Dry top vs Splash Jacket

i have been looking at getting a paddling jacket. I can't decide between going with a full dry top or just getting a "splash jacket"(semi-dry). How dry are the splash jackets?
I would wear it over a 3mm john in the fall and winter (calm cond) and for rescue and rolling practise in the summer on the great lakes

any opinions

I found the splash
jacket semi dry for maximum of two rolls but after that give me a dry top. In fact, i never use the spash jacket any more as i anticipate rolling and i prefer being dry than “clammy”. Even on hot summer days i use a dry top/wet suit combination for that same reason.

My findings

– Last Updated: Dec-08-05 11:47 AM EST –

Hi C.J.,
From your description it sounds like you would be doing touring as compared to whitewater kayaking. Good combination of top & Farmer John. Flexible for conditions. A splash jacket is usually a waterproof shell w/ non-latex gasketed closures at the wrists and neck, take the Immersion Research Zephyr for example. Works great for the elements but not so much for repeated immersions, whether that's you upside down or a big wave coming to get personal with you. The semi-drytops are usually a double tunnelled affair that have latex or neoprene watertight wrist cuffs and some sort of neoprene neck closure that is pretty darned water tight but not 100% so. On the IR kick take a look at the Session 2.0 jackets - comfy. Lastly would be a full drytop which is much like the semi except that it has a latex neck gasket. If you are going to have extended periods of upsidedownness or are doing whitewater/surf and the possibilities of having repeated out of boat experiences are high, then this is the way to go.

Hope this helps. Drop me a line for more $.02, got change. ;)

See you on the water,

Splash tops

You’ll get wet with a splash top if you are doing rescues (exiting your boat) and rolling.

You will get wet with a dry top if you exit your boat.

I use my splash top to keep me dry in the rain and to reduce the effect of wind not to protect against immersion. A splash top is much easier to take on and off than a dry top.

I’ve used the following in winter whitewater conditions, so that might help you make some comparisons:

  1. Old nylon splash top with just elastic cuffs/neck - fine for keeping you semi dry from wave splashes. Useless if you invert.

  2. IR Session splash top with neoprene cuffs and single tunnel - your arms will get wet fairly quickly if you dip your wrists below water much. Neoprene neck gasket seals out most water, but you’ll be somewhere between damp and wet if you roll a lot.

  3. IR Competition semi-dry top with latex wrist gaskets and hybrid neoprene/raw rubber neck gasket, double tunnel. Nearly completely dry, though some moisture will come in at the neck when you roll.

    I now have drysuit, so I know what it’s like to have latex on the neck. With careful trimming and a little KY, I find the latex is actually more comfortable than the IR hybrid neck (ironic, since ‘more comfortable than latex’ is the hybrid gasket’s selling point). So if I were going to buy a new drytop, it’d be one with latex at the neck and wrists. But my IR Comp top (#3 above) is dry enough for most purposes, so I see no reason to replace it.

    BTW, when used with a farmer john, no drytop will keep your upper body totally dry if you swim.

I have a NRS SplashJacket

– Last Updated: Dec-08-05 2:59 PM EST –

I don't remember the model number but it was about $80 bucks on sale a few years ago. It has good tight but adjustable neoprene neck, cuff and waist band and seals up pretty tight. It seals pretty well and I have swam in waves with it, you do get some water in but not too bad. I have used it in ~50 degree water in the UK and it was cold but workable. I use mine with a fairly warm 3/2 full suit, with a hydroskin underneath, in the coldest temps I surf in. I would think you want something more substantial for the Great Lakes in winter than a Farmer John and a splash top, you will get cold fast swimming in water below 50 F.

That’s called a semi-dry top…
…I believe.


It has good tight but adjustable neoprene neck,

cuff and waist band and seals up pretty tight. It

seals pretty well and I have swam in waves with

it, you do get some water in but not too bad.

Each has it’s advantages
If you get just a drytop, as I did, you’ll find there are days where you’ll be more comfortable without that degree of protection, for general paddling that is. But you’ll end up wearing the drytop if that’s all you have. Splash jackets are cheaper, and more comfortable, but won’t give you the seal you want for rolling.

If it’s an option, you might want to buy both. In your shoes, I’d start with the drytop first. It’ll give you a safer option of the two for early season great lakes paddling.

Sold as splash wear by NRS
Yeah I don’t know if it counts as semi-dry top or not. They did not refer to it as such.

one vote
The Kokatat suit I tried has latex gaskets at the wrists and a neoprene neck. Without latex wrist gaskets I think it would be a splash top.

I got my semi-dry top before a 2 week fall trip (~50 degree water, unpredictable air). I found it very comfortable except for 2 things. First, the seams in the neoprene neck irritated me for the first 5-6 days of the trip. I don’t know why Kokatat couldn’t make this item without neck seams. My other issue with the top was that I couldn’t wear it with a sleeveless top (my idea was to have a vest style torso warmer so I could stay warm if the air was cold, but cool off easily with a roll if the air was warm). Both days that I tried, I stopped to put on a sleeved top to stop chafing under my arms…even my favorite emollient failed me.

Having said that, I am glad I bought the top as it became very useful on my return when the air and the river was cooling but not quite dry suit temp. And I stayed surprisingly dry even after a few rolls, and the top was very comfortable and well designed, esp. the sleeve pocket.

I will say that I was sorry I didn’t bring my dry suit with me. In cool, moist weather I learned that wet suits, and everything else, dry slowly if at all and it would have been nice to peel off the dry suit and be dry and warm at the end of a day of paddling while trying to find a spot to pitch the tent. The reason I left it at home was that I wanted flexiblity if the air temp was warm and was worried about the zipper in my crammed hatches. Live and learn.


