What Kind of Equipment Is Used to Whitewater Rafting?

What Kind of Equipment Is Used to Whitewater Rafting?
Whitewater rafting is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of many ages and abilities. Seated in an inflatable raft, participants use the current of the river to travel downstream. Some areas of the river may have swift current and will require navigating through rocks and turbulence; other areas will be much more calm. The International Scale of River Difficulty rates rapids on a scale of one to six. Regardless of the difficulty of the rapids, participants will be surrounded by nature and fresh air.

Inflatable Raft

Rafts come in various sizes. You should only carry as many passengers as will fit safely into the raft.

The raft is typically made from fabric, plastic or rubber.

Carry a repair kit with you on rafting trips; though the material used for inflatable rafts is strong, a bad collision with a sharp rock can do some damage.

Make sure to perform basic maintenance on the raft and check closely for any leaks or issues before the trip.

The raft should also be equipped with ropes around the perimeter so that they can be grabbed in case of a rafter falling into the water. The rope should be taut, not loose.


Some rafts are set up for one passenger rowing; others for team rowing.

Oars are made of carbon, wood or fiberglass and come in an array of shapes and sizes for easy paddling. You should always carry at least one extra oar in case you lose one in the river.

Life Jacket

Life jackets should be worn at all times while on the river. Jackets should fit snugly, but still be comfortable. A good life jacket will not only provide flotation in case of raft upset, but will also provide shoulder and back protection. Many jackets provide head rests that will keep your head above water even if you are unconscious.

Purchase a life jacket that is designated for whitewater rafting; these are more buoyant than other jackets and allow more flexibility for movement. Your life jacket should also be Coast Guard approved for whitewater rafting. Some states have laws requiring the use of life jackets.


Especially when traversing rapids with many rocks, a helmet is essential. If the raft tips you may find yourself traveling quickly downstream and may not be able to avoid boulders. A helmet will protect your head and can prevent serious injury or even death. Find a quality helmet that fits well and keep it firmly strapped on while on the river.

Wet Suit

When air temperatures are low, getting wet can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. Hypothermia can set in quickly in cold conditions. A wet suit will help maintain your body heat if you should get dunked in the river.

If you are rafting during warm summer months, regular clothing will be just fine. Find clothing constructed of fabric that will dry quickly in order to stay comfortable.

Article Written By Cate Rushton

Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.

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