Isle Royal Gear

My wife and I are planning a Late June early July circumnavigation Of Isle Royal. The question is Wetsuit (farmer john) and paddling top or Dry suit? I have experience with wearing a wetsuit and drysuit as a public saftey diver so I know both their benifits. I have 2 concerns and want some input. First wearing a dry suit w/o insulation so we don’t die of heat stroke when paddling will do us little good in the water for an extended period since the water temp will be 55 at most. A drysuit simply has no insulation value by it’s self. Wearing a wet suit for up to 7 days straight isn’t very attractive to me either. I can only imagine what it will smell like after a week. I know someone is going to say just roll when you get hot but my wife has no desire to learn to roll and nothing is going to change her mind. Any thoughts or ideas?

You might try
Learning to do the pre-roll practice thing where you hold onto the bow of another kayak and lower yourself into the water and then come back up. For just cooling off you probably don’t even have to get your head wet.

Although it sounds silly you might buy one of those squirt tubes rafters use to shoot water at each other. When you get hot just fill it with cold Lake Superior water and shoot each other. Maybe get rid of of some of those “who’s turn was it to clean camp dishes” tensions.


do you own both?
If so it’s a no-brainer, bring them both.

Isle Royale wear
I think I would go with the farmer john and the dry top. I have both hiked and paddled at Isle Royale. I was there in late July to hike and while the nights were nice and cool the days were hot. I have paddled there in September and I used the wet suit and dry top / pants for that time of the year. even then there were a few days when the dry top came off to help the cool down. Having the thermal protection when needed is handy. I am all about using layering as I can always pull off or put on a layer when needed. Lake Superior is always cold !! Hope this answer helps. Sounds like a great trip, have fun.

Drysuit and Swims…
…that’s what we do on hot days with freezing water temps - quite common in Newfoundland in the spring and early summer. Our waters are deadly cold for much of the year, and the drysuit is the only thermal protection I’m willing to trust my life to.

If it’s going to be hot, I just have a brief swim in the drysuit before starting out - somehow keeps things cooler. Since I don’t roll, I’ll beach and swim whenever it’s needed throughout the day. Also find that a baseball cap periodically soaked in sea water helps a lot.

You both have practiced rescue skills with one another and you feel confident they’re pretty solid, I would go with a wet suit and a dry top if you don’t want to pack both.

My wife and I paddled around the island late July and I have to admit, there some mighty hot days (cold water) but we were both wearing rash guards, sometimes a hydroskin, and board shorts…but we both have really good rolls and rescue with one another.

I wouldn’t worry about the wetsuit stench, it won’t be that bad, plus, you can rinse it every day you pull up into your campsite.

I’m not saying to go without a drysuit necessarily. Like you said, you need the thermal protection underneath, and most, under those conditions tend to go pretty light under the suit. Immersion in that water even though dry, the cold temps will still set in very quickly.

If we knew we had a long day with some long commitments along extended shoreline, we wore the suit/dry jacket (like the north shore of IR between Hugginnin Cove and Little Todd Harbor that doesn’t have any good landing areas).

wet suit - dry suit
I’ve circumnavigated Isle Royale three times in the summer, and I was hot almost all of the time. I take both wet and dry suit gear. I always wear NRS hydro skin pants, often wear a hydro skin top, sometimes wear a dry top, and have dry pants on hand also. I like having the two piece suits so I can take off or put on the tops while underway. When its hot and I paddling in calm or protected areas the hot top layers come off, but come back on when I’m paddling exposed areas. Its a matter of being able to dress for the paddling conditions, and being able to adjust as those conditions change.

I agree. I always pack my shorty wetsuit on trips and bring the drysuit as well. It takes up maybe 1/4 sf.

On my circumnavigation
I wore various combinations of a farmer john wetsuit with a long-sleeve neoprene top and a paddling jacket. This seemed to be good for most conditions, but we paddled in September when the air temp is still very warm (80’s) and the water temp is as warm as it’s going to get.

Since we paddled in the early morning each day (7AM - 2 PM typically), I had time to rinse my suit at each campsite and let it dry before the next morning’s excursion. Regular use of the solar shower also helped keep the stink down.

There are some unprotected sections of the trip, however, that getting to shore in the event of a capsize/failed rescue could be difficult. Consequently, the extra layer of protection a drysuit affords would be welcomed, especially if conditions are less than favorable:

South shore, Rock Harbor light to Chippewa Harbor

North Shore from Hugginin Cove to McCargoe Cove

Blake Point

Versatility is best: if you have both, find room for them so you give yourself some options along the way.

i’ve live in a drysuit
for days at a time too…you might be surprised how just a handfull of water doused onto the back of the neck can cool you and for quite a while…but think about how long you plan on being immersed? how far from shore and couple that with the fact that you already practising safety rule no. 1 by having a partner…putting all of that together maybe thin fleece alone and the drysuit but remembering to have tight and heavier insulated head cover that you can pull on after taking the plunge.

I’ve never paddled there but did a 6 day backpack trip and like the poster above noted temps in the high 20s at night but up in the high 60s during the day…stunning place.