dry vs semi-dry suits

-- Last Updated: Apr-11-06 7:02 AM EST --

I have been researching dry suits and came upon a good sale at outdoorplay.com. They have suits by stohlquist & kokatat, but several are advertised as "semi-dry". The sale prices are appealing but a waste of money if the suit does not do it's job. Would love to hear from you folks regarding personal experience and/or opinions regarding semi-dry suits.

The semi-dry suits…
…have neoprene neck seals. They cannot be trimmed, so they either fit you or they don’t. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing such a suit without trying one on first to make sure the neck seal is comfortable and seals well.

While some have found that the semi-dry suits are quite dry for them, it is not my experience. In a real swim or a lot of rolling or sculling, a decent amoutn of water gets in thru the neck gasket of my Kokata semi-dry.

The only suit that I am aware of which advertises itself as dry but has a neoprene neck gasket is the Stohlquist Body Pod. That still has the fit question mentioned above.

The big question is “What is your need”?

– Last Updated: Apr-11-06 7:47 AM EST –

In my mind, the big question is how will you be using the suit, and what are your needs?

If you are an avid white water paddler, where every time you go out you know you are going swimming, then I would say you need a full dry suit.

In my case, I am a flat water touring paddler. In the last 4 years I have never been dumped, or "gone swimming". I have the Kokatat, Super Nova, Semi-Dry suit. It does have the Neoprene neck gasket, but it does have a velcro strap on the neck gasket so you can tighten it. My buddy and I bought one at about the same time, and we can say that we never had more than a couple drops of water get in when we went "test swimming".

So this Semi-Dry suit works for me. I think you need to first answer what you want from the suit, and what you will be doing while wearing it. You can best make your decision after answering these questions to yourself.

I am perfectly happy with the Kokatat Super Nova Semi-Dry suit.

Happy Paddling!

Semi-Dry - Dry
Semi dry is okay if you cannot afford a dry suit or as a back-up to your dry suit.

Semi-dry means the suit does allow in water – just slowly. I would guess how slowly would depend on the suit. I’ve worn my Super Nova quite a bit this winter as my dry suit was in for maintanence. It has been fine but does allow in water at the neck when sculling or rolling.

BTW, Kokatat replaced my dry suit for the price of new gaskets because they found that the Gore-Tex was delaminating. I had sent it in as the gaskets were getting close to needing replacement. It was still keeping me dry.

If one can afford it, I think a Gore-Tex suit is the way to go. The life-time guarantee is for real.

Agreed about leakage…
…my Kokatat semi dry was fine underwater until I made my move to reach for the surface and roll. That is when the cup or two of cold water poured in.

Also took it into the surf on Napatree point to test it and after several drubbings I came back in with a suit full of water and elephant feet.

Hydralics + Semidry suit = bad juju…


All in consideration
Good advice in all the above. A note that if you feel that use and price is moving you toward the semi-dry route you might want to consider a half and half route of neo pants, for the wet bottom route (I know doesn’t sound great) or Kokatat Bibs and a dry top for the top side. All depends on your tolerance for cold water and your expected exposure to immersion and what kind of a wet drubbing your going to encounter.

Drop me a line if you want to try out these options and go jump in the Hudson. Water temp is a balmy 45 degrees today.

See you on the water,




– Last Updated: Apr-11-06 12:04 PM EST –

I have the "top of the line" Kokatat Meridian Goretex suit (latex neck, three-layer fabric). My only criticism is that the fabric seems too light-weight to be very durable.

There are a few options:

* The Kokatat Goretext suit (latex neck, three layer fabric). $850. Well made (but light weight fabric).

* The NRS suit (latex neck, three layer fabric) uses a heavier weight fabric and seems well made. $575.

* The Stolquist Body Pod (neoprene neck, three layer fabric) uses a heavier weight fabric. (I haven't seen this suit.) $350 (on sale).

* The Kokatat SuperNova Tropos (neoprene neck, two layer fabric) uses a lighter weight fabric. $450.

