Winter Paddling Tops?

I have what is probably a stupid question here… But i want to make sure i order what i need. What is the difference between a Splash or paddling jacket and a dry top? Which would you recommend for kayaking class 1 & 2 rivers with the possibility of a class 3… And what other clothing gear for winter paddling? Thanks

Dry Suit in Winter
Dress for water temps.


Splash Jacket vs. Dry Top
"Splash jackets" are just that - for preventing you from getting wet from splashes. They do nothing for immersion, if you’re in the water. You will be soaked.

“Dry tops” are just that, too - for preventing your upper body from getting wet in case of immersion.

That said, a dry top is only as good as what’s on your legs. That’s why Andy suggested a dry suit. They’re expensive, but you’re completely dry.

winter = dry suit
Winter paddling is the biggest reason for dry suits.

Semi-Dry-Tops - Wet Suits

– Last Updated: Sep-26-08 5:27 PM EST –

It depends on the water temperatures you are going to be paddling in. You can wear a wetsuit down to 45 F water temp and be comfortable. In surf where you are in water all the time and likely to be swimming it is actually preferable to dry suit. If you get hung up on a rock or a piece of equipment and your drysuit punctures you are in a lot of trouble. A small puncture in a wetsuit is no big deal. Wearing a semi-drytop or dry top over a wetsuit can let you go down about 5 degrees colder water temps. They also give you wind protection which is more important much of the time. Products that are listed as Splash Wear, like the NRS Powerhouse paddling jacket is actually pretty effective in keeping you warmer in the water.

Be careful about advice from people who have never tried wetsuits or only used diving wetsuits. I use wetsuits routinely down to water temps down to 50 F. Surfers use wetsuit north of the artic circle, so be careful about being told you need to buy an expensive drysuit, especially for moving water.

Semi-Dry tops have a neoprene gasket around the neck, arm cuffs, annd waist that fits well with spray decks. So the information above about splashwear making you soaked if you are immersed is wrong.

Depends on water and air temps
Drysuit is great and arguably essential for colder climes but surfers use neoprene and do just fine.

Hey neighbor

Ben, it depends on where you are going to paddle. I live in Atlanta and paddle year round. In the fall and spring I use a NRS short sleeve dry top. In the winter time I have a NRS dry top. I don’t have a splash top but I prefer to battle the elements and push the hyperthermic limits. I also have a warmer top and pants which is all you may need for short paddles that may save some money. The NRS long sleeve dry top was about $275 and the short sleeve was $185 or so.

Short winter paddles will let you know what you need because you may needhead gear, gloves and boots as well.

I suggest that you try everything on before purchasing.

Paddlin’ on


Yeah, yeah, yeah, dress for water…

– Last Updated: Sep-27-08 12:54 AM EST –

So what's the water temperature like in Alabama? 40 degrees? 50 degrees? How far from shore will you be?

I, and many others, paddle class I & II in spring of every year (NY). About half of us wear wet suites, half with dry suits. Of those who wear wet suits, some have dry tops and other have splash tops.

Don't count on the top to keep warm but count on the wet suit to keep warm. The advantage of a dry top is it keeps the water out as long as you don't wet exit. So, for those with a roll, a dry top makes a lot of sense. Otherwise, I don't really see much point of the extra cost and discomfort.

A lot more important, from my own experience, are warm gloves! And if you're going to be in class III and have a solid roll, warm head gear.

Even more important, KNOW YOUR LIMIT. Only you know what's warm enough FOR YOU.

“I prefer to push the limits”
“I prefer to push the hyperthermic limits”

G_K, is it just me, or do you sometimes seem to push the border of giving reckless advice to beginners?

Shouldn’t some common sense

…apply to many of these questions and would youtake the advice of an unknown person when doing something like paddling in the winter time.

I learned everything on my own without any advice.

…and yes I push my limits all the time.

Advice on this forum is just that and I doubt it would hold up in court.

BTW Thanks for the card. I found it quite enjoyable and it made it’s way on my bulletin board.

Paddlin’ on


I Have a Barefoot Wskier Dry Suit
that I’ve “tested” a number of times during NC coastal winter paddles and it kept me dry and warm till I could remount. Comfortable, with light fleece/poly under, and really helps ease the worry factor in winter paddling. Its an O’Neill Assault Hybrid Dry Suit and has a snug stretch w/proof neopreme bottom and waist (less risky in fast water?)and pretty heavy loose w/proof nylon top for flexibility. Good seals at neck, wrists and ankles. Back zipper a “stretch” challenge for old me but doable and I always paddle with a pal in winter. Avaliable from Overton’s and probably others for