Paddling tops/drytops Kayak dealers sell a variety of paddling tops for all seasons and types of kayaking. Some have tight-fitting neoprene seals at the wrists to prevent water from entering the sleeves when paddling in rough weather, while others are adjustable. White water kayakers have also neoprene seals at the neck to prevent water from entering during Eskimo rolling. This is not a good solution for sea kayaking because the need for air circulation is a priority. Some tops have a double seal at the waist where the spray deck is sealed in between these two layers. If the top is too specialised, the need will arise for an extra top to use on land, so it is also a question of money. All paddling tops should have a hood and a high-visibility colour.
Tuiliq Originally a jacket made from sealskin with a hood. The jacket fit tightly around the cockpit, making both the paddler and the kayak waterproof at the same time. The modern versions are made from neoprene. Many kayakers use the tuilik to play and practise Eskimo rolls. It is brilliant for this. Partly because it isolates well and partly because you don’t get cold water into your kayak, down your neck, in your ears, etc. It makes rolling more comfortable, and the movability is superb. The neoprene isolates very well, so in combination with a neoprene trouser or Long John and woollen underwear, you have well-insulated paddle clothes for a lot of different circumstances. The tuilik might be somewhat hot for kayaking during hot, sunny summer days, but for paddling in grey, cold weather, wind, rain and snow, it is superb.
A simpler solution can, in most situations, work just as well. Most of us have already clothes suitable for padding all year round. When dressing for a normal trip, I wear woollen underwear and woollen socks, because they insulate well even when wet. If it is cold, I wear a thin woollen pullover or fleece as well. On top of this, I wear a windproof anorak and pants. If I should capsize, I will get wet, but the water will be warmed up by my body heat and the windproof outer layer will prevent fresh cold water from coming in, which is the same way wet suits work. My pants and top are specialised kayak clothing but in my experience, windproof/showerproof pants and an anorak do the same job.
When choosing a top for paddling, it is important to look for the following: good ventilation at the neck, adjustable wrist closure and, last but not least, a hood.