Well, whatever whoever calls it…
… it’s somewhere between a paddling jacket and a dry top in both comfort and immersion protection. A paddling jacket provides no immersion protection – water just flows right in – and a dry top should seal pretty thoroughly, subject to the normal limitation of a seal at the waist.

And the neoprene gaskets are easier to don and doff and are more comfortable to wear than a dry top’s rubber gaskets.

Or does “semi-dry top” refer to something else altogether?


Neoprene in wind
Whatever you decide re the outer layer, keep in mind that wet neoprene without a good windblock layer over it is a start towards hypothermia once the temps get into the 60’s. I started shivering after come wet work once, even with a drytop covering my torso, within a couple of minutes after I was out of the water. These days I prefer the drysuit or at least a semi-dry suit anyway - I agree with the poster above that there is nothing quite as nasty as climbing into a still damp wetsuit to paddle home from a camping trip. But whatever you get, if you are going to try and roll and maybe risk a swim, the top you have above the skirt needs to do a very solid job of trapping air around your body and blocking wind. These days I always carry an extra large Tropos top (Kokotat) in my day hatch so I can pull on a water/windproof layer over whatever else I am wearing. The top is just a bit over $100, not nearly as pricey as full drytops, but can be pulled in in almost any circumstance becasue it’ll fit over everything for me.

As to tops - I have an older IR Session top that I still use for things like evening paddles on local rivers where I am very much most likely to stay dry. Properly tightened up I’ll get a couple of rolls before things get really wet, and those things wear like iron. For drytop, we have the older Gripp Stohlquist tops about which I can say the same thing. The latex gaskets are very robust, and again they look like new after a couple of seasons of heavy use including daily wear on the ocean for three weeks. But like any drytop/wetsuit combination, water tends to seep into opportune places in the layers between the skirt over a few rolls. I doubt that a full neoprene skirt can make it 100% dry by he way - whatever you are wearing at some point in the rotation there’ll be a small gap opened up in your back around the spine that can let a little water in.

I also agree with a poster above who said that the regular Farmer John may not be enough for the water you name. Before I went dry, I needed something like a mystery top over (or under) my Expedition Jane wetsuit to add enough warmth for water and air temp combinations under 60 degrees, even with a dry top. That’s assuming rolling/getting wet of course.

Finally, one small thing on how you can get water seeping in… while rolling repeatedly will cause water to find every possible place to seep in, I have found that I get wetter, faster from sculling fully over on my side or doing a balance brace. That sideways position, with your waist twisted quite fully around and neck sideways, seems to open up lots of opportunities for the water. Only you don’t realize it until you come up.


– Last Updated: Dec-10-05 10:15 AM EST –

about the threat of windchill induced hypothermia with neoprene. It probably happens because folks are using farmer johns (least protection) because it leaves major portions of the torso uncovered and well as provide major flushthrough problems. The other factor is the thickness of the neo wear. Most farmer johns aren't more than 3 mm thick. More thickness, more coverage, more effective insulation. This protects againt the evaporation of the outer nylon layer. I see board surfers in neo wear who are out in the water all winter and they are mostly immersed in the stuff as opposed to paddlers. Some will say, the neo inhibits paddling. Certainly, you'll feel some restriction, just as I do when I fully layer under my drysuit. Fact of the matter, is that board surfers are just as concerned about freedom of movement with their upper body. They have to paddle through a break zone with their hands and arms, as well as sprint with arm paddling to catch a wave. The newer neo suits allow for that with greater ease.

I reported a couple weeks ago wearing 4/3 surfer wetsuit, .5 mm top underneath and a drytop over that, surfing my waveski in 47 degree water and 50 degree air temps, with a 20 knot wind blowing. I almost died (okay, nauseated) from overheating even though I was totally wet the whole time (waveskiing beings totally exposed to the water and the breaking waves). It was not until I stripped off the drytop and changed to a thinner 3mm instead of a 5 mm hood that I was comfortable again for the next, nonstop, 2 hours of surfing.

In terms of getting into wet wetsuit the following day. That is a disadvantage, though a trick used by board surfers is a thermos of hot water and pouring that into the suit before putting it back on. Or, pour warm water into the suit after getting in.

Granted drysuits are drier. Still, I find that a drysuit is not dry after I've had a strenous paddle. Even with my goretex suit, I have a build up of sweat that remains in the suit. I have to hang it up overnight with the zippers open, in a warm place, to dry it out. If I were camping, I would be conscientious probably about wiping the inside down with a dry towel.

I am not advocating one or the other. It really is a personal decision depending on what the individual is doing and where. These affect the choices. A drysuit, however, is not a blanket solution for everyone. After having experience using my surfing wetsuits, I just disagree with blanket statements by folks who haven't had any experience with wetsuits per se, outside of a FJ (not a full wetsuit).


Neoprene in frigid wind
I spent five hours yesterday on a local river in 35 degree air temps. and 20-30mph winds in neoprene (3mm farmer john with 2mm neo. jacket.) I initially had a micro-fleece under the neo. jacket but removed it after about 30 minutes. I also wore a NRS storm hood and a knit cap on top. Several times I had to remove the cap to keep from sweating. I was very comfortable for most of the day until I was low on calories and refueled with ice-cold chocolate milk. Neoprene works well as a wind break (as it is closed-cell foam.) Wind and water can get in the seamed areas and the nylon covering does hold water which can contribute to evaporative cooling.

Many factors affect our comfort while paddling, including: air temp., wind, sun exposure, sweating, precipitation, exposure to water, type of clothing, thickness of clothing, levels of exertion, blood sugar levels. I find myself constantly adjusting the factors I control to compensate for the changing factors I can’t control. I try to select my clothing so that I can add or remove layers depending on changing conditions.