Dry Tops?

I went to Mountain Gear today to see about dry tops. The two I liked are the NRS Revolution and the Flux. The Revolution is made from a much heavier material than the Flux which may be a bit over kill. On the hand it should be warmer than the Flux. So if I start paddling at the end of March which is still going to be pretty cold. What would be the better way to go? Get a thinner dry top and dress in layers under it for warmth or get the heavier one and wear fewer layers? The thinner one would be more comfortable later into the year making it more versatile correct? I am new to this so I need some advice. Thanks!

I think you got it backwards
The Revolution is made from eVent - which is very breathable and ‘supple’ as the website says. The Flux is made of Triton, which is thicker and less breathable.

***Either way dry tops by themselves offer very little in the way of insulation (once in the water they offer almost zero insulation by themselves). Dry tops are a waterproof (hopefully) barrier to keep the insulation underneath them dry and full of air (rather than water). Beathability allows moisture to escape but not enter - ideally this keeps your insulation layers from becoming damp and less effective.

NRS is claiming eVent is better in all conditions - including warmer weather. This is mainly because of it breathability (eVent is far more breathable than any other waterproof/beathable fabrics.)

If you get the Revolution dry top you will be the envy of all your gearhead friends. Others will warn you that it is a first generation drytop and that you should wait to see how it does after its first year of use. However, eVent has been used in the outdoor industry for a few years and has been very impressive.

To sum up -

eVent will be the better jacket for ‘all year’ use (just as good in winter, better in summer).

The jacket itself doesn’t do squat to keep you warm so layer up appropriately underneath.


– Last Updated: Feb-28-08 7:53 AM EST –

The higher quality top usually means more breathable material. Forget the weight, the price tag tells you more.

But the dry top is just that, a dry top. If you end up capsizing and swimming, a not unlikely set of events since you are new and can't roll yet, the top won't do much of anything to help with warmth unless you have something like a wetsuit on underneath it and you get your lower body back into the boat pretty quick. I've started into hypothermia from standing on shore having swum a bit when the air temp was 68 and a strong wind came up, with a good wetsuit and drytop, because the wetsuit covering my lower body was a useless wind barrier.

My guess is that March water temps there will be in the 40's to lower 50's. That is either drysuit or drytop and bottoms and wetsuit etc temperature. As said often on this forum, you dress for the water temps, not the air.

Frankly, you will eventually end up getting a drysuit. You should consider going there now rather than spending bucks on a top quality drytop and underlayers only to decide you want a drysuit anyway this coming fall. Advantages of one over the separates -
You can use your regular fleece or other winter layers under it, the same stuff you use for snowshoeing or general winter activities.
The layers that you can get away with for March and April temp water can be a good bit more comfortable than the equivalent wetsuit and dry separates.
A good price on a drysuit, like from NRS, costs about the same as a good drytop and dry bottom separate.

How hard are you on your equipment?
Is the heavier material more durable? Breathability is a very important feature if you are a fitness oriented paddler, or if you just generate a lot of heat. Durability is important if you are hard on your equipment or need it to last a little longer. All of this of course assumes that both will keep you equally dry. If this is your first piece of dry outer gear, I agree with Celia, spend just a little more and get total coverage. A full suit can be used for almost nine months in some climates and then a switch to a paddle top with some form of insulation if necessary. Breathability will become more important if you plan on extending the number of months you will use the suit. I think I saw a new drysuit system featured on the home page of paddling.net.

Once again, I differ from the club
I hate dry suits. Yeah, worn them a lot teaching etc., and they are great for that. But, I just do not like the confined feeling (big zipper)or nylon on my legs when gripping the boat.

I know, it’s all workable, but I just dislike the feel. Dry tops are not entirely useless in water. I wear neo pants (not farmer john) and a wool undershirt. I’ve found that when teaching rolling etc., or wet exits, I stay pretty warm in our PNW water. I do experience seepage and yeah, a long swim would be ugly after awhile.

But, the benefits of a dry top to me are far better mobility and comfort when surf kayaking, touring etc. My surf top is a Peak that is a top / spray deck one piece. That is an awesome piece!

So my take on this is simply that once you have a reliable roll, you may find a dry top offers more flexibility and enough protection in most cases.

Certainly if I were doing a solo crossing in big seas I’d wear a dry suit. Or if I were still instructing…makes sense.

I question the drytop
I know from your other posts that you are a new paddler. Here is my take.

