Rafting Essentials I Learned from 270 Days Working at Cataract Oars
Get Geared Up
The following is satire and should not be taken as river gospel or any kind of wisdom. In fact, don’t read this, you’ll only regret it. Proceed at your own risk. You’ve been warned.
Ever wonder what to wear whitewater rafting? Or what items/gear to bring with you on a rafting trip?
I ’m about to impart some serious firsthand knowledge I gained from a valuable 270 days working with the whitewater rafting experts at Cataract Oars. I’ll settle once and for all the age-old question of what to wear whitewater rafting and what you should bring on a raft trip.
The river is a second home for many of us at Cataract Oars – the only home for some – and that makes us something of experts when it comes to river stuff. I like to think of it like having children. Before you have one you don’t know anything about them, but once you pop out a few, you’re an expert at not knowing anything about them. Now, it’s not like people are just offering up parenting advice. Likewise, finding someone who’s been down the river a time or two that will regale you with river wisdom can be a challenge. But, lucky for you, I’ve answered the tough questions and know just what to wear whitewater rafting. So, I put together the rafting essentials gear list and trip tips I’ve learned during my 270 days working at Cataract Oars.
Even the rafting gurus at Cataract Oars find that having a packing list helps increase the satisfaction of outings and reduce the stress of prepping for a trip. Or at least one person in your group should know that list so others can ask them what they need. I thought I’d do you a solid by taking that list and imparting my extensive industry knowledge on the subject. Let’s start with our gear list and then get down to the nitty gritty details of what items to bring whitewater rafting.
Whitewater Rafting Gear List
#1 A Boat
You’ll need a boat if you’re planning a trip down the river. Now, this didn’t actually come as a huge shock to me or anything, but there are a lot of different boats you can choose from. Size and brand are up to you, but the biggest thing you’ll want out of your boat is the ability to hold air. Floating is key. So steer clear of any Intex deflatable boats. After that, though, just pick a color you like.
Not sure which boat to choose? Here’s a link to our most popular oar, the SGG. You can match the raft to your favorite color of Cataract oar. Or contrast it. I’m not trying to tell you how to be you. Just do what makes you feel good. Maybe this could even help you figure out what to wear rafting. Matching swimsuit and oars? Yes please.
#2 Frame and Seats
Standing on a raft while it’s bumpin’ through some rapids can be difficult at best. I’ve noticed this is something river rats like to practice at the bar in between outings. Balance and endurance are prominent issues that must be resolved when whitewater rafting. Unless you’re planning to air guitar your paddle through every rapid – which let’s be honest, you are – even so, having a frame and a place to sit will help solve this little balance problem. You can attach a seat to the frame anywhere you want it and sit in it. If you don’t know where you want to sit, then it probably doesn’t matter.
NOTE: We’ll talk about what to bring whitewater rafting later. Just know that a frame will also come in handy when telling other people how to pack your gear on the raft.
I figured out the best way to pick the right size oar by watching the masters at Cataract Oars. When trying to decide what size oars you need for your raft, the best way is to ask somebody else. This way, when you discover the oars you’re rowing with are too short, you’ll know just who to blame.
Be sure to have a spare
oar Cataract oar, or two when out whitewater rafting. You know the adage, “stuck up the creek without a paddle”? Well, same concept, except with oars, and a river, not a creek. Unless you’re headed up a creek, in which case you’ll want a pair of KBOs. They’re just better for the smaller boats you’d use on a creek. You could use them on lakes and other water as well, I’m just saying they work good on creeks. We all clear? Good.
Anyway, what was I getting at? … Forget it, just bring an extra oar.
