Dry-suits are certainly beginning to become very popular, but using a separate cag and paddling bottom can offer you versatility and the ability to adjust your kit to the conditions.
Keeping your lower half warm and dry is a good idea when the weather turns chilly and, as it comes time to pack away the board shorts for another year, we put a selection of the best dry trousers on the market to the test to help you to find the right trousers for you.
The 8 Best Dry Trousers
1. Palm Viper Pants
These are Palm’s entry level dry-trouser and are constructed from Palm’s own XP100™ 2.5-layer fabric with Cordura 550D panels overlaid on the knee and seat to give added protection.
The ankles have natural latex seals to keep water out with neoprene outer seals, with Velcro fastening tabs to give extra protection to the seals.
The waist is high-backed neoprene and has a large panel of brushed neoprene at the front, which allows it to be cinched tight using two well-place Velcro side tabs.
Coming in under the hundred pound mark, you certainly seem to get a lot of trouser for your dosh, and it’s in the finer details and quality of finish that Palm seem to really stand out from the crowd.
Latex ankle seals are always a pain to get on (see side panel), getting a large sweaty foot through a tight, delicate tube is always going to require patience and care.
Once on the Viper’s supple material and clever seamless crotch design made them comfortable to wear.
The reinforced areas sat just where they should when seated in a boat, and the articulated cut kept them in place, with no riding down, whilst on the water.
A very nice product and a great price, which is why, despite strong competition, they’ve just pinched our V.F.M award.
2. Nookie Xtreme Dry Trousers
These have become a bit of a classic in Nookie’s range of tough, no nonsense paddling wear.
They feature a high-back neoprene waist design, cut to sit just right when you’re seated.
The neoprene waist tube has a large panel of single mesh to provide grip and to prevent your cag or spray deck from slipping or rising up.
They are built from multi-ply breathable Vent-X nylon shell and have Cordura reinforcing on the high wear bum and the knee areas.
Latex seals on the ankles protected with some nicely finished Velcro tabbed neoprene outer seals, with some reflective piping on the outside of the ankle area.
To finish it all off there’s a dollop of the usual Nookie Style with some good looking screen printed graphics.
We liked the un-fussiness of these trousers, and the high-waist tube, worn almost up to the chest, went down well with a good many of the testers.
It does have the advantage of keeping you warm, especially around the kidney area, but a few felt it a bit restrictive having another layer of neoprene under their spray-deck tubes.
The construction was solid with all seams well-taped and the cut was spot on making them comfy to sit in.
After a good few outings in these it was apparent that the Xtremes are solid piece of kit that you can rely on to do the job.
3. Palm Sidewinder Pant
The next step up in the Palm range the Sidewinder has a twin waist system that’s been designed to work with a twin-waisted paddling top to create am extra seal to keep the wet stuff out.
It’s manufactured from fully-taped XP150™ 3-layer fabric, with lighter XP100 inner waist with gripper elastic edging on the inner waist tube.
Knee, and bum areas are protected with an overlay of Cordura 300D reinforcing, as is the shin/ankle area.
The cut is articulated, with pre-bent knees to allow for east movement both in your boat and on the bank.
Latex ankle seals with neoprene outerseals and Velcro tabs on the outer seals and waist tube to keep it all snug.
The double waist seal system and Cordura reinforced shin area went down well with us.
The lower legs of your trousers get some abuse, on portages, while inspecting, bushwhacking through brambles etc., so it makes sense to reinforce this area with a tougher material.
The waist tube definitely helped these create a bomber seal, but the extra layer didn’t really make them feel any bulkier.
The cut really was good on these and gave excellent freedom of movement and the attention to detail and finishing was excellent throughout.
4. YAK Kestrel Trousers
The Kestrels are made from a fully taped breathable bi-laminate fabric and have an overlay of the same material on the knee and backside areas.
They have a high neoprene waist tube with elasticised draw cord, and have latex ankle seals protected with neoprene outer seals with Velcro tabs.
A nice touch is a small pocket on the leg for stowing extra mars bars etc.
The Kestrels aren’t a bad product and they did the job adequately enough, it’s just that at the price they don’t stand up well to the competition.
The basics are all there but the added features and finishing just don’t compare to the rest of the products on test.
The cut is kind of wrong and there’s excess material where you don’t need it. One tester was muttering about MC Hammer.
Again, they function OK, but it is areas like the Velcro tabs on the ankles and the un-hemmed neoprene on the outer ankle seals that let them down.
For pretty much the same price the Nookie Xtremes and Palm Viper are just better thought out and finished products.
The design team at YAK have some very nice looking products in the pipeline for this year, so we’d suggest that they should give the Kestrels a make over too to bring them up to the mark.
5. Palm Sidewinder Combi Bib
As their name suggests these are a combined pant and bib, which features a waterproof relief zipper and built in socks.
