First Dry Top

Hey All, Longtime lurker, this is my first post!

I’ve been paddling all summer in my first boat after years of renting (Tsunami 140) and am taking a few day trip around maine islands.

Does anyone have suggestions / advice for picking a dry paddling top? They vary significantly in price ($100 - $400) and aren’t clear to me what the actual difference is (other than hoods and brand name fabrics). Whats the difference between the Kokatat gore-tex and the tropos?

Do I really need dry pants too?

“a few day trip around marine islands.”

Can you give more details?

What area are you in/looking at?

What time of year?

Climate and season make a lot of difference as to level of protection needed…

Many single day trips?

Multiple days out on water, touring islands?

Time out on the water/in the field makes a lot of difference as to level of protection needed…


Curious Rob

trip details
Trip will be around the stonington islands in late sept early oct (in a few weeks!). Most the time will be spent paddling from island to island. Hopefully no unexpected rolls. Will be 4 days on the water, setting up camp each night.

I’d like to find a top that works for this and for more recreational day trips.

What’s the differences in protection offered? Isn’t dry dry?

Sorry, you don’t have a profile to help pinpoint area of “Stonington Islands”.

I’m not trying to be difficult but Google gives me CT, ME and Antarctica (among others) when I try to pinpoint Stonington Islands…

I was, however, trying to bump your thread up to the top and help get someone more knowledgeable on drytops to chime in. I don’t use one right now…

There are SPLASH tops and DRY tops, Rubber vs Neoprene neck and wrist gaskets, insulated vs non insulated, breathable vs non-breathable, etc…

If the water is cold and conditions rough (such as Antarctica’s Stonington Island) then a drytop is not enough and you may want a drysuit with extra insulation.

If you mean islands in the Mississippi River near Stonington, MS - then you would want a splashtop at most and probably only if it rains.

Again, mrgreenfur, I am not trying to be difficult. You have to help us to help you…

Meanwhile - who knows drytops and why aren’t you helping this guy get started… Lurkers are people too…

See You On The Water,


My first choice was a Tropus drytop from Kokotat. I wore it with dry pants. I could never get a 100% seal, and always ended up getting wet. Then I bought a Gortex suit made by Kokotat. This is the best thing I’ve ever invested dollars into. I would highly recommend forgetting the drytop and spending the big money for the drysuit for the type of paddling you’re doing. I’ve never worn my drytop since. Get a drysuit with booties attached, and also get a relief zipper so you can pee without taking the suit off.

From your post you say your going island hopping in Maine. You need to dress for immersion, not air temps. That’s cold water you’ll be paddling in. Cold water can kill you. I’ve worn my drysuit almost all summer here in Northern Wisconsin, especially when paddling in Lake Superior. I love the fact that the suit keeps my feet dry all day. Just my thoughts and what works for me.

agree with agongos

– Last Updated: Sep-09-08 9:33 AM EST –

You say "Hopefully no unexpected rolls". But the annals of Sea Kayaker magazines "Deep Troubles" if filled with stories of dead kayakers who didn't expect to wind up in the water. Dress for the swim. In cold waters, that usually means a wetsuit and drytop combo or drysuit.

Mushinzencat discussed the difference between splashtops and drytops. Another thing that can effect the price is materials (proprietary materials--Gortex--cost more). Another thing is the elaborateness--the more panels, the longer it took someone to sew. Add pockets and retro reflective tape, and the price goes up. Hope this helps. Not sure it did.

Edit: respelled a misspelled "annals"--good Lord!

you must have missed it
he says Maine

The water temp where I’m going is 60F and air temp is around 70F. I think 60F is cold, but not layer-up-on-the-wet-suit cold. I don’t really plan to go paddling there in the winter or late fall.

Do I really need to spend $1k on a dry suit?

read “Deep Troubles” and you decide
I looked around and spent $250. For an old urethane jobby. How long are you going to swim?

You don’t need a drysuit for what you describe. Paddlers get into trouble because of bad decisions not because of apparel. If it’s kicking beyond your safety margin don’t go even in a drysuit.

On the drytop, better larger than too tight. Get breathable. I replaced a worn Gortex with a Tropos to save money and I don’t like it. I sweat like an animal under that thing. Others may have a different opinion. Whatever you get, make sure you get a breathable. My dry top is my most used kayaking garment.

Quality counts

– Last Updated: Sep-09-08 11:28 AM EST –

Kokatat quality is worth the money IMO. I bought a Goretex Action semi-dry top - neoprene neck, latex wrists - and I like it very much. It was recommended by a very experienced guy. His point was that if you want to be truly dry, get a drysuit. Dry tops will generally leak at the waist, so the more comfortable neo neck on the Action jacket is a fair tradeoff for the comfort. I pair it with Kokatat surfskin pants which seems like it might be a good setup for the temps you describe. The surfskin is more stretchy and comfortable than a neo farmer john.

Cheers, Carl

PS, the top should be a little on the big side to allow space for insulation and torso rotation.

PPS, re the post below, I find goretex to be more breathable than tropos also (I have a tropos short sleeve top). But the main difference is product life - goretex should last MUCH longer than tropos - it is very tough material and worth the extra money. The Rogue was a little too much money for me - plus I can't deal with a latex neck gasket. It would definitely be better for rolling practice, though.

the difference between the Gore-Tex and
Tropos is, well… one is made with Gore-Tex fabric and one is made with Tropos fabric. There are other differences, but those are the big ones.

