The Gear Shed - Immersion Research Rival Semi Dry Top
Wrists: Latex Gaskets backed by Neoprene cuffs
Waist: Elastic band with a Velcro spray skirt cover
Shell Material: 100% Polyester with taped seams
Ideal Temperature Range: 25 – 65 F
To start this review out I want to say that this top is not a drysuit and it is not a good substitute for a drysuit in winter. Initially I felt that this top would be pointless for me since I own a wetsuit and a drysuit. So, what would be the point of a paddle jacket? I ended up actually loving this piece of equipment overall. Versatile and comfortable, IR really went all out in the design. The cut is designed with super aggressive boating in mind. I am 6’2” with broad shoulders so I find paddle jackets very restrictive. This top has no negative impact on my paddle strokes and I feel as much restriction from a shirt as I do this jacket. I was worried about the neck gasket keeping out water, but the design of the neoprene causes it to seal around my neck when water pressure is exerted on it. I have tested this top on steep creeks, long river trips, brushy rivers, snow, rain, wind, and sunny days.
I found this top to be ideal on days when the air is comfortable or warmer and the water is cold. It was ideal in the French/Italian Alps and during warm spring days in California. Also Ideal in Variable weather conditions when you don’t know what to dress for. It is great with a T-shirt all the way up to fleece if the weather turns. This top eliminates the biting cold of wind and helps reflect heat back at your body. Fantastic for Spring and Fall boating. If you are looking to travel and are not sure what to expect from the weather this top is awesome. It is super lightweight for a paddle jacket and packs down really well to about the size of a pair of shoes.
How is it in the water and how dry is it?
I took some big swims in a few Class V rapids with this top and I felt comfortable swimming. As the name implies it is a semi dry top. I did feel a little leakage, but it was hardly noticeable when I did swim. For a paddle jacket it is probably the driest top I have ever worn. It is actually a little easier to swim in than a drysuit in my opinion and I would say it is similar in restrictiveness in the water to a 4mm full wetsuit.
How tough is it
I have walked through sticks, branches, and even had it rub against rough rocks / concrete and this top is bomb proof in my opinion. The latex gaskets are even super high quality. I have a Kokatat drysuit with a similar number of days on it as I have put on this top and the Kokatat gaskets are starting to show signs of wear. I wash my latex gaskets after every use and use 303 after every 14 days on the water. I would guess that I stretch this top’s gaskets 20-40% more than my drysuit with the on and off nature of a paddle jacket.
When running brushy rivers you may want to consider selecting a wetsuit rather than this top. Although the material is tough and I have had not issues with ripping the propensity for this to snag because of the aggressive cut is a possibility. For normal boating conditions I found this to be a non-issue. I would also recommend wearing at least a synthetic t-shirt underneath for comfort. If you sweat it will get itchy. Another consideration is that this is not exactly a standalone piece like a full wet or drysuit is. If you are looking for a one stop shop for 3 season boating there are probably better options.
Is it worth the cost?
The retail price of this drytop is about on par with a new 4mm full wetsuit. The question is how often will you use it over a wetsuit? Personally I find that I have shelved my wetsuit in favor of this top plus splash pants. Maintenance is easier for the jacket over a wetsuit and the top dries almost instantly since it doesn’t absorb water. The Neoprene cuffs do take a little time to dry, but they are very hydrophobic. You can add more layers to trap heat more effectively than a wetsuit and it seals out the elements well. This is a more complex piece that works in concert with other items such as fleece, farmer John wetsuits, paddle pants, or layered tops. If you do feel at home with layering and you want a versatile piece to keep you warm then this is a go to jacket for most days of boating. This item works extremely well in concert with Immersion Research’s Devils Club Pants. You can find a review of those here.