Time to bring a dry bag with dry clothes

Paddling straight thru ice in here, the leaves get a bit annoying but it’s still a great time to be out. I carry a dry bag with a full set of clothes and a small kit that has fire starting supplies/survival blanket/ bivy just in case

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You might be surprised. I found that even small streams in my area have gauges. I’ve had a variety of apps over the years for monitoring gauges, and most of them have gone away. But I recently found a great app that includes temperature guauges: River Data. It’s limited to the US. What I’ve found is that not all the gauge stations monitor temperature so you have look at them all to find the one or two that do. The app logo looks like this - but not this huge:

Screen Shot 2021-10-22 at 10.28.40 AM

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I get the surf temp from the weather report on the TV. I get river temp from the depth sounder on my center console power boat.

The St Joseph is a pretty big river so fortunately the USGS data includes temperature (check out the graph). I’m happy to use their number for a reference; I imagine that the exact temp would vary by depth and maybe location. If you fall in that’s probably the coldest spot. I just Google to the get local Lake Michigan temp.


Oh, that’s an interesting one, never used that kind. The super cheap analog instant read thermometers (sold for kitchen use) also work and I have used them for water temperature. Like this:

Temps kestrel wind meter, infrared, and local surf temps. Now 64° F. soon gear time.

I use a thermometer like that, works well.

The southern portion of Lake Huron is down to 60F, certainly drysuit ‘weather’ now.

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Thanks, all. I’ve used a quick-read food thermometer in the past, and have an infrared one I could try - it would certainly get an answer faster. For lakes I wonder how well surface temp tracks temps where your core would be after a capsize, 18-36 in underwater. As sing said above, wind and weather will affect difference in thermocline layers and mixing. But I suppose surface temp is better than nothing, and therefore an IR thermometer is probably easier for a fast reading.

As far as gauges, there aren’t any with temperature anywhere near my usual paddling spots (and topography means the closest ones aren’t relelvant).

But for others, check out dashboard.waterdata.usgs.gov.

In addition to stream/river gauge info (stage/flow), under the ‘Water Quality’ sub-menu you can turn on Temperature and see where the nearest temp gauges are.

For folks in the north lakes will be “turning over” pretty soon and surface temperatures and those at depth will equalize. Surface temps will drop dramatically overnight. Look for the water to turn clear and algae to suddenly disappear or at least dramatically decrease. Any more I always carry a dry bag with dry clothes, though the clothes I throw it it differs with the season - or ought to.

I had to laugh at myself last spring. I took a swim in the Buffalo river (Arkansas) and lost my dry clothes bag which I had just thrown in with the same clothes I had from my early season outings in Wisconsin. Someone found it several days later and turned it in to the Park service, who contacted me. After that long in the river it had taken on water and the good folks at the ranger station had spread my clothes out on one of their trucks to dry. I had three pairs of polypro long johns and a wool shirt in there. I guess I was cautious enough to hurriedly throw in a pair of long johns each time I went out without checking the contents but not concerned enough to remember doing so. Isn’t getting old grand?

And as an afterthought… what if I had really needed to use them - a worst case scenario. A cold swim, boat lost, have to find a road and hitch hike out. What average joe citizen is going to pick up a guy in NRS mucklucks, wearing three pair of long johns and a wool shirt? One could die of hypothermia on the side of the road. With a frostbit thumb.


I don’t normally pick up hitchhikers but I’d stop for

just to hear the story.


I carry a a rain suit and a change of clothes all the time no matter the temperature as part of my emergency bag.

so I assume the dry bag clothes are if things go south and you end up beaching somewhere after a swim and you want warm dry clothes , correct? You toss them in a dry bag in a hatch , or is this Shi% hit the fan and the bag goes with you, within easy reach either on the deck or behind teh seat ???

Yeah, that’s the general idea. There are other reasons though… As it gets cooler a change of clothes can be nice to have if you’ve paddled a long time in rain or for those misty drizzly days where the water penetrates everything, or if there’s a chance that you might be lining a rapids. Or even if you get wet getting in or out of a boat on a muddy, steep, or on boulders in waves - we’ve all slipped in a less than graceful moment.
A day in the 40s or high 30s can be awfully uncomfortable if you’re in wet clothes for the rest of the day, especially if its windy. The OPs reminder is timely.(Tossing in a fire starter stick and a lighter in a zip lock can’t hurt either, just in case.)
But even in high summer I like to get out of my quick-dry synthetics and wear something less flammable around the camp fire or perhaps have a dry towel for more sun protection available during the day. Even having something that isn’t wet or muddy to wear in case you’re with a group that stops at a bar & grill after a day’s paddle is nice.
And its such a simple thing - Just a dry bag clipped to a thwart with a change. Its a very nice thing to have.


I agree with PJC’s comments. You make an interesting point Seth. In a canoe my dry bag is typically attached to a thwart with velcro ties or a thin dog leash. So if I swamp my canoe in the middle of a wide river I have to rescue the boat (as well as myself) to have access to dry clothes. I think I may modify my system to make sure I can recover the dry bag more easily if the canoe swamps

It take me about 15 minutes to actually choose the spare clothes I carry, and about 2 minutes to tie the dry bag carrying the clothes into the canoe.
Don’t give it a second thought…
I have the 17 minutes to spare, and I don’t like the idea of suffering needlessy if the unexpected happens. I don’t have a lot of empathy for the unprepared, “poor me” victim.

I remember several of those type asking me, “What am I gonna do”?
My retort, “You’re gonna suffer”!
And I say it with a smile on my face…

That is the same way I think about “always” carrying a trash bag, a first air kit, a throw bag, fire starter, flashlight, spare paddle, etc.

P.S. Whether you tie in your dump bag, velcro it in, or let it float away; sooner or later you’re going to have to recover it, “and” your boat.
Giving some thought to that is a good idea…