Gore-Tex is a line of waterproof breathable fabrics made by W. L. Gore and Associates. They make lots of different types of breathable fabrics. Kokatat’s Rogue dry top is made of 3 different types of Gore-Tex fabrics. For a long time Gore-Tex fabrics were the gold standard of waterproof breathable fabrics. Recently, eVent fabric and certain Entrant fabrics have out performed Gore-Tex.

Tropos is another type of waterproof breathable fabric. Generally garments made of Tropos as less expensive that garments made of Gore-Tex fabrics. In laboratory tests Tropos does not breath as well as most Gore-Tex fabrics.

Jay mentioned in another post that his Tropos jacket was not nearly as breathable a his Gore-Tex jacket. I have heard this from a lot of people. Personally, I haven’t really noticed much of a difference. However, I don’t sweat as much as other folks it seems. And maybe, I am not aware enough to notice the extra condensation building up on the inside.

IF, you have the money go with the Rogue dry top. If you don’t then the Tropos dry top will serve you just fine.

oops, my fault…
late at night, no caps…

somehow I read Marine islands as in Ocean…

Sorry mrgreenfur, I will not post without a reading lamp turned on any more…


Glade to see you’re getting some help though.

great advice
Thanks for the advice all! It’s great to hear from people who have tried these out. I tend to sweat a bit and will save some pennies for the gore-tex.

Anyone have any perceptions of the other brands (level six, immersion research, nrs, etc)? Do all the same gore-tex vs proprietary fabric hold?

Same experience as Jay
My wife and I had Kokatat Tropos drysuits and both sweated a lot. We talked to Barb at the Kayak Academy, where we had purchased the suits. She offered to give full credit back towards an upgrade to the Goretex versions. We have been much happier and drier and cooler in the Goretex suits.

speaking of drysuits
Really enjoy your DVD, Jay. Had it in just the other day and my five-year-old daughter asked “why does Sherri Perry look different? How come she doesn’t talk the same?” (she’s seen and loves her on This Is The Sea).

My question is, what’s up with the color of your drysuit? Is it you or my TV? Looks like a two-tone Kokatat, but instead of mango and cobalt it’s more like butter and poppy blue! :wink:

I like
Immersion Research gear a lot, and NRS makes a lot of good gear at a good price (depending on what you are after).

Gore-Tex fabrics will GENERALLY be more breathable than other waterproof breathable fabrics. NOTE: Immersion Research uses Entrant fabrics which are usually more breathable than Gore-Tex fabrics, but it depends on the fabric. NRS makes a top with eVent fabric, which IS more breathable than any other waterproof breathable fabric. The downside of eVent, is that it can breath a bit too well -> on colder days it doesn’t provide enough of a vapor barrier to keep you as warm as you might like.

Any idea what Level Six uses?

– Last Updated: Sep-10-08 9:44 AM EST –

I bought a Mack dry top from them yesterday (still in the mail) so I'm curious what to expect. Being new to this, I based my decision on some advice here and the right price off eBay (plus a reaponsive seller). Hope it turns out fine when it comes...

On the original post, I'd seriously consider a dry suit if extended solo paddling in open water is involved in cold water. You just do not want to risk it there...

If paddling with others or in waters where you can get out fast and get yourself dry again, then I think anytyhing that would keep you warm in the water for a short period of time (and prevent initial cold shock) and that would also let you paddle comfortably before you get in the water would do. A dry top or even a semi-dry top would be OK in these situations IMO but these would almost certainly let some water thru if you capsize or practice rolls - might not be an issue with the right undergarments for a short paddle, but I would not want to be wet on a long paddle in cold weather.

Syhpon Zone or eXhaust
Here is a link…

I can’t comment based on personal experience.

Stonington ME this time of year…

– Last Updated: Sep-10-08 11:28 AM EST –

We vacation in Muscongous Bay and southern Penobscot Bay the month of July, just came back from 4 days paddling off of Mt Desert Island. Right now the water temps around Mt Desert Island are ranging from mid-fifties nearer shore to definately lower 50's further out. I was getting plenty wet for three days, and I was in a full drysuit with mid-weight layers to stay comfy. Granted some were OK in wetsuits and a dry top, but that was not enough for me. Evening temps were falling into the 40's, so if you are going to be up early or out late to paddle that's the warmest you'll see.

Personally, for the trip you are talking about I wouldn't go with any combo that wasn't either fully dry or had underlayers that retained some warmth when wet. The Stonington archipelago is highly protected, unless you go out the last stretch to Isle au Haut, so you should be able to paddle sheltered. And the general weather patterns that time of year are pretty stable unless hurricane comes thru. Hannah did, and people woke up with three inches of water making a good effort at invading their tent.

If you can't stand the idea of a latex gasket, NRS has a series for whitewater that has a neoprenene glideskin neck. Darned near dry, and very comfy. But that means a two piece system. And yeah you want dry bottoms for that trip, if nothing else for walking onto the island and setting up camp on a rainy afternoon. If you want to long term extend your season, going for the drysuit now may be the best bet.

PS - don't forget the hood. NRS Mystery hood is still a great hood for the bucks that lasts forever. Put it on when you start your paddle around your neck, and just pull it up as needed.