Planning & Packing for River Trip

By Denise Oblak

Long before you embark on your river trip, you'll want to consider what items you'll need to ensure a safe and comfortable experience. While most outfitters provide you a detailed packing list, below are some general questions to consider in refining your packing plan.

Lodore Canyon What time of year are you planning to go?

Packing for early season (March through May) or late season (September through November) river trips means bringing more stuff! That's because the weather conditions vary, requiring the need to pack for warm sunny days as well as cold, rainy (or possibly snowy) days. The water temperatures will also be cooler during the early and late seasons. Trips in the main seasons (June through August) typically require fewer cold-weather items in your duffel; check with your outfitter to be sure.

How much weight/bulk will your outfitter allow?

Because of storage space restrictions on some rafts or kayaks, your outfitter may allow passengers to bring only a limited number of items. Some companies recommend limiting your gear to what will fit into a standard sized duffel bag, usually about 28" x 14" x 14". This makes choosing the right items even more important.

What type of river craft will you be riding?

This is important because some boats are inherently "splashier" than others. You'll get much wetter paddling an inflatable kayak than you will riding in a motorized J-rig. If you're planning to run a river section that has a lot of big rapids, or if you're going to be paddling a self-bailing inflatable kayak, you may want to get a wetsuit, splash gear or a good quality rain suit for your trip. Often, people don't have this gear in their closet, so many outfitters offer them for rent. Inquire about this option.

What type of river segment are you planning to run?

Your packing needs will be different for a calm water canoe trip than they would be for class V whitewater run. Since you'll most likely get drenched in the rapids of the whitewater section, you'll want to be prepared with a wetsuit or quality rain suit, especially during the colder seasons. Ask your outfitter for their recommendation.

What safety equipment will I need?

Typically, the outfitter will provide all the safety equipment that you need, but always ask about this. These items would include a personal floatation device, (otherwise know as a PFD or life jacket) and a helmet, especially for those who plan to paddle an inflatable kayak or a paddle raft.

What materials/fabrics are best suited for water sports?

Advanced high-tech materials have contributed greatly to the comfort of today's rafting and kayaking enthusiasts by offering qualities, such as lightweight, ability-to-breath, and water and wind repellency all-in-one fabric. One such "wonder fabric" is Gore-tex, which is often used in outerwear such as parkas or shells. It makes an excellent layering component. There are a number of companies manufacturing this type of fabric with different trade names.

Another great stride for water-related activities is Supplex, a lightweight, nylon-type of fabric that dries extremely fast. You'll find this fabric used in all types of activewear including river shorts, wind shirts and shells.

Another wonderful material for all types of outdoor activities are fleeces. Made of synthetic fabric (polyester), and sometimes even out of recycled plastic soda pop bottles, it comes in a variety of weights that offer superior insulating capabilities and quick drying characteristics. It makes an excellent layering component.

What personal hygiene products are recommended for river trips?

The answer: biodegradable products. Often, river trips take place in remote wilderness areas and within delicate ecosystems so any products you plan to use while on the river should be formulated not to harm the environment. There are many brands available such as "Camp Suds," or "Dr. Bonner's Soap" and a new product called, "No Rinse Body Wash and Shampoo," originally developed by NASA for use by astronauts. These products are generally found at outdoor specialty stores.

What about camping equipment?

Some outfitters include camping equipment (tents, sleeping bags and ground pads) in the cost of their trips. Others break the cost out of the trip rate and offer rental equipment to passengers who need it. Ask your outfitter about their policy.

Regardless of when you come or the length of the trip you take, rafting on a Utah river will be fun and an experience long remembered. Good planning only enhances those memories. See you on the river!

Suggested Packing List

Information courtesy of Utah Guides & Outfitters Association.

Back to top Print this page E-mail this page