how dry is semi

So, if your semi dry suit has laytex gaskets at the wrist and ankle (or gortex socks) but a neoprene neck, how wet will you get becasue of the neck if you have an out of boat experience? For sake of discussion, let’s say you are in the water for two minutes. (In my case I happen to be thinking about whitewater, but I would guess it could be similar in Lake Superior.)

semi dry suit

depends on how well the neck fits. if it is a snug fit then you should be good. maybe a trickle or slightly more of water. usually the pfd will keep this part of your body up out of the water for the most part, so the actual immersion time shouldn’t be much at all. any water going in will feel warm pretty quick usually. a lot of times you never even know that any went in. be sure there are no folds or wrinkles in the neck for a more secure fit and no under garments that come up on the neck. crew neck under garments are best. hope this helps.


– Last Updated: Mar-12-14 4:11 PM EST –

Your torso will be wet, at least. The more turbulent the water the more aggressive it will be about exploiting an imperfect seal. I have swum in a semi-dry in flat water and not gotten so soaked as long as I got back into the boat quickly, as in WW.

Now that said, are you talking about a loose neoprene hook and loop type closure, or the thicker neoprene of many NRS WW tops? The latter are a smidge drier, especially if you have a thick neck. All neoprene necks are less dry for a chicken neck like mine.

In any case, once back up in the air you could feel pretty chilly if there is a good wind blowing. Your options are to paddle hard (the easiest solution in WW) or to carry an over sized jacket/cag to put over everything until you are sure your core is OK. The second works better for non-moving water in longer boats with things like day hatches.

I have a …
… Kokatat GoreTex paddling suit with the neo neck and another one with full latex (wrists & neck).

The paddling suit requires the neck to be cinched up super tight to provide a 98% seal. And at that point my head is turning blue. It also comes with some sort of synthetic chest zipper that allows for a very small amount of leakage.

After about 10 rolls in the suit, my front and neck area are very wet. If I was stuck floating around in the suit, I would be in trouble due to leakage.

On my other suit the latex neck gasket is actually more comfortable and the suit’s metal zipper works great. I can float around for an extended time and keep nice and dry.

Guess which suit serves as a backup:)

Byron see Kokatat

If that T-Zip on the Paddling suit is passing water you should give Kokatat a call. Unless it’s passing water under tremendous pressure like getting pounded with a stopper wave or if you’re stuck in a hydraulic it should be dry. The GTX Lt.Wt. Paddling Suit is lifetime warranty and as has been discussed here and elsewhere Kokatat is rather legendary in backing their products.

My $.02 YMMV.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

context of question

– Last Updated: Mar-12-14 6:23 PM EST –

Thanks for the opinions.
Kayak Academy didn't have an XL full on dry suit for me to rent for my mid-April, 5-day Yampa River IK trip (Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado/Utah). They have a semi.
In any case, I now have found a local rental for a Kokatat dry suit (with relief zipper!) that I will probably go with -- seems good to be on the safe side -- hoping the laytex neck gasket doesn't bother me too much -- I did try it on and it felt okay, but it was only 5 minutes.

Colorado River trips

– Last Updated: Mar-12-14 6:45 PM EST –

FYI, a local paddler has been able to do the Grand Canyon a couple of times now in the last few years. The first time he went with wetsuit and semi-dry wear. He is accustomed to spring WW temps in the northeast so he figured he'd be warm enough. And he was. Air temps are usually pretty benign by the usual time for paddlers to be let down.

But the persistent dampness on back to back days was less fun. The second time he took his dry suit. He might have been a bit stinkier, but he said it was a lot more comfortable than the wet wear.

