Dry....top/bottom/suit, whatever

I know this has been asked before but searching the archives hasn’t helped me pinpoint a recent answer…

I recently bought a high-quality dry-top to wear over my wetsuit in certain conditions… now I’m wondering if… when necessary, I should get a drysuit also… or just get dry pants and consider the combo to be a 2-piece drysuit?

My impulse would be to just wait a bit and get the kokotat gore-tex grand poo-bah drysuit with the relief zip and the booties, but since I already have the drytop…

All advice appreciated…


no such thing as dry pants…

– Last Updated: Mar-14-06 9:57 PM EST –

People who market "dry pants" should be ashamed of themselves as they definitely are not dry. Assumming your drytop has a double tunnel, you can mate the drytop with some dry bibs (both Kokatat and Palm make bibs) to have a true two piece dry suit. If you have a bombproof roll, a wetsuit and a drytop may be enough, but if you don't and you plan on going out in sub 50 degree water, the bibs are a great option.

Dry pants are not dry
But bibs work well when mated properly to the spray skirt tunnel.

Don’t Give In To The “Impulse”

– Last Updated: Mar-15-06 5:18 AM EST –

just yet. Figure out what type of paddling you do, how long into the cold season you want to continue doing it, and go from there. Test out your existing gear as the cold weather begins to set in. Assess whether it provides enough protection and time for you to self or do an assisted rescue. Ask yourself whether you want to continue further into the season and whether the gear would still be sufficient. If not, it's time to move up to a drysuit.

If you really get into the sport and want to do it year round, you will accumulate quite a collection of immersion gear and have no regrets about spending the money. Maybe, I am rationalizing for myself since I have collection of .5 mm to 4 mm neo FJ and full wetsuits, two drysuits and 4 drytops (two long, two shorties). But actually use pretty much all the gear, switching in and out them depending on the season and what kind of paddling I am doing.


economics/safety/industry untruths
Here is the place each spring and fall that well intentioned paddlers ask here and elsewhere do I need to spend so so much, is it really that dangerous, paddlers and industry says, you can be fine with, etc.

The bottom line, pun intended is that for a very few folks who by accident fit in a certain way in a high quality dry top with tunnel ans with one or two bibs mated perfectly anc CAREFULLY and IF you don’t swim much upon capsize, it will not leak much water.

The risk is that even for these folks, and I was one of them, you run the problem of upon prolongued swim the connection comes apart and now you are in tragic territory with little or no protection.

sing is right on. Assess realistically how cold the water, what is the longest you would be caught out there and then buy accordingly. Fortunately you can now spend $400 some dollars rather than $800 for a dry suit.

It is an option to simply wait a month or two and not buy all this stuff you know!


a second try

– Last Updated: Mar-15-06 9:42 PM EST –

People who give the "bibs" answer come really close to answering the question: If bibs and a dry top will mate, why won't dry pants and a dry top?

differences b/w bibs and “dry” pants
Bibs have a double tunnel which mates (via a triple fold) with your double tunnel on your dry top to create a baffle which is very difficult for water to enter through especially as it is further protected by a spray skirt. Yes dry pants have latex gaskets on the ankles, but they are meant to keep your pants dry when wading into water for fishing, etc. They have simply a grippy strip of neoprene at the waist which holds the pants up but in no way does it keep water from entering. If you capsized with dry pants, since they have gaskets, your pants would pretty much fill up with water which would be a bad thing. Now a one piece drysuit is the ultimate protection, but for now I love the versatility of a two piece system as I like mating it with a shorty drytop to create a short sleeve dry suit for those warm weather/cold water days. I’ve done extended swims in the two piece suite and paddled/rolled in 33 degree water in the middle of winter with no problems. I had one instance of leakage but that was due to the fact that I was in a hurry and improperly mated the bibs to the drytop (I learned my lesson to be patient with that process).

You Got A "Real Answer"
but need more elaboration/clarification. That’s cool. Just say that rather than getting sarcastic about it with the “real answer” for “real question” comment.


Dear Sing et al.

– Last Updated: Mar-15-06 9:44 PM EST –

Mea culpa. What I meant to ask was, if dry tops have a double tunnel, then they should "mate" with whatever is put in them. The question is, why does mating with bibs result in a dry seal while mating with pants does not.

hard to explain without pictures but…

– Last Updated: Mar-15-06 11:55 AM EST –

There used to be a nice video on Kokatat's website showing the process but I can't find it anymore so I'll do my best to explain it.

Mating a dry top with dry bibs works as follows:
Dry top is pulled over the dry bibs. The dry bibs have a tunnel on the chest open at the bottom as does the dry top. The inner tunnel of the dry top and the outer tunnel of the dry bibs are aligned and rolled upwards together to the chest. The spray skirt is then pulled up over this roll to further hold it in place and then the dry top is pulled down over everything. The reason a dry top can't mate with dry pants, is because there is nothing to mate it too. It's like having a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. There is no extra material that you can suitably overlap to connect the two pieces in a meaningful way.

