Review of Aquaskinz Phantom Semi Dry Top E-mail
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 05:12

As the colder weather approaches in most parts of the country we focus our attention on clothing that can make life more comfortable on the water. When it comes to clothing for kayak fishing, not only is it a matter of comfort but a matter safety. The technical clothing that is worn not only protects you against nasty weather, if used in colder water temperatures it should give you protection from emersion. To further complicate matters the ideal garment should allow you to stay somewhat cool when you heat up during the exertion of paddling or pedaling. I have a closet full of paddling jackets, some which are true drytops and others that are semi-drytops. To date there are no paddle tops made specifically for kayak fishing, most of the tops are made for white water paddlers and don't have the cut or the correct design to handle the needs of the kayak fisherman.

The Aquaskinz Phantom Semi Drytop I believe started out as a surf fishing jacket but I the kayak fisherman will benefit from the design. It handles the delicate balance of being a top that offers protection from the elements like the cold and wind but also has a sealant system that can protect you if you find yourself in the water. Although, a true drytop gives you more protection if you find yourself in the water, the neck gasket that makes a true drytop would not allow ventilating when you heat up and you will heat up at times on the water, this is why a semi-drytop is perfect for kayak fishing. The Phantom has a soft neoprene collar that seals tight with a Velcro closure system. Also, with a PFD worn (personal flotation device) your neck will be above the water. The jacket is made from tough 3 layer breathable material with taped seams for maximum waterproofing. I don't know of anyway to scientifically test how breathable a fabric is but over the years I have noticed that many garments when taken off after use will have a layer of moisture on the inside, telling me that it didn't allow for transport of moisture - therefore is not breathable. I wore the top when it was 85 degrees and worked up a good sweat and did not notice any moisture on the inside.

Looking the jacket over you get the idea that this is a well thought out design that was an evolutionary process. I had seen some of the earlier versions and really was not a fan of them. From the top down the jacket has a smart hood system, which sports a double closures system with well placed Velcro to hold that hood in place when not in use, the upper neck and chest area has a double layer that works as a water channel system if any water enters though the neck area. The visor of the hood feels perfect and never interferes with your vision but would keep the rain off your face. The jacket has 2 chest pockets, one being a dry pocket, I put some paper in there and went for a swim and it was dry after coming out of the water, even though I might not chance it with a cell phone. The wrists have a neoprene seal with a Velcro outer on the sleeve to complete the seal system. I have had jackets in the past with latex seals and I had to stretch them out to even get my hand in them, the Phantom has a perfect taper to allow your hand and wrist to fit comfortably. One thing I think they could have done is extend the Velcro a little longer because when cinched down you almost ran out of Velcro strip to tighten up snug.

The waist system is two fold, a lower skirt with cinch down and a wide double Velcro hook and loop closure. This is the money part of the jacket, this system makes for a tight seal whether using it with waders or alone. I took the jacket out for a little swim and had very little water creep up through the waist and I am sure if I really tightened up I could have prevented any water from entering. There is a hand warmer pocket that I think will be appreciated on cold days, especially by those who are pedaling and don't have to be grabbing a paddle while moving on the water.

All and all this is a great jacket for paddling, surfing or just as a serious rain jacket for any nasty weather. The cut is one that allows you to get in and out with reasonable ease, unlike some paddle jackets that can a real problem to get out of and can even result in damaging the jacket while doing so. Unlike most dry and semi-drytops which cater to 160 lbs. paddlers, the Phantom goes to 3X in size and that should fit even the big boys just fine. A couple things I would like to see in the future is a brighter color for visibility and some reflective tape on the hood and shoulder area. All and all at around $229 the Phantom is actually cheaper than most comparable paddling tops on the market and I think a design that is better suited to those of us who are chasing fish and not doing Eskimo rolls with their kayak. I believe that this is a top that will give you years of use and is backed by Aquaskinz product warranty. For more info on this jacket and all of the Aquaskinz line of products visit http://www.aquaskinz.com/

Joe Cambria,

 

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