* The Kokatat Meridian Tropos (latex neck). I haven't seen this suit and it's much more expensive than the SuperNova. Part of the increased cost is due to the tunnel, but, maybe, this uses better fabric than the Supernova. $600.

* There is also OS-systems and Palm but I haven't seen either of these nor do I know much about them.

If you are doing lots of underwater work and can tolerate the latex neck seal, then latex is the way to go (nothing will be as dry).

If you are not planning on being a rolling junky or can't tolerate the latex neck, the "semi dry" suits should be fine.

At this point, the NRS (dry) and the Stolquist (semi dry) suits look to be the best values. Both these suits use heavier weight fabric and use three layers. A three layer fabric protects the "magic" breathable stuff with an extra inner fabric layer and should be much more durable than a two layer suit (like the two-layer Kokatat Supernova). The Stolquist, at $350 on sale, costs a little more than a high-end dry top!

I have no idea of the relative breathability of the different "magic" stuff. Goretex XCR still has the best reputation for breathability but the other non-Goretex materials are, apparently, much better than they used to be. Goretex adds a significant cost to the suit, so the trade off of (maybe) a bit less breathability for less cost is a good one. I would strongly suggest some sort of breathable suit for sea kayaking.

All the suits mentioned have booties. Booties will make the suit much easier to put on and will make the suit much more comfortable. All of the suits mentioned have relief zippers (note that the Stolquist uses an extra long main zipper instead of a separate relief zipper).

A real dry suit is not much more expensive than a dry top and wetsuit/"dry" bottom combination and should be much more reliable and comfortable. Though you can use the dry top alone when it gets warmer (so one could argue that a dry top is more useful than a dry suit).

The Stohlquist is
reported to be just as breathable as standard Gore-Tex (not XCR). It has fabric booties and all their products are fully guaranteed for the life of the product. It’s quite a value. The fabric looks very durable and has a nice hand to it - fairly quiet as well. I can’t yet speak to the performance first hand, but I’ll be able to give it a try in the following weeks.

Look at Palm if you are open to ideas
and have not made your purchase. I purchased the Palm Stikine dry suit and also the Palm Extrem dry top. My wife purchased the Palm Element dry suit. You can find information on the Palm Stikine dry suit and their other products which are available through distribution in the United States at:


Here is the link to the main company site located in the U.K.:


If you want to stand out from the crowd and get a great value for your $$$ then I suggest you consider Palm.

Semi Dry Suit info from NRS
I just got a e-newsletter today from NRS, and below is what they have to say on Semi-Dry suits. I thought this would be interesting to you.


“Now, what does “semi-dry” mean. Instead of the latex gaskets, semi-dry garments will feature some sort of non-latex alternative, such as a snug neoprene cone-shaped “punch through” cuff, or a wider neoprene cone with a “hook and loop” adjustable flap used to tighten the opening. While not as dry as latex gaskets, these neoprene closures keep most of the water out, hence garments with them are referred to as “semi-dry”.

So, when are semi-dry garments appropriate? They’re great when you know you won’t be fully immersed, swimming or upside down “a lot”. Semi-dry wear is ideal for river runners of all types, as well as touring kayakers, recreational canoeists or anyone enjoying themselves in milder waters. They are most appropriate in the non-winter months: late spring, summer and early fall, when the weather’s pretty nice and the water isn’t icy-cold.”


I thought this would be good to cut and paste into this thread. I like mine, and would reccommend this route to anyone.

Stay Safe!

Thanks to you all!!
You have given me plenty to think about - I really appreciate all the effort! Not sure what way to go yet but am leaning toward “semi-dry” as I am not sure I could do the neck gasket thing. Currently I am using a rapid style fuzzy rubber farmer Jane and NRS Black rock paddle jacket and pants and chotas. Obviously not for cold water I realize so I don’t paddle beyond the safety zone of my equipment or experience. I paddle mostly slow moving water (Higley Flow in St. Lawrence County is my “home water”.) The ice in our bay finally went out on Monday so I had the chance to paddle yesterday - (REAL close to shore). Boy, I feel better now! Thanks again - Chris

I switch between Rafting and Kayaking
quite often. The kayaking tends to be more warm weather than the rafting as the rivers run here in early spring and tend to be snow melt.

