Canadian Canoe Routes

2-piece Dry Suits
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Author:  Splake [ April 22nd, 2019, 9:38 am ]
Post subject:  2-piece Dry Suits

I know that 2-piece dry suits are far less popular than 1-piece suits. If you are looking at a dry suit for river tripping in case you take a swim as opposed to spring play boating and pushing your limits would the convenience of a 2-piece suit be worth being less water tight?

The combination of the Level Six Breakwater Bib pants and Nebula dry top looks like it could be pretty effective and more flexible than a one-piece dry suit.

Author:  Mattt [ April 22nd, 2019, 1:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

I have a two piece suit from Bomber Gear (not in business anymore) that is similar enough to what you posted in the links, except the pants are not bibs, but have the same sort of Velcro cinching at the waist. I use it in spring whitewater, and last year on the Nahanni. I like the flexibility.

I have taken a few swims in this suit, and did get a little leakage, but didn't get really wet, even in a fairly long swim. The problem is in the mating - both pieces have a "collar" that you roll together to make it watertight fit - I never had any help getting it together, so always have a hard time getting the two "collars" to mate correctly at my back, which is where water the water tends to seep in.

The small leakage hasn't bothered me enough to make me get a one piece suit to replace it. If you go with a one piece suit, you want a relief zipper for sure.


Author:  guyfawkes041 [ April 22nd, 2019, 4:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

I've never been able to understand the point of a 2 piece drysuit. At best they are semi-dry in a long swim, and for use in a canoe, I see no convenience in them over a one piece suit.

Different story in a touring kayak, where a drytop suffices if you have a strong roll. But in a canoe, if it is cold enough to wear a dry top, it is cold enough to wear a full drysuit.

Why get a two piece suit that you know will ultimately leak at least a bit, and that is not easy to mate the two pieces together? Where is the convenience?

Author:  recped [ April 22nd, 2019, 5:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

Some two piece suits are are "dry" and some are "semi-dry".

A "dry" two piece will have latex gaskets all round while a semi-dry will have neoprene waist gaskets which are not 100% sealed.

Personally I use semi-dry bottoms most of the time except when the water is very cold and the chances of a dump are relatively high.

The advantage of the two-piece suit is that you can wear the bottoms on their own when you are in a situation where you will be wading and/or accumulating water in your boat. This would primarily be when the air temps are high and a dry top would be very hot and unpleasant. You could also wear the top alone if you just need splash protection or you are using a decked canoe, neither will help in a dump of course.

Author:  Splake [ April 23rd, 2019, 4:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

One meaningful comparison would be between scuba diving and paddling. If I'm scuba diving, then a 2 piece dry suit won't make any sense because I'll be in the water, at a depth that gives 2-3 atmospheres of pressure (or more) for 30 minutes at a time. There the choice is between the wet suit and the dry suit with the dry suit being way more expensive but a lot easier to put on.

With regards to kayaks versus canoes, I've yet to find a kayak spray skirt that was better than "semi-dry" to borrow Recped's term. I'm not buying the idea that you can get away with less in a kayak.

For canoe tripping where I would be in and out of the boat in a glacier fed river many times in a day but can complete a 10 day trip without dumping once, then a 2 piece suit gives more options than a 1 piece suit. If we hit a tougher section with a higher chance of a swim, then adding the top gives more protection when needed. On a quieter section with a clear sunny sky you aren't stuck wearing the top half.

The 2 piece combo I linked above also comes in a lot cheaper than a Kokatat by $300 - $700 which is a lot. On the other hand it is about $100 more expensive than the Ocean Rodeo Heat one piece, but you have to move up to the Soul to get a relief zipper and then the 2 piece option is back to being $75 cheaper. And if you drop down to the Surge pants, then you save another $180.

Putting it all together, I think a 2 piece suit can come out cheaper, be easier to put on and off, especially since I'm not as flexible as I used to be, be good enough for the paddling I do, and be more versatile for a canoe tripping. As a bonus, the pants can double as waders for fly fishing and spring/fall work in the water around the cottage.

On the other hand if a bunch of folks tell me they tried a 2 piece suit and it was a waste of time then I'll happily learn from that experience.

Author:  recped [ April 23rd, 2019, 4:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

I used to to paddle with a guy who had a 2 piece, he liked it a lot for the reasons you describe.

I don't have a two-piece but more often than not unless I'm running BIG rapids I just wear my Kokatat (semi-dry) bottoms. Now if you swim in those for any length of time they will fill up with water, not a problem as long as you are still swimming but when you try to drag yourself out of the water you'll realize just how much that water weighs!

The dry bottoms (integrated booties) are great, no need to leap from boat to shore, no need to worry about a bit of bilge water, no need to worry about mucky portage trails, no need to worry about a bit of rain or bashing through wet undergrowth.

I do a lot of paddling where the ambient air temperature is 25c or higher but the water temp is only 5 - 10c, way too hot for a full suit especially when there is near zero chance of a swim but the water is way too cold to come in direct contact.

Author:  pmmpete [ April 23rd, 2019, 9:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

In past years I've done a lot of multi-day and multi-week whitewater kayak trips in dry pants and a dry top, in situations where I wasn't worried about swimming out of my kayak, and where I just wanted protection from rain, splashing waves, the water which ends up inside a kayak, and bugs. And I currently use Kokatat dry pants with dry socks to keep my feet and butt warm and dry when kayak fishing from a sit-on-top kayak in warm weather and warm water conditions where I'm not worried about getting separated from my kayak.

