What to Bring White Water Rafting: Gear List

What to Bring White Water Rafting

White water rafting can be a fun and adventurous experience. Knowing what to bring on a white water rafting trip will not only make your trip more fun and prevent you from getting cold and wet, it could save your life.

If you’re planning a white water rafting trip, a list of things to bring will help you be as prepared as you possibly can be. Keep reading for a checklist of what to bring white water rafting.

What to bring white water rafting? When white water rafting, bring moisture-wicking clothing, including shorts and a shirt. Tevas, Chocos or tennis shoes that won’t fall off your feet, a hat to protect your face and head from the sun, sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare off of the water and a strap to keep from losing them overboard.

Those are the basics. Read on for a comprehensive list of white water rafting gear that will make your trip more fun and safer.

Amazon and Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) on the products or services you purchase using the links.

White Water Rafting Gear Checklist

Preparation is critical in white water rafting. Having the proper gear is the only way to ensure that you’re adventure is safe and fun.

What to bring white water rafting (Gear Checklist): 

  • Life vest 
  • Helmet 
  • Safety whistle 
  • Water shoes
  • Dry fit shirt
  • Dry fit shorts
  • Gloves 
  • Lots of sunscreen
  • A dry change of clothes for after 
  • Safety knife 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Croakies or Chumz sunglasses strings/straps 
  • Guide
  • Tip Money
  • Dry floating bag or backpack to put all your stuff in
  • GoPro or action camera with waterproof case
  • Waterproof, floatable phone case

You need to be fully prepared for the activity and adventure ahead of you when you go white water rafting. Someone who goes rafting frequently as a hobby might pack slightly differently than a new white water rafter. The following is a list of must-haves to make sure your raft trip safe as well as enjoyable. 

Life Vest

Companies that hold white water rafting tours are required to provide customers with a life vest. But, if you’re not going going rafting with an official raft trip company, make sure to bring your life vest when heading out. Since white water rivers move at high speed; having a life vest could save your life.


White water rafting takes place on rivers, such as the Colorado River. Most of these rivers are full of objects underneath the surface, including sharp, jagged rocks. If you were to fall into the river, a safety helmet would be the only thing protecting your head when passing by a rock. Going rafting with a sturdy safety helmet is a must.

Safety Whistle

A whistle is a must-have safety item to bring on a rafting trip for multiple reasons. Having a whistle makes it possible to warn other boats behind if there’s a part of the river that’s not safe to paddle. A whistle can also help a raft in distress signal for help. If you were to fall over the raft, having a whistle would make it easier for the rafts to find you if you were swept downstream.

Water Shoes

Water will most definitely get into the boat while you’re rafting. If you want to preserve your rafting footwear and still be comfortable with what’s on your feet, here’s what shoes to bring on your rafting trip. In general, make sure any shoes you wear rafting are comfortable to move around and walk in, dry quickly, and most importantly, will stay on your feet in flowing water.

Moisture Wicking Shirt

Moisture wicking clothing is generally marketed as brands like Dri-fit. You don’t want to be wet for long periods of time when you’re rafting. Good quality polyester and spandex mix material clothing will dray out fast after getting wet. Not only that, but on hot days when you sweat, the material wicks moisture away from your body..

Moisture Wicking Shorts

Along with getting a shirt that stays dry, you should also get dry-fit shorts or board shorts meant to be worn all day, get wet, and dry quickly. Especially if you’re rafting during colder weather, staying dry and/or drying out quickly will help keep you warmer.


Especially on longer rafting trips, you could be paddling the raft for hours at a time. If your hands aren’t used to that, paddling with your bare hands all day can cause blisters. Bringing rafting gloves will help protect your hands from the paddle and will have the added benefit of keeping your hands warm as well.

Lots of Sunscreen

On most summer rafting trips, you’ll be in the sun for many hours. If you don’t bring sunscreen, you’ll find yourself burned by the end of the day. Bring plenty of sunscreen and remember, the sun will reflect up into your face. So even if you wear a hat under your helmet, your face will still need sunscreen.

