Clothing for white water rafting

Clothing for white water rafting

Ellie Friedmann / Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Whitewater rafting is one of the more exhilarating family outdoor activities and requires some planning to bring the right gear for your trip. Preparing well will set you and your family up for a successful (and safer!) trip on the water. Here are the basics on what to wear and what to bring for before, during and after an amazing day of whitewater rafting.

What Should I Wear Rafting?

Getting wet is the norm and you should dress accordingly. Layer synthetic shorts and T-shirts over a bathing suit or equivalent non-cotton garment. Cotton is not recommended because it takes a long time to dry and will keep you cold when wet. On the other hand, synthetics are better adapted to repeated wet/dry periods and will be more comfortable while paddling. Instead of slathering in sunscreen that will inevitably be splashed off, consider long sleeves for sun protection.

A well prepared rafter will contribute to a safer trip.

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In summary, here is a list of what to wear and bring on your whitewater rafting day excursion:

  • Bathing suit
  • Synthetic T-shirt and shorts
  • Sport shoes
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses with straps
  • Change of clothes
  • Towel

Here are a few reminders of what not to wear. Avoid cotton. Avoid wearing any clothing with big loops or accessories that can get caught on your safety gear or the boat. Do not forget to leave your nice jewelry at home. In addition, if you have long hair, wear it braided or in a low ponytail so it is not uncomfortable under the helmet. While the rafting company provides all the safety gear, checking the weather and starting with these fundamentals will keep you comfortable on the water.

What Shoes Should I Wear Rafting?

Good shoes are important on rafting trips because you are frequently moving in and out of the boat as well as swimming (usually for fun). Most shoes with a foot strap will work, but not all shoes are created equal for rafting.

Both shoes and sandals work well for rafting trips. Because you need to brace your feet under the middle tubes of the raft, shoes are great because they cover your toes. Many technical brands add extra traction for slippery rocks or uneven surfaces, providing more stability when exploring new terrain.

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During hot summer weather, sandals that stay on your feet are also a solid option. While less likely to cover the toes, there are still many brands out there with great traction and sporty straps. If you show up with flip-flops, you will likely be asked to change as flip-flops do not stay on your feet in whitewater.

For a more comprehensive shoe list, check out this article devoted entirely to types of whitewater rafting shoes.

What Else Should I Bring Rafting?

To completely prep for the day, there are a few small items that make a big difference. During most day trips, sun protection is extremely important. You can wear a baseball cap under your helmet to shade your face. Before the trip, put on a few layers of sunscreen and do not forget to re-apply if you are out all day. Sunglasses are also a great option if you have straps such as chums, otherwise they might get lost when jumping into the water.

During the trip, if you bring your GoPro, mount it safely to your body. Paddling when your guide needs you to is more important than fiddling with video settings. Thus, a secure helmet mount or chest strap is ideal.

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After the trip, improve your day even further by storing a change of clothes and towel. Think ahead and bring a bag for your wet stuff to make the experience later much easier on everyone.

What Should I Wear when Rafting in Cold Weather?

Most companies that run early season rafting trips or work on rivers known for cold temperature will provide you with neoprene booties, wetsuits, and splash jackets (essentially raincoats). While the list for warm weather rafting still applies, you may want to add your own extra layers. Again, only wear synthetic materials, please do not wear cotton on these rivers. Wool, fleece, and long sleeve layers can be great additions to the neoprene. Finally, those dry clothes after a trip will become essential after a fun but potentially chilly day on the water.

What you bring rafting can depend a lot on the weather, water temperature, and season. A well prepared rafter will contribute to a safer trip. Remember, the outfitter will supply all the safety equipment.

Have a great day on the water! What else do you bring on a rafting trip, comment below!

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