Rafters in Alaska - McCarthy River Tours

Drysuits and Alaska Rafting

Why Drysuits Are Essential for Safety on Alaska Rivers

Do You Need a Drysuit on an Alaska Rafting Trip?  YES!

“Do we really have to wear a drysuit on our Alaska rafting trip?” We get this question more often than you would think…

In Alaska, when you want to go rafting, you used to layer up in your best warm clothes, cover it up with some sturdy rubberized rain gear and a flotation device, and 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 some outfitters that will tell you it’s ok to not wear a drysuit; they say, “We don’t swim” or “We’ll get you right back to the boat if you do go in” or our favorite, “We don’t flip boats.”  So, let’s set the record straight.

Six Reasons to Always Wear a Drysuit on an Alaska Rafting Trip

  1. The water is cold!  The rivers we raft all originate as glaciers, which means the water is barely above freezing! (That’s 32 degrees, mate!)
  2. It can help reduce the “Gasp Reflex,” A natural bodily reaction to cold water submersion.
  3. Wearing a Dry-Suit with the appropriate insulative apparel 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!
  4. You can enjoy the water, from splashes on the raft to intentionally jumping in off an iceberg!
  5. Wind and bug proof!
  6. Rivers are dynamic, and it is irresponsible to raft without the appropriate protective gear!
River Rafting Is Dynamic: Drysuits Prevent Hypothermia

There is an old saying in the river industry, and generations of river rafters will tell you that 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 on any river. Dynamic Alaska rivers change daily, obstacles can vary daily, 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 fact begins to pop out; the victim wasn’t wearing a drysuit.

Modern Drysuits Are Amazing Technical Gear

Aside from being a 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 of Alaska wilderness travel – the wind & the bugs. It 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 into the icy water! The extra protective layer means you can immerse yourself in the beauty of Alaska with the peace of mind of modern protective gear!

First in Safety, First in Providing Free, Highest Quality Drysuits for all Rafting Guests

McCarthy River Tours is proud to be the first raft company in Wrangell St – Elias National Park to outfit our guests with dry suits. We are diehard river fanatics and wouldn’t sell your safety short. No matter what you hear or where in the state you raft, look for an outfitter that takes your safety on your Alaska raft trip seriously!