Dry top... why ??

Is the dry top only used so that splashing water doesnt get on your body and make you cold? If so why not buy something like a waterproof jacket for 1/4 the cost and be done with it?

The reason I am sking is that I am trying to complete my kit list and am just debating this dry top cost thing.



I’m worried about more than splashing

– Last Updated: May-29-07 9:32 AM EST –

It depends upon your relationship with the water. My head and torso spend a good portion of time IN the water (rolling, bracing, etc.) It takes more than a splash jacket to keep me dry and warm in that environment. When a full dry suit is not necessary for safety, a dry top or tuiliq is a good choice for this type of paddling.

If you swim or roll
If you roll and hence stay in the boat, and have a reasonably watertight skirt as well, the drytop will keep your torso as it says. The looser openings in a splash top will let in water everywhere.

If you don’t roll, scull or do deep braces, and have something that’ll block wind after having gotten back into your boat from a capsize, the drytop might be overkill. If you plan on learning any of the above, you’ll find the splash top to have at best limited use.

big difference
A dry top is designed to keep all water off your body, even when you’re submerged (but still in your boat). A waterproof jacket is designed to keep rain off you.

I wore a goretex rain jacket as a splash top when first learning WW, because it was all I had. It kept the splashes off me, but the first time I flipped I was totally soaked.


– Last Updated: May-29-07 10:09 AM EST –

Maybe the question should be "Why not buy a waterproof rain jacket rather than a paddling jacket." A rain jacket is like a "splash jacket" or a "paddling jacket" and yet costs less because it is a generic item sold to everyone. A "dry top" is different. It is more sophisticated with latex gaskets that actually keep water out even if you roll. You would want a "dry top" if you expect to roll in cold water.

rain jacket vs splash jacket
I agree that a rain jackey is almost as good as a splash top. The one thing I noticed that made me go out and get a splash top is that rainjackets tend to be very loose around the wrists, and water runs into your sleeves when you lift your arms. Some splash tops have wrist gaskets, not as tight as on a dry top, but adjustable and tight enough to keep water out of your sleeves.

I hate to pump and I hate the cold
water that dribbles down your back ever so slowly after you roll.

A dry top prevents that. A paddling jacket or splash jacket does not.

A dry top can mate with drybibs to make a 2 piece drysuit. Works really well with Kokatat bibs, not so well with Palm, ok with drypants.

I’m bad at geography
but Mississauga and Algonquin Park sound warm. If you’re in warm water–water you would mind swimming in for as long as it takes–you don’t need one. I almost never use mine. When the water is cold, I go with a drysuit (start a thread on that!). When it’s warm–farmer johns with the drystop in the day hatch just in case. You get the idea.

If you don’t intend on rolling then
just get a waterproof jacket.

One of the better name ones like “North face” will be about two thirds less in cost than a dry top.

I have a two piece NRS drysuit and it was a waste of money.

It comes along in the winter in my compartment as a spare set of clothes.

It is not only uncomfortable , but makes so much scrunching noise that you can’t hear yourself think.

A quality light weight rain jacket with a hood matched with poly pro and or various weights of polar fleece is ideal for the winter too.



Spash top vs. “rain jacket”

– Last Updated: May-30-07 8:13 AM EST –

As others have noted, if you're going to be rolling or in rough seas, and the water is not so cold as to require a dry suit, a dry top will keep you, well, dry, because it has neo neck, wrist and waist gaskets that keep water out.

A splash jacket is basically a dry top w\out neo gaskets. BUT, unlike a rain coat, it will have neck, wrist and waist bands that are much tighter than a jacket designed for walking around and keeping you dry from rain. It will also be cut shorter in the waist because it is designed to be used while sitting down in a kayak.

I'm planning to add a splash jacket soon now that the water is getting warmer up here and I won't be needing a dry suit. A full dry top is not for me ... I don't roll or kayak in conditions where I'm going to be blasted by waves and surf (at least not intentionally), so I can't justify the expense.

The problem with paddling jackets…
…and anything else that doesn’t have latex wrist seals is that water gets into the sleeves and puddles at the elbows. It’s annoying and if you happen to raise your arms, it runs down onto your torso.

