Do you NEED a dry-suit on an Alaska raft trip?
“Do we really have to wear a drysuit on our Alaska raft trip?” We get this question more than you would think… It used to be that in Alaska, when you wanted to go rafting, what you did wass layer up in your best warm clothes and cover it all up with some sturdy rubberized rain gear and a flotation device, hop on a boat and hope you don’t fall in. Turns out that old habits can sometimes die hard up here in the last frontier. Despite significant advancements in personal protective gear in the river industry, you’ll still get people that will tell you its fine to not wear a drysuit, they say “we don’t swim,” “We’ll get you right back to the boat if you do go in” or our favorite, “we don’t flip boats.”
There is an old saying in the river industry and generations of river rafters will tell you, there are two types of boaters in the world, those who HAVE flipped and those who WILL. While river travel is generally safe and incidents are low, no one can ever faithfully guarantee 100% that you will not fall out of the boat. Dynamic Alaska rivers change on a daily basis, obstacles can vary from day to day and a drysuit is the surest way to buy yourself time and protection if you were to be separated from the boat. Looking through accounts of river related deaths in Alaska, one sad factoid begins to pop out, the victim wasn’t wearing a drysuit.
Aside from lifesaving necessity, there are other reasons to insist on having a Drysuit for your Alaska raft trip. Drysuits are designed to keep a seal between you and the water, however that seal is also effective for a few other pillars Alaska wilderness travel, the wind & the bugs. Turns out that having an impermeable layer is also great for warding off the wind and avoiding the ubiquitous mosquito swarm.
Need more reasons to insist on a drysuit? You can enjoy the water! A drysuit means you don’t need to avoid that fun wave that is sure to splash you, it means on a hot day you can cool off by dipping yourself from the boat. Fundamentally a drysuit greatly increases your experience of Alaska rivers. One of the most talked about parts of our day trips is being able to plunge from an iceberg in to the icy water! The extra protective layer means that you can immerse yourself in the beauty of Alaska with the peace of mind of modern protective gear!
Reasons to Always wear a drysuit on an Alaska Raft Trip
- The water is cold! The rivers we raft all originate as glaciers, that means the water is barely above freezing!
- It can help reduce the “Gasp Reflex,” A natural bodily reaction to cold water submersion
- Wearing a Dry-Suit with the appropriate insulative gear underneath can buy you up to 10 extra minutes to aid in your rescue. While a ten-minute swim is extreme, it’s nice to have that extra time in your back pocket!
- You can enjoy the water!
- Wind and bug proof!
- Rivers are dynamic and it is irresponsible to raft without the appropriate protective gear!
McCarthy River Tours is proud to be the first raft company in Wrangell St Elias National Park to outfit our guests with drysuits. We are die hard river fanatics and we wouldn’t sell your safety short, no matter what you hear or where in the state you boat, look for an outfitter that takes your safety on your Alaska raft trip seriously!