Dry Tops vs. Semi-Dry Tops????


I have seen some tops that are advertised as “semi-dry tops.”

How do these differ from dry tops? Will these keep you dry in the event that you have to roll?

I am going to guess that the difference is that the semi dry tops are not as well sealed at the waist and therefore may be sufficient for rolling, but not for submersion. Is this correct?

Why would someone choose a semi-dry top over a dry top (I guess that there must be some advantages other than just the fact that they are cheaper)?



A semi-dry top typically does not use a latex neck gasket. An adjustable neoprene neck closure is more common. This does not make as good a seal, but allows for some ventilation, and prevents the “help, I’m being strangled” sensation that some folks get the first time they try on a drytop. Semi-dry tops do use wrist gaskets and usually have a good double-tunnel waist closure.

They can be a reasonable choice if you know you’re going to have your arms in the water and take some waves over the deck, but aren’t planning to spend a lot of time upside-down.

Not all semi-dry necks the same

– Last Updated: Jan-20-05 9:34 AM EST –

There is quite a range of how much water semi dry tops let in. This varies with the material, the goodness of fit with your neck, how thin you are (tendon stand out when straining), etc. Some matials work better for your neck than others. None of them I have tried work really well during rubber necking (allot of twisting and leaning) although others may have fine experiences with this.

Kokatat uses a punch though material that is nearly dry for me, i.e., maybe a drizzle in during a roll. However, should I encounter really rough conditions and rolling or come out of boat immersion, I can get significantly more in. It is possible to attach a 1" elastic band on the outside of some of these necks to make them leak even less if encountering rough water, sort of approximating a dry top for roll practice, etc.

I find that if you want it for less than rough conditions, and you don't depend or need to be dry for safety, but simply comfort, they can be great.

If you want to be really dry, go with latex. They can be sized and fit to be loose enough to be just fine to wear, most folks have them way too tight.

Also, many semi dry tops do not have as aggressive a double skirt and so the mating with the sprayskirt will also let in more water!

Depends on the material too
The more breathable the material of the top is, the more you’ll use the dry top over the semi-dry one. A dry top made of coated nylon won’t breath very well and on a day with warm sun but cooler water, it’ll be hard to talk yourself into sweating in the drytop rather than wearing something with looser neck and wrist closures. But a drytop made of breathable material will be fairly comfortable in the same conditions. (And be a better idea if that’s the day you take your first unplanned swim.)

The breathable materials cost more, but are more than worth it. All the major manufacturers have something like this - they either use a GoreTex variety or have their own equivalent.


A Case For “Semi Dry Top…”

– Last Updated: Jan-20-05 5:35 PM EST –

some folks are allergic to or irritated by latex gaskets. I am one. I actually have semi drytops by Rapidstyle, IR and Mountainsurf that use a neoprene gaskets. These let in water when rolling repeatedly but not by much. Thus the "semi" designation. If you swim, all bets are off.

Thankfully, I discovered that silicone grease on my skin eliminates irritation by the latex gaskets. Now I can use a drysuit or drytop with latex gaskets. In spring and fall, I am not aversed to using the Rapidstyle or Mountainsurf. They work pretty well if one stays in the boat. The neo neck gasket is much more comfortable.


Is Spray Jacket the same as semi dry top
I saw a listing on REI website for a spray jacket. It sounds like what some of you described as a semi dry top.

Not usually
Spray jacket usually means some type of material that keeps some water out, but significantly more than semi-dry. Like a lycra with neoprene skin and velcro adjuster. This can if it fits well, at wrist and neck do what you want if you are clear about how much water in is acceptable to you. Just the next level down. It may mean, only keeps water off from splashes however, and not even have this much sealing! Just make sure you know what the particular item you want has and what you require.

My experience
with a couple of adjustable-closure spray jackets was that I’d have water running down my arms if I did anything that immersed my wrists. That doesn’t happen with wrist gaskets.

Chill Cheaters
Quite a few of us who paddle the coast of Oregon use these when condition warrent. Dry suits in winter always, but these are sweet in the summer.



How (Semi) "Dry…?"
Bob, which model do you have? Does it have the neck and wrist gaskets? How much seepage?


I have both ‘semi’ and ‘dry’ tops
The Mountain Surf semi-dry has adjustable neoprene wrist and neck closures… no latex. The waist is just a pull-string closure which is anything but waterproof. I use the semi-dry in the fall when it’s cool air, cool water and I don’t want to be wet all day (whitewater or touring). I like the adjustable wrist closures because I can open them and push the sleeves above my elbows to make short sleeves. I can also open the neck closure if I get too warm. The closures allow some water seepage if I roll.

The Bomber Gear dry top is for late fall/winter/spring when the water is cold and dangerous. It has latex gaskets at the neck and wrists and an adjustable neoprene waistband with an internal tunnel (to mate with spray skirt). It keeps me much drier than the semi-dry top.

chill cheaters

– Last Updated: Jan-21-05 4:25 PM EST –

I have a short sleeve with a full tunnel. The neck snaps shut and offers about the same amount of seepage as a typical velcro closure. The arm sleeves are soft and snug, no leakage at all. You get a few drops to about a half a cup down the neck depending on how many rolls. They make a tight fitting sleevless T that you can wear under the jacket which really helps provide warmth and confort even with the the looser fitting neck. They are very warm, flexible, and extremely comforatable. No latex gaskets on any of their stuff.

I only have the one piece, but plan on trying some of their other stuff. Jon Walpole, who you may know through his great website that flatpick and others have shared, uses a lot of their stuff. I've included a link to a photo of the him with the same short top I have. If you email him through his website, I am sure he would be able to give you more feedback than I. He sometimes uses the top coupled with a kokotat bib set of pants. Even the models that are real dry tops have a very comfortable neck seal. Because of the thickness of the material, they are much warmer in wind than gortex becuase they really cut down on evaporative cooling.
here is the link to the picture

and here is a link to his website if you can't get to it from the photo:

semi dry top
I have one from bomber gear that I have used in rolling practice and have stay dry. I did not like the four dry tops that I tryed out because of the neck gasket. My bomber top has a velcro closer that I can leave open if it’s nice out or when it gets rough sinch up.

My two pennys, George

Core warmth
Good posts all.

An additional idea. One thing to keep in mind is that most insulation once wet loses some if not all of its insulatiive ability, thus the danger of using seimi or even nearly dry tops in semi cold water and cold air high wind conditions, where conductive evaporative and connvective effects can flash cool you.

One way to get advantages of semi dry wear is to have under it a thin layer of primaloft or polarguard delta insulation. PG delta retains close to 100 per cent insulative capacity when it has gotten wet, very amazing.

Fort the same reason, a thicker version is good insurance under a dry suit in case develop leak while emergency capsize.