By Joe Ballent

Whitewater Rafting Trips: How To Pack Your River Bag. Congratulations; you’re about to embark on your river trip.  Whether you are a crafty veteran when it comes to all things whitewater, or an eager newcomer to this amazing world of rapids, this post is for you. After all, it never hurts to focus your packing efforts and refresh on how to make sure all your gear makes it along for the journey.

There are generally three principles to adhere to in packing for a river (or any) trip.


Keep what you need most and soonest near the top of your pack.  Your sleeping bag, pillow, nighttime toiletries, teddy bear, etc. should live near the bottom of the pack. Whereas sunscreen and changes of clothes should be near the top where you won’t have to rummage for them when they’re needed.


This one applies much more to back country backpacking, when a bag will be loading your spine for miles and hours at a time. Depending on how much of a backpacking perfectionist you are, you’d want your pack to be able to stand alone on its base without additional support or balance.  However, since your river bag will be strapped onto a boat rather than on your back all day, this becomes much less crucial in a river trip context.


Space is definitely something that matters on a river trip; both from standpoints of packing efficiency as well as comfort.  Whether you’re extremely organized or prefer the smash-it-all-in method, do what you can to minimize your gear explosion factor.  A tightly packed river bag lends itself to easy transport and storage. When there’s gear for 25 people for five days on six boats, space management becomes increasingly crucial.

In keeping with a commitment to the highest quality overall experience, Holiday provides proven field gear to guests.  Our river bags are intuitively designed for easy use and maximum effectiveness. They’re meant for keeping water out and dryness in.  Once you’ve stuffed your bag to the gills (pardon the water pun), it’s time to close it up. Align the top sides of the bag with each other so that there is a loose initial seal, but not so much snugness that air is sealed into the bag.  Press down and out on the top of the bag, forcing air out to increase space efficiency and decrease the likelihood of puncture.  Once you’ve forced all the air out, roll the top of the bag out, down, and away from you. Finally, buckle the sides and cinch them down for a full waterproof seal.  Your guide will be more than happy to help you with this process. The first time around can be a little tricky, particularly if you are unfamiliar with river bags.


For even more great tips on packing, check out our new “How To Pack” Video! 

You’re one step closer to being on the boat and casting off for unknown shores. We wish you the best and hope to see you on the river soon!


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.