What to Pack – and HOW to Pack for Your River Trip

by | Apr 24, 2022 | adventure, boating, camping, family adventure, family rafting, gear, hiking, Idaho whitewater rafting, packing, raft, rafting, rivertrips, vacation | 0 comments

You’ve booked your trip, spent PLENTY of time daydreaming about your once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and you are now ready to raft and explore!

But, what do you pack for a multi-day rafting trip? There is both a science – and an art – to packing for your big adventure.

The good news? Hells Canyon Raft is here to help. If you’ve already booked your trip, you have received a packing list. While the list is very thorough, there are two equally important aspects to packing:

  1. Make sure you have everything you need
  2. Make sure you leave behind everything you don’t

Each guest gets one Big Bag and one Small Bag to take along on the journey. The Big Bag is 110 liters, and that’s where you’ll want to pack your overnight stuff – like a sleeping bag – plus your extra clothing, toiletries, and an extra pair of shoes. The big bag rides on the Gear Boat, which means you won’t have access to it during the day.

Each guest also gets a Small Bag, which we affectionately refer to as your “River P(m)urse”. This one rides right beside you on the boat, so you can access it several times during the day. In this bag, you’ll want to pack things like sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, a hat, water bottle, an extra layer and rain gear, in case the weather gets interesting. (Raincoats serve two purposes: keep rain off you if it rains, but also as a wind breaker if chilly breezes pick up in the canyon).

That’s what goes IN the bags, but how do you pack them properly each day? Check out (and please subscribe) this quick demonstration from the Hells Canyon Raft team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_kLjgapDm8

Once the dry bags are packed, the guides will secure them in their proper place on the boats. They also take care of packing up the tents each night, so you can focus on enjoying the river, the beaches, and the unrivaled natural surroundings.

Those are the basics of packing, but what about the ‘extras’? Here are some tips:

Clothing –

When the packing list says ‘shirts, shorts, shoes’ you may be wondering what KIND of those things to bring. And how many. Ideally, you’ll want to find clothes that can do double-duty or at least be rinsed, dried and recycled during the trip. For your time on the boats, the secret is to wear clothes that will dry quickly, but also keep you warm when they’re wet. If you want to avoid wearing a soggy swimsuit under your river clothes, quick dry underwear and sports bras are great options (but be sure to bring your swimsuit or trunks for the times when you really want to take a dip!)

In camp, you’ll want fabrics that stay cool and comfortable in hot summer temps or warm and dry in cooler weather. Synthetic fabrics that can insulate and breathe are popular choices, but you may also find a cozy pair of yoga or sweatpants feels amazing as you relax on dry land at the end of the day. One outdoor tip that helps save space: don’t worry about having clean OUTER layers, pack so you have enough clean UNDER layers. Your big bag won’t hold five different sweatshirts, but it WILL hold a fresh pair of underwear for each day of your trip.

And finally, your feet will thank you for packing an extra pair of shoes (or two) to change into after your time on the river. A simple pair of flip flops can be great for wearing around camp, but your guides will also give you the option of exploring the canyon more intimately by taking short hikes to amazing viewpoints. That means a dry pair of sneakers or hiking shoes will be well worth the space they take up in your large bag.

Cameras – Can I bring a DLSR-type camera or a drone?

Yes, while more and more people are using the phones, they stash in their small bags to take photos, we do have hard boxes available for larger camera gear. Please let us know ahead of time what gear you will be bringing, so we can make the proper packing arrangements. And don’t forget to bring extra batteries! For those with GoPros, packing them in your small day bag is a great option, and, our helmets have built in GoPro mounts to make your captures easy!

Toiletries – What do I need? What don’t I need?

There’s nothing wrong with getting a little dirty while you’re in the backcountry, and you don’t need a shower when you have the river water to wash away any daily grime!

If you absolutely must cleanse yourself while you’re on the river, you’ll need to research and purchase biodegradable shampoo and soap. This list http://thedyrt.com/magazine/gear/natural-shampoo-safe-outdoors/ provides some good insights on the different choices (and how far from the river you’ll need to be to use them).

If you’re ready to adopt our preferred mantra of ‘river hair, don’t care’ then we highly recommend going soap-free and using our favorite three-part solution: Wipes, baggies and a sunhat.

Wipes are a great solution to your personal hygiene needs, and in recent years, a wide variety of wipes have become available to fit any needs and skin sensitivities. Larger wipes are great for armpits and nether-regions that may need bit more care.

A couple of our favorites include:

Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes: https://www.rei.com/product/879973/sea-to-summit-wilderness-wipes

Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes: https://www.burtsbees.com/product/sensitive-facial-cleansing-towelettes-with-cotton-extract/VM-01677-00.html

Pack an ample supply of zip-closure plastic bags to store them in, naturally, we pack out ALL of our trash!

And ladies, if there’s a chance that your “Aunt Flo” will be tagging along on your river trip, those plastic bags will prove to be especially useful. Be sure to pack plenty of your preferred menstrual products and keep those Ziploc bags handy. You can always find a trash can at camp, but it’s ultra-important not to put feminine hygiene products in the river toilets.

Taking your skin from wet to dry several times a day can by drying, so you’ll want to pack a good moisturizer (and make sure you have lots and LOTS of sunscreen). To keep long tresses from drying out, you can try a leave-in conditioner like this one to help keep moisture in and tangles at bay. A good sunhat (with a neck cord) also works wonders to help simplify how you care for your hair and skin.

Have a question that wasn’t answered here? No problem! Give us a call or shoot us an email and we’ll help you sort through the packing list to make sure your river adventure is as comfortable as it is exciting!

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