The Best Treasures to Find Hidden in Your Pack

The little joys of prepping your gear for rafting season

It might be winter, and I might be buried under three feet of snow, but my river itch is multiplying with each drop of melted snow filling our glorious rivers.

So, what’s a person to do in the midst of all the powder you don’t really know how to ski, and all the knitting you don’t really know how to do?

Organize gear, of course.

Not just the oh-so-necessary pre-spring clean that entails mopping floors and purging closets, but the very best type of cleaning: gear preparation.

At the end of the season, with sore fingers and sun-blistered cheeks, my half-hearted attempt to organize disintegrates into piles of sopping long underwear and gritty dry bags. I shrug, shove it in drawers, and head to the coffee shop.

Not so before rafting season.

Stoke is high, my fingers are full of sparks, and I am ready for whitewater.

The 4 Best Pieces of Trash to Have in Your Pack

I approach the piles with excitement, and only briefly turn to trepidation when I realize the enormity of my task. Many seasons of guiding has helped me hone a modicum of an organizational system, but gear is still randomly strewn between dressers, closets, car trunks, garages, and other people’s homes.

I relish it.

Each item I discover in the process reminds me of a joy from the previous season, no matter how slight.

1) Candy wrappers

It’s hard to go wrong with highly processed sugar, am I right? Especially if a guest gifted you that saintly Snickers during hour six of pushing into the wind. One bite of caramel-peanut-nougat-chocolate goodness, and suddenly your quivering muscles are fortified, your brittle fingernails and nerves are soothed, and a glorious camp appears.

2) Someone else’s trash

Sometimes people leave behind reminders they were there, accidental or not. What’s a river lover to do? Leave No Trace, of course! On a river trip, this tends to be infinitely easy. If a trash receptacle isn’t readily available, just shove it in the pack of your favorite friend or guide! Upon rediscovering this crumpled trash, they’ll appreciate the reminder of how great a steward they (you) are (were).

The 4 Best Pieces of Trash to Have in Your Pack

3) Melted lip balm

Not just any old ChapStick: your favorite salve from a local purveyor. My personal favorite to smear all over myself is Super Salve. It works even better when the heat has melted it into artistic sculptures that you have to dig out of the tube with your pinky finger. Bonus points if it’s coated in sand (see below).

4) Sand grains

In October, you begrudgingly resigned yourself: I am one with the sand and the sand is one with me. But in February? In February, the sand is a sacrament, a reminder of upcoming river beach fun.

Now it’s time to pack up gear (ever so neatly, of course) and head to the water. Soon you will have other things stuffed into nooks and crannies, unexpected treasures that you will someday look upon and think, “Ah, the great outdoors.”