Dry Suits

A frequently asked question is whether paddlers should be wearing dry suits while kayaking in Glacier Bay National Park.

Our answer to this question is this:

First and foremost, you should understand that wearing a dry suit is no substitute for good decision making.  It is imperative to make good decisions when kayaking, regardless of wearing a drysuit. We recommend that if even one person in your group is hesitant about the paddling conditions, you should not depart the shore.

Prior to departing on your trip, obtain a weather forecast, noting the wind speed and direction. Before you leave the shore, pay attention to water surface signs, looking towards the horizon and the direction of travel for indications of worsening conditions. If it’s already windy, know that conditions will likely worsen before getting better due to a weather front coming through. Generally, surface waters should always be calm for paddling. If you’re a novice paddler and the conditions are anything greater than a 1 ft. sea, you should wait on shore or get to shore and wait it out until the water and wind calms. It’s not uncommon to be land bound for a full day while waiting for a weather system to pass; we recommend adding in an extra day to your trip to allow for this.

Gain a clear understanding of the tides: the direction of tide, speed of tide and if the wind and tides are opposing (which creates cresting surface waves). These should be your first considerations when choosing whether or not it is a good time to paddle followed by knowledge of the route’s shoreline topography that you are about to embark on. For example, are you planning to make a 2 mile crossing in these conditions? Or, are you planning to paddle along a 3 mile section of cliffs without a place to get out in these conditions?

Again, wearing a drysuit should not take the place of good decisions. A drysuit is not a super hero outfit that makes you invincible.

That said, if the weather conditions are cold and wet, a drysuit may keep you dryer and warmer than your average rain gear while kayaking in this glacial, rainforest environment and may save your life in the event of a capsize by affording you more time in the icy cold water to perform a rescue before hyperthermia sets in.

How do I get a drysuit and which type of drysuit should I get?

We do not rent dry suits. Well in advance of your trip, we recommend that you contact Kayak Academy where you may rent a drysuit and find out which drysuit is appropriate for you. They will ship it to you to try on and only charge for the days of use and the cost of shipping – no rental fee for the time in transit.

Should I wear a wetsuit or a drysuit?

If you are trying to decide between a wetsuit or a drysuit for kayaking in Alaska, we would recommend a drysuit.

As the name suggests, drysuits work by keeping water out and are designed to protect from extreme cold temperatures. The neck and cuffs of a dry suit feature strong seals to keep water out and keep the wearer warm and dry.

Drysuits tend to be worn in particularly cold waters and offer great freedom of movement.

Wetsuits are not designed to keep you dry, instead a wet suit works by trapping a thin layer of water between your body and the suit. These are more commonly used on whitewater rivers.