Know Before You Go - 10 Things you may Encounter Multi-Day Rafting

Embarking on a river adventure promises an immersive and unforgettable experience, but before you hit the rapids, let's make sure you're well-prepared.


Group of river guides and guests getting ready to launch on the Middle Fork Salmon River


You’re Probably Already Overpacked

While we provide you with a large overnight drybag, it is not necessary to stuff it full to the top, in fact, an overstuffed drybag is less effective in keeping water out because it is harder to roll the top and achieve a seal. Most guests on our trips have two or three on river outfits that they cycle through the trip and maybe have two or three outfits that they wear at camp. Obviously, it is always a good idea to pack along those “what if” items and layers for the chance there is rain or the temperature drops, but if you are joining us on the river in late July and August you probably won’t need many warm layers.

On our earlier season trips it is a good idea to pack extra warm layers for camp, and warm layers that you are okay with getting wet on the river during the day. Synthetic fleeces are always handy on colder trips and help to keep you warm even when wet. Warm layers that are wet from a day on the river we can typically dry at camp either by the fire or on a drying line if weather permits.

As always, check local weather before the trip and if in doubt, you can contact our office, they have experience with our trips and how to pack.


A person holding up a pair of bedrock sandals at the top of a hike in Idaho


Footwear Makes a Difference

Footwear is one of the more important pieces of gear that you will pack on your next river trip. While we typically have beautiful beaches on our river trips, flip flops are not welcomed as an on river shoe. When considering a river shoe, having a shoe or sandal that has a heel strap or will stay on your foot if you were to swim is super important. Most guides wear closed toe shoes to protect their feet.

If you have an older pair of sandals with a heel strap, it would be wise to check that the bottom of the sandal is still well attached to the sole of the sandal. We see a lot of older pairs of sandals that have been on a couple adventures beforehand fall apart on our river trips. If you see that the bottom of your sandal is starting to peel off a little on the edges before your trip with us, it might be wise to get a new pair before coming on your river trip. Being constantly submerged in water and sand, and exposed to hot temperatures multiple days in a row can cause the tread to fall off quite easily. Your guides can do their best to repair these issues on the river with duct tape or even needle and thread, but it is only temporary and your sandal may not fit or work as well.

It is always a good idea to bring a second pair of shoes with you on a river trip for three reasons. The first reason is that you could lose a shoe in the river during a swim, then you will have a backup pair of shoes. Secondly, if you rely on one pair of shoes to do it all for you, uncomfortable blisters may occur on your feet from wearing the same pair of wet and/or sandy shoes all day. Being able to change shoes when you get to camp is helpful in avoiding blisters or hot spots on your feet. Lastly, it is always a good idea to have a pair of shoes you feel comfortable hiking in for longer periods of time.


A group of people swimming and bathing in the Snake River


Keeping Fresh on the River

The good news is that no one really cares if you smell a little funky on your upcoming river trip. Beginning our second night on the river, we offer a solar shower usually strung up in a tree or hanging from a tripod of oars for you to shower. Our solar shower is not very large, so do not expect a twenty minute shower, it is designed to be quick and efficient. We try to set this shower up in a more private area of camp further from the river to avoid getting soap into the river. Most rivers we recreate on we try to keep soap out of the river, even biodegradable soap. You are more than welcome to bring along a travel sized bottle of soap or conditioner and shampoo, just consider packing it in a waterproof bag in your drybag in the case that one of them accidentally leaks.

Some guests settle for rinsing off in the river after a long day and changing into camp clothes. Other folks like to bring along body wipes to quickly and easily freshen up at camp, and some just settle for changing from river clothes to camp clothes and back to river clothes again. Any one, or all of these options are great ways to keep a little fresh on the river. See more of our trips for staying clean on the river here!


