Where to buy your gear
As previously mentioned, buying new gear is not recommended when rafting for the first time. Nearly all of the items on this list can be reliably sourced from flea markets, swap websites, or Craigslist, if you’re feeling froggy. In particular, BoaterTalk’s GearSwap is a great resource, if you’re not afraid of buying stuff from strangers on the internet. Of course, if you’ve got the cash, you can just buy new stuff but if you don’t end up using it very much, that’s a lot of dough down the drain.
What else do you need?
Sunglasses are often a necessity when rafting — even if it’s not that nice out, the sky can be blinding, and your retinas will thank you. In the same vein, you’ll want to get a sunglass retainer — like this one, from Chums — to keep those polarized bad boys on your head. There’s nothing more frustrating than hitting a rock and watching your $200 pair of shades fly away, never to be seen again. You’ll also want to apply sunscreen. Don’t be the person who forgets sunscreen and ends up miserable. Just don’t.
These days, most people want to bring their smartphone or a digital camera on rafting trips. While we can’t blame you — how else are you supposed to brag to your Insta followers? — we can recommend that you bring a dry bag and only pull out your digital gear when the going is smooth (or when you’re parked). You can also get waterproof cases but that’ll cost a lot more money, and where’s the sense of adventure there? Plus, if you drop your phone in some whitewater rapids, you’re not getting it back — waterproof or otherwise.
Knives — particularly river knives — can also be a handy tool if used responsibly. A knife gets you out of sticky situations by sawing through ropes or branches in a jiffy. Finally, don’t forget to bring food and/or drinks if you’re going to be out for a while. Nothing is quite as refreshing as an ice cold beer in the middle of the river. Nalgene bottles or Hydroflask-style temperature regulated bottles can be of use here. Bringing lightweight, high protein food (like Clif bars) is also recommended.