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The Boathouse Blog

What To Pack On A White Water Rafting Trip

Ready for an adventure of a lifetime? White water rafting is an amazing experience full of moments of excitement and awe in the great outdoors. It’s best to come prepared for your trip so you can enjoy yourself no matter what may be in store.

Many outfitters, like Winding Waters River Expeditions, provide premium rafting and camping equipment, including life jackets, dry bags, tents, sleeping pads, and more. However, you are responsible for your own personal items.

What should you pack for a white water rafting trip? That depends on the type of trip, time of year, and length of the trip. However, there are a few essentials for white water rafting you can’t do without no matter what kind of trip you take.

We’ve put together a detailed packing list that you can download here, or continue reading for a great overview of what you need to bring on your river rafting adventure.

Clothing To Pack For A White Water Rafting Trip

One of the first things you’ll need to pack is the clothing you will wear on your rafting trip. As a general rule, try to avoid cotton clothing. Cotton tends to get cold when wet — and you’ll definitely be getting wet — so avoid cotton in every season.

The clothing you pack will generally depend on the weather, but here are a few clothing-related items you will need to bring no matter what time of year you go rafting:

  • River Shoes – Wear sturdy sandals with straps that are designed for watersports. Flip flops won’t cut it!
  • Camp “Slippers” – You’ll need dry shoes to wear around camp to keep your feet safe and warm. Remember, mornings can be cold even in the summer!
  • Extra Plastic Bag for Wet Clothes – You can use a trash bag or a large ziplock. Keep your wet clothes separate from your dry clothes so everything doesn’t end up soggy.
  • Set of dry clothes – After a day getting splashed on the river, you’re going to want something nice and dry to change into.

For warm and sunny weather, be sure to pack:

  • Quick-dry shorts or bathing suit
  • Synthetic shirt (quick-drying, non-cotton material)
  • Long-sleeved sun shirt
  • Sun-blocking hat – Bring a brimmed hat to protect your face from the sun
  • Sunglasses – Don’t forget a retainer strap

For cool, cold, or rainy weather, be sure to pack:

  • Top outer layer, such as a windproof and waterproof jacket
  • Bottom outer layer, such as windproof and waterproof pants
  • Sweater, jacket, or sweatshirt (fleece or wool recommended)
  • Warm hat – tin, snug
  • Synthetic or wool socks
  • Synthetic long sleeve shirt(s) and top layers
  • Synthetic long underwear or leggings

Personal Items To Pack For A White Water Rafting Trip

Water Bottle

Water is your best friend on your river vacation. It’s not just carrying you down the river, it’s also hydrating your body and keeping you healthy. We recommend Hydro Flask water bottles, which are specially designed to keep your water cold. Whatever water bottle you bring, it’s a good idea for it to have a carabiner so you can easily clip it to the raft and other gear for easy access.


Nothing ruins a good outdoor vacation like a sunburn. If there’s one personal item you can’t do without on a white water rafting trip, it’s sunblock. Bring along a container of long-lasting, waterproof, and sweatproof sunblock, along with a sun-blocking hat and chapstick with SPF. We apply early and often on the river!


With Winding Waters River Expeditions you will enjoy sustainable, locally grown foods during meal times, but in between you may want to have something to snack on. Only bring snacks that are light to carry and don’t require cold or hot storage.

Soap, Lotion, and Toiletries

At the end of the day, you’ll probably want to wash off that “river feeling.” Bring along some soap (we recommend Dr. Bronner’s) and other basic toiletries to clean up after a long, adventure-filled day. Lotion is also a great idea to bring some moisture back to your sun-soaked skin. Don’t forget to throw any medications you need into your toiletry bag too!

Fun Items To Pack For A White Water Rafting Trip

In addition to the essentials like clothing and gear, you may want to pack a few fun items to enjoy during your free time camping along the river.

Here are a few extra items you may want to consider bringing:

  • Camping hammock
  • Swimming goggles or snorkel gear
  • Binoculars
  • Star gazing guides
  • Playing cards
  • Flashlight or headlamp

Just be sure your extra items are small, light, and easy to pack!

The Not-To-Pack List For White Water Rafting Trips

Almost as important as knowing what to bring on a white water rafting trip is knowing what not to bring. Some items and white water rafting just don’t mix. The last thing you want is to lose or damage your personal belongings, especially valuable personal belongings. Keep in mind, your stuff (and yourself) will be exposed to the great outdoors, so don’t bring anything you don’t want to put at risk.

Here are a few items you should definitely leave at home:

  • Electronics (laptop, iPad, iPod, etc.)
  • Expensive jewelry
  • Expensive eyewear

If you do choose to bring electronics like your smartphone or camera, make sure you have a dependable waterproof case to reduce the risk of damage.

Get Packing and Get Going!

More often than not, our white water rafting guests find that they overpack for the trip rather than underpack. As long as you have the essential items appropriate for your trip length and weather conditions, you should be just fine.

Remember, with Winding Waters River Expeditions, you are lead by experienced, full-service guides. They will make sure you are well-equipped and prepared to enjoy a trip of a lifetime. The most important things you can bring are your spirit of adventure and sense of wonder.

If you have any questions about what to bring on your rafting trip, feel free to contact Winding Waters River Expeditions by phone or email and we’ll help you with everything you need. You can also grab our detailed packing list here to print out and mark up as you prepare for your trip.