Constructed from Palm’s XP150™ fabric, fully taped, with pre-bent articulated knee sections and Cordura 300D reinforcement on the knee, bum, shin and sole areas.
The waist tube is lightweight 2mm neoprene with Easy Glide™ adjustable shoulder straps.
These are on the expensive side but our testers felt that they where worth every penny and unanimously declared these the CKUK choice.
They’re super-comfortable and the relief zip means no more struggling out of clothing on the bank losing valuable body heat, making them ideal for all day adventures.
Apart from the obvious benefits of that the built in socks are excellent. Tough and hard wearing they allow you to wear nice fluffy socks inside while they keep the water at bay.
The Cordura reinforcing on the soles is a nice touch, but we’d still recommend using these in conjunction with a descent pair of shoes.
Again the reinforcing is bang in the right places and we like the fact that the shin area is also protected.
The upper is comfy and non-restrictive and the double waist system worked well with a variety of cags.
It feels like a lot of thought has gone in to these as they certainly addressed all of the issues we normally have with paddling bottoms. Excellent.
6. Peak UK Storm Pants
The Storm Pants from peak feature a high-back design, with elasticised draw cord, and are constructed using breathable and durable X3 fabric, with rip-stop Cordura reinforcing at the knees and bum.
All the seams are fully taped and the ankle seals are super-stretch neoprene cones with AO3 outer seals.
They also feature two well- positioned cargo pockets on each leg, with an internal loop for clipping gear to.
We liked to look of these a lot and it was the general consensus that they where the best looking trousers in the test, there’s almost a snow-boardy look about them that we liked.
They are comfortable on and the pockets placed so that they sit just between where your hips, knees and thighs come in to contact in a kayak.
The cut is good and nicely articulated on the knees.
We really liked the neoprene version of an ankle seal.
They where certainly a lot easier to get on that traditional latex seals, where more comfortable, and in all our time in them seemed to keep us as dry.
We weren’t so keen on the draw cord waist and would prefer to see some form of Velcro tab closure, but that’s a small niggle.
The price is a little high compared to other comparable products, but we’d certainly recommend these if you’re allergic to latex or are looking for a stylish and functional pant.
7. Palm Amaris Pants
At last, one for the ladies.
The Amaris* is a female specific pant designed to work with Palm’s Naiya* paddle jacket.
They’ve been designed to complement the female form, and so these pants sit on the hip and are tailored to finish in a slight flare at the ankle for a nod to fashion, and feature built in socks.
They’re made from Palm’s XP150™ 3-layer fabric, with the obligatory Cordura300D reinforcing on the bum and knee areas, and additional reinforcing in the shin/ankle area and on the soles of the socks.
*Named after water nymphs
8. Kokatat Tropos Whirlpool Bib
Kokatat are a big player over in the US and their equipment has been a market leader over there for years.
Constructed using TROPOS waterproof and breathable fabric, the Whirlpool Bib also sports a zippered pocket for essentials.
The seat and knee areas are reinforced and the upper bib has adjustable elasticized shoulder straps.
Latex seals on the ankles with Velcro tabbed neoprene outer seals for protection.
These where kind of strange, the bib at the top acts as a seal over your spray-deck, which means that these didn’t really work that well with double waist system cags, unless you simply ignored it and used the cag’s double seal over the top.
They were comfy to wear though, although some of the testers felt that the cut was a touch on the baggy side.
The material feels very lightweight and supple, but not really that hard wearing, especially if you do a lot of scrambling around on riverbanks.
The construction is solid and they’re well put together, but they just weren’t really our cup of tea.
Things to Consider
Latex seals are very effective at keeping out water, but they are delicate and easy to damage.
Latex as a material also degrades over time and this can be accelerated through a number of factors.
For example, UV light can damage seals and cause them to become brittle.
Things like sun cream, moisturiser, detergents, salt water, even your own sweat, can also attack and damage the latex.
Because of this latex seals are not generally covered by any warranty, so if you split one on the first outing it’s pretty hard luck.
Take care putting them on and off and it can help to make sure your foot is completely dry, we find that a quick dusting of climber’s chalk or talc can help prevent the seals from gripping on to your tootsies, but do be aware of the above and avoid perfumed varieties.
To increase the life of your seals always rinse them down with clean fresh water and leave to dry out of the sun.
Feet and ankles come in all sorts of sizes so it could be the case that you may find you need to trim your latex seals to prevent your limbs appendages from turning blue and dropping off!
In our experience this is best done with a large pair of sharp scissors.
Take off only a small amount at a time until you’ve got the required fit, and do be aware that seals can give a bit with time and wear.
We are lucky to have so many great dry trousers to choose from. All of which have been designed to keep us dry, warm and comfortable whilst we are out enjoying the water. If you want to see more options, check out some of our other clothing and footwear reviews.