Paddling Jacket


We are considering giving our son a paddling jacket for his birthday. What are the things that one should look for in the paddling jackets? There seems to be a huge price range. I don’t want to select a mid-range priced jacket and find out that I could have gotten a better jacket for a little less. An informed buyer has less regrets after the purchase!




paddling jacket or drytop?
a paddle jacket is a glorifed rain coat. I’m guessing what he wants is a drytop with gaskets on the wrists and neck in order to keep him dry (although I could be wrong). Top brands to consider are Kokatat, IR, NRS, or Stolquist.

The Range.

– Last Updated: Jan-27-09 7:55 PM EST –

The range is big... here's a general run down...

The cheapest are "Splash Jackets" made from non-breathable materials. Usually with some sort of velcro closure at the neck and wrists. These typically run around $40-$60.
An example is the NRS Rio.

The next step up is similar to the above but made from waterptoof/breathable materials, you definitely want this at a minimum. Again, with velcro closures at the neck and wrists. The velcro closures make more comfort and easier on/off than the more expensive 'dry-tops'. The trade-off is that some water will seep in when rolling, etc. These usually run ~$100
The NRS Powerhouse is an example.

The next step up is a 'Semi-Dry-Top'. These usually feature velcro closures at the neck/wrists, but sometimes they have neoprene gaskets. This type of jacket also typically has a 'double tunnel' for the skirt. These tend to be pretty dry, you may get some seepage. These are a good balance of cost, dryness and comfort. The trade-off is that they are not adequate for colder conditions where you really want to stay completely dry/warm. These usually run ~$150-$200.
The NRS Stampede is an example.

Lastly, the 'Dry-Top'. This is similar to above but with latex gaskets at the neck and wrists. They are the most expensive, they are difficult to get on and off and the gaskets can be a little restrictive/tight. They are very dry. I paddle in mild climates... where I paddle, the dry-top is over-kill for the sea kayak. I only use it for whitewater due to the very cold water. These run over $200.
The NRS Flux is an example.

At a minimum, I would make sure to get a jacket with water-proof breathable fabric. Secondly, if you do not need a double-tunnel jacket, make sure to get one with something more than a nylon hem and a draw-string at the waist. The NRS Powerhouse is a good example, it has a neoprene hem and a draw-string. The neoprene will give you a better seal and the grip will prevent it from riding-up.

Consider a gift certificate?
Seriously - even a paddler who thinks they know what they need can get lost in the decision of exactly what features they need in a paddling drytop/jacket. That’s the reason that most of us end up with more than one of these things over time, with different levels of dryness etc.

A gift certificate to someplace like NRS ( would give your son the ability to choose the set of features he wanted, and maybe score it at a sale price to boot. NRS regularly discounts perfectly wonderful jackets whose only flaw is that they are the prior years’ model.

Is he doing whitewater or touring?

splash top
I bought a non breathable paddling jacket several jacket several years ago becaue I needed a raincoat and didn’t have much money. Mine was one described earlier as a “splash jacket”. While it works fine for what I bought it for, on warmer days I get as wet wearing it as I would not wearing it. I think you might be happier with a breathable fabric even though they cost more.

hello fellow Michigander
or is it Michiganian? I forget…

anyways, fit is a personal preference w. sporting gear as with other clothing… Why not call the folks at Riverside Kayak Connection in Wyandotte (downriver)and tell them what kind of paddling your son wants to do & how many seasons he paddles (or wants to paddle)as this will affect what will serve him best. That would be a good place to start.

If you could swing down there and let him try some on that would be the absolute best, as cut and sizing do vary with the manufacturer and even w. the model. He can try on paddling tops w. a PFD and twirl a paddle to really get a good idea of fit, esp as with a drytops you are shooting for the perfect matrix of fitting tightly enough to keep water out yet having enough room in the shoulders for paddling motion, being long enough to fit inside the skirt tunnel properly, etc.

I like Celia’s idea of a gift certificate, always the perfect size and color…

I’m in no way affiliated w. Riverside Kayak Shop -they are just a great shop w. awesome staff who really paddle, give honest advice and excellent service, and their gear selection is bountiful. They will special order and they have a price match guarantee.

IMO They might just be the best shop on the eastern side of the state so they are well worth checking out.

NRS usually has sales …
If it really is just a paddling jacket he wants the NRS powerhouse works great. I had mine for several years and have worn it both paddling alot and I take it on trips when I know I will be in heavy rainfall like climbing in scotland. I wear mine over a wetsuit here on coldest days in winter (which just means near freezing temperatures, and 50-55 F water. )

Check here
There’s lots of good info above - before you purchase, I suggest checking Sierra Trading Post online, often they have steep discounts. If your son is still a growing boy, it’d be nice to save some cash on something that may be outgrown soon.