Essential Tips for White Water Rafting on the Grand Canyon

Thursday Feb 28, 2013

You've been training all winter in anticipation of your very first white water rafting trip. Maybe this means swimming lessons or a few extra training sessions at the gym to build your upper body strength. Or if you're like me, scavenging the outlet stores for the trendiest swim trunks. Once I've got my wardrobe in check, then what?

Fortunately, my friends at Arizona River Runners have chimed in with essential things to consider when going on such an outdoor adventure: water, sun and dirt/sand.

Practicality over Prada

A river trip will obviously involve a significant amount of time on the river, which means that you will be on, near, and perhaps in the water. Clothes should be fast drying and okay to get wet. Leave the trendy denim at home. Bring quick-drying nylon shorts and shirts that will dry off quickly or will be dry by morning.

The good news is clothes like these are not terribly difficult to find, nor are they horrifically expensive. Don’t go overboard though - no need to bring a new outfit for every day on the river. Shirley, a long-time employee, suggests a rule of thumb that "for six days - bring four of each shorts and shirts. You don’t have to change clothes every day." Really Shirley? But what will I wear for all those photo opportunities? She ensures me that practicality over Prada is the best advice in this particular scenario.

Bathing suits are a good idea to wear beneath your clothes, or even as clothing. However, women should avoid one-piece suits, which may seem counter intuitive. While a one piece may provide more coverage it makes tasks like going to the bathroom or changing clothes more difficult. Privacy is in short supply while on the river; something to keep in mind while deciding what clothes to bring. Keeping things simple and easy will make everything less stressful during the trip.

Finally, the water in the Colorado is not clear, clean glacier water as you might think. In fact, once August arrives the water can be muddy brown due to rains and rafting. Clothes soaked by the water have the potential to take on the color of the river itself, so leave the designer clothing behind. Bring clothes that will not be missed if they happen to change color to a less flattering shade of "dirt."

Sun protection is very important when getting ready for a Colorado River trip. If you haven’t traveled to Arizona before, it is important to understand how powerful those rays can be. Lip balm and lotion with an SPF 30 is recommended and should be reapplied often. Sometimes a long sleeve shirt with built in UV protection is the best idea during the months when the sun is especially strong, such as June, July and August. They are lightweight without any cotton, will dry quickly and be less likely to irritate skin when they do get wet. Don’t forget your hat and sunglasses (both with retention string) for added protection.

For cooler times and rainy weather, a lightweight fleece or fleece-lined jacket will keep you cozy. Rain gear is a must. Look for quality pieces that are waterproof, not just water resistant. The point is to stay dry.

What about the rest of your gear? Bring two pairs of shoes, one for the raft and one for camp; make sure they are well broken in - the last thing you’ll want is blistered feet. Don’t forget socks, these are great for camp and help your feet if you get sore spots from your shoes. Make sure your camera has extra batteries and memory card, and store in a zip lock bag - not just to protect it from the water, but from the sand. A bandanna (contrary to fashion sense in any other situation) is helpful too. It comes in handy for cooling off or keeping the sun off your neck. Be sure to bring a water bottle as hydration is important while on the raft as well as during hikes.

Now that you’ve got your wardrobe and accessories in order, how should they be packed? Arizona River Runners advises participants to pack one sports bag/duffel measuring 24x12x12 inches. One of the best ways to make sure the clothes stay organized and dry is to use plastic zipper bags. Shirley recommends the roll technique: "I roll my shorts and shirts up like a cigar and put them in zip lock bags. It keeps things separate and easy to get to," she says, "And don’t forget to pack a hoodie, they are great to wrap around a pillow for softer sleeping."

Arizona River Runners
White water rafting through the Grand Canyon offers a unique view of one of the most incredible natural wonders of the world. Since 1970 Arizona River Runners has provided all-inclusive Grand Canyon rafting trips. They are one of the most innovative, progressive and well-respected outfitters operating with customized state-of-the-art rafts, a wide variety of trips from 3 to 13 days.


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