dry top for rolling practice

Time to add more gear, of course, now that it’s almost summer. Here’s my question: I tend to limit my rolling practice to a warm inland lake, since I get cold in my farmer john wetsuit/hydroskin/paddle jacket combo when I roll in Lake Superior along the shoreline. My paddle jacket is fine for plain old paddling, but it does a great job of catching water and holding it inside when I roll.

Would a dry top be a good thing to add here? If I went all out and bought a drysuit, I’m not sure I’d wear it all that much, since I tend to overheat like crazy, and it’s hard enough persuading myself to always wear the wetsuit when I go out on hot days.

If the answer is yet, NRS has a nice deal on their plunge drytop, which seems to be a slightly lower end version of the revolution. I like the idea of stretch panels, since I hate the confining feel of my other goretex gear. Does anyone have the plunge? Does anyone want to talk me into buying and using a drysuit? Not many people around here actually do use on Lake Superior, even though it probably would be a good idea, given how cold the water is. On the other hand, I tend to paddle close to shore and on island to island crossings that get a lot of other traffic, so the conditions are much less exciting than the real ocean.

Thanks for any feedback on NRS drytops and the drytop/wetsuit vs full drysuit issue.

As an alternative, you can buy a neoprene jacket. much cheaper than a drysuit or decent drytop and guaranteed to keep you warm.

Restricting feeling
If you don’t like feeling restricted, you probably won’t like a neoprene jacket . . . it’s restricting around the armholes especially.

I’d buy a drysuit

– Last Updated: Jun-04-06 4:17 PM EST –

For Lake Superior, this will be a good investment. I share your pain of overheating while paddling, and the great paradox on Superior is the Hot Day/Frigid Water scenario. However the "dress for immersion" credo is really a good idea. Furthermore, as you probably know, the wind and weather can change quickly and dramatically on Superior, making a simple 3-mile inter-island crossing a major adventure on the high seas. This happens even in August.

I have both a Farmer John and a breathable dry suit, and I actually stay more comfortable on hot days in the drysuit. Even if it's 80F, the water will be 50, and you'll stay plenty cool during your rolling practice. Because the drysuit is one intact unit, I find much less pinching and binding such as that which you get at the waist with a 2-piece outfit, or at the shoulders w/ a Famer John. You're fortunate to live near that great Lake, and I think you'll get plenty of use from a drysuit. This is particularly true in the spring and fall, which are really the best times to paddle the Apostles. No mosquitos, no crowds, great sunsets. Good luck.

Go drysuit

– Last Updated: Jun-04-06 7:18 PM EST –

It won't cause you to overheat any more than a drytop. If the water is cold enough for a drysuit, you can roll or swim to cool off. With a drysuit, you can ditch all the neoprene and just wear a thin layer of polypro (more or less.)


– Last Updated: Jun-04-06 9:42 PM EST –

you would like to make a tuilik sometime this summer. Let Me know , I'll give you some help. I have all the stuff to make them. Nothing beats a tuilik for rolling, if you would like to try one I could bring an extra sometime (I have both 2 and 3mm tuiliks).

Best Wishes

My experience has been…

– Last Updated: Jun-04-06 8:17 PM EST –

A drytop over a wetsuit still ends up letting some water in around your waist if your are doing a lot of rolling unless you have at least a tight neo tunnel pm your skirt, and even then there's this spot at the small of my back that just becomes a water tunnel no matter what I wear. So the drytop/wetsuit combo really becomes a semi-dry combo, and the value of the drytop is that it acts to block wind and trap warmer air. This is not to be disregarded - straight wetsuits in wind will let you get chilled.

There are various fuzzy rubber and other outfits that have a wind blocking outer layer and still act to keep you warm when wet... but the bottom line with all of these is that you still have to wear a fairly warm set of layers to handle weather changes, so you may have to take a dunk to stay cool enough, and you're somewhat soggy to boot.

I have gone out in pretty warm weather wearing my breathable drysuit with jogging or biking shorts and a long sleeve biking shell under it, and as long as I take some time to be upside down in the water that is actually a pretty comfortable combo. And if the wind comes up and the/or the temperature drops, I can often pull up on shore and add a fleece layer on top to handle it. (On the water I have to put on my cag over it all.)

