What’s In Her Bag: The Multi-Day Rafter


You’re proud to have your big dry bag packed before breakfast. You saunter down to the boats, place it in the rig pile, and take your place in the food que ready to relax until launch. But wait, did you fold your sarong into your sheets while you stuffed them deep inside that big duffel? And, damn isn’t today a big hike day – where are those hiking shoes? And your tooth brush? You haven’t taken care of that business yet.

Enter the importance of an easily accessible day bag on your rafting trip. Most river guides and experienced rafters will tell you that having some key items in a small drybag at your fingertips (and not rigged below everyone else’s overnight gear) can optimize your day in many ways. The sunscreen, journal, good book, and sunglasses obviously make the easy-access cut, but think about throwing in these bonus items to kick your day up a notch and be prepared like a pro out on the raft.

Sarong: A full-length sarong can be so many things on the river. It warms a neck on chilly days, it protects from the sun when rays are blazing, or it can be looped through a water bottle and tied to the torso for a quick hands-free jaunt up a side canyon. On hot trips, dip that baby in the water and drape it over your body for an evaporative cooling effect, or stuff it in soaking wet into a plastic baggie and pull it out at the top of that dry hike for a refreshing shawl on the hike back down.

Watercolor Kit: Anyone can feel like an artist with watercolors. A small kit that contains brushes and a postcard-sized notepad of watercolor paper does the trick. I find that painting helps me take in that spectacular view a little deeper and even slow time down a bit. Kids will love this item too, and you’ll appreciate the easy clean-up.

Nail polish: Get your friends to really open-up to the care-free attitude of river trips by breaking out a colorful suite of nail polishes in a bit of flat water. A set of rainbow toes will remind you of your river trip for weeks after you arrive home, as well as instigate great storytelling with the coworkers.

Hiking shoes, long-sleeve hoodie layer and extra water carrying capacity: Sometimes we raft just to explore side canyons, deep grottos, and secret caves. Don’t cut your hike short because your feet hurt or you didn’t pack enough water. Have comfortable hiking shoes at the ready, like the Crush, if you can’t hike in your sandals. A long-sleeve hoodie—either Silkweight or Lightweight—keeps sun or cold air off arms, hands (using thumbholes) and neck. And I stay way more hydrated with a camelback strapped to my back than an extra heavy water bottle, but either will do.

Extra Hat: The wind may blow on the river (ideally in the downstream direction). But really, a hat can whisk away no matter the direction. Since you’ll be outside all day, maybe even for multiple days, carry an extra hat with a brim. Cold and overcast you say? An extra beanie in the bag can coat your noggin in a warm coziness in a pinch.

Extra chums: You’ll never regret a dip in the river unless you lose your sweet 80’s neon-rimmed sunglasses. The ones your grandma used to wear. Carry extra chums to prevent this micro-disaster and jump into that river with abandon.

Tooth Care: Somehow, brushing my teeth never fits into my morning at camp. I prefer an after-coffee brush, so I need that toothbrush and paste right when we’re packing up the kitchen and loading the boats. Bad timing. However, those few moments of having a fully rigged raft or floating through the day’s first calm pool increase the invigoration factor of that minty fresh feel of a good tooth brushing.

River Flair: While you’re out there pushing your boundaries with new outdoor experiences, why not also push your boundaries with a livelier wardrobe? Bright yellow running shorts go well over your H2Core leggings. An oversized foam cowboy hat likely fits over your Tule hat. And a cape can be worn with anything, just saying. Throw a piece of river flair into that day bag for an extra happiness boost.

Extra space: Each day on a multi-day trip can be different. Leave space in your day bag for new items. A splash top helps on overcast or colder days, or a tutu can be thrown in to add pizazz to your paddling. Digging through a stuffed day bag can also be maddening.