aerial shot of a raft in a river with rapids.

Day Trips FAQs

raft of people diving into rapids on a river.

The 1-Day Rafting Experience

A 1-day whitewater rafting trip with OARS includes friendly and professional guides, top-quality equipment, incredible scenery, and big fun. But it’s more than just that. It’s the laughs, the thrills, the stories, and the comfort of knowing you’re in good hands.

The OARS day trip experience is about taking a quick break from the grind, doing something exciting, having fun, and being outside. It’s about getting splashed with cold water on a hot day and laughing so hard you almost fall out of the boat. It’s the anxious feeling you get right before you drop into a big rapid, and the huge smile on your face when you come through on the other side—drenched from head to toe and more alive than you’ve felt in a long time. But more than anything, the OARS day trip experience is about letting loose with your friends or family, and creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Rafting 101: What to Expect on a 1-Day Rafting Trip with OARS


Which 1-day rafting trip is best for me?

When choosing your trip, consider the location, time of year, activity level and age range of your group. OARS offers 1-day trips in California, Utah, and as far away as Fiji with activity levels ranging from leisurely paddles, to adrenaline-pumping experiences. The choice is yours. Call 1-800-346-6277 today to speak with an Adventure Consultant about which trip is right for you.

Are the rafting trips all whitewater?

No. Most rivers are “pool and drop,” meaning there are exciting rapids interspersed with stretches of calm, relaxing floating, allowing you time to soak up the natural serenity. From a casual Class I float to maximum intensity Class IV & V whitewater, the ride itself is a lot of fun.

What kinds of boats & equipment will we be using?

Your trip leader will provide a detailed safety talk and distribute the appropriate gear. On our 1-day rafting trips that means helmets, Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), and paddles. On early-season trips in California and Utah, we also provide wetsuits. OARS’ boats and equipment are top-of-the-line and well maintained.

After a quick gear check (making sure those PFDs are nice and tight!), you’ll hop into a raft with your guide and fellow rafters. Depending on the river you’ll either be in a paddle raft or a paddle raft with oar assist. Sharing a boat for the day is a great chance to bond with your family and friends, or meet new friends. Now the real fun begins. Get ready for some whitewater!

Do we need to book in advance or can we just show up?

OARS requests that our guests reserve their 1-day rafting trip at least a day in advance, but many trips sell out so it’s a good idea to book early. On average, most people reserve their 1-day rafting trip about 30 days in advance. When you reserve your trip, you’ll be sent a link to complete our online registration and acknowledgement of risk forms, which are required to be filled out before participation. These forms are to help you better understand the inherent risks of whitewater rafting and to help us prepare for any dietary restrictions, medical/mobility issues and/or severe allergies.

Will I get seasick?

The chances of getting seasick are very low. River running is not like being on the sea and does not seem to induce seasickness.

Do I need to be young and fit to go?

OARS adventurers range in age from 4 to 84 and older. There are some physical requirements for joining our trips, weight restrictions may apply, and being healthy and reasonably fit certainly makes the experience more rewarding. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip. Persons with various disabilities are welcome on OARS trips, pending a discussion of any special requirements. If you’re in doubt about your level of fitness, we recommend checking with your doctor before you go.

Can I bring young children on a 1-day rafting trip?

OARS invites children as young as six on our 1-day rafting trip adventures, but the minimum age varies from trip to trip and generally goes up in the spring and early summer during high water levels. Please reach out to one of our Adventure Consultants at 1-800-346-6277 if you have questions about bringing young ones on a specific trip.

Can I book a private trip for just me and my friends/family/co-workers?

Yes! However, since we have a limited number of permitted launches for most of our trips, we may require payment for a minimum of 12 to 23 spots on a trip. If you’re interested in a private trip, or even just a private raft for the day, please call 1-800-346-6277 to speak with an Adventure Consultant.

Do I have to know how to swim to go rafting?

You should have the ability to swim 100 yards in flat water while wearing a Personal Flotation Device. All OARS guests must wear our U.S. Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Devices (aka PFDs or life jackets). Should you fall out of your boat, the PFD is designed to float you face up in the water. Before you get into your boat, however, our guides will give a detailed safety talk and show you how to properly “swim” a rapid. Please be advised our Coast Guard approved PFDs are rated to accommodate persons no heavier than 260 pounds and with a chest size no larger than 56 inches. We are experienced at accommodating people of all ages and abilities, including those with no prior swimming experience.

What should I wear and what should I bring?

