Dry top effectiveness

-- Last Updated: Mar-03-07 12:13 PM EST --

I'm considering the purchase of a Kokatat Rogue dry top to wear over my Farmer John wetsuit. As I am learning to roll, I see the benefit of the dry top if I stay in the boat. However, I'm concerned that after a wet exit, the dry top will do nothing to keep my arms and upper body dry. Is this true? I found I good deal on a Kokatat Rogue top and wanted to pick it up if I can justify it as an effective means to keeping my arms warm in this situation. Any help is much appreciated.


somewhat true

– Last Updated: Feb-24-07 1:58 PM EST –

It's kind of a quandary, wearing neoprene suits for an activity where 99.9% of the time you intend on staying in the kayak poaching in rubber is a conflicted mix.

Drytops make sense but if you're going to be floating/swimming around eventually the drytop will be wet inside. Which is still ok in that the rate of cold water exchange is very slow but if your arms don't have any insulation on them and the water is cold it's a problem.

This is where all that fine tuning with different layers helps. Where I used to wear a dry top, poly shirt and farmer john for 55degree water and 55 degree air I started wearing a neoprene vest with the farmer john as the polyshirt and paddle jacket didn't provide adequate neck/armpit/core insulation when immersed. Then I found a 1mm padding shirt, and fuzzy rubber shirts. Then combos using 1mm Hydroskin or similar skin coverings with a light shirt over that for core evaporative cooling protection. Trading the full covering of a dry top for specific thin insulation on the arms and saving the dry top for cold/windy conditions.

Then fuzzy rubber hoods and similar head gear became worthwhile to mediate the transitions and heat loss where the farmer john/paddling jacket combo had gaps. In other words the various jacket/farmer john combos worked for x minutes in the water and recovery but that stopping total heat loss or reducing RAPID heat loss through the head/neck was as important as what happened on the torso through neoprene and jacket.

How cold is the water where you're paddling?

You’re right
Once you exit the boat, the pressure of the spray skirt tunnel around your waist is not enough to keep the water out.

On the other hand, a drytop with a good double tunnel is great if you can stay in the boat. I remember the first time I rolled wearing a drytop and came up…dry. It felt miraculous.

Water temp
Well right now the water is “hard” if you know what I mean. I’m trying to find the best way to extend my paddling season. Summer months are not a big concern for water temp unless I get up to Superior or the other Great Lakes. Plenty of local lakes for practice in MN for now.

yeah,you’re going to be experimenting a lot. It gets down to water temp and seeing what works. There’s no way you can rely on bare arms with a dry layer of poly pro anything with very cold water, below 50 or so. If you are wearing this stuff for out-of-the-kayak immersion protection then either you learn to get back in the kayak in less than a minute or figure out some compromise of next to the skin insulation and what time/temp you go paddling. It depends on water temp and you, not your gear.

Dry stuff, polypro,paddling shirts, rubberized lycra, can stretch the insulation a bit but once you’ve got a pint of water in your sleeves,which can happen thrashing/swimming for five minutes in the water it gets COLD fast. Depending on water temp and your movement in the water you might be disabled in 30 seconds of repeated immersion with very cold water and no head protection regardless of how the rest of your body is insulated.

I took a clinic years ago with a local club, 40 degree air, 39degree water. I had LOTS of layers with my farmerjohn/drytop 3.5mm suit with 3mm vest and two types of paddle shirts UNDER the dry top. A heavy long sleave lycra paddle shirt, a ong sleeve fuzzy rubber jacket under the dry top. My core was toasty warm. But in five-ten minutes I had a pint of water in each sleeve,in fifteen minutes my arms were in pain, in twenty minutes I got out and got into my kayak to perform basic rescues/rolls. My arm strength was less than 50% even though my core, head (hood) and hands (gloves) felt fine.

If I didn’t have the hood I would have been out of there in ten minutes, if I didn’t have the gloves five minutes.

Check out some of the 1mm, hydroskin, , or whatever manufacturers are calling sub2mm neoprene insulation in long sleeve shirt form then experiment. 35 degrees is different than 45 is different than 55 is different than 65. The drytop and neoprene farmer john doesn’t cover that range without severe restrictions on time of immersion. If you have to wear gloves it’s cold and it takes more than drytop/farmerjohn to stay protected for any time of a rescue,or survive a botched self-rescue.

My experience
I have used a drytop with polypro layers on whitewater runs. I have a neoprene Mountain Surf sprayskirt and Bomber Gear drytop w/sprayskirt tunnel. I’ve spent as long as 10 minutes in the water and was completely dry. If you are only going to be in the water for short periods you should be fine. The drytop will leak slowly around the waist. The degree of leakage will depend on how you have it arranged. If you keep everything very snug, leakage will be minimal.


