You have only one dry bag…don’t get carried away!

My first raft trip was pretty rough. I didn’t bring chapstick so my lips looked like cracked cement by the end of the trip. They hurt even worse. To spare you all the confusion, anxiety and yes, pain, here are some things I’ve learned to pack that come in handy when preparing for a white water adventure.

1. Good River Shoes

The cheap slip on things and flip flops just don’t cut it when it comes to walking on slippery river rocks.  My advice: Spend the bucks and invest in sturdy river shoes with a good tread. Chaco, Teva, and Keen get the job done. Karlene Cameron, romance novelist fishing with her husband.

2. Lotion/Sunscreen
Sun, sand, and constant wet to dry to wet really do a number on your skin. Having some GOOD lotion handy in your overnight bag fixes the dry situation, soothes sunburned skin, and conveniently freshens up that river musk at the end of the day. Don’t forget sunscreen, chapstick and aloe gel (in case you do get sunburned!)

3. Extra Plastic Bag for Wet Clothes
Wet clothes and dry clothes in one rafting bag strangely ALL become ‘moist’ clothes by the end of the day. If you put all your wet clothes in a plastic bag and seal it, it can prevent the ‘not so dry’ situation in your bag on night two. Note: Don’t forget to take the wet stuff out to dry when you’re at camp the next night, otherwise you may be relegated to navigating the water in a one-man kayak…far away from others in your group.

4. Camp ‘Slippers’
Your rafting shoes are wet, the sand is cold in the morning. You want something to keep your little tootsies warm (and safe) at camp. I love a pair of canvas tennis shoes with socks. What you need is something warm and dry-preferably with a sole- for the sometimes chilly mornings on the river.

5. For the ladies… a Sarong
Why bring a big bulky towel that collects sand like the Sahara? Sarongs are less than a quarter of the size and work as a towel, portable changing room, blanket to sit on, skirt, shower curtain, and a cool piece of headgear. 

6. Personal Mug/Cup (With Carabiner) and Mix-ins for Your Favorite Cocktail or Beverage

Whether you like a nice cup of Joe in the morning, cocktails at the end of a day, or refills of water in the hot sun, you will need to bring a mug. I prefer the versatility of a travel mug and I like to have a handle (that way I can clip it to the raft via a carabiner so it won’t go swimming). On that same note, bring whatever beverages you want to consume. Ice is at a premium, so think of things that will taste great luke warm…

And, oh yeah, no glass on board the rafts!

Other Things to bring…

I’ve learned a few things in the few trips I’ve been on…most the hard way! Below are my list of favorite things (move over, Oprah)!

Rain coat or rain gear —doubles as a guard against splashes on the raft on a chilly day. Beer/soda koozie, Ibuprofen, book/journal/cards, and my favorite warm hoodie/fuzzy for camp- Even in the heat of the summer, it’s cold in the morning.

Head Lamp, not flashlight– If you’re holding a flashlight, you can’t use one of your hands to do anything else (very frustrating).

Things to do — For many of us, (myself included), the thought of being away from my cell phone, Kindle, personal laptop and videos can leave me in a cold sweat. But there are great things to do on the raft trip that are perfect alternatives to our electronic lifestyle including reading a print book. I happen to know a couple of kick-ass romance novels (insert shameless self promotion here). Other things you may want to bring include playing cards, small games (gear up for a rousing game of pass the pigs,) journal or notebook, and/or fishing rod/gear, license, and bait.Dark Awakening and Dark Gathering by romance novelist, Karlene Cameron

Below is the packing list I recommend:

Clothing List

  • Swimsuits: May be worn as a first layer (Ladies, I like two piece because of the bathroom situation. Skirts can be worn over bottoms.) I generally bring 3 suits for a one week float.
  • Shorts: quick drying shorts can double as a swimsuit for men.
  • Water sport sandals (i.e. Chaco)
  • Camera (be sure to bring extra batteries); If you use your cell phone, you may want to bring a recharging stick that is fully charged and a water proof case.
  • Socks: Polypropylene or wool
  • Shirts: long sleeved is best for sun protection. REI makes GREAT river shirts for men and women.
  • Sweater or jacket: Fleece or Wool
  • Sweats/lounge pants for evening
  • Baseball cap or visor (with strap) for sun protection
  • Bandana/buff

Gear List: 

  • Small camp pillow
  • Camp chair
  • Water bottle with carabiner
  • headlamp
  • Sunglasses with Croakies
  • Bandana
  • Insect repellant
  • Small towels and toiletries (Ladies, skip the makeup!) If you plan to bathe in the river, please bring eco-friendly soap. I like Campsuds, but there are several choices.
  • Baseball cap or visor (with strap) for sun protection
  • Medications
  • Large zip lock bags for wet gear
  • Sunscreen/ lip balm
  • Moisturizer/Skin lotion
  • Wet Wipes
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • (Optional): Blow-up mattress (remind me to tell you the funny story around this. Suffice it to say, you should NOT blow this up during the heat of the day!)

NOTE: You will want to bring a first aid kit, kitchen cooking supplies, bathroom supplies and a community sun shelter and sun shower.

A Few Tips for the Packing Process
When it comes time to actually pack, it’s sometimes hard to decide exactly what to bring. I like to lay everything out first on a large area like a bed. Once I have everything laid out, I go through the items with a critical eye and remove the items I simply won’t need. Remember, you have to heft your dry bag up and down the beach. Exhausting! Not to mention, your sleeping bag, pillow, blow up mattress, etc. has to fit inside and then your clothes!  A great tip I learned along the way is to roll my clothes and pack like items into large ziplock bags- to save space and ensure dryness.

I may have forgotten a few things, so if there are other items, or favorites that you want to share, send me an email or comment below!