Living your best river life: How to Prepare for a White Water River Trip 

by Rica Fulton

Westwater White Water

Summer is a time for rejuvenation, relaxation, and adventure. Luckily, river trips provide perfect doses of sublime scenery, exhilarating whitewater, and chances to explore wild and rugged canyons. Multi-day rafting trips allow stress to flow downstream along with pine needles, and brainwaves to slow down for a much-needed break from computer screens and rush hour. Perhaps now, more than any other time, our attention spans are split between infinite fast-paced commitments, making opportunities to slow down a rare treat.

River trips can be the ultimate way to achieve paramount leisure and revitalization; but for many first-timers, or even seasoned river rafters, feeling relaxed is not a given. Dropping everyday comforts to travel into the wilderness; such as your bed, cell phone, or family members (the furry ones too!), can be stressful in itself. Guides are trained to provide mouth-watering food and row guests through whitewater safely, but being outside 24/7 under the sun in unfamiliar conditions can be foreboding, even to the most adventurous individuals.

*Let our staff know of any special accommodations in order to help mitigate your trip stress! 

Knowing how to prepare to stay comfortable is necessary to ensure the best-possible river trip. I’ve compiled a list of some personal gear, and some tips I have learned over years of rafting to maximize comfort levels while on the water, and in camp.

Personal Gear

A major part of feeling comfortable on a raft and at camp means coming prepared with the gear you need. Holiday will provide a packing list and ensure everyone is taken care of, however, over the years I have discovered a few items that help maximize every river trip experience. You’ll want to make sure to pack for a variety of weather. While a majority of our trips take place during the summer months, that is no guarantee for nice weather. A spare thermal layer, rain jacket, good wool socks, and hat can save you a lot of heartache. 

  • Sunglasses & Chums (and a backup pair!):

This may seem like a no-brainer, but bringing comfortable sunglasses and a strap to keep them on your neck is crucial. I have also seen many sunglasses stay in the river for a longer swim after their owner jumped off a raft to cool off, and seen pairs buried in sand and stepped on in camp to break in half. So throwing in an extra pair is always a good idea, plus you may save someone else’s day, too.

  • A sun shirt:

How to Prepare for your River TripA light-weight, long-sleeve shirt is crucial in order to stay cool and save your skin from burning. You can buy these from Holiday’s store, or just use an old thin cotton button-down that lives in the back of your closet.  

  • Sunscreen:

While we boast some of the most stunning vistas in the country here in Utah, we also boast some of the most consistent summer sunshine.  Be sure to stock up, and check the ‘SPF’ rating.  The higher, the better.  And don’t worry- if you forget to bring some, we have some at our Holiday River Expeditions gift shop.

  • Face Wipes & lotion:

In everyday life, I wouldn’t recommend packaged face wipes because they are wasteful. However, after a long day on the water, pulling one of these out of your bag and wiping sunscreen and sand off your face is SO glorious. To complete your skincare routine, your skin will be thirsty after a day under the sun, so don’t forget some hydrating lotion for the end of the day.

  • A pillow:

One amazing thing about river trips is the space for gear, so don’t be afraid to pack your favorite pillow to be as comfortable as possible while the river lulls you to sleep at night. And remember, there is one included in Holidays Sleeping Rental Kit! 

Taking off wet shoes or sandals, and changing to dry ones, is an amazing feeling. Some examples are flip-flops, tennis shoes, or comfortable slip-ons.

  • A book or journal:

It can be hard to break away from the laughter and stories of the group, but jotting down your experience or becoming immersed in your favorite novel is a great way to maximize relaxation on any river trip.

  • A river map:

Before your trip, it is empowering to purchase a river map to become aware of what awaits you. Scope out campsites, side hikes, and rapids you will encounter. This will help alleviate uncertainty and allow you to ask guides informed questions about the trip.    

 Reading in Westwater

Mental Preparation

Before the trip, sit down and think about what weather, situations, and experiences await. By taking time and space to visualize different scenarios, you will be better prepared to enjoy yourself on the river trip.

  • Check the weather.

Weather in the west is as variable as a sleep-deprived toddler’s mood, so, forecasts should be taken with a grain of salt. However, if you notice a chance of rain for an afternoon and it does end up sprinkling, you will inevitably feel more prepared.  

  • Most trips have some days going through rapids.

Whitewater can be intimidating, and rivers should always be respected, but guides are trained to safely navigate these sometimes formidable features. The morning before going through a rapid ask your guide a few questions: How was this rapid formed? How do you decide where to go in the rapid? Being overall more informed can allow you to embrace the adrenaline and enjoy the ride – there is nothing like the euphoria after that last wave!

  • Recognize that rafting demands the use of muscles that your body doesn’t always use every day.

Come up with a few stretches that you can do each morning to mitigate any soreness.

River trips are one of the most special and magical ways to experience the outdoors (i’m not biased, I promise!). Analogous to a big presentation in front of co-workers, however, preparation is the key to success. Taking some time before the trip to think about how to prepare, and what you need will exponentially increase happiness and contentment on your upcoming river trip.    


Rica Fulton Writer FacilitatorRica Fulton is from beautiful southwest Colorado and was raised in the canyon walls of the Colorado River Basin. She enjoys rowing boats, laughing, reading books, getting lost outside and writing about rivers and public lands in the West. She is also the Upper Green River Keeper! Check back here for more musings from Rica.