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Like any other outdoor/water sport, wearing the right clothing is crucial to an enjoyable rafting expedition. What you wear will largely be determined by the water temperature and the difficulty of the water you are on.
You are going to get wet when rafting. There is no way around this. So it’s important you choose clothes that dry out quickly. Remember that whitewater rafting is not a fashion show and you need to wear practical clothing. Your clothing can also make or break your whitewater rafting experience so it’s important you get the dressing aspect right.
To make your clothing selection process a lot easier and straightforward, I’ve made a list of what you wear and bring with you when embarking on a white water expedition. Here they are.
Whitewater Rafting In The Summer
The following clothing is appropriate for whitewater rafting in the summer.
Quick-dry shorts / Bathing suits
You are going on a river trip which means you are going to get wet. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of how soon. This makes it important you pick good quick-drying shorts or a bathing suit. Ideally, you should pick something that will stay on in the rough conditions of whitewater rafting.
Ladies should avoid wearing a shrink bikini while the gentleman should stay away from super baggy trunks. This is because strong rapids can pull these items off. Most women find wearing fitting swim trunks or quick-dry shorts over bathing suits very comfortable.
Synthetic upper for warmth and protection from the sun
Synthetic upper will be needed if you are whitewater rafting in the summer. Wearing a quality synthetic upper will keep you warm which is important as you’ll be wet during rafting. And it’s possible for you to start feeling cold after some time. A quality synthetic upper will help prevent this.
Also, you’ll be protected from the scorching heat of the summer sun which can have an effect on your rafting experience. A synthetic upper will be your shield from the sun.
Sturdy and well-fitting water shoes or sport sandals
Wearing proper shoes is important when the outdoors is concerned. You’ll need footwear that will stay on your feet while having a good grip for whitewater rafting. For whitewater rafting in the summer, a simple pair of sports sandals with a heel strap, a quality pair of water shoes, or even old tennis shoes will perform excellently. You can read our article for more information: Choosing Your Rafting Shoes.
Hat with a brim to protect the face from the sun. You can also take a pair of sunglasses with you
You can also take a pair of sunglasses with you. It’s important that your sunglasses have a safety strap to prevent them from being lost during rafting.
Note: Cotton materials should be avoided as it gets cold when wet. Also, say no to flip-flops or high heels and wear appropriate footwear.
Whitewater Rafting In Cold Weather
Clothing for whitewater rafting in the summer is different and should include the following:
A waterproof and windproof jacket should serve as your outer layer
Whitewater rafting is also done in the colder months and this requires you to dress for the lower temperatures. Your outer layer should be a waterproof and windproof jacket. There reason for this is clear as a jacket that meets these criteria will protect you from the cold weather and chilly wind.
Outer layer of windproof and waterproof pants
Same reason for wearing a waterproof and windproof jacket. You want to be protected from both the cold temperature and wind.
Synthetic / wool socks
Wool provides super insulation for your feet even when wet. Never wear cotton socks on a whitewater rafting trip. Cotton loses most of its insulating properties when wet.
Thin, snug, warm hat
Protection for your head from the wind and cold.
Synthetic long sleeve shirt(s) and layers
For insulation and warmth.
Synthetic long underwear layer for legs
Same as above.
Consider renting a wetsuit from the outfitter
Wearing suits won’t prevent you from getting wet but will provide warmth in colder water. They do this by heating the thin layer of water that’s trapped next to your skin. So it’s always a good thing to wear a wetsuit when rafting in the colder months as it’ll keep you comfortable for longer.
Wear closed-toed water shoes that are built for cold conditions. This combined with wool socks will provide optimum warmth for your feet. Ideally, your shoes should be made from neoprene as this material performs excellently in cold weather and provides a good level of warmth and comfort.
When rafting, especially in cold weather, you should consider bringing an extra set of clothes along. This allows you to change your clothes when you get wet. You can keep any extra clothes at your destination or in a dry bag on the raft.
While rafting is fun, the following gear will improve your safety and make your experience more enjoyable.
PFD (Personal Floatation Device) : Never ever get on a raft without a PFD. Your PFD must be worn correctly and must fit you snugly. Also, don’t take your PFD off while on the water.
Helmet : No matter the difficulty of the water you are on, you should always wear a helmet. I’m sure you don’t ride your bike or go rollerblading without wearing a helmet. The same should apply to whitewater rafting, right?
What Not To Wear?
You shouldn’t wear any cotton material or heavy clothing like leather or jeans. Also, avoid flip-flops, high heels, Crocs, and cowboy hats. This footwear isn’t ideal for whitewater rafting.
You should also not wear any tight or constrictive clothing that hampers movement.
What To Bring With You Rafting
A pocket-sized sunscreen should be with you in the water to protect against sunburns. You’ll also need water bottles to stay hydrated during the sport. Snacks can provide energy and should be taken with you when whitewater rafting especially if it is not provided by the outfitter.
With this easy, no-fluff guide, you should now have a good idea of what to wear and not to wear for whitewater rafting, and what useful items you should consider as well. Dressing properly as the weather demands is crucial to having an enjoyable whitewater rafting expedition. Remember that the more skin that is covered by your clothing, the better. Following this guide will ensure you have a great and safe experience rafting! Want to know more? Read our Top Whitewater Rafting Tips for Beginners.