13 River Essentials For Any Whitewater Rafting Trip
For adventure-seekers wanting an adrenalin pumping experience, a whitewater rafting trip offers a completely unique perspective on your destination. It allows you to be totally immersed in your surroundings, listening to the calls of the wild reverberating around as you journey down legendary waterways.
But it also requires some logistical know-how, particularly when it comes to packing! Not only do you want to pack light, but also include a few things that you might not otherwise take on vacation with you. So to help you out, we’ve put together a list of 13 river essentials not to forget when packing for a white-water rafting trip.
Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive packing list, just a snapshot of “must have” items for the most comfortable white-water rafting experience. If you're hoping to dial in your packing for early or late season, when temperatures can be more unpredictable, we encourage you to read our top tips for cold weather rafting.
If you choose to join us for a rafting trip, rest assured, we'll send you a comprehensive packing list to help you prepare for your adventure.
Being on the river all day means being wet all day. So you want to have swimwear that you’ll be comfortable wearing for long periods of time that is practical, rather than fashionable. For men, this might mean board shorts and a rash guard to protect against sunburn, while women might want to consider two-piece suits with a rash guard on top and river/swim shorts on bottom, which will make going to the bathroom in the great outdoors that little bit easier!
A headlamp is essential for maneuvering around riverside camps at night, allowing you to work hands-free while assembling tents, cooking dinner or playing games. Opt for headlamps with long-lasting or rechargeable batteries so you won’t be left in the dark at an inopportune moment.
3. Wet/Body Wipes
Camping on white-water rafting adventures usually means no showers for days on end. There will probably be plenty of options to swim in the river, but it’s nice to be able to freshen up at the end of a long day before getting into your camp clothes. Wet wipes will do the job, helping to remove any build up of sunscreen or sweat that accumulates throughout the day. Look for environmentally-friendly, biodegradable body wipes that won’t end up clogging up landfill sites for years to come. For those looking for a quick shower to freshen up, ROW provides solar showers starting on night 2 on all mulit-day rafting trips.
4. Rain Gear
Getting wet is all part of a whitewater rafting experience. But once you’re settled into camp at night, you might prefer to stay dry. A lightweight waterproof jacket is a great addition in case the skies open in the afternoon while you’re trying to set up camp or in the evening in the midst of preparing dinner.
5. Long Underwear
Long underwear or thermals are a practical solution for an added level of warmth, being light in weight but heavy on insulation. They are ideal for wearing between upper layers around camp or inside your sleeping bag at night, doubling as pajamas. Lightweight breathable options can also be used for added sun protection on hot, cloud-free days!
6. Hand Sanitizer
If you’re not comfortable just washing your hands in the river water, consider packing some hand sanitizer to use before eating meals. It will help to eliminate any germs, bacteria or viruses, with those containing a minimum of 60% alcohol preferable.
7. Water Bottle
When you’re surrounded by water, it can be easy to forget to hydrate. But this is critical to having an enjoyable experience and maintaining your optimal performance level on the water. Make sure you bring a water bottle with a carabiner so you can latch it onto your pack or the side of the raft and have it within easy access.
8. Quality Sandals
Flip flops just won’t cut it on the river. They can easily come loose and won’t give you the support you need to get around on rocky river shores. Remember that whitewater rafting is not just about being on the water, but hiking along the shore and transferring in and out of the raft. So a pair of high-quality sandals is critical, with supportive backs and sturdy straps that will hug your foot comfortably.
Sunscreen is a “must” on the river and don’t go for anything with a rating less than SPF 50+. Look for waterproof and sweat-proof options that will endure the white-water rafting conditions and don’t forget to reapply at regular intervals.
A hat to protect you from the sun’s rays is essential, as you may be in exposed conditions for long intervals. But once you’re in camp and the temperatures drop, you’ll probably prefer a beanie to keep your head warm and reduce heat loss. Bring a sun hat with a chinstrap that will stay securely on your head, even if you end up capsizing going over rapids.
After a day of having wet feet, it’s a great feeling to have your toes dry and snug. So pack a couple of pairs of socks to wear around camp in the evenings or for sleeping, particularly if you’re prone to cold feet-induced insomnia.
12. Polarized Sunglasses
Invest in polarized sunglasses that will protect your eyes from harmful UV rays as the glare and reflection from the water can do serious damage. Polarized sunglasses contain special filters that block intense reflected light, helping to reduce glare and improve visibility. Make sure you bring a retaining strap to keep your sunglasses securely in place, no matter the bumps that the river brings.
13. Wet Bags
Reusable wet bags, or even small dry bags, are an essential item for keeping your belongings safe and dry while on the river, even if they are going to be in a larger dry bag. They’re also a good idea for creams and lotions that are prone to leaking, rapidly soiling everything in your pack! We always recommend bringing a few reusable wet bags, or small dry bags to utilize within your luggae or larger ROW provided dry bag. You can stash wet or dirty clothes along the way and keep them separate from your clean, dry gear.