However, in cold weather and cold water conditions, I now use a full drysuit both for whitewater kayaking and for kayak fishing. I don't see any advantage to a dry top/dry pants combination, and if you end up swimming in such a combination, you're going to get water inside the dry gear. I know kayak anglers who prefer semi-dry suits or paddle suits with neoprene gaskets, because they find latex neck gaskets uncomfortable, but neoprene gaskets aren't waterproof, so I would never buy a semi-dry suit. I don't find latex neck gaskets uncomfortable. If you have a thick neck or wrists and have found gaskets to be uncomfortably tight, find a dry suit manufacturer which sells neck gaskets in a wide range of sizes. For example, see

When I have used a dry top/dry pant combination, I got dry pants which have a smooth neoprene tube at their waist, so they will mate tightly with a dry top and/or a spray skirt. See, for example, ... t-dry-pant. Any top and pant combination which relies on nylon against nylon, or which relies on rolling nylon together, is going to leak if you end up in the water, because of all the folds and wrinkles which will form in the nylon and will let water get in.

Author:  MartinG [ April 24th, 2019, 3:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

I bought a two piece dry suit and was very disappointed with its performance. The two piece I purchased was a premium model with latex neck and wrist gaskets and a double tunnel neoprene waste gasket. I bought the two piece as a solution for canoe trips shortly after ice out and before freeze up. Trips could involve large lake crossings and white water up to C3. I was told that the junction between top and bottom would mate up very well. While not 100% dry they would work very well for my intended use.

The first time I used them was late march on the Salmon River. I dumped and swam on both days I ran it. After the dump on the first day my base layer pants were saturated with water. My top remained dry. The next day I was very careful while dressing. Jacket on first, cinching the inner tunnel above my hips very tight. Then putting on the pants with the smooth neoprene waist gasket over the inner layer of the jacket. Pulled up just under my rip cage; Again cinching very tight. Finally, the outer layer of the jacket over the pants very tight. I had my canoe partner check to make sure everything was smooth and tight. I dumped and swam approximately 2-300 metres. Again my base layer bottoms and socks were saturated. I also poured at least 2 cups of water out of the pants after removing them.

In June I took a white water course at MKC. I dumped several times during the course and had similar results. I had my partners and instructor check my suit to confirm I was adjusting it properly. When I swam there was so much water in the pants that they were ballooning around my boots. I poured more than a liter of water out of them. Again my top was mostly dry.

This combination of dry pant and dry top did not keep me at all dry in white water dump and swim situations. The combination leaked excessively at the junction between the top and pants. In fact having the 2 piece gave me a false sense of security that could have been dangerous. I sold the top, kept the pants for wading and bought a one piece. I actually wish I had different pants for wading because mine are too bulky and not all that comfortable.

This was 4 years ago. Love the one piece, wish I never wasted my money on the two piece.

Author:  Splake [ April 24th, 2019, 4:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

Which one piece did you go with Martin?

I think I'm convinced the 1 piece is the right choice. The catch is that as much as I have spent on gear over the years, it still feels like a luxury purchase, especially with most options being north of $1,000.

It's a bit of a self fulfilling cycle. Not having a dry suit keeps me from even thinking about any spring whitewater paddling. Of course not doing much whitewater paddling has kept me from spending the money on a dry suit.

Author:  MartinG [ April 24th, 2019, 4:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

Level 6 Emperor (50% off Black Friday Sale). I'm happy with it. It is really tough maybe even over built. But if it weren't for the deal I would go Kokatat.

Author:  MartinG [ April 24th, 2019, 4:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

Sure it is a luxury but I do trips now that I couldn't or wouldn't do without a drysuit.

Author:  Splake [ April 24th, 2019, 4:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

MartinG wrote:
Sure it is a luxury but I do trips now that I couldn't or wouldn't do without a drysuit.

And it would have been nice to have on my Redstone River trip last summer. I think that trip was a lot closer to the Mountain River than it was to the Keele River trip we had planned. I am hoping to do more trips like that but I also know they won't be an every year thing.

Author:  recped [ April 24th, 2019, 4:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

MartinG wrote:
I bought a two piece dry suit and was very disappointed with its performance. The two piece I purchased was a premium model with latex neck and wrist gaskets and a double tunnel neoprene waste gasket.

Neoprene seals are USELESS.

There are some two-piece suits that have latex gaskets, those are fine.

A neoprene neck gasket is also a common variation, they are "ok" (still leak) because most of the time when supported by a quality PFD your neck will be above water (give or take) a little leakage can happen but not much. When the neoprene is at the waist it's fully submerged all the time you are in the water, the leakage starts small but in a couple of minutes your suit (bottoms at least) will fill with water.

Just a comment on trimming gaskets, I advise against it especially on a new suit, the gaskets do stretch, what might be VERY tight the first time will be comfortable by the 3rd or 4th wearing and after a couple of years will become quite floppy. I replaced the gaskets on my suit last year, one of the wrists gave out (poked a hole in it) the others were still intact but getting quite loose and were subject to leakage.

Author:  MartinG [ April 24th, 2019, 5:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

recped wrote:
Neoprene seals are USELESS.

There are some two-piece suits that have latex gaskets, those are fine.

What bottoms do you use?

Author:  recped [ April 24th, 2019, 6:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2-piece Dry Suits

Do as I say not as I do!

I have a one-piece but most of the time I use just semi-dry bottoms (neoprene waist) with integrated fabric booties (Kokatat), they come up way over my actual waistline so I can wade in water up to 4+ feet and stay dry. In a full immersion....well, they are WET!

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