For day trips with OARS the following items are recommended:

  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen & lip protection
  • Shade hat/visor
  • Sunglasses with securing strap
  • Bathing suit and/or shorts and a quick drying top
  • River/tennis shoes or river sandals with an ankle strap
  • Dry clothes and shoes to change into after your trip

Additionally, on spring and fall trips you should always be prepared for quick-changing weather. Bring layers, and if you can, avoid bringing cotton clothing, which does not keep you warm once it gets wet. On early-season trips in California and Utah, OARS will supply you with a wetsuit.

We encourage you to watch our What to Wear & Bring on a 1-Day Rafting Trip video for more details.

Do we need water bottles?

Yes! Water bottles are essential on a river trip of any length. We recommend bringing at least one1-liter water bottle and insulated bottles are recommended for trips in hot climates to prevent water from becoming too hot from the sun.

Where can we put our water bottles and sunscreen?

All paddle rafts have a mesh bag for water bottles and sunscreen that’s accessible to guests while in the raft.

What kind of shoes should we wear?

The best choice is an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes and won’t come off in swirling current. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heel strap are a good option. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.

Can I bring my phone or camera?

Of course! We typically provide a small waterproof bag on each raft (17” tall x 9” diameter—approximate sealed size) to hold your camera and other items you might need during the day. While these bags are designed to be waterproof, you may wish to place your camera in a zip-lock plastic bag or waterproof casing for additional protection. Guests who choose to bring and use action cameras like GoPros are responsible for them. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.

Can I bring my own life jacket/helmet?

Often agencies that oversee commercial permits or govern certain wilderness areas dictate that guests on commercial rafting trips must wear U.S. Coast Guard approved personal floatation devices that are owned by the outfitter. Additionally, for insurance purposes, we are required to maintain quality control over our PFDs. In rare cases where our PFD doesn’t securely fit a person’s body type, then we can make an exception. The PFD still needs to be U.S. Coast Guard approved for the activity, in good working order, and approved by us. If you have special circumstances and are concerned about your safety, please contact one of our Adventure Consultants at 1-800-346-6277

What about lunch?

Come lunchtime, we’ll pull over to a beach for a delicious picnic. Your guides will lay out an abundant spread of cold cuts, cheeses, veggies and breads, or perhaps a tasty taco salad for roll-your-own burritos. Lunch is always accompanied by fruit, cookies, cold water and lemonade.*

*OARS half-day trips do not include lunch.

What if I have to use the bathroom on a rafting trip?

One of the more mysterious parts of a rafting adventure is the toilet. Before the trip, your trip leader will provide a detailed explanation on the protocol for going to the bathroom on or in the river. On some trips, the lunch stop provides an opportunity to use a conveniently located pit toilet, but this is not guaranteed. We also carry a small container called the “day tripper” that can be easily accessed during the day should the need arise. It is a personal disposable toilet, which includes an odor-proof transport bag, chemical solidifier and odor eliminator, toilet paper and oversized hand wipe.

Is alcohol permitted on 1-day rafting trips?

Alcohol is not permitted on any of OARS day trips.

Should I tip my guide?

Tipping is appreciated by our staff. If you are wondering how much to tip, you may consider that we operate in a service industry with a host of behind-the-scenes contributors in addition to the guides on your trip. In general, we suggest a gratuity based on 10 – 15% of the trip cost. It is customary on OARS trips for gratuities to be given to the Trip Leader, in the form of cash or a personal check, who will then distribute appropriately amongst all the guides and support staff.

Is OARS licensed to run 1-day river trips?

Yes. The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and the state’s park services are charged with protecting our wilderness. Members of the OARS Family of Companies are proud to hold permits with these agencies, allowing us to conduct trips on protected land and water that might otherwise be inaccessible to most members of the public.

If I can't come, or I make another plan, will you refund me?

Our full cancellation policy varies depending on the trip and is available to review on the trip page and the “Before You Go” page for your trip. Please understand that our trip dates and capacities are limited by the managing agencies, and when we accept your reservation, we may be turning others away from booking that trip. If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible. You can telephone, but we also need a written notice. Cancellation penalties can range up to 100% of the trip cost, depending on the date and particular trip on which you’ve been holding spaces. We regret we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies.

What if it’s hot, cold, rainy, snowy, smoky, etc.?

Generally, OARS trips run rain, shine or snow. In the past, wildfires have forced cancellation of OARS trips due to direct interference with routes to the put-in or takeout or proximity to the river. We rarely cancel trips due to smoky conditions.

Learn more about our day trips

Call toll-free 1(800)346-6277

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