How to Dress for Whitewater Rafting

How to Dress for Whitewater Rafting
Weather and water temperature will dictate the details of your rafting apparel, but neoprene "Farmer John" wetsuits and and personal life jackets are items you will use time and again if you become a frequent rafter. These components are always available from reputable guide companies. Before leaving home, check the weather at your destination, and pack accordingly. And remember that an overheated person can take clothing off, but a miserably cold one must have extra dry items to don. While fabrics like polypropylene pull moisture from your body and warm it, cotton soaks and cools the skin. Extra clothes for postfloat warming and activities are essential.

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Instructions

Difficulty: Easy

Cold Weather or Rain

Things You’ll Need:
  • Neoprene booties, old sneakers or water sandals Swimsuit Farmer John wetsuit and/or jacket Polypropylene shirt Fleece jacket or wool sweater Life jacket Synthetic or wool gloves Hat with brim and/or wool cap Sunglasses Sunscreen
  • Neoprene booties, old sneakers or water sandals
  • Swimsuit
  • Farmer John wetsuit and/or jacket
  • Polypropylene shirt
  • Fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • Life jacket
  • Synthetic or wool gloves
  • Hat with brim and/or wool cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
 
Step 1
The best insulation choice for feet immersed in cold water for an extended time is neoprene booties, which can be found at diving stores and are usually available from rafting guides. Old sneakers with wool socks will do.
Step 2
Farmer John wetsuit bottoms, worn over a swimsuit or shorts, will keep you warm and stabilize sore knees and hips. They leave your shoulders uncovered and will be comfortable on hot days if the water is quite cold. Most guides have them on hand for customers. Sealed dry suits are another option, but cost more and make swimming more difficult.
Step 3
The same Farmer Johns cover much of the upper body and can be worn over a polypropylene or Thermax top, and covered with a waterproof, wind-breaking spray jacket or neoprene wetsuit jacket. If constant upper-body soaking is not expected, a fleece jacket or wool sweater will hold in body heat. Dry-suits also have a torso-covering component. Life jackets go on last.
Step 4
Wool caps are notoriously good heat retainers and continue their work when wet. For some rivers, helmets are recommended.
Step 5
Synthetic or wool gloves are a wonderful luxury on the river, especially if you are paddling.

Hot weather

Step 1
Booties and sneakers work fine, regardless of weather, and sandals allow water flow to work as a constant coolant.
Step 2
Shorts or swimsuits are most comfy for lower body, but starting out with Farmer Johns provides options (removing or rolling the tops down).
Step 3
Any kind of T-shirt or synthetic top is adequate in hot weather. Even the reviled cotton gets a pass when it's hot. The heat does not preclude the need for a life jacket.
Step 4
Wear a hat with a surrounding brim. Baseball caps and bandannas also thwart the sun's burning efforts. Cover all exposed skin with sunscreen, and carry sunglasses on a tether strap.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
Rafting is a dangerous sport. Being a strong swimmer should be a prerequisite for dabbling in whitewater. Kids should always wear life jackets with head rests.

Article Written By Barry Truman

Barry Truman has published many outdoor activity articles in the past five years with International Real Travel Adventures, the Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer newspapers, Backpacking Light Magazine and Trails.com. He has a forestry degree from the University of Washington.

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