Our friends up in the great white north have been working on a three-season drytop the past few years and the updated 2021 Duke was sent to Paddling Life for review this spring.
In the Northwest, where drysuits are the winter norm, drytop season can take a while to appear, and this year was no different. So, when I was ready to put aside my drysuit and don the Duke, the sun was out but the air temps were still a bit chilly. But it proved to be the perfect playboating and river running top that I used on the Wenatchee, Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers throughout the summer.
When I first put on the Duke, I thought, ‘Wow this material is pretty pliable — the thinner fabric really doesn’t restrict movement at all.’ That, of course, is thanks to its eXhaust 2.5 waterproof/breathable nylon, which shines like the welcome Northwest sun on all fronts. It kept me dry inside, but didn’t overheat when I was fighting back in the eddies to get back on that sweet Wenatchee wave.
The neoprene neck hole “punch-through neck” provided a comfortable entry combined with a latex neck gasket that didn’t choke me out, but kept a great seal all summer. Of course, instead of trimming the gasket I put an old empty coffee can for a few days inside it to make it the right fit for my neck.
As time went on with many uses, the wrist and waist Velcro closures held up, with an adjustable fitting that is needed for different size wrists and waists (tunnel). The thinner material was pliable on the closures and felt super comfy when surfing at Turkey Shoot on the Wenatchee, one of our main playspots.
The double-tunnel waist closure is a must for kayakers looking to keep their boat dry, and combined with a newer spray skirt it was very effective on keeping water out of my boat even when I got worked or the playboating was splashy. And there was no slipping around or riding up with the closure.
I ended up using mostly a full, longsleeve underlayer while paddling with this top; if I didn’t my arms would get a little clammy. But I found the breathability to be more than ample. While the thinner-layered material held up over time on all my paddles, if you’re planning serious devils club and blackberry brambles bushwhacking to go creeking, the beefier Level6 Nebula, a four-season and uber-sturdy drytop, might be the ticket.
The true test of a drytop, of course, is how it stands up over time (some drytops have lasted me years and others just a season and a half); all I can say is after the first season this one is still shedding water like a boss. But, of course, now we’re coming into drysuit season again, so back into storage it goes. But I can’t wait to grab it out again for next year’s drytop season because, even though I’ll be a year older with likely less performance, it’s still working as good as new.
Beta: The Duke is a 3-season paddling dry top constructed from Level6’s lightweight eXhaust 2.5-ply waterproof breathable nylon and features a cut that gives you a completely unrestricted range-of-movement. The neoprene punch-through neck offers great comfort for long days on the water, while an overlapping double-tunnel and Stealth waist band system work with your skirt to provide a super dry seal.
- British latex wrist with adjustable gasket protectors
- British latex neck gasket with neoprene punch through protector
- Double tunnel and Stealth waistband system
- Exhaust 2.5 waterproof breathable nylon
- MSRP: $280