Dry Top Review – Level Six Duke Dry Top

Level Six Duke Dry Top
Level Six Duke Dry Top

Level Six Duke Dry Top Review
by E Emch

I recently got my hands on the Level Six Duke Dry Top to replace my older dry top, and I have some thoughts to share about my experience with it so far. For starters, let’s get some technical specs out of the way. I’m 5’11”, 165 lbs and mainly torso. The medium size is dead on and has room for a few layers when needed. The Duke Dry Top has Velcro wrists and a neoprene neck cover, Level Six’s Stealth Waist band, and their eXhaust 2.5 fabric. Something else to note is that this dry top has zero pockets on it, no shoulder pockets and no chest pockets. That’s no big deal for me but worth noting. It is a simple top that does its job very well, and it’s the most comfortable dry top I have worn in years. 

Personally I loved the Velcro wrist cuffs and the neo neck cover, with nice small drainage holes at the bottom. The latex gaskets are nice and tight. Unlike many other companies, you get a medium size neck gasket on a medium top versus a large or small gasket regardless of garment size. Gaskets to me have always felt like a baby trying to choke you. Having a properly fitted gasket makes it a little bit more bearable. I felt no water coming in from the neck or wrists when I was rolling or splashing through the waves. The Velcro wrist cuffs were really nice to cover my watch but keep it easy to check when needed.

The top itself is made of Level Six’s eXhaust 2.5. It’s a thinner fabric than traditional Gore-Tex, making it lighter and more flexible than my Gore-Tex dry top or drysuit. With it being lighter and thinner, I did at times fear I was getting wet. Yet after my paddle I have found that I was completely dry underneath. Instead, I found that I could feel the coolness of the water more in the Duke Dry Top than in other tops or suits I have used.

Overall with this material, I did not feel like I was missing out on anything without having a top made of other fabrics, even with Gore-Tex being the standard and what I am used to the most. One of the times I used the top I forgot to bring a long sleeve base layer underneath it, and to my surprise it didn’t get sticky or balmy like in my old dry top. I was a bit chilly, but the dry top never stuck to my skin or was uncomfortable like other tops/suits I have used.

The over tunnel of the dry top is also pretty much perfect with their Stealth waist band. I have felt like some dry top tunnels ride up over the course of the day or that I have to redo the Velcro multiple times. This over tunnel was super nice and stayed down. The inside of the over tunnel had a nice grippy material and the inner tunnel was long enough to not bunch up under the skirt’s tube. It could be because I was using a Level Six skirt as well that made the two pieces of gear blend together through their design process.

I did notice some bunching of the Stealth band when I put the top out to dry. It wasn’t fully retracting back in, either due to me being a smaller waisted individual or there is something up with the retracting feature of the Stealth waist. Overall I still like the Stealth waist adjusters as I find it nicer than the traditional fold over and Velcro method on many other tops/suits. 

The Duke is definitely something I would recommend to everyone. You get a great value dry top compared to other non-Gore-Tex options that are more expensive. It fits well, it’s flexible and the colors let you be stylish on the river. Without pockets and not being Gore-Tex, it might fly under the radar of some people. At $280 it’s inexpensive but not cheap, the build quality is really nice and colors are great in my opinion. I say take the chance and try one out, it hits all my marks for a great dry top and I am happy to be using it for years to come.

-E Emch