Dry tops are God’s gift to kayakers. Before this ingenious article of paddling gear, kayakers had to wear dry suits which are not the most comfortable thing to wear inside of a kayak or wet suits which allow water into the kayak and constrict motion. Then the dry top came along and changed all of that. They are more comfortable, less constricting, and dry tops are easier to put on.
Dry tops have gaskets around the wrists and neck and, as their name suggests, only cover up to the waist. Most dry tops also have what is known as a spray skirt tunnel which encapsulates the spray skirt within the dry top material. When the spray skirt attaches to the kayak, the kayaker is essentially one with the kayak, watertight, and dry with the exception of the head and hands.
Due to the wrist and neck gaskets, the tight waist, and the spray skirt tunnel dry tops can be a little bit of a pain to put on, especially when it’s cold out. Having a plan of how to do this before you’re out on the side of a road will alleviate a lot of frustration. Here are the steps to avoiding frustration when putting on a dry top.
Prepare the Dry Top to Put OnBefore putting on your dry top, undo the neck Velcro straps around the neck gasket and wrist gaskets. Completely loosen whatever adjustments are on the spray skirt tunnel and the base of the dry top. Inspect the material and gaskets for tears or damage before you go through the effort of putting it on. Also, be sure to remove any jewelry so it doesn’t catch and tear the gaskets.
First Put Your Arms In the Dry TopMany people want to start with the head when putting on a dry top. While this may work for some models, usually this makes it more difficult to get the arms in. Put the dry top in front of you and put one arm in up to the latex wrist gasket and point your fingers. Use the other hand to help stretch the gasket and wiggle your hand through. Never push through the gasket. Stretch it as much as you can to put your hand through it. Once one arm is through, adjust the gasket on the wrist so that it is straight and flat. Now follow this procedure for the other arm.
Put the Dry Top Over the HeadWith the dry top on your arms and out in front of you, grab the bottom of the back of the dry top with both hands and pull over your head. Then grab the neck gasket with both hands and stretch it out evenly and enough to pull over the head. Put the head through the neck gasket, working the gasket around the head. Again, don’t push the head through or you could damage the gasket.
Pull the Dry Top Down the BodySome dry tops have a tight base or bottom and make it difficult to pull the dry top down the body. Grab the base of the dry top with both hands and work it down your body as you wiggle into it. Pull the material under the spray skirt tunnel all the way down and if there are adjustment mechanisms on it tighten this as far past the waist as it will go.
Final Adujstments of a Dry TopYou’re almost there! Now you need to adjust everything until comfortable. Pull the dry top material that is now under the spray skirt from underneath, trying to straighten it out. Flatten and straigten all gaskets. Adjust all Velcro straps around the gaskets to what is most comfortable. With the dry top and spray skirt comfortably on, you are now ready to put on your paddling pfd and fasten your kayaking helmet.
Now sit down and rest before you begin to put on the rest of your gear.