Edited to add: I found the video. Here's the link. http://www.outdoorplay.com/store/product_images/KTrollbib.mpg

My Apology For Reading Too Much

– Last Updated: Mar-15-06 12:02 PM EST –

into. I didn't get to surf this morning. Wind is howling at sustained 30 plus knots. I took a day off. Now, I'm going to paint the hallway instead of surf. I am grouchy. :(


PS. My wife is happy. I scored a minor brownie point. Guess it ain't so bad if spouse is happy.

Check out SEMI-Dry suit Option!
I think you might benefit from researching the SEMI-Dry suit option. I got mine at www.moosejaw.com.

I have a SEMI-Dry suit by Kokatat. They make two versions, which I will explain.

The lesser cost version (Under $300.00) has Latex gaskets for the ankles & wrists. It then has Neoprene for the neck seal. A “Dry suit” would have latex at the neck too, but cost a lot more.

The higher cost version SEMI-Dry suit (under $400.00), has in addition, sewn in waterproof socks, and it is LOTS more comfortable at the ankle because latex gaskets aren’t needed. It also has a relief zipper, for when you need to “go”.

I understand the SEMI-Dry suit is made with slightly thinner materials, and is designed for people who seldom go swimming. I understand the full Dry suit is made with heavier material, for White water paddlers, who might go swimming often.

If you are a touring paddler like me, check out the SEMI-dry suit option. I love my Kokatat, “Super Nova” SEMI-Dry suit. It is dry, and comfortable, even when the air is warming up. Read my Review here on P-Net for more info.

dry pants
My experience with non-bib dry pants was that they leaked when used with the company’s matching dry top if I was in the water for more than a quick dunk. I still used that combination for moderate whitewater or shoreline paddling – places where I was sure the swim would be short --because it was much more comfortable than my wetsuit. But I wouldn’t trust it if there was the risk of a lengthy immersion.

If Momma ain’t happy…
ain’t NOBODY happy. Good choice, Sing.


– Last Updated: Mar-15-06 8:17 PM EST –

I used to use the top/pants combo. I was actually able to get 2 or 3 rolls to connect the pants with the top tunnel as the pants are really big and come half way up my torso. I jumped in the tub with that combo for a few minutes and got very little leakage (no spray skirt on.) However, swimming would possibly cause more leakage (with twisting and movement in the water.) Neither my top nor pants are breathable, so I was always pretty wet at the end of a paddle. I recently purchased a NRS Extreme drysuit (breathable) and it is GREAT! It's $675 with the booties and relief zipper and worth every penny (imo). If you really feel the need to buy full protective gear, I would not waste money on pants, I'd go with the suit and dump the drytop on ebay or the classifieds here.

The gear you have now is probably fine for paddles on the reservoirs/rivers, but if you plan on getting out in the bay and doing crossings (which is just a matter of time ;-)) you will feel much more secure with the full protection of a drysuit.

Let me know next time you want to go paddling, I'll be sure to bring the drysuit so you can check it out.

My wife has the Kokatat 2 peice
set up and it works fine. The first time she tried it she floated and swam in a river for 20 minutes. She did this without the spray skirt but did have her pfd on and there were no leaks at all. It gets an even better seal with the spray skirt. So IMHO the bibs are the way to go.

plus the bib owner can have a 2nd drytop to switch out to if the other is in the shop. Substitute that for a short sleeve top, etc. The combinations would dazzle even Martha Stewart.


You got that right…
“only a matter of time”…

I’m very much looking forward to getting into some conditions that stretch things… how cool is it to have the Bay so close?

Thanks for the offer(s)… I will definitely take you up on it.

Thanks to all…
for the helpful advice… I have some things to try out for sure, and apparently plenty of time to do it since it’s not getting any warmer :slight_smile:

If you don’t roll or scull and twist a lot, if you don’t go swimming, if you don’t climb multiple times over the back of the boat, a number of top and bottom combos will work fairly well. The more you move, the more you challenge the way the outfit joins and its gaskets. Though I’ve never used a true bib top, the triple fold sounds like it’d work better than the double-tunnel drytop and pant combo, but I suspect that in my low percentage days in rolling I’d still have ended up wet after a number of swims.

You have good advice above - go slow. I survived for a goodly time with a wetsuit (3 mill), additional layers of hydroskin for spring/fall, a drytop and a cheapo pair of coated nylon pants to just pull over may legs and be a windblock once I was out of the water. You can get the layers of hydroskin on sale just by going for last year’s model. (Also hood and warm glooves) That was warm enough for water temps to 50 degrees and decent air temps, and since I was going to be in the water enough to be wet anyway I could never see the point of going for high end purportedly dry pants. My only complaint was that I was always soggy, which we ultimately resolved with drysuits.

Have the SuperNova - my own experience is that the neck gasket ultimately leaks enough to have a cup of water in your booties after a number of rolls, a swim or two, or a lot of on-your-side sculling. I’ve known some who have done better with it, but I am not sure that they have spent quite as much time in the water as I tend to (on purpose and not).