Spending time in nature is one of the best things we can do for both our mental and physical health. In fact, spending just a few minutes a day in the great outdoors can boost your immune system, improve the health of your bones and blood cells, and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Increasing the amount of time you spend outside will only increase the benefits. And what better way to do so than by picking up an action-packed hobby like whitewater rafting?
If you’re preparing to embark on your first whitewater rafting adventure, we’re here to help you get off on the right foot! Listed below is a whitewater packing guide, as well as a few tips to help you once you’re in the boat.
Keep reading to learn more!
Whitewater Rafting Packing List
For this packing list, we’re going to assume that you’re going on a commercial whitewater rafting trip and not a private excursion. Be sure to call your rafting outfitter in advance to get a list of the items that will be provided.
Many outfitters will provide extras such as food and drinks, as well as all of your rafting equipment, including a life jacket, helmet, paddle, and of course, the raft itself.
Here’s a guide on what to pack on your rafting trip:
For Warm Conditions
If you’ll be rafting in the warm summer months, your list will look a little different than if you’re rafting in the spring or fall. You don’t have to worry as much about staying warm. Instead, the focus is on sun protection.
While on the raft, wear the following:
- Water shorts and/or a bathing suit
- A UV protective shirt
- Sturdy sandals, sneakers, or water shoes (no flip flops)
- A hat with a brim
- Sunglasses with a strap
Don’t wear cotton clothing, as cotton becomes cold and uncomfortable when it’s wet.
For Cold Conditions
If your rafting trip is in the cooler months, you’ll need to wear clothing that will keep you warm in the cold water. The colder it is, the warmer you should dress. And remember – no cotton clothes!
In cold weather, wear this on the raft:
- Long sleeve shirt in a synthetic fabric
- Synthetic long pants or long underwear
- Wool socks
- A warm hat
- Windproof and waterproof pants as an outer layer
- Windproof and waterproof jacket
If the weather and water are especially cold, you might want to rent a wetsuit from your whitewater rafting outfitter.
Accessories to Bring in the Raft
Along with the appropriate clothing items for your specific trip, it’s a good idea to bring a few extras along with you in the raft.
You don’t want to overburden yourself, but bring along a tube of sunscreen so that you can reapply throughout the day. You should also pack a water bottle with a carabiner that will allow you to attach it to the inside of the boat. Last, if your outfitter doesn’t provide snacks, bring an energy bar or two to keep you satisfied between meals.
Depending on the length of your trip, you might also want the following whitewater rafting supplies:
- Insect repellent with DEET
- Biodegradable soap
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- A river map
- Extra snacks and drinks
- Sleeping bag and pad
For After the Trip
When you’re done with your adventure, you’re going to want to have a few things. First of all, you don’t want to wear your wet clothes for the rest of the day. So have a dry outfit, as well as a pair of socks and shoes to change into once you’re out of the water.
You also might want a towel and a bag to store your wet clothes until you’re able to wash and dry them.
Beginner Whitewater Rafting Tips
Whether you’re whitewater rafting at Bear Valley or the Nantahala River, you need to know how to whitewater raft before stepping foot in the water. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert. But knowing a few whitewater rafting tips can make all the difference and help you enjoy your trip even more.
1. Listen to Your Guide
Each boat on your trip will have a guide in the back, giving tips and commands as you paddle. Keep your ears open at all times and follow their directions. It can be the difference between successfully conquering a rapid and falling in the water!
2. Work With Your Fellow Rafters
In a typical whitewater raft, you’ll be paddling with 7 other people and you’ll have to work together in order to make the boat move! Do your best to stay in sync with your fellow rafters and paddle in unison.
Everyone in the boat should be pulling strong paddle strokes at once. You’ll enjoy a much smoother, less strenuous ride if you work with your raft mates as you go.
3. Be Prepared to Swim
You’ll be wearing a life vest in the boat, but you should still be prepared to swim if you find yourself in the water. When you’re approaching a rapid that could throw you from the boat, your guide will tell you which direction to swim should you fall in.
Every now and then, check that your PFD (personal floatation device) is secure. Being jostled in the boat can loosen the straps, making it far less effective if you’re thrown into the water.
8If you do fall in, always keep your feet up. Trying to stand in the water will put you at risk of becoming caught under a rock in the river bed.
4. Use Your Points of Balance
In order to brace yourself in the raft, you’ll need to use your three points of balance. These are your feet, your seat, and your paddle.
Once you’re seated in the raft, you’ll keep one foot further in front of you than the other. This is your front foot and should be kept tucked under the air tube or the front of the raft. Now, take care not to put your foot too far under, as you don’t want to be trapped if the raft should flip.
For the best balance, seat yourself on the outer rim of the boat. At certain points during your voyage, your guide may instruct you to get down into the raft, but otherwise, you should stay on the edge.
Last but not least, rely on your paddle to prevent you from being tossed into the rapids when the water is roughest. Stick the paddle into the water to brace yourself when you feel the waves rocking you.
5. Protect Your Skin
Even in the hottest months of the year, whitewater is cold! When you’re constantly being splashed with cold water, you’re more likely not to notice that your skin is beginning to burn.
Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, regardless of the season, protecting your skin should be one of your top priorities when whitewater rafting. To practice proper sun safety, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher and reapply every two hours or so.
You should also wear a hat and sunglasses. Your life vest will protect your torso, but if you’re worried about your shoulders, you can always wear a UV protective shirt underneath it.
A Few Benefits of Whitewater Rafting
You’re probably already excited for your whitewater rafting trip, but to make you even more ready to go, we’ve outlined a few benefits of whitewater rafting!
First, whitewater rafting is an excellent confidence booster. Nothing makes you feel more accomplished than tackling the waves and rapids and coming out the other side.
Whitewater rafting is also great for both cardio and strength building. There are rafting trips for those of any skill or fitness level, but if you pick the right one for yours, it will be a challenge! Rafting works your arms, core, shoulders, and back in addition to being an endurance exercise, as you’ll be paddling for long stretches of time.
As you raft, you’ll be soaking in the vitamin D from the sunshine and breathing in the fresh air, reducing your stress levels and boosting your mental health. Not to mention experiencing the life-affirming thrill of adventure!
Enjoy Your Whitewater Rafting Adventure
If you want to have a blast while enjoying the great outdoors and getting a nice shot of adrenaline all at the same time, look no further than whitewater rafting. Getting outside is also one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health.
So what are you waiting for? Search “whitewater rafting near me” and start planning your adventure today!
For more tips on getting the most out of your outdoor adventures, take a look at our blog!