– Last Updated: Feb-24-07 6:24 PM EST –

Unless you can find a heck of a lot better way to get the waist of the drytop to seal up over the wetsuit than I ever did. Water'll come in thru the waist when you swim.

However, if the air and water temps and the level of protection you are getting from the wetsuit plus whatever other layers you may have - maybe a hydroskin LS top and/or a vest - are well matched being wet really isn't an issue. Once you climb back in the boat the drytop will protect you from getting chilled by the air or wind. You'll be wet and warm is all.

For the times of practicing where failures involve climbing out on shore and dumping the boat then getting in, I would suggest a pair of at least coated nylon pants. Those will protect your lower boady from the wind whgile you are on land. I failed to do that once with a wind and temps in the 60's and had to change without even clearing my gear - I started shivering within a minute on land just from my lower body not having a wind-blocking layer over the wetsuit.

By the way, when I was at the lots of swimming learning to roll stage... somewhere around water temps of 51 degrees there was almost nothing I could do to make wetsuit and other layers under a drytop cut it unless the sun was strong enough to really be heating the air. I just couldn't stay warm enough unless I was dry about that temp.

There are some drysuits coming up on eBay right now...

51degrees,learning to roll?
what were you wearing on your head?

and FJ won’t cut it for any water under 50 degrees if you don’t have a dependable roll and/or ability to do a quick self-rescue. Water seeps in under the drytop waist and mostly through the zipper that is present in most farmer johns.

If you ain’t gonna spring for a drysuit, you can extend your season with a surfing type wetsuit combined with a drytop. (how far you can extend depends on your skills.) A good fitting drysuit, say 3/2 (3 mm core, 2 limbs), will out perform and combo of 3 mm FJ and underlying layers. The newer wetsuits have more flexible rubber and fluid sealed seams (no leakage at seams, unlike the mostly blind stitched and glued seams of FJs). A good fitting wetsuit allows minimal infiltration/flushing of water through the suit. when you combine a drytop, it’s even less since the biggest infiltration happens around the neck area. A hoodie makes a big difference when water goes down to 50 and below and when there is a wind chill factor.

STP has some good deals on last year’s ONeil suits right now.

With my first long boat, I remembered having a 3 mm farmer john, with a neoprene top on when practicing my self rescue and learning to roll in the fall on a local pond. Water was around 50 and air temps about 45 degrees with a good wind. I lasted maybe 30 minutes before I started to get the chills and had to call it quits. Of course, the water was flushing through that outfit like a sift compared to the wetsuits I have now.


Don’t wet exit
The dry top is my most used piece of apparrel. Even in the summer, when I practice, that’s what I wear.

Get used to swimming in your boat. Practice your roll near shore or a dock etc. so you can dog paddle to it and hoist yourself up if you fail. Or with others and use a bow rescue. There is no reason that learners should be wet exiting. Granted: there will alwys be some panic situations or a mouth full or water. But practice swimming in your boat. You don’t have to breathe just paddle to shallow water or a dock.

I’m always amaized that people who just learn to roll practice far from shore.

Took the same approach

– Last Updated: Feb-25-07 3:41 PM EST –

when I took my first rolling lesson in October 2005 in Bodega Bay. Water was a bit cool. Now I have a drysuit. My Palm drytop did work well in that my instructor Jenn Kleck taught a progression where I stayed in the boat. She would keep hold all along the lesson progression until the final rolls but even then she was ready to bring me back up if I needed the assistance.

So the drytop turned out to be a purchase with limited value. Later after I came out of my boat in the SF Bay on a trip back from Angel Island I made the decision to buy a Palm Stikine dry suit. I guess because I liked the quality of the Palm drytop it was easy to make Palm the choice for the dry suit. I love my Palm dry suit and really don't use the drytop anymore. I do however maintain the gaskets on my drytop just in case I need to return it to service.

2 hoods and
A mystery cap and the Mystery hood, maybe a helmt but I forget. Hadn’t discovered diving shops yet. Also goggles.

This was when I was getting one out of two, on a good day two out of three, not the absolute beginning. But it was the fall after I had gotten to where I could even get better than one out of ten, so I as pushing it as late as I could because I knew I’d lose ground over Thanksgiving-January time when pool sessions weren’t running.

that’s a hard temp to learn

Try pig-headed…
I am not kidding when I said I took a long time - a really long time - to get anything resembling a reliable roll. It was becoming a bit of a joke in the local group, either tragic or silly but I’m not sure which.

But I am mostly all better now. :slight_smile:

Double tunnel
What exactly does a double tunnel do for you?