By Joe Ballent

Your river trip holds the promise of unforgettable, life-altering experiences.  No matter what, you’ll be immersed in some of the most devastatingly beautiful landscapes known to the planet. And you’ll be interacting with them on a personal level.  That said, a few seemingly small and easily-forgotten items can either add or subtract an edge from the memories you take away from your trip.  Whether or not you slathered on that extra gob of sunscreen after breakfast, you’ll still enjoy the rush of gushing rapids and breath-taking sandstone cliffs.  However, if your nose and shoulders are stinging with sunburn the whole plane ride home, you might be less inclined to be able to fully embrace the joyfulness of your newfound memories while nursing blisters.


Extra sunscreen –

Given that this was our primary example, it seems the most obvious first choice.  It’s always best to err on the side of plenty when it comes to sunscreen.  Keep in mind that what functions to keep you covered on a less aquatically-inclined trip might not be sufficient in quantity to keep you burn-free in the deep southern desert.  Not only is the sun relentless, but if you’re an active participant in river life that means you’re regularly getting wet. Getting wet often tends to wash the layers off, which means diligence of re-application is key in avoiding burns.  It can’t hurt to have too much sunscreen!



As a rule, cheap gas station sunglasses outlast expensive name-brands by a ratio of at least ten-to-one.  If you make a last-minute gas station stop on your way to Holiday River Expeditions, grab an inexpensive but effective pair of glasses to stash in your river bag or tuck into your collar.  If your primary pair breaks, it is well worth the relatively small investment to know you won’t be squinting through the rest of your trip.


Wool Socks

Good, wools socks are worth their weight in gold on any river expedition that promises rapids and flirts with the idea of cool nighttime weather (hint; this is most river trips).  Although synthetic socks may be your preference depending on your athletic or recreational background, they lack a distinct advantage over wool socks. Wool socks insulate and keep you warm even when wet.  Multiple pairs can’t hurt; after all, nobody has ever returned from a river trip saying, “I wish I hadn’t brought those extras socks.”


Extra camera battery, SD card

The age of compact and tough digital cameras has made it possible for you to capture virtually any standstill moment of your trip for posterity.  One of the worst feelings is realizing that your battery is dead halfway through your trip, or that your memory storage card is chock full of memories that you don’t want to erase to make room for new ones.  Bring extra camera juice and storage to ensure you don’t lose a precious moment in time.



River Map –

Purchasable at the Holiday River Expeditions store, our Belknap river maps feature topography, historical and geological facts, and more.  Guides are required to have these maps on trips, but I’ve found that guests reliably request to follow along or even attempt to pinpoint the trip’s position on a map for fun.  With water-resistant pages filled with tidbits of local knowledge, the river maps make a great takeaway from the trip as well.


Quick-dry shirt –

From a synthetic-fiber performance t-shirt from your local sporting goods store to a full button-down river crew shirt, it’s always nice to have something that can quickly return you to a dry state. Especially after a thorough splashing in the rapids, particularly if the sun is hiding behind clouds or a canyon wall that day.


By no means is this the end-all list of river trip forget-me-nots; but it’s a good start.  Be sure to double-check your pack before heading out into the desert.  Either way it will be a good trip, but why not make sure you have the amenities too?  Go With The Flow!



Joe Ballent found the river- or it found him –when he was only 16.  He began guiding with Holiday in 2008 and has enjoyed the unique privilege of getting involved with Holiday’s youth trips, including the University of Utah Hospital Burn Camp program.  His writing has been featured on various outdoor online communities including and  Joe works with troubled teens full-time but manages to find trouble around the country and world in his freetime.  He is an outdoorsman by trade, a romantic by choice, a guitarist in a band, and an outlaw in Europe.