The bathroom tent sent up at camp overlooking the river and Snake River corridor on a ROW Adventures rafting trip


The Bathroom isn’t all that bad

Part of Leave No Trace and the regulations for the rivers we run is packing out all human waste. Permits are required for the rivers we run to reduce the impact on the river corridor, so while you may not feel that there are very many people on your next river trip, the reality is that there are thousands of people who recreate on these rivers throughout the entire season. Thanks to a majority of the groups enjoying these spaces adhering to Leave No Trace principles, we get to enjoy the river in a pretty pristine and natural state.

Our system we use to pack out human waste is commonly referred to in the river community as the “groover”. This name comes from when folks first used large military ammo cans to pack out human waste, and the metal edges of the can would leave grooves on their behinds. Thankfully more comfortable and approachable toilet systems have been developed since then.

Our toilet system is a plastic box with a regular toilet seat lid covering a built in toilet seat. Within this box is an interchangeable can that carries the human waste. Every day when we get to camp the guides change out the can within to an empty one. So each night there will be a fresh can in the groover, which helps to cut back on the smell. We also use powdered chemicals designed for portable toilet systems to help cut back on the smell.

The groover is typically set up a short walk away from the main camp and inside a privacy tent. This allows for you to take care of business out of sight from members of our group, and generally offers a beautiful view of the river. That being said, it is possible that another group could float by at any time. River people are respectful and usually look away to give you privacy, but on occasion they might give a friendly wave. There is a “door” on our privacy tent, so if you prefer to avoid being seen at all you are more than welcome to zip it up.

There is always a black trash bag in our privacy tent if you need to throw away feminine hygiene products or hygienic wipes. Additionally, read our feminine hygiene tips for river trips here!


Three tents set up in the sand as the sunrises over them


Your Camp Suite

Rafting allows us to bring along some of the creature comforts we enjoy in the front country such as tables and chairs. It also allows for us to bring along more comfortable sleeping pads. We pack a one inch thick waterproof sleeping pad for each of our guests to sleep on. Unlike most inflatable backpacking pads, these tend to be a lot wider and make a lot less creaking noises throughout the night. If you sleep on a softer bed at home, this sleeping pad will be a lot firmer than you are probably used to. Luckily most guests are tuckered out after our activity filled days on the river, so they do not notice the more firm sleeping arrangements at night.

The beauty about sleeping riverside, is the soothing white noise the river provides all night long and the incredible starry skies we are privileged to sleep under. We set up tents for our guests at camp, which provide great privacy for changing and keeping insects out. Most of our tents have a mesh top so you can still see the stars at night when the rain tarp is not on. If you are feeling more adventurous and the weather permits, we have tarps that you can lay out your sleeping pad and sleeping bag on to enjoy the whole night sky. Take a look into camping with ROW Adventures here!


Someone holding a yellow plate of lasagna, caesar salad and garlic bread while camping


It’s Not all Hotdogs and Hamburgers...

Most folks when they come out on an overnight camping trip with ROW Adventures express their surprise at our meals. We even had one guest remark that he thought he was going to be eating hotdogs and hamburgers for five days. A ROW trip is no average camping trip when it comes to our kitchen, we make it a point to cook delicious and well rounded meals for our guests. A fan favorite meal we serve is a lasagna made from scratch in a dutch oven, just to give you an idea of the type of meals that await you on your river trip.

On top of our delicious menu, we try our best within our resources available to us in a backcountry setting to accommodate most dietary restrictions. If you do have a dietary restriction, we can best plan to accommodate you if you communicate your dietary restrictions with our office staff before the trip.


Top down shot of a river guide rowing two guests on their boat down the Middle Fork Salmon River on a sunny day


Rafting is Still Backcountry

Despite having a lot of the comforts we associate with car camping, our rafting trips are still wilderness experiences. There will be no cell service on your next rafting trip, and that is part of the beauty of it. Our trips provide an opportunity for all of us to disconnect from the constant updates and notifications on our cellular devices, and connect to the immediate experiences of the natural world around us and the people we are sharing it alongside with.

Yes, you are more than welcome to bring along a cell phone for taking pictures and videos of your trip down one of the beautiful rivers we run, but be aware that it is possible that you can lose your device in the river. Even if you do have a waterproof case that floats, if dropped in the river the currents may take your cell phone downstream, never to be seen again.

