Dry Top question

My wife gave me a dry top a while ago for a B’day gift (how nice is that!). Now that its getting late in the summer I am thinking about fall paddling. I am thinking of exchanging the unused top for a dry suit. I know that its another 500 bucks but reading some other posts I am wondering if a dry top stays dry if you come out of your boat?? Seems like you get wet from the waist leaking. Then I read about a few folks that already own dry suits going out and buying dry tops. Why? I must be missing something.

wy I own a dry suit and a dry top

– Last Updated: Sep-09-04 11:23 PM EST –

1>My dry top is waterproof breathable and cost me a mere 150. a bargain.

2. My wetsuit is polartec aquashell roughly equivalent to 2.5 mm.(a touch thin, but very comfy, much more so than neoprene) A dry top gives me extra warmth topside, (neoprene does not protect from wind), keeps me dry when I roll, and keeps me a bit warmer if I swim. (fortunately getting rarer as my roll and skills slowly improve). This combination is ideal if the air temps are at 55 and the water temps are at 60

3. If the water temp is below 50 degrees I'll wear a full drysuit or I would wear a double skirted top mated to a bib. That will keep one esssentially dry in a swim.


A dry top and a wetsuit in combination is much warmer than a wetsuit alone if you roll, a little bit warmer if you swim, but will in no way keep you dry if you swim. The longer you swim the less the advantage of the drytop. wearing this combination is water under 55 degrees is questinable, below 50 degrees I find it very risky.


Thanks Peter. Why not wear the suit
instead of the top / wetsuit combo if you have a suit? Is it too much for 55 - 60 degree water even with just a wicking layer? Is it more restrictive or something?

1 Drysuit , 2 Long Drytops, I Shortie…
why? Because in warmer weather, I rather not wear a drysuit. I find getting in and out of a drysuit a pain. Standing around, I get hot in it. Yet, I get chilled easily in the water. I find the drytop will keep the me semi-dry and warm (either sweat or water seepage will occur) when I am playing alot in ww or surf. More important, double tunnel decreases the amount of water seeping in through the top of the skirt and minimize how many times I have to get to shore and empty by boat. I like having a neo farmer or just neo shorts under. There is no movement/slippage of fabric on the seat and the thigh braces. The better connection to the boat gives me better control. Control of the boat is a large part of the game in ww and surfing, much more so than touring.

Water will seep in between the drytop and the bottom when one is swimming. I hardly ever swim. In white water or surf, I can get to the shore fairly quickly (short of getting caught in a rip). I wear the drytop/neo combo longer into the cold season than someone with a iffy roll should. Rest assured that when the water drops below 50, I’ll make the switch back to a drysuit. Some of fellow ww and surfing brethen won’t. But they’re mostly cognizant of their skill level and the risks involved.


Air temps are a factor.

– Last Updated: Sep-13-04 9:07 PM EST –

The usual problem is that the air is too hot and the water is too cold. This is the drysuit owners quandry. If I dress to survive for an hour in 40 degree water, it's way too hot in 60 degree air. Then I dress for immersion an rotocool as necessary.

Sometimes the water is moderate but the air is cold. this is when the drytop/wetsuit combination is ideal.

Also if water temperatures are between 60 and 50 the dry top gives a small extra margin of protection if swimming and prevents evaporative cooling when I am back topside.

With proper insulation under it, even a goretex suit is hot if the air temps are over 50. So if the water is about 55-60 I might well wear the top / wetsuit.

The appropriateness of this regimen will vary from paddler to paddler factoring in type of padding (like a day of surfing a WW or specialist boat vs sea kayaking in mild conditions vs spending time with friends working on rescues in chop, rolling ability, tolerance for cold, availability of bail out warmth, etc.

So the big thing is if you do not need a drysuit and your wetsuit is marginal (especially if the wetsuits marginality is due to air temps) a paddling jacket os dry top might well be a help.

****************very Important********

Do not overestimate the small improvement in immersion protection afforded by a drytop. When swimming it evaporates rapidly. There is no comparison between a drysuit and a drytop/wetsuit combo once you are swimmming. Swim in your immersion gear at various water temps to test it. Being conservative in your hypothermia protection strategy is safer and highly recommended.

Dry boat

– Last Updated: Sep-10-04 2:16 PM EST –

That's a huge benefit to using a drytop with a double tunnel -- your boat stays dry through multiple inversions and immersions as long as you stay in the boat. I always thought that short-sleeve drytops seemed silly until I did two back-to-back rolling sessions in my whitewater boat this summer, one with and one without my long drytop. Wtih the drytop I only sponged out at the end instead of making several trips to shore to dump out. I wouldn't normally wear the long one in warm weather, so a shorty is a lot more tempting now.

I was just talking to a dealer about drysuits and drysuit options. He strongly recommended getting a double tunnel if you paddle whitewater, surf, or plan to roll a lot.

Both are useful

– Last Updated: Sep-13-04 10:38 AM EST –

While I love my dry suit and use it more than any other paddling garment, I own both long and short sleeve dry tops as well. I use them when the water is warm enough that I don't need the protection of a full dry suit. The short sleeve top is ideal for warm air/cool water situations. With arms and wrists exposed, I stay quite comfortable, but I'm protected from spray and partial immersion when rolling. This is a new garment for me, but I've come to like it a lot.

The long sleeve dry top is great for warm water, cool air days. It provides me with all the wind and spray protection I need.

I also own both long and short sleeve paddling jackets (no latex seals), but haven't used either in years. If I need water protection, I'd rather have seals. If it's so warm that I don't need the seals, I don't need the jacket, either. I also don't like the seepage of water into the sleeves of the jacket. It tends to pool around the elbows and gets annoying after awhile.

Layering Under Drytop
Looking for thoughts & experiences about layering using either a Kokatat Polartec 100 Union Suit Liner or the NRS Wavelite Union Suit during the Fall & Winter Paddling season.

I would be using one of these union suits under a Kokatat Goretex Wave Drytop matched to a NRS Black Rock DRYPANTS (not the regular Black Rock Pants) which has latex ankle gaskets & an 8 inch high neoprene waist. Also with either latex or Goretex soxs over some type of warm socks.

Here are the questions I have:

  1. Even wearing one of the union suits under the Wave Drytop & NRS Drypants, do I still need to have a wicking base layer, or is the material that makes up the Poly/Spandex NRS Wavelite or the Kokatat Polartec 100 enough to wick away moisture AND keep me warm in Fall Winter weather of the Chesapeake Mid-Atlantic region?

  2. Has anyone out there ACTUALLY ever gone swimming in this combination under similar conditions geographic weather conditions?

Polartec 100
will wick sweat away from you. I have a Campmor polartech bib (farmer john like). I wear a synthetic rash guard, short or long sleeve, under the bib. If gets really cold, I’ll add on tights on the bottom and layer another polartec 100 top over the bib/rash guard combo. These are all under a drysuit.

The drytop and dry bottom combo will work with short term immersion. Most folks I know using that combo will acknowledge some seepage in an active swim. If you have good self/assisted rescue techniques, you won’t be in the water long. And whatever little seepage will warm up. If you floating alone with the boat gone… well, a drysuit will buy you a little more time.

Pikabike used the drytop/drybottom combo you’re talking about. I believed she has converted to a drysuit since.