By Joe Ballent

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 and rafts, 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.  In order, are your things…

Accessible: 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 during long river days and side hikes, whereas sunscreen and changes of clothes should be near the top where you won’t have to rummage for them when they’re needed.

Balanced: This one applies much more to backcountry 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.

Compressed: 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, and 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 prior to their trips.  Our river bags are intuitively designed for easy use and maximum effectiveness in keeping water out and dryness in.  Once you’ve stuffed your bag to the gills (pardon the water pun) and have everything you need for your trip (rain gear, sleeping bag, sunscreen, changes of clothes, sunglasses… did we miss anything?) 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 buckling the sides and cinching them down for a full waterproof seal.  Your guide will be more than happy to help you with this process as the first time around can be a little tricky, particularly if you are unfamiliar with river bags.

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.

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