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Old 03-16-2012   #1
Riverton, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 337
Wet and not cold

Ok, so I've been wondering about cold water rafting lately and thought I would ask you know it alls... I mean knowledgeable people.

Rafter in early spring, water temps in the 50 degree range, air temps variable. What gear would you wear? Wet suit? Wet suit top and swimming suit? Wet suit with short (knee length) bottom?

Of course you never want to go in the water except on purpose, but I figure I should plan for that.

Thoughts? Discuss amongst yourselves and throw out some ideas.


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Old 03-16-2012   #2
Beaverton, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 569
Drysuit if the air temps are going to be less than about 60.

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Old 03-16-2012   #3
Avatard's Avatar
portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 2,188
I've heard the number 120 thrown out there. Air plus water temp. Your odds of hypothermia increase dramatically below this number. I would say drysuit but wetsuit plus splashwear can be effective if you are actively rowing. If you spend a lot of time in/under water then get a drysuit
Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it "guaranteed", I will. I got spare time.
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Old 03-16-2012   #4
mtriverrat's Avatar
Lewistown, middle of MT
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 222
Finally something I know about. All rafting in MT is cold rafting! What to wear totally depends on the class of water you are dealing with. When I raft the Smith or North Fork and have low probability of swimming I wear long underwear, fleece and splash gear and neoprene socks and water shoes. The secret to staying warm is the long underwear - MUST be wool. Even when wet it stays warm. Feet -polypro liners and neoprene socks and water shoes. For stops- those hand warmers you use for skiing are great - they just don't work when wet. I wear the neoprene beanie and sun hat with ear flaps that my friends make fun of and neoprene gloves.

Now for whitewater I wear the wool underwear and the wet suit and the splash gear - feet the same. A dry suit if you can afford it would be excellent but a little overkill if you are rowing. Lots of my friends just wear the dry top and do fine. If you are sitting up front and getting splashed well it might be necessary. Remember you have your life jacket and they are amazingly warm. The helmet and beanie are quite warm and the neoprene gloves of course.

Disclaimer - I'm from MT and so we are pretty hardy about cold. I've put in more days on the river when it's snowing than I'd like to count and this is what I wear and have survived just fine. The good news is up here they don't have those fussy rules about building fires - so push comes to shove - you can stop and build a fire to get warm.
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Old 03-16-2012   #5
Helena, Montana
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 488
If your feet are cold, your not going to stay warm.
Never get out of the boat
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Old 03-16-2012   #6
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 405
I totally agree with mtriverrat - it depends on the class of water, and air temp. Assuming 55 deg. air temp and an easy family float, I'd have a layer of fleece with my splash/dry pants and a splash top, or perhaps just my neoprene shorts with splash top - can always take off the splash top if too hot. Class III and I'd have the splash/dry pants and my drytop. Class III-IV and I'd have my dry pants and my dry top, with fleece under both.

I personally hate full drysuits and full wet suits. If it is so cold I'd need these then I'll admit I'm a wuss and wait for a warmer day! My splash/dry pants are simply water-proof pants with a tight neoprene ankle gasket and neoprene with velcro at the waist. Best WW purchase ever as I use them for rafting and kayaking and can add no fleece under, or thick fleece depending on temps.

Oh and neoprene booties at all times.
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Old 03-17-2012   #7
North Bend, Washington
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 476
Personally I really enjoy full body rain gear...aka a drysuit. Yes- it's a pain in the butt to deal with gaskets but I like the fact that I can do just about anything in it and stay warm. That being said- I usually switch to my wetsuit around June when the temps get above 60 degrees.
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Old 03-18-2012   #8
Riverton, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 337
Ok, so with a dry suit, say you flip and end up in the river, does the water stay out? Are there seals at the neck, waist, ankles?

Yeah, I know, I need to go look and see... I'll find a place in SLC that carries them and go take a look.
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Old 03-18-2012   #9
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irvine, California
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,197
Yes, a full drysuit will keep you dry, especially if it's a GoreTex type material. Much less dampness due to sweating and trapping that in.

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