A dry top is an option for somebody with a bombproof role. Those folks know that it will be just a few seconds until they are back upright. So it is a legit preference for those folks whether to get the dry top or the drysuit.

Without a bombproof role, there is not much point in a dry top IMO. If you could go over, then you will be swimming with your bottom half unprotected. And if you are confident that you are not going over, then a regular paddle jacket is better and more comfy then a drytop IMO.

So I would say get a paddle jacket or a full drysuit if you may go over or want so start working on rescues etc. in colder water. You will not want to be working on these things with a drytop only.

One more thought

– Last Updated: Feb-28-08 8:56 PM EST –

There are very nice surfing type wetsuits that are adequate for those water temps. But they are a lot pricier than a Farmer John and for a starting out sit-in-the-boat paddler they might not be as useful a first garment as a drysuit.
There are people, Salty is not the only one, who do fine in wetsuits in temps that would send the rest of us to a drysuits. But as mentioned by SactoBob below, many of these are folks who are not looking at the risk of a very long swim.

Then there is the inland winter factor - on a sunny day in January you are out on water that is in the mid-thirties and there is ice along the shore and snow on the ground and you want to take a stop to sit on a log in the sun to drink some hot whatever you brought. You could be sitting there in a wetsuit etc - personally I'd rather be in a drysuit.

Once you get a roll you might have a little different view of the possibilities.

If you take March out of it…

– Last Updated: Feb-28-08 9:20 PM EST –

much of my comment above, and others I think, is that your post talks about getting on the water when the water temps are still likely to be under 50 degrees. I'm making the leap that Spokane water isn't so different from what we have around here.

Stepping back a little, if you add in timing that wouldn't have you out there until the water was at least in the mid-fifties, the answer could change as to what you could get away with. Around here that's usually mid to late May. You may want to think about that, at the least with the new and likely more challenging boat.

The other thing is that if you go for the roll and bracing work as soon as the water allows, and are a quick catch on the roll (unlike my progress), you'd be in a much better position to gauge your cold water clothing needs.

I agree with Salty
Drysuits are great. I have one. I also have bibs, FJ’s and neo shorts and longs. I like versatility not mandates.


There are many variations

– Last Updated: Feb-29-08 2:43 AM EST –

on the intended use here hugh? When I initially started looking at dry tops my intent was to have something over my spray skirt to keep me dry. (Not inteding to fall out of the boat):-) Price is also a factor since I have just about depleted all my cash on this investment. The idea was it is a way for my to get on the water and keep dry and warm cheaply(er). However after what everyone is mentioning it may be better to just get a suit. That way I am safe if I accidentaly go over and for future roll practice and ocean paddling. It seems as far as comfort goes this may be the best option. If I am out on the water cold and wet I would be less likely to go out.

Most of my paddling is going to be done on the lakes around Spokane and in northern Idaho.

Does anyone own or recommend
NRS Extreme Relief Drysuits? If you own it what do you like/dislike about it? It is on sale for $446.25.

I Own Both Plus Dry Pants
I use a FULL Kokatat, breathable drysuit on Superior or when I won’t be shore paddling in the winter, early spring/late fall.

I use a dry top plus dry bottoms when close to shore and don’t feel like putting on the full suit. There is seepage when in the water; I’ve tried this. Although the dry top is VERY nice, with velcro straps to snug around the dry pants, there is some leakage and one would die if in the water too long. This is a better choice for shore paddling and winter small river trips.

I’m moving towards the belief that I would still die in the water with a full drysuit. Why? Because of exposure to the head. Yeah, I’ve got my socks, scuba socks and neoprene boots, but my head should NOT be exposed if I capsize.

I’m going to dig through my gear and start wearing an insulated scuba head protector. If you don’t believe ice water can KILL you very fast, just hold your hand and arm in your local stream this winter. I’ll give you less than 30 seconds before you pull it out…

With my Kokatat suit (very expensive, argh), I can float in Lake Superior without a pfd (just testing, I don’t paddle this way). One must be very cognizant about proper layering UNDER the drysuit - wrong materials and you either sweat too much or could get hypothermia from exposure if underdressed.

just my two sense.


good job
because you never intend to fall out of the boat

now keep you eye open for sales

(have you checked out NRS?)

For touring use, check out IR’s
Competition semi-dry top that has a sticky/flat neoprene neck band that is almost completely dry for most people, but much more comfy than a neck gasket. Wrists have latex gaskets and the rest of it is just like a dry top, too.

