Wondering what to bring whitewater rafting? As in so many activities, the proper equipment can make or break a whitewater outing. The trick to successfully outfitting yourself for a raft trip is to balance the inherent space limitations of your mode of transport with the demands for safety and comfort out in the elements.
Here we’ll provide a casual overview of whitewater-rafting equipment—information to at least help you organize your thoughts and compel further research. Let’s dive in, so to speak!
What equipment do whitewater rafting companies typically provide?
Every whitewater river is its own beast, and every whitewater outing has its own special characteristics. What you bring on the trip partly depends on the sort of trip it is—a multiday trek in remote country is obviously a different logistical proposition than an afternoon run on easy-to-reach rapids—and the environment you’ll be rafting in. The best way to clarify what gear you’re going to need is to check in with the outfitter you’ll be working with or another authority familiar with the pertinent river.
Like many whitewater guides, Raft Masters can supply you with much of what you’ll need. For example, we can deck you out in a wetsuit, splash jacket, or river boots—specialized river-running accessories you may well not have— at no additional cost.
Certainly a helmet and certified personal flotation device—which we provide on our experiences—are requisite safety gear for rafting.
What to Bring Whitewater Rafting
Basic Whitewater Rafting Clothing
For a summer rafting adventure, you’ll often be most comfortable in a swimsuit or a pair of shorts and a t-shirt or long-sleeved top. That said, you always want to have layers for chillier conditions, such as an overcast day with a stiff wind. Avoid cotton garments, which lose insulating properties when wet and dry slowly. Synthetic materials such as polypropylene orfleece are best for rafting, and having multiple layers allows you to easily adapt to the shifting elements.
Splash jackets and pants and/or basic raingear are great accessories for running rivers. Depending on the conditions, some rafters wear wetsuits—from “shorties” to“Farmer John/Jane” style full-length suits—or, in cold-weather situations, drysuits.
If you’re joining us for an overnighter or multiday trip, don’t forget good camp-wear, such as a sweater or fleece jacket for cozying up to the campfire. Pack several pairs of socks as well as a stocking cap.
Proper footwear is an essential element to rafting. Flip-flops are tempting (and, mind you, they’re excellent for slipping into at the campsite) but inappropriate, as they provide insufficient protection for your feet and are too easy to dislodge and lose. Better choices are water shoes, river boots, sneakers, or robust rubber-soled sandals with straps.
Sun protection while rafting
In whitewater rafting or really any other outdoor activity, it’s all too easy to neglect to adequately protect yourself from the sun’s rays. It’s not just the sunlight beaming down from above; it’s also the intense reflection off the water’s surface. Be sure to bring (and regularly apply) water-resistant sunscreen that’s rated at SPF 30 or stronger.
When you’re not strapped into a helmet for bouncing down the rapids, a sun hat is critical. You might also consider using a bandanna to protect your neck and upper back.
Sunglasses are also handy for cutting down glare and shielding your face—just remember to attach them to straps!
You’ll obviously want to pack any essential medications as well as personal toiletry items for overnight or multiday raft trips. At Raft Masters, we provide meals and snacks for our multiday forays, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring along your favorite treats or beverages as well.
A disposable waterproof camera, meanwhile, helps you capture all your rafting memories. You’ll see a lot of fantastic scenery, after all—the deep-cut Royal Gorge is, if we do say so ourselves, one of America’s great canyons—and you’ll also undoubtedly want to document your rafting buddies in action as well as the convivial hours at the campsite.
Whitewater rafting often provides access to truly world-class fishing, the Arkansas River and its hefty German brown trout being a prime example. If you’re an angler, tote along your fishing gear to take advantage. On our trips, we’ll cook your trout for you and serve it up for dinner!
For more information on what to bring whitewater rafting, please visit Raft Masters’ rafting FAQs.
Raft Masters offers raft rentals from May through October. Raft Rental equipment is available 7 days a week March through October, water permitting. View information about raft rental rates and info.