I like my semidry suit
I typically paddle whitewater and my exposure times are very limited- I tend to paddle smaller volume streams in the winter and during early spring and like the way my cheap Palm semidrysuit fits, breathes, and is less prone to total failure. I have a drytop, a drysuit, 3 wet suits, and the cheapo “semidry” so I can definately match what I wear to the conditions of the day. I definately get more damp in the semidry but overall it breathes better- it has a lighter fabric, so I’m more comfortable and I like the way the neoprene feels on the neck better. I also prefer the fabric booties although I readily admit the latex are warmer and drier. Its easier to get dressed with the fabric and add layers and the latex booties are more prone to failure in the ww environment.

more about splashes and no chute
A semi dry will keep you from getting wet from occasional splashes and waves but if swim or really get pounded you will get damp near the seals. But it will not open up like a drag chute in the current like rain gear can, which is what is often substituted for semi dry (I do it in low or no current situations).

A big draw for me is lower maintenance. Neoprene seals will last a very long time an won’t suddenly split like latex can.

Thanks Marshall…

– Last Updated: Mar-13-14 11:14 AM EST –

...the zipper thing seems to be a very slight bit of seepage when I'm getting hammered by waves and getting inverted. In fact it could all just be from the neoneck gasket.

In any case my main suit has no issues which I got at a great price. It was sold as never used but eight years old, hence the price. The gaskets must have been replaced as they are perfect after two seasons of pretty hard use. The suit itself could have passed for having come straight out of the factory. And as you know, once you've used a good drysuit, you'll only wonder why you didn't get one sooner.

Might have to visit your shop and test drive some boats sometime:)

PS: Did Valley ever produce any thermoformed Avocets? I read once that they were considering building some.

I agree
with most of the comments submitted here. I owned a semi-dry top (latex wrist, neo neck) that I used for winter playboating for about two years. I never noticed any appreciable leaking through the neck, which was reasonably snug. I finally got rid of it when the sleeves began to de-laminate and leak.

Ultimately, I think the answer depends mostly on what sort of WW you’re going to be doing. If it’s just park and play or small volume river running, then I think you’re probably fine with the neo neck. If it’s higher volume stuff where there’s a risk of a long swim, I’d want a full-on latex gasket drysuit.

I have a Palm semi-dry top. The neck
adjusts with an overlapping velcro closure, and isn’t super tight.

The neoprene wrist gaskets are a bit tight for me, and they have resisted my attempts to stretch them.

With latex wrist gaskets, I could trim them, but the neoprene gaskets are sewn longitudinally and lapped back on themselves. There is no good way to trim or resew them.

So, I have trouble seeing why neoprene gaskets are favored by some. I have a breathable top with all overlapping velcro closures at the wrists, neck, and waist, and it is tight enough for an occasional swim.

Latex just isn’t as durable
That is the main reason to like neoprene better. I doesn’t seal as well but it isn’t subject to sudden and complete failure like latex is. If you ever have a latex seal split (I have) it is hard to trust it again. I know odds are against that happening if you do proper upkeep, but sometimes that means proactively replacing a working seal at a pretty high cost. If you must have the best seal, it is latex. But be prepared to pay more up front and more over time.

But most of us can get a few seasons
out of latex, and then replace it. I would not be able to replace the neoprene cuffs on my Palm. While neoprene seals might last for more seasons, if they aren’t properly sized, that’s more seasons of discomfort or marginal seal against water.


– Last Updated: Mar-16-14 9:27 AM EST –

I've been using latex neck seals on drytops and drysuits for over 20 years now and I am so sick of replacing them. And they always go as you put it on to go paddling. God bless duck tape.

Someone gave me a semi dry top with a neoprene neck and I love it. I roll with it and it's not bone dry but a few drops come in. Way more comfortable than latex necks. If you come out of your boat, your neck is actually above water floating with a PFD on. When the neck goes (again) on my Kokatat suit, I will go Neoprene.

I am speaking generally
and you are referring to a specific poor fitting top you have. Latex is’t really one size fits all either. Probably one reason I don’t get as many seasons as some out of latex seals is that I have a large head so I have to stretch the neck seal pretty good every time I put it on or take it off. But if you have proper fitting neoprene it is very comfortable and not being able to easily replace it is pretty much a non issue because it probably won’t ever need replacing.