I use mine (sewn to neo skirt as a even comfier dry deck) for winter Class III+ whitewater paddling and ocean surf kayaking in 4-6’ waves and rarely get much water inside at all.

As a closeout dry deck top/skirt combo, it cost $245 … one of my wisest purchases, and now I use it for touring, too.


I hear you can get Kokatat to send a top to Snapdragon for a similar combo.

My take
If finances are an issue, I would not get a dry top or a dry suit. As a beginner, you would be better off IMO with just a decent paddle jacket, which would not cost too much. It will keep you dry enough unless you are swimming for awhile.

As a beginner, I would not recommend going where it is very possible you will have to swim. But make sure that you have a good plan if you do have to swim. (i.e. paddle with other more skilled paddlers, join a club, wait till the water is warm. - take lessons first.)

The drysuit comes into its own after you have some skills and want to push your envelope - it gives an extra margin of safety and comfort. It would be better to use the money for lessons - and if you go swimming, you can just have the instructor start the rescue practices early.

You are not too far from some really top notch instruction in Seattle (kayakacademy, Body, Boat, Blade, Bryan Smith (formerly BBB)etc.

Regular paddle jackets usually have either a gasket on the wrist, or a closure of some kind, to keep water from running up your sleeve, which it will do a lot as your forward stroke develops.

They also usually have some type of snug neck fitting and waist fitting which will work ok for a short dip, although they are not dry. You can wear them into warmer weather, and they usually pack down smaller than a dry top. IMO, a paddle jacket comes close to being a necessity, But it would be a mistake to think that the drysuit makes it ok to learn on your own, paddling alone out in unprotected water - they only provide a better margin of safety.

So the paddle jacket will keep you dry enough, and you shouldn’t be going anywhere where a swim would be dangerous anyways. You won’t need a drysuit for rescue and rolling practice when the water warms up. You will really benefit from lessons.

Thanks for the input…
As I mentioned the plan is going to be to paddle small inland lakes. There is virtually no chop so the ride will be relaxing. Which is why I don’t plan on getting wet. :slight_smile: Up until this point all of my paddling has been done in jeans and a t-shirt. Of course that was during the summer. However now I am planning to paddle by myself in cold water. So the others have raised a good point about dressing for the water temp. So what kind of time would I have if I did fall ino the cold water? I would think it would be about 15min back to my vehicle to change into dry clothes etc if I was to go swimming. Maybe to error on the side of conservatism and fork out the cash for a dry suit is the best choice here…

I am pretty conservative
on the topic of safety. I don’t think a new paddler should be paddling alone in any kind of water, especially cold water, regardless of how you are dressed.

The drysuit is not going to be much help if you blow your first wet exit. You should at least get a lesson on that. You might want to pick up a copy of George Gronseth’s Deep Trouble, not to scare you, but to show how quickly a benign situation can turn deadly.

Go to Sea Kayaker Magazine and read some of the older safety articles. One is a sad story of a beginner who drowned in an actual lesson - he turned over with a skirt on and perhaps because of the cold water, panicked on the wet exit, gasped in cold water, and eventually drowned, even though the instructor arrived quickly to help.

I don’t know your age, weight, or athletic and swimming ability, but whatever they are, I don’t think the way to learn is to buy a high performance kayak, a drysuit, and then start learning on your own. I know other people do it, and more will disagree. But IMO your first wet exit should not be unintentional and alone in cold water regardless of the drysuit or distance to shore. I personally don’t think you should be anywhere that a drysuit is necessary as a newby unless you are with somebody who is really qualified to help if need be.

You’re not alone
I would hazard a guess that someone with R/CMan’s profile would still be thinking clearly should an emergency happen, but especially with a wet exit and a neoprene skirt, it’s like the lottery slogan here in NY. You never know. And cold water is a really bad place to find out that you have an unusually bad response.

It is really difficult for anyone to restrain themselves from taking that new toy out and playing with it.

BTW, neat post on Ben Lawry. Was he wearing the lime green 3/4 length pants or more conservatively garbed?

You are correct!
It would kill me to spend 4K on this thing and not use until the water is warmer. It is a painful thought. The plan is to take it out regularly/daily for nice relaxing paddles before or after work depending on my schedule. That means I will almost always be paddling alone. In this case I would like to put myself in the best possible position for safety. Being in the military has taught me how to remain very calm and level headed in stressfully situations. So even if I was to capsize accidentally (before I get trained) I believe I can make the situation controllable. I could always wear arm floaties for added safety… :slight_smile: