Cold water immersion gear advice for July IRNP tour

I’ve taken a look at the map and have a few thoughts. First, plan on being picked up at Belle Isle. I’m not sure if I see the experience level & back up in yur group to challenge Blake Point. You want ‘leisurely’ so plan on spending you max (3 I think) nights at Belle Isle. You could do McCargo, Birch Island, 2 at Pickerel Cove and 3 at Belle Island. There is a short portage at Pickerel Cove that you could take to stay inside if the Lady is having fun. Otherwise you can stay pretty well protected. Given your latex allergies I now think that a good Farmer John with a couple of extra layers of something like Hydroskin and a splash top (neo wrists as well as neck) should work if you stay in the protected coves, monitor the weather, and use good judgement.

Sing is using a 3/2 wetsuit because he is mostly surfing and is wet much (if not all) of the time. You are dressing for accidential immersion will be using strategies to mitigate immersion. Do work on self, assisted, and all-in rescue situtations.

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Be a pessimist there are no changing rooms on the water. Water at 55° can be really cold in short order.

That disclaimer is spot on. It is critical to have a good risk assessment based on the water condition, air and water temps and your skills in getting back into the boat. Last May, we were hit with record high air temps of 90 plus degrees and water temp was still at high 40’s to 50 degree. I went to surf an off-shore break alone. If I came out of my boat, I was on my own to get back in. So, I played it conservative and wore a semi drytop over my 3/2 to get just a little more time in case I come out of my boat and have to do a re-entry. I was over dressed for air temps but was erring on the side of safety for water immersion. But, having a roll, allowed me to cool off as needed.

In normal summer conditions for New England, air temps above 70 and water temp above 55, I would probably be in just a 3/2 or 2 mm full wetsuit if I were surfing. I would be in semi dry top over a surfing farmer John for just paddling around.

FYI - A surfing farmer John has a short back zip whereas the paddler’s farmer john tend to have a long front zip. With a surfing FJ, the zip is completely covered over by the dry top. With a paddling FJ, the bottom of the zipper over the crotch area is exposed. This exposure results in significant seepage that undercuts the function of the top in minimizing water intrusion.




One comment on the VHF. They are line of sight only. If you don’t see anyone in a boat or are not in sight of a marina, your signal may or may not be heard. Be certain you know how to properly send a VHF message.

As another comment here mentioned, it might be wise to have a satellite communication device with you as well - Spot, Garmin InReach something like that.

Dry suit vs. wetsuit? Kayakers used wetsuits for a very long time before drysuits became affordable for the everyday enthusiast. I have a 3mm FamerJohn that served me well until I could justify the cost of a dry suit.

I wear my drysuit more often than the FJ now because you are a little sweaty but dry when you peel out of your gear, which I prefer when primitive camping. You will be wet with a FJ due to the water you drag into the cockpit getting in and out.

I want to add my agreement about immersion time. If you are able to get back into your ‘yak quickly any of the discussed suits will be fine. It is the small risk of prolonged immersion that should drive your decision. How big a risk is it for you?

Are you wise enough to know what you can do and what you shouldn’t do? Not what you can’t do, what you shouldn’t do. You may be able to handle 4 foot waves and wind coming around a point of land, but should you under the current circumstances. This is the one outdoor skill that keeps adventurers out of trouble.

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About Comms:

Belt and suspenders! As KayakerBee mentioned VHF won’t be helpful unless (a) line of site or (b) you’re within range of a big Coast Guard antenna. Carry a secondary means of emergency communication; I’m not counting cell phone as emergency comm on the water. I chose a PLB after reading a lot about DSC radios and InReach & Spot. They all have their strong and not-strong points. I have an inReach and my experience is that it can “hold” a signal or message for up to 20 minutes if it’s hunting for a satellite. Do your own reading, there have been similar reports with regard to how the SOS feature is processed through the alert center (I think there’s a thread here with a video of a paddler telling his story about that…within the last 8-10 months). Also, floating in the water is not a situation where I’m going to be pulling that out to send a text message either.

Thanks everyone- @sing especially helpful to know about the zippers on Farmer Johns/Janes. And @Bobonli great info on your PLB as well. We will look into that. @rival51 we would only tackle Blake in calm or light wave conditions. We watched a YouTube video of some idiot canoeists attempting it in 3 foot waves and it was terrifying.

Kokatat has a drysuit with a neoprene neck gasket and I believe they accept custom orders for other other dry suits with neoprene gaskets.

I don’t know about neoprene wrist gaskets, but a rashguard worn underneath with long sleeves could protect your wrists from being in contact with the latex.

A latex allergy is not that uncommon, so I would contact Kokatat and other manufacturers directly to ask for solutions.

Drysuit. I have not done IR. Apostles enough to know it’s never too hot for a dry suit in July but a wet suit can suk and drysuits are much more versatile on bad weather days. Double as full wet protection. Comfort. If you got em, be wearing them in my experience on trips
Peace J

I’ve done three trips involving passage around Blake Point, all prior to dry suits becoming a thing. Everything but Blake point is extremely protected and you can’t paddle far from shore. Families rent canoes in Tobin Harbor.

The Canada side of Blake is several miles of cliff. The prevailing winds hit it broadside over a 20+ mile reach so you can get trapped by bad weather and miss your boat ride back to civilization. If you look at a USGS topo
there is a portage trail across from Rock Harbor that goes straight up the Greenstone Ridge and bypasses the point. Never seen it but I assume it is a steep and strenuous and if you do it you will swear off portaging ever again for the rest of your life.

Mustang Survival make drysuits with neoprene neck and cuff gaskets.

Drysuit, no question about it. 28 foot waves on the lake yesterday. I know very skilled paddlers with decades of experience and all sorts of rolls who have been challenged by conditions around IR. There is no room for mistakes going around the point without a solid roll. If you dump in Lake Superior waves you will have a hell of a time self-rescuing, especially when your partner who also can’t roll dumps too. The drysuit and proper insulation will give you a fighting chance if everything else goes wrong.

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