Ask A River God: Thoughts On Packing

Ask A River God: Thoughts On Packing
Got a burning question about rafting trips? A catalog can only cover so much, then it’s time to Ask A River God. Send us your questions, and we’ll put our guides and staff to the test!


Thanks for the opportunity to ask the guides (gods) a couple questions. My wife and I have a trip from Phantom Ranch to Whitmore Wash coming up at the end of July. I believe we’re ready as far as having all the items recommended on the packing list. My question is, as a guide what are some additional items have you seen travelers bring that made you say, “Wow, that was a great idea to bring?”

— Troy & Kathy Blair

Jeffe Aronson

Dear Troy & Kathy:

You’re going to have a ball. Show up in shorts, sneakers, sunhat and sunglasses, and the world will be your oar-ster. Don’t fret about what you’ll absolutely need or else. Once you’re down there, everything will drop away. €“I’ve even seen teenage girls forget about their cell phones.

OARS has spent years putting together a great list of stuff. That said, some things you might never use (say, for example, your million-dollar Patagonia raincoat if there’s no rain on your trip). Some things might have been handy if we’d only known you like to crochet whilst listening to Beethoven running backwards.

What’s critical will be that you keep your eyes open, your spirit free, and your attitude ready to appreciate the most incredible place on the planet.

With those caveats, here’s some hints that might help you through a Grand Canyon trip:

  • Imagine how many beers you might drink while barbecuing prawns on the barbie on a hot day. Multiply that by how many days you’ll be down there. Bring just a smidgen extra for the new friends you’re going to make. (Guides can be your friend, too.)
  • Bring enough spare batteries for your camera, or even a cable and small backup/solar charger. Also enough memory on your flash card for a couple thousand photos. Seriously.
  • July is monsoon season. It hasn’t hit yet this year, but if it does, you’ll be glad you didn’t ignore the part about bringing GOOD raingear. The K-Mart crap is just that, and will leave you wondering how you got hypothermia in the desert.
  • I bring my Kindle, but any way you like to read, bring just one really good book each. Trade if you finish. You probably won’t. Check out the OARS suggestions regarding the Grand Canyon.
  • Bring some earplugs for the chopper.
  • Bring extra medical scripts, just in case. If you tend to get “cold sores,” bring a lot of lysine (an amino acid available in the vitamin section). Pound it before and during. Your lips will thank you for this little miracle.
  • Make sure all your eyeglasses and hats have a string or clip to attach to your life jacket. May the wind at your back not be your own.
  • Bring face wash pads. Comes in handy for when you get in late to camp and don’t want to bathe in the beautiful, frigid Colorado. They’re not restricted to the face, if you know what I mean.
  • DON’T bring extra snacks. We’re going to gorge you, and the ringtail cats and ravens just love to tear your tent or bag open when they smell that Ghirardelli’s chocolate. Then we get to patch your stuff, and stow your extras where we keep our dirty socks.
  • If you’re knees are a bit fragile when pounding them with a hammer for 5 hours, consider walking sticks for the hike down. Takes 20% of the stress off your knees. You can stow them for the rest of the trip if you want. Eat calcium-magnesium tablets like candy for a week before your hike, and practice hiking downhill a lot. Then you won’t need as much Ibuprofen when you get to the bottom.

My best advice? It’ll be hot. Bring a good, Zen-like attitude. It’s the desert. Forget the rest of the world exists. They didn’t name it the Grand Canyon for nothing.

— River God

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