Maybe it’s your first time rafting. Maybe it’s your tenth. Maybe you’ve been rafting a lot, but it’s the first time you’re bringing your overly anxious mother who sends a pestering text every evening asking what she should pack even though your trip is weeks away.
The what-to-bring list varies from outfitter to outfitter and river to river. For most people venturing into commercial whitewater rafting, you head out in the summer to a place where the water is cool but not cold, and the air temperature is warm but not sweltering hot.
On most whitewater trips you’re guaranteed to get wet, but you aren’t guaranteed to swim. Companies offer the essentials: a life jacket, a helmet and a splash top when the weather is less than ideal. They recommend closed-toe shoes, not showing up in jeans, and not bringing your expensive DSLR camera. But there are a few pieces of gear first-time rafters might not think about that will enhance their rafting experience, without breaking the bank.
1. Hassle-Free Sun Protection with Silkweight Shirts
Whether you’re rafting in May or July, the sun is brutal on an all-day whitewater trip. The water reflects the rays and the rubber boats do nothing to protect you from the UV. We definitely recommend lathering up in sunscreen before getting on the water—don’t forget your ears and any exposed skin on your scalp—but how many times have you been outside for eight hours and forgot to reapply?
The NRS H2Core Silkweight shirts eliminate that need. Extremely lightweight and breathable, NRS Silkweight material offers 50+ UPF protection. Designed with seam-free zones under the arms, they won’t chafe when the guides tell you to dig in and paddle hard and they fit great under a lifejacket. On top of all that, at the end of the day, no matter how big you go at Lunch Counter or Lochsa Falls or Hell Hole, Silkweight tops dry in a flash, leaving you comfortable for that shuttle ride home.
2. Bring the Good Vibes on Your Feet
Outfitters that typically paddle colder rivers will offer footwear. Outfitters that don’t offer shoes recommend close-toed shoes—yep, that old pair of sneakers works great—or sandals with straps (read: no flip-flops). If you show up with inappropriate footwear, rest assured, they will pull out something for your feet, but it’s guaranteed to be a neoprene booty that 347 other people have stuffed their stinky feet into in the past.
Let’s just give you an excuse to buy new shoes, because everyone loves a fresh pair of kicks. The NRS Vibes are water shoes, hiking shoes, and go-to-the-bar shoes. Combining technical capability and style with unsurpassed comfort with or without socks, Vibes are constructed with tough, quick-drying Cordura® nylon, durable rubber rand outsole, and a highly breathable tongue and toe-box, meaning this shoe protects your feet from sticks and stones and keeps them ventilated all-day long.
3. Waterproof Your Camera with Aquapac
Most outfitters offer professional photos of your trip as an add-on, easy souvenir. Whether the outfitter has a photo-boater who follows along, sprinting ahead at the main attractions to capture the faces of pure joy—or utter despair—of your boat mates, follows along in the shuttle vehicle to snap photos, or leaves it to the guides with waterproof point-and-shoots, depends on the outfitter itself. But if you’re the type of person that prefers candid shots of your friends and family or wants to add to your story at lunch to keep your followers happy, then you might want to bring your own camera or phone.
Aquapac Cases give you the assurance that you won’t ruin your camera when the River Gods decide to smack you with a lateral wave in the middle of that Instagram-worthy shot. You can easily take photos through the clear polyurethane case and it doesn’t interfere with touch screen functions. Aquapac cases come in a range of sizes to fit just about any smart phone or small point-and-shoot camera and include an adjustable lanyard, so you can wear it around your neck, although we recommend cinching it to your life jacket.
4. Keep Your Sunnies Safe with a Pair of Chums
There are hat people and there are sunglasses people. And then there are two types of sunglasses people: the dime-store guy and the polarized-lens-custom-fit-to-your-head guy. If you’re the latter, the worst thing you could do is wear your expensive sunnies on a river trip and lose them to the same River God who stole your buddy’s thousand-dollar iPhone X. Don’t be that guy. Chums are cheap, lightweight and they keep your glasses around your neck when circumstances won’t let them stay on your face.
5. Keep Gear Handy with an NRS Ether Hydrolock Dry Sack
There are a few essentials for every all-day rafting trip: sunscreen, chapstick and a reusable water bottle. Lunch is provided, but if you’re someone who snacks throughout the day, you might want a small bag of trail mix. Mornings on the river can be chilly, making that hoody extra inviting at the put-in but a pain in the butt after lunch. And if you’re an unlucky female who’s having that week-of-the-month, you’ll want to bring some feminine products and a baggy for the trash.
Your guide will have a dry bag and will happily stow away all your ditties for the day. But having your own day bag makes reapplying sunscreen, staying hydrated, and snacking-on-the-water easy and the NRS Ether Hydrolock Dry Bag is the perfect option. With a d-ring to easily attach it to the boat, the HydroLock zip-seal ensures 100% waterproof protection in a submersion, and the clear urethane window makes it easy to find items inside the bag.
None of this gear is absolutely necessary. Sunscreen, old sneakers and a hat can cover most of your needs. Leave the memorable photos to the pros and leave the unnecessary gear on the bus—including your phone. Unplugging: it’s good for the soul.
Editor’s Note: This blog originally appeared on Teton Whitewater’s Adventure Blog.