River rafting may be the funnest thing ever! At least that’s the opinion of the owner (Eric) of CampsitePhotos.com. It’s also an adventure sport with a lot of dangers both on land and water. It takes years of experience and training to learn how to safely navigate rivers with big rapids. The same can be said for planning, coordinating and pulling off a successful overnight (multi-day) river trip.
The best way to go about it is to do a little research on what types of rivers you’d like to raft, where you might want to raft and how long you want to be out on the river. Then you’ll want to find a professional commercial outfitter to take you on the trip. Be sure to check out the reviews of river outfitters to see what others say about their guiding ability, safety record, cooking/food and storytelling around the campfire.
Commercial multi-day/overnight trips can range from 1-14 days in the U.S., and like most adventure vacations, they can be expensive. The outfitter will provide all of the river boats/gear, guides, river shuttle-transportation, kitchen stuff, food/drinks, a waterproof stuff sack (or two) and some other creature comforts like the groover (we’ll touch on that later).
For most trips you’re going to be camping along the shores of the river where mice, rats, raccoons, bear, deer, scorpions and other creatures like to roam. You may even get lucky and spot a walking-catfish one night.
There are a few rivers/trips where you can stay at lodges or B&Bs (Oregon’s Rogue River comes to mind), but for most river trips you’ll be sleeping under the stars or in your tent.
On overnight river (camping) trips you’ll need to bring your clothes (including river shoes), camera, flashlight, toiletries, meds, sleeping pad/bag and sometimes a tent. A hat, sunglasses (2 pair) and lots of sunblock are also a must. Just don’t bring the expensive shades – you may lose them.
Long time river-rafter and CampsitePhotos.com fan, Gini Granholm, was kind enough to put together a list of camping tips for river rafting trips to help make your overnight river trip a little more-comfortable and safe. Gini has rafted hundreds of miles on dozens of rivers throughout the U.S. so she knows a thing or two about camping on a commercial rafting trip.
How To Pack
- Use (waterproof) stuff sacks or clear storage bags to keep items separated and easy to find. Your outfitter may provide you with some, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own.
What Type of Clothes
- Synthetic clothes (that are warm and dry fast – polyester, nylon, micro fiber, wool blends). Also don’t forget a good pair of river shoes and that hat!
What to Expect in River Camp
After helping with unloading the boats, you’ll want to scout for a nice level campsite away from the kitchen and groover, So what’s a “groover” you ask? It’s a 20 MIL rocket box . . . that you poop in; or in other words it’s the river toilet complete with a toilet seat. You can actually buy your own ECO-Sage Toilet System and practice at home if you want.
You’ll also want to clear away any sticks and rocks, make sure there aren’t any creature holes nearby and then put up your tent. Because river canyons can get quite windy, it’s a good idea to stake down your tent if possible, or secure the corners of the tent with large rocks. Or, you can always just sleep under the stars!
Here are a few hints on camp set up and getting ready for bed:
- If sleeping under the stars, unroll sleeping bag just before your retire for the night (and double check it for critters)
- Use your PFD, with a small camp pillow for extra comfort
- The best time to set up camp is when your site is in the shade
- Make sure you have you headlamp (flashlight) handy before dark
- Find the path to the groover before it gets dark
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- Watch where you put your hands and feet, especially if you’re moving rocks around; scorpions and other reptilian creatures make their homes in crevices
- Empty your pockets of any wrappers; food or drink in the tent is like laying out a welcome mat for all sorts of critters
- Keep in mind that most raft trip injuries occur on the land, not on the water; take care when entering/exiting the boat and hiking around. You’re on river time – so take it slow.
Keep Everyone Healthy
- Wash your hands frequently and especially after using the groover or before meals; put all those Covid-19 safety protocols to good use!
- Minor injuries can quickly become big problems in the outdoors; if you get injured ask the guide for the First Aid kit and get help if you’re not sure how to treat an injury.
Please let us know if you have some other camping tips for river rafting trips!