I have a good Stohlquist drytop which ahs worn like iron and is great garment, but more and more I find that I'd rather beat the hell out of a dry or semi-dry suit than bother with neoprene.

BomberGear Drytops
are on sale at Sierra Trading Post. Love their drytops though the company is out of business.

Drytop/wetsuit combo vs drysuit… Depends on the conditions you paddle (?into winter) and your skill level. Drysuit obviously offers the best protection. Truth is that if you paddle long enough, you would likely amass a whole array of immersion gear that covers 12 months of the year.

Actually, Sierra Trading Post also has some of the bombergear drysuits on sale right now. It uses plastic zippers and a “breatheable” material other than goretex, but several folks I surf with have been using them for all winter and they seem to be holding up. I suspect though that zippers won’t last as long as the metal ones on Stolquist and Kokatat but for the price they’re asking…


warning - bomber gear
there is a reason they went out of business. a friend went through 4 warrantied tops in under 2 years because of delamination issues. not worth the headache in my opinion. i’d rather pay more for something that will last years, and that is kokatat. as far as drytop vs. drysuit, if i had to pick only one, i’d go with a goretex drysuit. if price was a factor, i’d go with a drytop, but only if you have a bomber roll and wasn’t gonna swim. i personally would never use a wetsuit. i find them too binding and uncomfortable.

That’s Is A Consideration…
with the company out of business, there is no recourse.

I have two bombergear drytops that I have used hard for several years. I use my drytops more than my drysuits. I would buy another except I already have four of 'em (Two bombergear, 1 Mountaingear, 1 IR).


always recourse at Sierra Trading Post
Sierra Trading Post is your recourse. Never had to use it but it’s nice to know it’s there.

I’d buy another “The Bomb” from STP today if my first one wasn’t still perfect.

drysuit warm enough for immersion?
I have a slightly dumb question: I thought the drysuit kept you warm only because it kept the layers underneath dry. So if you wear a drysuit with minimal layers underneath for summer paddling, and then end up in Lake Superior for a while (oops), will it really do you much good? Or do you have to wear enough stuff underneath to keep you warm for extended immersion in the lake, and then you’re dying of heatstroke?

Thanks for all the feedback. Has anyone tried the NRS plunge? Or the revolution, for that matter? Prices at the NRS website for last year’s models are very good right now.

Drysuit warmth, layers
The fact that the drysuit traps warm air also provides some warmth (even a well burped suit will have a little in there). But yes, it is mostly the layers of insulation that provide the warmth.

The situations where I put super light layers on under the drysuit are those where most people are out in very light clothing and think I am nuts to be in a drysuit - air in the high 70’s plus and water over 70, evening paddles on local rivers whre land is always near. If I didn’t have a reason to want to stay fairly dry for convenience’s sake, I’d probably be in light clothing myself. But I still prefer to be dry, so I wear super light layers under the suit and roll.

That said, I always dress for immersion and in water like Maine in July, never have less than a layer of polypro under the suit for exactly the reason you mention.

All clothing issues in a kayak w/warm air and colder water get a lot easier once you can roll, because you can drop into the water to cool off.

i bet the balanced brace
was probably first mastered just for this, cooling off.

I had to laugh when I was searching for some campsite info on the board and came across this old thread I posted two years ago. I got lots of advice about what paddling clothing to buy for Lake Superior, when I was getting tired of my old farmer john. Here’s what I have somehow accumulated over the last 2 years:

  1. one home-made tuilik, made with Roy’s help (thanks Roy! It’s great!)
  2. one drysuit for spring and fall and days when the wind is from the south and the water is way cold (b-pod, so technically it’s a semi-drysuit, I guess)
  3. hydroskin galore, all from NRS sales: two tops (one short sleeved and one long sleeved) and two bottoms (one shorts, one longs).
  4. hydroskin gloves and hood.

    At least I never need to wear that nasty farmerjohn again! Most of the time on Lake Superior, I wear the hydroskin and carry a light goretex paddle jacket plus hood and gloves on deck. And my roll has gotten a lot more reliable, so I can cool off more easily (except now I get dizzy when rolling–gotta deal with those inner ear issues, or else figure some other way to cool off).

    Thanks for all that advice! It cracks me up that I ended up buying pretty much everything recommended. So much for savings accounts.