

Don’t let not owning a drysuit prevent you from paddling, just make your decisions accordingly, and bring spare clothes.


Yeah I hear ya, I don’t mind investing in the wetsuit, if drysuits are about the same price I would get one of them. Don’t know yet. I guess if I did do the wetsuit thing and always had dryclothes I’d be OK?

Thanks Tony

Wetsuit in wind
I love my Expedition Jane (wetsuit), but once it gets wet you can get cold in wind at surprisingly mild temperatures. If you are going to rely on it in an open cockpit situation, you need to either stay dry or have a wind barrier shell in case you get wet. And wetsuits stay wet a long time… finally went to a GoreTex drysuit and nothing beats it.

OK thanks, I don’t plan on getting wet but then who does. I am canoeing in the spring and want to be prepared in case I swim. If so I would have dry clothes and just change. Only day trips so I can cut it short if I swim

Thanks Tony

Forget the farmer john get a
one piece wetsuit they cost about $150 and then put a dry top over it or something to keep you warm once you get on land after getting wet.