15 Essentials for Maximum River Trip Comfort

Your river trip is just a few days away and you’ve finally had the chance to look at the packing list. Naturally, your first thought is “do I really need all of this?” The short answer: Yes. But your essentials will be a little different for summer rafting in the Grand Canyon than for Idaho rafting in spring. So with that, here are a few suggested essentials for maximizing your comfort both on and off the water in every type of trip setting…

Spring Rafting in the Mountains

15 Essentials for River Trip Comfort

Hoody – Cotton, synthetic, fleece, wool, down—whatever material your hoody is made out of, bring it. We love Patagonia’s Nano Puff Hoody because it’ll keep you warm, but it’s lightweight, water resistant, and compactable.

Quick-Dry Undies – Let’s be real, what you wear down there can determine how you feel overall. ExOfficio’s Give-N-Go line of underwear—men’s /women’s, boxers or briefs—come in many forms and are compact, odor resistant, moisture-wicking, quick-drying, light weight and comfortable. Best underwear ever? You be the judge.

Beanie (or Toque for You Canadians) – Bed head in the morning? No problem. Cold ears around the campfire? Not even on your radar. A beanie not only helps you retain heat, but can also help you hide the fact you haven’t washed your hair in four days.

Long Underwear – If you remember anything from this list while packing, long underwear should be that thing. It can be worn as an extra insulating layer on the boat, and dry out fast enough to keep you warm in camp.

Your Favorite Whiskey – Is there really any better way to warm up after a long day on the river?

Somewhere in Between

15 Essentials for Maximum River Trip Comfort

Cotton Snap-down Shirt – Easy to throw on, lightweight and super fashionable. What else could you ask for in river attire?

Cotton Dress and/or Jeans – While we wouldn’t recommend wearing your Levi’s on the raft, when you get to camp few feelings are as good as slipping into a (dry) comfortable pair of jeans or a lightweight, packable travel dress. It’s always a welcome change from the damp, synthetic layers you’ve been sporting all day.

Body Wipes – When the closest shower may be 3 days away, you (and your travelling companions) will thank us for this recommendation.

Sarong – Sarongs are so unbelievably diverse they have become a must-have on all river trips for men and women alike. Use it for privacy while changing, or as a beach towel, a blanket, a pillow, a skirt, a bandage, a head dress…the possibilities are endless!

Something Sweet – Have you been holding onto that gourmet, 90% Cocoa chocolate bar, needing an excuse to take in the extra calories? Here’s your chance to seize the day!

A Summer River Trip in Canyon Country

Essential Comfort for River Trips

UPF-Rated Sun Shirt – While there are many synthetic sport shirts that boast the ability to protect you from the sun’s UV rays, not all of them can keep you cool as well. Columbia’s Omni-Freeze Zero shirts feature a built in sweat activated cooling mechanism that reacts with sweat to lower the temperature of the fabric.

Flip Flops – We love Chaco Flips because of their grippy, rugged soles and various strap options, but any decent pair of flip flops will do when you reach camp and want to give your feet a chance to dry out and breathe.

Wide Brimmed Sun Hat – Portable shade is never a bad thing when you’re outdoors in the sun. Protect yourself from the harmful UV rays, and score style points while you’re at it.

Moisturizing Cream – Rotating through the wet-dry cycle that is a river trip will likely wreak some havoc on your hands. We love all-natural Super Salve that both moisturizes and works to heal minor cuts and abrasions.

Your Favorite Craft Brew – Who doesn’t like to represent where they’re from, and what better way than to bring along a selection of your favorite microbrew from back home (to share of course)?


Related Articles:

The Worst Gear for Rafting Trips

Early Season River Rafting: Layering 101

Top 5 Gear Essentials for a Rafting Trip


  • As a decade plus river guide in all climates, I’d add a couple of things to this list. Spring Mountain Boating-thick wool socks and rain boots. Wool socks are super versatile, they can provide an extra measure of warmth on the water, and nothing feels better than socks on your feet around the campfire. They go great under river sandals (this is the one time and place where this is acceptable!). And nothing is worse then crawling out of your tent to go do your early morning business to find that the midnight sprinkle turned camp into a swampland. Rain boots keep your feet warm, dry and mud free, making an easy return to your sleeping bag for a few more minutes of sleep.
    Summer Canyon Boating-While everyone loves a cold brewski at the end of the day (especially if you bring one to share) your guides will be silently cursing you if yours come in glass. Go for the cans, they are much easier and safer to pack out (think crushable and not breakable) and cans will have a greater chance of making it to camp each day in a drinkable state.
    Last tip: Limit the amount of cotton clothing you bring in all types of boating adventures. Wet cotton (water or sweat) does not do a body good!

    • Cari_Morgan

      Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

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