by Julie Trevelyan


Going on a river rafting trip means packing the right stuff. The very top of your list should include sense of adventure, sense of fun, sense of humor, and willingness to laugh often and happily. Of course, Holiday provides a detailed packing list for each river trip participant. But it’s also helpful—and fun!—to know what the essentials boil down to, so you can look like a real pro even if it’s your first time ever on a river. Check your list twice and make sure to grab everything on these top five most important things to bring on your whitewater vacation.

1) Swimsuit. Let’s face facts here: on a river trip, you’re going to get wet. Which is a big part of the reason why you’re going in the first place! Picking a great bathing suit is key. You want something that will stay on in bumpy water. Ladies, this means avoiding the string bikini, and gents, leave the super baggy trunks at home—strong water can pull both such items right off. For women, it’s usually most comfortable to wear swim trunks or quick-dry synthetic shorts over your actual bathing suit bottom. Bonus tip: during colder weather, synthetic long underwear, pants, top, and jacket such as fleece are more practical to keep yourself warmer and therefore happier.

2) Sunscreen. Ye olde sun is mighty strong on the rivers out West. You’ll be in the sun all day, every day. The sunlight will reflect off the water, find every centimeter of exposed skin on the top of your head, and somehow manage to turn pink even the skin you thought was hidden beneath your shorts. Even on a cloudy day, those UV rays will be burning right through the faint misty barrier, so slather it on. Sunscreen: it’s for your fragile epidermis. Bonus tip: fried lips hurt. Pack along lip balm with SPF.

3) Footwear. Repeat after me: only newbies wear flip flops on a river trip. Why? One or both of them is guaranteed to float away downstream quicker than you can say, “Oh, noes!,” and it will probably happen during the first day. You need shoes that hang onto your tootsies for dear life. Water sandals (Keen, Chaco, Teva to name some well known brands), water shoes, or comfy old sneakers are your best bets. Bonus tip: bring socks to turn your water shoes or sandals into hiking shoes for some of those gorgeous side trip hikes from camp.


4) Your favorite snack. Holiday will keep you well fed, but you’ll feel more settled into the trip (especially if it’s your first time) if you have your favorite munchies on the boat with you. Whether you like to chow down on black licorice vines, bright orange cheese crackers shaped like animals, shiny red Macintosh apples, raw sprouted almonds dipped into homemade hummus, or handfuls of chocolate coated in hard candy shells, bring ’em along and enjoy during the slow sections. Bonus tip: bring enough to share with your boat companions. Snacks make good bribes. (Kidding!) Bringing extra also goes for your beverage of choice, because it’s just nice to share the bounty.

5) Ziploc bags. Why? Because different sizes hold almost everything you need them to hold: snacks, dirty socks, your river journal, extra waterproofing for your camera, personal hygiene supplies like toothbrush and toothpaste, anything you particularly want to seal off from getting wet. They’re practically weightless, take up almost no extra room, and come in handy when you least expect. It’s also helpful to be able to see what you’re looking for so you can more quickly find it as you dig through your river bag. In this case, plastic is your friend. Bonus tip: the bags that seal simply by just pressing together can be a better bet; the ones with a “zipper” that you slide tend to have the little plastic tab break off more easily after being constantly stuffed in with your other gear.


Tell us what your river essentials are?  Or non-essential but can’t leave home without?


Written by Julie Trevelyan.

Julie is a freelance writer and wilderness guide in southern Utah. She especially enjoys books, coffee, yoga, wild country, horses, and dark chocolate.

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