Change of Clothes

Know what to wear when white water rafting is essential. But having a change of clothes for when you inevitably get wet is a necessary luxury you’ll only appreciate if you forget to bring them.

Even if you bring moisture wicking clothes to wear while you’re rafting, the amount of water continually splashing into the boat is sure to get you at least a little wet. So it’s a good idea to bring a an extra set of clothes to change into at the end of even a half-day trip on the river. Wet clothes are at best uncomfortable for the ride home.

Safety Knife

It might be necessary to cut a rope off of the raft or if you get tangled in something and need to cut yourself free. In addition, a good pocket knife is helpful if you’re going on a multi-day rafting trip or even a full day rafting trip. You’ll only realize how handy a knife can be when you forget to bring one.


Since most white water rafting trips happen during the summer months, the sun is going to be high in the sky while you’re rafting. And if you go on a sunset or all day rafting trip, the sun will eventually get low enough to be right in your eyes.

Exposing your eyes to the sun for long periods of time can cause severe injury to your eyes. Prevent this and protect them by wearing sunglasses.

Croakies, Chumz or Sunglasses Strings/Straps

Croakies and Chumz are well-recognized brands of eyewear retention straps. They’re a must-have on a rafting trip, especially if you like to wear expensive sunglasses. Rough water, going overboard, or just leaning over the side to look at the bottom of the river can all snatch your sunglasses away in an instant.

Some styles of Croakies and Chumz will also float, making lost sunglasses easier to retrieve.


Always go with a guide when you go white water rafting. Rafting a river is a fun pastime, but there are many possible dangers that you might not know about, so it’s best to take a guide with you.

Until you have a lot of experience white water rafting, it’s more fun and safer to go with a reputable rafting company and a trained guide..

Tip Money

A rafting guide will use a lot of hard-earned river rapids knowledge, safety training and they can make or break the amount of fun you have on a rafting trip. So it’s a good idea and pretty customary to bring along some tip money for them.

Dry Floating Bag

Water is going to get into the boat while you’re rafting. It’s that simple. If you have valuables with you that you want to protect, you’ll need a waterproof bag that floats. Waterproof gear bags keep your valuables and any electronic gear safe from water damage or loss.

GoPro/ Action Camera

If you go rafting more than once, eventually you’re going to want to get some action cam footage of your trip. Even for first time rafters, a waterproof action camera would be an excellent item to bring so you can document all the fun memories you made while river rafting.

Camera Case

An action cam will probably come with a waterproof housing that protects it. But if you in a larger camera to capture footage of your white water rafting adventure, the last thing you want is for it to sustain water damage. There’s also plenty of bouncing around that goes on while white water rafting.

A quality camera case will also help prevent any exterior damage to the camera, as well.

Waterproof Floatable Phone Case

You’ll probably want your phone closer to you than buried in the bottom of a dry bag with your other gear. And more phones have gone overboard in rafting than you want to know about.

A waterproof, floatable case that attaches to your life vest is a great phone accessory to bring white water rafting. Just remember, if it’s attached to you and you fall over, it’s going into the water with you. To avoid any damage, get a waterproof phone and/or phone case.

Waterproof Hat

Summer sun on the river can be extreme and will bear down directly on you while you’re rafting. To help protect against it, bring a brimmed hat that’s also water-resistant if it falls into the water. 


A light jacket inside your pack is perfect for after your rafting trip, but it can also be useful during your float down the river. An added layer of waterproof material is always helpful in staying warm and as dry as possible. But, if you know you’re going to get soaked, keep a windbreaker in your dry pack for later, especially if you’re camping or staying late on the river. 

What to Bring Rafting Wrap-up

There are many useful items you should bring white water rafting.. Along with all of the necessary safety items like a life vest, helmet, and whistle, make sure you bring a way to capture all of the beautiful moments you’ll experience while rafting.


I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

Related Articles