fitting a dry top-HELP!

I just received a dry top I ordered. It’s a Solquist Freeplay (women’s). I ordered a medium, based on their size chart. When I tried to put it on, there was NO WAY my head was going through the latex gasket. Since I can’t put it on, I can’t tell if the top in general is the right size, considering I would wear a wetsuit and some other layers underneath. I know you have to trim the gasket a little at a time until it fits, but once I do that, I can’t exchange it for a bigger one if need be. Have any of you dealt with this? Any ideas/advice on how to see if the size is right? I thought maybe I can check it against my other outerwear to see if it’s similar in the shoulders etc. If any of you have a Solquist, did their size chart seem accurate?

The choker
If you’re not used to dry tops/suits, it’s almost humorous when you first try one on. The neck gasket always seems like it’s meant for an ostrich. Give it a good stretch by hand and stretch it on over your head. See if the jacket is too snug. I always would rather go for a size larger than you would normally need in civilian wear.

Another thing. Many manufacturers like Kokatat use a large neck seal on large jackets. Whereas your may have a medium neck gasket. That alone may make you desire the next size up.

If it’s really just too tight to get on, send it back for the next size up, which will probably have the next gasket size up too. You can call them for advice too. Paddling clothing is never too loose.

You almost have to be a contortionist to get one on…and then getting it off is another feat.

It helps if you have someone help you with it.

The neck gasket will loosen a little over time and until you get used to it, it will feel like it is choking you.

You just reminded me of a buddy of mine, not a paddler, who wanted to try my drysuit on when I got it new. After the gymnastics of someone unfamiliar with the suit and that you have to step into it, he completely freaked out after getting the neck gasket partly down his noggin, trying to pull it off and shouting, "get it OFF me!!! Man I wish I would have had a camera!

Yeah, I was trying it on in the ladies room at work (you know I just couldn’t wait to get home with it). I felt like I was going to crush my neck vertebrae if I pulled it down any harder. I had a co-worker stand by to save me in case of asphyxiation. I never got the neck over my head, but I already had my wrists locked in, and had managed to pull the waist down. I ran out of oxygen pretty quick with my head stuck under the gasket! She was cracking up saying that as I was pulling, the gasket didn’t change shape at all. It just sat there on top of my head.

for an ostrich neck
Exactly! I did call Stohlquist, and they were very nice, but ultimately the advice was to start cutting rings off the gasket with scissors until it fit. Of course then you can’t return it anymore. Maybe a large is the way to go (with hopefully a bigger neck), even though I’m already on the small end of what they consider a medium…

My husband bought the same jacket in a store, in XXL, and he was able to get his (big) head through that gasket. I’ll try stretching it a bit but man, it’s tight!

ease it on with hands
If you’re trying to put the drytop on like a t-shirt (IE, just sticking your head in the neck opening and pulling down on the rest of the top), you’re going to have a rough time even with a correctly sized gasket.

Get the top on your arms, then get it down over your body. Now, with your head not yet into the neck gasket, reach up and put your hands down into the neck gasket from above. Use your hands to stretch the gasket and help it go over your head. I guess maybe some companies use really thick latex, but on the dry tops and suits I’ve used, the latex is easily stretched over one’s head this way.

Was going to say the same
Stretch the neck gasket with your hands until it’ll start down around your head, continue to hlep it a bit over nose etc. Just take off any rings or other sharp objects first. Even one that is too tight will usually go on, it’ll just be uncomfortable once it is around your neck.

Reverse is the same - put your fingers flat inside the gasket around your neck and as evenly as possible strretch it until it’s big enough to start over your head.

talcum powder on the inside of the gasket helps it slide over your hair.


Not trying to get you to paddle with a silly white talc ring on your head. IT does help.

I ordered a larger one…
…just so I can compare the two and make sure I can fit layers underneath. The vendor said they’ll take one back. Thanks for the tips! I never thought clothing could be more of a challenge than paddling!

like a halo. I’m sure you’d have your camera ready for that one! Actually, talcum powder sounds like a good idea. Tx.

Absolutely use powder on the seal
It makes a night-and-day difference.

M y experience
I think we’ve all been there

The first time I tried on a dry top I thought I was going to choke to death then in the final struggle I thought my ears were going to be torn off.

I now have a short and long sleeve NRS dry top. I keep a football in the neck gaskets when I’m not wearing them and the day before using either I slide a VHS tape in along two sides of the football being careful not to tear the gasket. The football alone did not stretch the gasket enough. After 7 hours of paddling my neck was raw. The addition of the 2 VHS tapes solved the problem

The wrist gaskets were so tight they cut the circulation off and my hands stayed uncomfortably cold. So in the wrist gasket I slide 2 VHS tapes.

These are all difficult to insert. I was very careful and still have no tears after 18 months and I never trimmed the gaskets.

This was my solution at no additional cost. It may not be the best but it works for me.

Good luck to you.

thanks everyone
for the good suggestions. I also read an idea (on a kokatat paddle jacket label) to use a kitchen pan inside the neck gasket to stretch it out. We’ll see if I can get that in there! And I’ll get some powder. I did order a larger size though, cause even the body of the shirt looks like it fits, but not with a bunch of layers underneath. Thanks to the poster above who said paddle (over) gear should be loose.

That’s a great way to damage the seals
Just trim them to fit and you won’t have to go through all those pointless gyrations. They’ll be comfortable immediately and will stay that way.

Trim the seals to fit

– Last Updated: May-19-07 12:33 PM EST –

There is no point in trying to stretch latex seals, since if you stretch them enough that they don't snap back, it damages them. Just trim them to fit and forget about all these silly stretching routines. In industries where latex seals have been in use for decades - such as diving - everyone trims their seals, so it's not like trimming is a novel concept. More importantly, your seals will fit comfortably immediately and you'll enjoy paddling more. Isn't that what it's all about?

I don't know why paddlers are so "trim-phobic", as it simply makes no sense.

Tight seals
A 50/50 solution of baby shampoo and water in a spray bottle works well too, with no white residue left behind.

You might try…
…leaving it around a liter soda bottle

overnight. That might stretch it out enough for

a try-on.

Getting it off…
…Just as your safety on the water is your

responisility, don’t expect your friends to

respect your dignity at these times.

I’ve given some great wedgies to people who were

struggling with dry tops. It’s loads of fun.

In getting it off, I finally remembered a girl I

dated who used to take her bra off without

taking off her blouse.

It takes some practice, but after a few times,

this method works rahter well–at least for me.


  1. take off your glasses.

  2. with your left hand, grab the right wrist

    gasket and start wriggling your arm up out

    of the gasket and your arm out of the sleeve.

    The hard part is getting your elbow past the

    arms eye. After this it’s easy.

  3. At this point your arm will be across your

    body, inside the top. Stick your right hand

    out of the bottom of the dry top–this is an

    excellent time for the, “Ever see a one armed

    man count change” joke.

  4. Scrintch the dry top’s hemm up a bit higher

    and either grab the left wrist gasket with your

    right hand or pull-and-push the dry top over your

    head and body.

  5. At this point it’s easy.

PS. i think trimming is a better…
…permanent solution.