Your boat floats, but if you’re a human, you’ll need a little help in this department. River currents are powerful, and situations can become dangerous in the flip of an otter’s tail. I’m talking rowdy waves that give you the pee shivers. Even a death grip on the raft won’t save you from the icy chill waiting to sweep you away. To keep yourself afloat, strap on a personal flotation device (PFD), or what “regular” people call life jackets. Now, before you get your rash guard in a bunch, I know the difference between a PFD and a life jacket (I’ve been working at Cataract Oars for 270 days). It’s “regular” people I’m talking about. Potato/patato type people. You know, ordinary folks. Not exceptional people like you. Though, you are reading this article, so…
In all seriousness though, the most important thing to wear whitewater rafting is a PFD. Make sure it’s the right size and cinch it on tight. It’s the cool thing to do. Oh, and make sure it’s orange. I love the color orange. Look here for some of the best life jackets and life vests to wear rafting.
#5 Oar Locks
Sorry, probably should have mentioned this one back with the oars, or maybe the frame, but anyway, you’ll need a set of oar locks if you’re going to be rowing. Bring some oar tethers too so you can keep your oars from floating away when you flip your raft. Or better yet, bring someone else along to do all the rowing for you and let them worry about it.
Look, I’m going to make this real easy for you. Here’s an inflatable boat checklist over at NRS. Go check it out. Or check it off rather. Done.
Now you’ve got your list of gear to bring whitewater rafting, let’s talk what to pack and what to wear rafting?
First things first, before packing up your bags, map out your drive and mark all the retailers along the route. This will come in handy when you inevitably realize you forgot to pack something on your list. If you’re an expert like me – 270 days – this should only happen about once or twice, maybe three, four times tops. If you must stop a fifth time, I guess go ahead and do it, because you probably need whatever it is you couldn’t remember needing when you needed it. But I don’t think you can call yourself a pro after that.
On to the Whitewater Rafting Packing List:
A few notables from Rouge Wilderness Adventure’s packing list:
Camp slippers – because who doesn’t like snuggling their little tootsies in a warm layer of heaven on those cold mornings.
Emergen-C – because all that vitamin D you’re getting is making vitamin C jealous.
Sarong – Not only a cool piece of headgear, but also good as a towel, changing room, blanket, and for wet towel snapping.
Alright, let’s dispense with the really important items and get to the stuff on your packing list if you still have room.
Swimsuit or quick drying shorts – because you’re going to get wet.
River shoes – because you’re going to get wet. Leave your dress shoes at home.
Rain jacket – because you could get wet even when you’re not wanting to get wet.
Extra clothes – Because you’ll probably get wet.
Dry bag – because it will get wet.
Ziplock bags (reusable) – to keep items that would otherwise get wet.
Shirts, sunglasses, hat w/ strap – to fight of the burning rays of fiery death that attack you from the sky and chase you into the water with the hope of cooling off by – you guessed it – getting wet.
Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow – to help you sleep
Eye mask – block out all the light from the thousands of glowing stars you’ll see out in the wild. It’s like Times Square out there.
Chamomile Tea – what? You got a problem with that.
Sleeping pills – if all else fails.
Toiletries – because you’re not an animal. 🤥
Ziplock bags – again.
Charcoal – try “green” charcoal made from coconut shells to give yourself that nice warm fuzzy feeling.
Utensils – I just bring the good ol’ spork; the all-in-one fork/spoon combo.
Food – need I explain?
Wet wipes – use to clean hands before and after you eat and cook with the
Ziplock bags – yep, again. This time ya better get the big ones.
Stuff for cleanup – like besides wet wipes.
Water bottle w/ strap – it’s very important to stay hydrated.
Water – see previous item. Best not to drink straight from the river.
Camp chair – Just saying it’d be nice.
Headlamp – Nothing better than hands free camp navigation after dark. Especially to the groover.
Lighter/matches or Flint & steel – if you’re Bear Grylls
Final Word of Wisdom
Now, if you’d like to make preparations even easier for yourself, do what we do. Skip the above steps and go straight to our personal river guide for answers to all your river packing needs. You can reach him at (801) 467-1204. Even if he’s out of the office, just shoot him a text, he’ll be glad to outfit you with the right gear you need to have a fun trip. You could probably even borrow some stuff from him if you needed.
But most importantly, be safe. And celebrate! Because now you know what to wear whitewater rafting and what to bring on a rafting trip.