Drytop warmth?

How good are drytops? The ones with the rubber gaskets and stuff, how much warmth do they provide in terms of avoiding hypothermia? Obviously they’ll only cover the upper body, but with a spray skirt that is fairly effective, would they be almost as good as a 3/4 length drysuit in most conditions? Would one wear more insulating top over it for warmth or perhaps some kind of arm warmers?


A drytop is only a shell
While it does trap some heat, it provides no insulation. The clothing you wear underneath it determines how warm it will be. Also, if you swim in a dry top, water will seep in from underneath, soaking your insulation and dramatically increasing your heat loss. It’s not a a complete solution for cold water paddling, if that’s what you’re thinking. You need to insulate your entire body for the temps you’re likely to encounter. Speaking of which, exactly what do you have in mind and what kind of water temps are you dealing with?

While I’m not looking at a specific water temp, I am just wondering how much earlier I would be able to paddle safely around here in the lakes around NY State/NJ before the water temps reach 60deg. As a winter cyclist/backpacker, I have alot of insulating material that will dry rapidly and since I’m a beginner, I would never be that far from either a friend/rescuer or at least the shore.


Waterproof Shell

– Last Updated: Mar-11-04 1:40 PM EST –

that you add warmth too by layering underneath. It works well for those with very good or bombproof rolls because with the skirt, you almost totally protected (your head needs a hoodie). If you wet exit and swim, water will seep in through the bottom of neo. You can try to pair with dry pants but most will tell you that seepage occurs at some point, especially when you're in the water for long and/doing alot of movement which acts to separate the seal between the two.

During spring, in white water and surf, I rather use drytop and farmer johns. I find it easier to get in and out of a drytop then a full drysuit. My chances of wet exiting and swimming are small since my roll is pretty good. However, if I were headed out to tour in the ocean, I definitely favor the drysuit with the water temp you described and layer lightly underneath. Cooling can be done by sculling/rolling.


Since you’re a cyclist/backpacker…
…you understand what shell gear does. A dry top is no different when you’re sitting in your boat. However, if you’re in the water, body heat is carried away at 25x the speed as in air. Your insulation will not dry quickly with the top on and it can trap water inside it, making it heavy and awkward to swim in, and making rescues more difficult. Once out of the water, draining it is no problem, but your insulation will still be wet.

What do you plan to wear on your lower body? Fleece ain’t gonna’ cut it.

“since I’m a beginner, I would never be that far from either a friend/rescuer or at least the shore.” Every beginner says that and every year some of them don’t come home. The temptations out on the water are more than most people can resist. Unforseen circumstances crop up. Paddling without adequate immersion gear ranks right up there with carrying your PFD on-deck in terms of tempting fate. If you want to paddle early when the water is cold, get the right gear, such as a dry suit. It makes it a lot more fun, in addition to be safer.

another combo
I use this combo a lot and it has been very successful. I match an old lotus drytop (nemo) with 1/4 " patagonia wetsuit bottoms and 6 mm boots. I haven’t had problems with leakage and the wetsuit bottoms go high into my torso and interlock tightly with the top. Since I have a surfski and don’t actually get my head wet if I fall off, I cut the latex gasket out of the neck and the whole thing breaths more comfortably. hope this helps.