Other options for taking pictures on your rafting trip can include disposable waterproof cameras or a waterproof digital camera with a wrist leash. We also have an assigned Photo Guide on each of our trips whose job is to try and capture moments on water and around camp as you are experiencing them. You are always more than welcome to ask our Photo Guide to take a picture for you if you do not have your camera handy. Within a week or two after your trip, you will receive an email from our ROW office with a link to a site called SmugMug where you will be able to view and download the photos taken by the Photo Guide for free.

All that being said, if photos aren’t your thing and you just wish to experience and enjoy your trip in the moment, you can decline having your photo taken on the trip.


A group of people hiking along the Idaho side of the Snake River through Hells Canyon


Our Trips are More than Just Rafting

While we spend most of our days floating down the river and paddling through rapids, this experience is more than just hanging out in a raft. Depending on the river you will be rafting, we offer various side adventures to points of interest or hikes to breathtaking vistas. If hiking is not your favorite or you aren’t feeling up to it, that is okay! The option is always open to hang out on shore or on the boats and have some quiet time simply enjoying the magic of being on the river.

Our guides are passionate about the rivers we raft and excited to share their knowledge about the natural and cultural history of these river corridors we get to call home for the summer. Some of our stops we enjoy sharing with our guests include culturally significant sites where you might encounter artifacts from Native peoples or more recent communities who lived along that river. Other stops we might scout a rapid from the side of the river and you may learn a thing or two about how your guides make decisions about running the river. So be prepared to learn and join in on activities that go beyond the river itself on your next trip.

An important point to note here is that while it is awesome to be able to view artifacts, we also practice Leave No Trace, so we must leave these items behind for other groups to enjoy. This also goes for cool rocks, flowers, pinecones, and other natural items you might want to take home with you. You are more than welcome to take pictures of these items, or draw them in a notebook to better remember them. We want to leave these items for others to experience with the same amount of excitement and wonder as you did.


A group of people paddling town the Middle Fork Salmon River with a guide in a red raft on a sunny summer day


You Might find Yourself out of the Boat Unintentionally

Part of any rafting experience is the inherent risk of ending up in the river. In the rafting community we often say “we are all in between flips or swims”. Our guides are professionals in whitewater running and do their best to mitigate the risks of flipping a raft or swimming their crew, but even on a good day the river can have other plans for our boats. It is important when considering any whitewater rafting trip, that you are aware that you can end up swimming in the river unintentionally. While this might be more likely on a more adventurous river like the Lochsa River which has larger rapids, it is possible on any river. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) are required while you are on the river and sometimes if you are swimming casually near camp where there are strong currents. PFDs are a great piece of equipment to help us float in the event that we end up in the river, but the most important key to any rescue is your reaction and active self rescue.

Our guide team makes it a point to empower you during our safety talk with the knowledge of how you can help to rescue yourself or aid in the rescue of someone else. It is always a good idea to communicate with your guide or guides if you have issues swimming or cannot swim at all. It is better for us to know ahead of time than to find out in the moment.

These experiences are often unpredictable and in the moment shocking, but for most, these events end up being their favorite story, or the most exciting part of their whole trip.


A group of people sitting across a couple red whitewater rafting smiling silly on the river


The River Brings People Together

While you may not get along with everyone on your next river trip, you’ll probably meet some really cool people and make new friends. Folks who choose to run a river for a vacation typically tend to be really fun and adventurous. After a couple days of paddling together, sharing meals riverside, and playing games in camp, you are sure to bond with some others on the trip.

If space and solitude is what you are looking for, then that experience can also be found both on river and in camp by communicating with your guides and with your group. You might just find someone to share the quiet and beauty of the river alongside with.

Regardless, any river trip will bring you closer to your family, friends, or other group members that you are going downstream with. Our team at ROW Adventures hopes you are ready for an experience of a lifetime that will leave you with memories and stories to share for years to come.

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