The Gal’s Guide to Packing for a Rafting Trip

5 Min. Read
The Girlfriend's Guide to Packing for a Rafting Trip

A Women’s Perspective on Packing for a Rafting Trip

You’ve signed up for a rafting trip, and received your packing list. But something is missing, right? It might be a woman’s perspective.

Now, I’m not recommending you toss the list all together. As a former river guide, I can say with certainty that you’re going to want everything that’s mentioned. After all, it’s on the packing list for a reason.  But no packing list is ever a one-size-fits-all document. So, from one woman to another, here’s a bit of insider info. I give you the girlfriend’s guide to packing for a rafting trip…

Woman in a hat packing a bag on a raft.


Easy enough, right? For me, seeing the simple word “shirts” on a packing list isn’t enough. I want to know—and I’m guessing you do too—what kind of shirts, pants, shorts, etc.?

On the river, the key is to wear clothes that will dry quickly, but also keep you warm when they’re wet. In camp, you’ll want items that stay cool and comfortable in hot summer temps or warm and dry in cooler weather. For example, a fashionable skort can be just as practical as a pair of shorts, but can also let your girly side shine.  In camp, feel free to show up for happy hour in a breezy sundress or a flowy skirt instead of pants made out of the same waterproof fabric you’ve been wearing all day. Comfy yoga pants can also feel divine on a cool evening at camp.

For clothing inspiration, check out both REI and Patagonia for great options that are designed for women and made to stand up to outdoor-living. Personally, I like Patagonia’s travel dresses and Kuhl’s Freeflex Skort.  Or for a less expensive option, some ladies prefer a simple sarong, which can be used for sun protection on the raft, worn as a cover-up on the beach, turned into a skirt in the evening, and can even provide a little extra privacy at times.

The Girlfriend's Guide to Packing for a Rafting Trip

Don’t want to wear a soggy swimsuit under your river clothes every day? No problem. Sports bras and quick-dry panties are great alternatives. For performance based, yet still-sassy undies, check out ExOfficio’s Give-N-Go Collection and Under Armour’s Sports Bras. But remember to pack your swimsuit for those times you actually do want to wear it.

And finally, your feet will be extra happy if you bring a pair of flip flops to wear at camp so you don’t have to walk around in soggy river shoes all evening. Many river guides swear by  Chaco Flips.


Ask any river goddess and they’ll tell you: the only true beauty essentials you need to pack for a rafting trip are sunscreen and a water bottle to stay hydrated. While they’re probably right, I’ll admit to needing a little bit more to feel like my best self.

At home, this usually means a shower; but, without the luxury of plumbing, I’ll settle for the next best thing. For me, that’s pre-packaged bathing wipes like Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes. They work like a charm and can be a total game-changer. Your skin will thank you after you wipe away the day’s joyfully-earned sweat and sunscreen before hitting the hay. If you’re planning on bringing soap for washing/bathing, we recommend biodegradable, eco-friendly soaps like Dr. Bronner’s and Campsuds.

The Girlfriend's Guide to Packing for a Rafting Trip

Taking your skin from wet to dry several times a day can really start to feel uncomfortable without a hydrating moisturizer. I like to pack along Mountain Ocean’s Coconut Skin Trip and a couple tubes of lip balm with SPF to keep my skin from drying out.

For your tresses, I recommend throwing in a small bottle of leave-in conditioner (my pick is the It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Product) to battle the inevitable tangles, a few hair ties/headbands, and a hat to take you from “whoa” to “wow” in a matter of seconds. Bonus points for packing your sense of humor.

Your Lady Business

No “Girlfriend’s Guide” would be complete without a mention of good ol’ “Aunt Flo.” Managing your menstruation on the river doesn’t have to be an issue. At camp, each toilet set-up (a.k.a. the groover) will have a trash can next to it, so you can dispose of used products properly—and by properly, I mean in the trash. For the sake of your already hard-working guides, please don’t put them in the groover!

For those away-from-camp times, bring a few Ziploc bags to store your unused products in your personal dry bag. That way, if you need to change things out, you’ll have a place to store the used products until you can get to a proper trash can (there’s always one available at lunch). In your Ziploc “kit,” consider adding a single-use feminine cleansing cloth, because it’s the little things.

Be Yourself

When packing for your trip, I encourage you to bring what makes YOU the most comfortable. Don’t be afraid to throw in some feminine flair, if that’s what makes you happy and helps you feel good! On the river, we get to be ourselves, live the dream, and be proud of exactly who we are: real women.

Photos: James Kaiser, Justin Bailie, Jeffe Aronson

Amanda Willis

Amanda knows that adventure, stories, and outstanding food and drink are best paired with the thrill of a new experience; it's no wonder she works for OARS. Amanda has been on more than 100 river trips throughout the United States and has floated more than 3,000 river miles.

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