Rafters don’t typically practice rolling their craft so although the dry suit is close to a requirement, you also typically don’t practice with it much.

I’m pretty serious about matching my kayak skills and outfitting to the conditions, so don’t worry so much about the semi Vs dry aspects there.

The semi-dry suit has been a perfect match for what I do. Plus I cannot stand the latex neck strangulation.

Semi-dry suits still have neck seals…
…the difference is in the material. The latex seals on a dry suit are actually more adaptable, since they can be trimmed to fit. Neoprene seals are not meant to be trimmed.

What’s In a Name anyway?
I could never really buy into the term “semi-dry” suit. Still, that phrase probably sells a lot more clothing than “frequently wet” suit although the latter may be more accurate!

I’ve gotten damp enough with a dry suit.


drysuit vs semi dry

i use a palm torrent drysuit and also have a semidry paddling top shorty with the neoprene collar. believe it or not, the latex gasket in the drysuit is more comfortable for me than the neoprene. after 15 min i don’t notice the latex, while the neoprene feels a little tight and heavy on the neck throughout the paddle. and for the money, i don’t think you can touch a palm torrent. breathable, booties, relief zipper, and double tunnel skirt for less than $500. the nrs didn’t have a tunnel, the kokatats with relief zipper/booties were more than i wanted to spend, and i’ve never seen a stohlquist. i’ve rolled in mine - no leakage at all - and it’s breathable. it gets moist under the neo skirt tunnel and pfd as you’d expect, but i’m a sweaty pig and my arms/legs stay comfortably dry. i sold off most of my wetsuit garments and have no regrets - the drysuit gives me more confidence, comfort, and range of motion than any neoprene garment i’ve used. good luck & happy paddling!

There’s latex and there’s latex
Not all latex neck gaskets are equally uncomfortable.

The latex neck gasket on my Stolhquist Gripp Drytop is a heavier than the one in the Kokatat Gore suit. The argument for the heavier gasket is that I tore the lighter weight latex gasket on the dry suit, but the original gasket on the dry top is still going strong. The argument for the other is that the heavier gasket seems to hit a pressure point that can cause some slight discomfort over time on a long paddle with conditions, and I barely notice the neck gasket on the Kokatat. And despite being possibly almost too big for me, the latter is flexible enough that it has never let in a drop of water. So unless you know you have an issue with latex, there really isn’t a good reason to stay away from it.

As to the SuperNova versus the Meridian non-Gore suits - the SuperNova is also the Tropos material, though the nylon and codura patches may be heavier in the Meridian - don’t know. Tropos is also made by Gore but doesn’t have the same guarantee as GoreTex. (Worth reaching for a material with a lifetime warranty if you can - once you have a good drysuit you find that you are practically sleeping in it.)

You Can Cut and Velcro the Neck Gasket
If you know someone very good with these suits, you can cut the gasket (not trim), then have a velcro close sewn or glued in.

NOT recommended for the very expensive suits, which should have the gaskets trimmed to your size, but I do recommend this for semi-dry suits which will be worn on easy rivers or near the shores of inland lakes.

Comfort is important. Your head should be above the surface anyway (if pfd works) after a capsize. A bit of water coming into a semi-dry won’t kill you UNLESS you can’t get to shore and don’t have a change of clothes…


Tropos is Gore product???

Do you have any references that support the statement that “Tropos” is a GoreTex product?

No reference on Gore site.
W.L. Gore very rarely makes products that do not have expanded PTFE in them. Gore-Tex is a laminate of PTFE membrane as is Windstopper.

Tropos, to my knowledge is not made with expanded PTFE membrane, therefore unlikely to be made by Gore.