Dry suits: full suits vs tops & bottoms

I concur with Allan and Celia. I have the Kokatat Radius two-piece. I wear the drysuit pants on my drive to my destination, then add the top when my boat is ready to launch. I’ve also used the top as a drytop on chilly windy summer days. I don’t own a separate set of waders, so use the drysuit pants when needed. It’s a great multi-tasking drysuit.

Harry Houdini might have been a genius at escaping while trussed upside-down in chains & a straight jacket inside a sealed chamber submersed in water, but the man never had to get out of a kayak dry suit that was just one size too small for him - just saying…

@PhotoMax This is why my latest suit is a bit larger than my last… Beginning to take too many yoga moves to get out of the older one. :smiley:

A lot of times the tops are not meant to be part of a complete dry suit, but used as a dry top. These generally have tunnels to encompass your skirt, and are used by people who have strong rolls, and more often by white water folks (where they can swim to shore if they swim) than sea kayakers who may have prolonged swim as they try to self rescue. The short sleeve versions seem to be pretty much only used by white water folks.

The only people I’ve seen wearing the shortsleeve drytops were all WW paddlers.

With the change in season, the (NH Seacoast) water is cold enough to warrant a dry suit now and I’m not quite ready to stop paddling. Air temp is dropping too, highs are barely getting into the 70s.

I was planning on getting a one-piece suit but got to thinking that a top-only could be useful, and I stumbled upon this thread while doing some Googling. Before taking the fairly-expensive cost plunge, from a sea kayaking perspective (touring and surfing, not WW), are there any scenarios in which a top would be “necessary” but not the bottom? Also, I’m failing to come up with any scenario in which the bottom would be useful without the top, but perhaps I’m just being short-sighted or don’t know what I don’t know?


For me no, use bottoms for fishing as waders.

Two piece good for wearing top only as a splash jacket.

I have reasons unique to me for bottoms only use. But in chillier weather it is nice to be dry on the bottom so you can wade into the water to get in and out of your boat without having to worry about water coming over the top of your mukluks. Weather that may, If a low risk paddle is planned, be a good match for a non-mating top.

But yeah, for most people bottoms only is a rarer event.

In the spring I often use the bottoms of my Radius drysuit as waders. Because of high water levels, I’ve had to do some work to control shoreline erosion on my property. The bottom half of my drysuit makes that job more comfortable.

I also get my kayak down to the water as soon as the ice clears, but my dock doesn’t go in until mid to late May. Using just the bottoms to get in and out of my boat keeps my feet dry. And warm.

As to using only the top, in the Great Lakes the water can be warm but the air temp chilly.
The top of my Radius has offered good protection on such chilly and windy days. Gore-Tex offers good wind protection.

Thanks for the feedback. I can definitely see the benefits of having bottoms only for things like wading, lounging after a paddle, other various non-kayak type stuff, just didn’t see much point while actually in the boat.

Well, you are a newer paddler, yes?

If you get into bigger water, you may want the bottoms on for dryness in waves etc where a bit of water could be slopping in under the skirt. Unlike the top that is up on the sun, what is under the skirt tends to stay damp. Each person has their own tolerance for a wet butt.

Yep, definitely a new(er) paddler. That use case makes perfect sense too, and I don’t mind being wet/damp under the skirt, although my outings have all been < 3 hours so far. I suspect I might change my mind if I was out for longer. I have noticed that my feet prune within my water shoes after wading out a bit at put-in.

My main concern is more about buying a one piece then wishing I’d bought a two piece, or buying a two piece and finding I always wear both pieces so a one piece would have been more ideal. I hate buying something expensive and then wishing I’d spent just a bit more for what I really wanted/needed.

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I was in the same boat (puny?)back in the spring and decided against a two piece because from what I read a two piece will never be a true ‘dry suit’, you will get wet where the top and bottom come together/overlap, so I went with a one piece.

I think you are confused, but as long as you have a drysuit you are OK.

There ARE two piece dry suits from Kokatat that have the zipper around the waist, it joins the upper and lower half just as securely as the zippers on the one piece dry suits and once zipped is fully waterproof. It is just that, with these models, the user can also wear the top or bottom as separate pieces. Which is what Rookie was talking about and what I have done with my ICON drysuit.

There are also two piece systems, which do not have a fully waterproof closure around the middle. But those are not two piece drysuits.

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Where do you paddle? If you want to paddle into chillier weather in the NE or NW I suggest you hope for seasonal sales on drysuits.

Also, what size are you on Kokatat’s sizing chart?

I have a full dry suit as well as separates (including a short sleeve dry top that I love, but I got it for WW). I use the separate tops but never the just the bottoms. I think I wore them once. I should sell them. If I had to do it all again, I’d just get the dry suit and none of the rest. For the shoulder seasons I like a 3 mm farmer Jane with appropriate tops (rash guards to neoprene, splash top, etc). But once the water gets colder, I bust out the dry suit. I could even do without the wet suit honestly, and just wear the dry suit, but I use it a lot.

I wish I had been aware of this when I got my drysuit. I think that would be ideal. Maybe next time.

As always you are a wealth of information. I saw that you mentioned the Kokatat Icon drysuit. It sounded interesting so I went to look it up online, it seems it is now sold by NRS. The links I found are:

Kokatat Men’s Icon Drysuit | NRS
Kokatat Women’s Icon Drysuit | NRS

Are these the right products? They do not mention a waist zipper so I think I found the the wrong products.

I also searched. The two-piece is the Idol, not the Icon.

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