what to wear paddling Glacier Bay?

I will be paddling Glacier Bay Alaska 1st week of June for 8 days w/o guide. Will a dry suit be over kill or good safety? I don’t want to bee tp hot but water will be cold. Appreciate any advice

Its a good idea
When I paddled there the weather was often rainy and the drysuit of course is good weather protection.

Glacier Bay has icebergs. If you dump the water is close to freezing.

The air and water temps usually add to less than 100 that is definite indication for a dry suit.

Yes we did go swimming sans drysuit just to say we did it. Within 30 sec we were pretty numb. Can you trip happily and securely if you know that within a minute your hands and body will be non functional?

you’ll be more comfortable
and alot safer in a dry suit. If you were paddling with a guide in a 30" beam kayak a tee shirt may suffice, but not when paddling on your own. Just getting in and out of the kayak in icy water is so much better with a dry suit.


Use it
A drysuit would be the best choice, IMO. They have other uses, too.

On a trip to Nova Scotia 10 years ago, we got stormed in at a remote cove for 2 days, and it was that precise time that my tent chose to start leaking. Badly. I slept in my drysuit on top of 2 thermarests stacked on top of one another.

It was either that or sleep under the tarp and let the blackflies get me.

We wore dry suits, and I hated them
All you will do is sweat.

When we went back the second time, we wore just light weight biking rain pants, and splash jackets over bathing suits and poly pro T shirts.

We were much more comfy and figured if it was our time to make our Maker, we would at least go happy.

I also took several dips to experience the so called “gasp reflex” which I never experienced.



Comfort in dry suits
Mostly a matter of having good layers underneath. First layer should be something works well as a wicking layer for you, next one up warmer but even there I tend to use thick powerstretch that is warm but still wicks some. The two right layers should do it for pretty much all purposes. And just change at mid-day if things sweat thru.

I assume the water temps there are same as or colder than Maine in summer - high 50’s at best. Unless you regularly swim in the stuff, I’d not even think about anything other than a dry suit.

The part that caught my eye is that you are going without a guide. Is this a solo trip or a group of paddling friends, and is this an area you already know? If it’s new to you and the group is small, my thoughts go to the level of rescue skills in the group.

dry suit
same issue lots of places–we had this problem in newfoundland several years ago. go with dry suit. try one light polypro layer to wick if way to hot. even better, scull or dip using a friends bow to cool off. wet your hat a lot. more days than not you’ll be happy you had the dry suit if for no other reason than it’ll keeps the bugs away. oh, and take a bug shirt or at least a hood.

I would not paddle without one their
We were there for 6 days and only one afternoon did it not rain and temps were in the low 50’s. We put our drysuits on from when we woke up until we went in the tent at night. Kept us dry and warm the whole time. Much like Jackl I have never had a gasp reflex when dumping cold water but for me why take a chance and ruin an nice vacation by not coming back alive.

We also did it without a guide and it was a great trip. Hope your weather is better but if not it will still be a great trip. We bought a Kelty ultralight tarp and set that up and then set up the tent under it. That way we were out of the rain for setup and nothing got wet. It weighs less than 2 # with poles.

GB in alaska ?..
…I"m assuming You are refering to GB in Alaska. I googled GB for water temps and found a couple places with GB, including some sport shop on the east coast. Anyways…i found the link below…thought it might be helpful. I vote spend the $$$ for a drysuit,or drytop and pants at the least, in the event you do capsize, it’ll be worth every penny. i doubt Alaskan waters ever really warms-up seeing how glacier melt-off feeds the fjord.




Glacier Bay???

– Last Updated: May-01-10 12:31 AM EST –

Congrats on going to Alaska and checking out glaciers, if that's what you're going up there to do. Experiencing a glacier firsthand from a kayak is an exhilarating experience, I hope you enjoy it!!

As a preface to answering any questions, I have a few of my own. How experienced a paddler are you? Are you going by yourself, or with a group, and how experienced are they? Are you bringing your own boat(s) or renting? Are you paddling in yourself, or chartering a boat to drop you off/pick you up?

If you're paddling with a group then I agree with JackL. I'd just get a really good paddling jacket, a really good rain jacket and pants, and some Extratuff boots, which you'll see all the locals wearing. The big tarp is also key, as is a larger thermos for hot drinks, and a big golf umbrella works wonders as well. Definitely bring a head net or two, and some bear spray. If going solo, or you're really really adverse to rain, then the dry suit would be a great idea.

I've paddled Alaska three summers in a row, with two summers in the southeast, for a total of five months paddling time, and not once did I use a dry suit. In those five months I didn't go for one swim that was not intended, nor did anyone under my care. This is working in a guide/instructor capacity with a large group of beginners, in mostly protected and inland waters, with fully loaded west coast style touring boats. If I was paddling by myself on exposed coast I would wear a dry suit, or if I regularly traveled in inclement/stormy weather I would as well. For something like touring and camping on Glacier Bay, which looks large but protected, I would build in an extra day or two into my schedule so I wouldn't have to travel if the weather was bad, and could just wait it out in camp until conditions were smooth enough to travel.

As for paddling in the ice, dress warmly, poagies are key. Stay well away from any of the icebergs, especially the larger ones, as only 10% of the iceberg is above water, and they like to roll and shift unexpectedly. I'd keep a good distance from any glacier as well, at least a quarter mile, as they my calve and create waves, which are mostly swell and will travel under a kayak, especially if the bow if pointed into it, fairly easily. Bring binos, a good camera, and your thermos with hot drinks.

I know people who prefer dry suits for rainy conditions, but for me it is an expensive, high wear item, and I'd rather save it for other occasions. If you hired a guide I doubt they would be wearing a dry suit either. But if you really don't like the rain, and you feel its justified for a six day trip, then its probably worth at least bringing, doesn't take up much room in your boat if you don't use it...