dumb question on paddling jackets

OK, so I’ve been paddling a few years now: rivers, lakes, and easy coastal waters. I don’t paddle white water and am unlikely to do any big ocean paddling. The only time I ran a Class II river (thirty years ago) I wore a sweat shirt and blue jeans. I might run the same river next summer (but with better gear!)

I paddle in temps from just above freezing to +30 C. Most of the rivers and lakes around here (Western Canada) tend to be cold, but I’ve only capsized once or twice.

When it rains or gets cold, I just put on the same clothes I wear for mountaineering: fleece, Goretex, or a soft shell. I’ve found my commuting cycling jacket offers very good protection in rain and doesn’t bunch up under my PFD.

So here’s my dumb question: why would I need a paddling jacket? What’s their intended use? I can’t even tell if there’s any difference between the models intended for whitewater vs. those for touring.

I keep looking at the Kotatat Tropos line and I keep thinking I need one. But maybe I just want to spend more money on brightly colored objects.

a good
paddling jacket will seal you with your skirt and at the neck and the wrists

that way if you capsize, and can roll, you will keep your core dry and warm.

Best Wishes


wet elbows?
I’d say a paddling jacket (a splash jacket designed for paddling) is worth it if you get sick of having wet elbows, but don’t want the extra protection (or cost) of a drytop that will provide a total seal at neck, wrists, and the skirt.

Dry Jacket
A dry jacket allows you to comfortably roll in cool water. In cool weather I’ll use a dry jacket on top and Hydroskin for the bottom. In really cold weather a drysuit is the thing to stay warm and dry.

If you are a non roller as I am then…
you don’t need a special paddling jacket.

What you are wearing now is fine.

My wife and I use a north face gortex lightweight waterproof jacket/shell, over layers just like you and have been doing that for years.

The cycling jackets and pants work good also.



Wet Elbows
I am with NateHanson on this one, i don’t roll (yet) but on a cold wet day having the water run down your arms soaking your elbows, and wicking up to your shoulders is never a good time

Kokatat Semi-dry
Years ago as a newbie Greenland paddle user, I got a Kokatat semi-dry top, with neo neck and latex wrist gaskets. It was a revelation! No more wet forearms and I was much warmer and more comfy. The Tropos fabric breaths enough to keep from being clammy in cool weather. I paired it with a farmer john wetsuit when the temp was lower.

Looking at the Kokatat website, it looks like the TROPOS RE-Action Jacket. I highly recommend it. I still use it when I’m not rolling.

I’m not sure how Jack keeps water from seeping in with velcro closures - maybe some good drip rings and a low stroke. It never worked for me.


Must be my drip rings
cause I use a low angle when I am putzing around, and high angle when I want to go fast, and I don’t get a drop down my arms.

Going fast, at race pace, I’ll get it on my back, but that is about it.

May be you should re-examine your stroke?



re action jacket
I’m a newbie, so i admit i dont have the experience others do. However, i bought the re action jacket from kokatat this past fall. It wasnt cheap but seems of high quality.

It is not a dry top per sey, but i would consider it a semi dry top. The nice thing about it is latex wrist gaskets and neoprene at the neck with a velcro adjustment to snug it.

As far as breathable, the material falls between standard material and gore tex.

I’ve wet exited into 6 degree celsius water with a farmer john underneath. I was in the water for about 5 mins while i caught my breath. After paddling a while longer then returning to shore i was pleasantly surprised to find that my legs were wet, but my rashguard above the waistline was still dry.

Another benefit of a paddling specific jacket might be the cut designed for freedom of movement?

I’d recommend the re action tropos jacket.



Paddling jackets vary
A true paddling jacket provides water control at the wrist and neck and the connection to the skirt. A “splash jacket” is just a rain coat. A dry top provides more secure control.

greenland paddle
Pick up a greenland paddle and show me the drip rings.

Bill H.

I’ve picked up many a Greenland
paddle, and then put them right back down.

The OP didn’t say what type paddle he uses, so I am assuming he doesn’t use a Greenland since the majority of paddlers don’t, and my post was in answer to his question.

I guess if the greenland paddle doesn’t have drip rings then all paddlers using Greenland paddles should absolutely have a high end paddling jacket.



careful Jack!
I have pictures!

pfd and Greenland paddle!

dry top
I match up a short or long sleeve dry top with pants that have neo ankles and neo waist band. A little water gets though the waist but not much and I wear neo shorts.

The other week I did capsize and rolled back up and stayed dry. No cold water going down my neck and arms and waist. I can also self rescue and stay dry and warm for this climate.

If you aren’t concerned about cold shock than bringing a change of dry clothes would be a good idea.

PFD’s are good
it was so chilly on our paddle today I wore mine to keep warm!

Did the picture come from a certain guide who threw the one he was using into the mangroves because he disliked it so much?