Is a dry top realistic for roll practice in 50 degree water? What tops have you tried?
At 50 degrees I also need a hood, but you may be able to manage without the ice cream headache until the 40’s if you just stay practicing in cold water.
You don’t mention how dry your skirt is. If it is one that lets in a lot of water, the answer will be a reduced version of the next one.
If you don’t end up swimming, the drytop (and an appropriate layer underneath) should be enough. If you do fail and have to wet exit, just the drytop is still going to leave you with a wet body and a need to consider hypothermia, either in the water or up in the air if it is also windy, chilly or cloud covered.
Even though some folks find 50F water just refreshing, others will need more protection.
There is medical data showing that water as cold as 50F will cause ear problems ( look up “surfer’s ear”), ear plugs tend to help a lot with that.
I agree with Celia’s suggestion to have a hood. I’ve never met anyone who complained of being too overdressed for the wet part of paddling in sub 70F water.
third the hood
I would third the hood, with ear coverage.
And fully agree with Celia’s comment about a dry top working for roll practice so long as you make the roll. But it doesn’t provide a lot of protection should you miss a roll and swim.
Failed roll / swimming
There’s really no reason for a person learning to roll to swim if they practice in water about 2 1/2 ft deep so they can push off the bottom if they fail the roll or … practice with others so you can use a bow rescue.
When I was learning and was hitting about 50%, I never swam.
Another option is a Tuilik
Here is one small, custom order, maker - there are several others. Mine is made of breathable fabric. I find it is extremely comfortable. The “hood” system he has worked out is very nice. Available with a tunnel to wear with dry pants if paddling in certain conditions. Won’t work for everyone but I sure like mine.
In 50F water I wear a kokatat tropos top + farmer john + a thin hood. The water here is always about 50.
Silicon ear plugs are recommended. A friend had to have the surfers ear surgery and having your ear basically removed so they can drill out the bone growths is not appealing.
I have 3 hoods, a skull cap to go under my helmet and full hood made from NRS ‘mystery’ material (rubberized lycra) and a full surfers hood for winter rolling with the lake water around 40F.
A Dry Top is Great
If the air is pretty warm and the water is in the 50s I’ll go with a dry top and hydroskin bottoms along with a diver’s hood. Any colder and I do the full drysuit.
Maybe I’m especially weird but I find neoprene tops clammy and restrictive. Once I went dry I never went back.
I assume you’re asking dry top vs full dry suit? The answer is, YES.
As others pointed out, as long as you don’t swim, you’ll be fine. And as Jay pointed out, swimming is usually not mandatory even if you’re not 100%.
If you do swim, you’ll of course be cold. But if you’re just practicing, you’ll be near shore anyway. No big deal. And if you’re dress warm to begin with, that short immersion shouldn’t bother you at all.
(you need some warm clothes under the dry top. Even without swimming, you still feel the cold water full on when you’re upside down. That’s true whether you’re in dry top or full dry suit)