The two paddling garments I use the most are a one-piece breathable drysuit for cold conditions and a breathable short-sleeve drytop for summer. The former is warm and comfortable and the latter is cool enough to wear when it’s warm, but provides excellent wind/water protection if the weather turns cool or foul.

That’s what you get…

– Last Updated: May-30-07 8:32 AM EST –

...for buying a two-piece setup. I know a few people who went that route and none of them were particularly happy with the results. They've all since switched to one-piece dry suits, which are very comfortable, provide excellent freedom of movement and I've never noticed any noise from mine.

A drytop with a good double tunnel mated to a good skirt keeps water out of the boat when you roll. It can’t flush past your body into the hull.

paddling jacket

– Last Updated: May-30-07 10:50 AM EST –

Try a paddling jacket (ie, a splash top or a semi-dry top). I use a kokatat Gore-Tex PacLite Paddling Jacket when I don't want to mess with my drysuit (ie, warmer, calmer, or shallower water). In some conditions, a dry top or drysuit will save your life if you end up in the water, but plenty of conditions are fine for a splash jacket/semi-dry top. The kokatat paddling jacket runs about $150, but you can often find it on sale, and it's a great compromise. Kokatat also carrier a cheaper one in tropos, which is waterproof and breathable (just not as good at either as goretex), for about $70. It's worth getting a speciality paddling jacket, but you don't always need a full dry top unless conditions warrent. Kokatat gear is great quality--and very little water gets in through the wrist or neck seals when I roll!.

“Is the dry top only used so that splashing water doesnt get on your body and make you cold?”


For that, you only need a splash top – to stop the splash from your body.

A dry top is the upper part of a dry suit!

Now, one may argue about the lower part. A typical white water paddler would say the lower part of that dry suit is the skirt, mated with the dry top, preferrably one with double tunnel.

A skill paddler with rather solid roll rarely need to wet exit. So the lower part of the body is never exposed to the cold water. No need for waterproof lower body wear. That, I believe, is what the dry top is REALLY good for.

But if the roll fails, or you can’t roll to save your life, you would then need to have the lower part of the dry suit. As others point out, it’s not easy to get a two-peice dry top/bottom to actually work well. More over, you add up the cost of both peice, you might be better off just getting a one peice drysuit to save the trouble.

Looking at the kokatat Paclite and …
… NRS Stampede shorty … basically would have the same set up as you do: dry suite for colder temps, lighter breathable semi-dry or dry top warmer temps. My dry suite is a Kokatat Troopos … nice suite but not quite as breathable as the NRS one I had, but OK when its cold. Better breathability is more important to me for warm weather, so I’m thinking either the NRS jacket or spring for a Goretex Paclite.

Rolling is the threshold
Once you learn to roll the dry top is a must. Right now in New England the water is still cold but not cold shock temperature. If the day soars to 80+, most paddlers will go with a dry top and neo shorts. They can roll to cool off and if they should capsize playing around, they will not soak their underclothes with cold water.

If they should wet exit and move fast, they will not flood their chest cavity for a few minutes with a tight waist sprayskirt and tight neo shorts.

Once the water warms up some more, the rollers will roll to keep cool but still have the cold water protection if they want to play in waves etc.

If you can’t roll, the dry top is still better than wet exiting with a loose collar if there are paddlers in the group to put you back in the boat. A lot depends on where and the conditions and with whom you are paddling. In the summer, I’m in a T-shirt and use a dry top if I go off shore in colder water conditions.

But if you’re a quiet, sane water paddler, a regular paddling jacket is fine. Just get a breathable. If you plan to learn to roll you’ll want the dry top.

One key feature that you DO want…
…in a drytop is a Velcro adjustable, expandable waist. It makes it MUCH easier to get into and out of them. I no longer have to struggle feverishly, doing the “drytop dance” when I’m trying to get mine off at the end of the day. In theory, the adjustable waist may give up a little in the sealing at the sprayskirt, but I haven’t noticed any difference.

Semi-dry tops
Are really nice. They are dry enough when immersed and more comfortable on the neck.

My get up is a full on drysuit or semidry top and bibs for really cold water/air, The semidry with neoprene for late spring or Central California coast. I keep a spray jacket for use as a windbreaker at camp or for my bike rides to work.