Are you ready to immerse yourself in nature and get a dose of adrenaline? White water rafting is the most exciting way to explore a river and the surrounding foliage and is definitely something to cross off of your bucket list. While it may seem intimidating, with a tour guide and the proper equipment, you’ll be safe, prepared, and ready for the trip.
You might be wondering, what should you wear on a trip like this? You can probably imagine that an itsy-bitsy bikini won’t work, but wearing casual clothing seems wrong too. We are here to help you put together a white water rafting outfit that is comfortable and safe for the experience.
Additionally, we have rounded up lists of what to bring with you and our favorite spots in the country to go white water rafting. Keep reading to get all of the info you need!
What To Put On at Home
The first step in preparing yourself for a day on the river is getting ready at home. Here’s everything you need to do before hopping in the car:
First, you need to get dressed with the proper base layer. While white water rafting, you are guaranteed to get pretty wet from the river water splashing up into the boat. You’ll want a base layer that’s secure and, most importantly, waterproof.
This is the time to push your lightweight string bikinis aside and opt for something with more support and coverage. You’ll want to be secure with the continuous movement on the boat without risking a tie coming undone or a bikini top shifting. In this vaca scenario, one-pieces are your best friend.
The Amalfi one-piece would be the best choice in this scenario, thanks to its full coverage, adjustable straps, and lack of string closures. This suit will keep your girls secured, and it’ll act as a handy base layer.
Or, opt for an athletic-chic suit like The Malibu. With removable cups and underbust elastic, this suit provides maximum bust support to keep you comfortable even on the wildest of adventures. The compressive fabric is flexible and flattering, so no matter how rough the rapids, you’ll always look cute!
Even though you might be rafting on a hot day, it’s recommended to have another layer on top of your swimsuit. This will keep your skin from chafing on your life jacket or the seat below your bum. It will give you a safety net that protects you from an accidental flash.
Rather than throwing on an old t-shirt and a pair of pajamas you don’t care about, try opting for clothes made of quick-dry material. Anything you use to work out will generally work for white water rafting.
You want your clothes to dry as quickly as possible and don’t want them to retain water while rafting to optimize comfort.
What also might be surprising is the closed-toe shoe recommendation for white water rafting. It’s critical to protect your feet on your way to the raft and from anything in the boat. The experience will also be much more comfortable if your feet are protected, especially in the fall or winter when water shoes can double as a layer to keep you warm.
Because your feet will be submerged in water on the bottom of the raft for most of the ride, water shoes are the best choice. Regular tennis shoes will absorb the water and feel extremely heavy on your feet. However, if regular tennis shoes are all that’s available to you, they’ll work in a pinch.
What To Put On at the Water
Once you get to the river, your white water rafting guides will give you a few more pieces to add to your outfit.
Although you shouldn’t be too scared of falling out of the raft if you’re a confident swimmer, you want to be protected in the small chance that an accident happens. Especially if you are rafting in Class III to V rapids, then the risk is much higher, and you’ll definitely be provided with a helmet.
If you don’t like the idea of sharing a helmet with the people who have gone rafting before you, you can purchase it and bring your own. However, rafting companies clean and sanitize the gear well in between each tour, which should give you peace of mind.
You will also be given your own personal floatation device, also known as a life jacket. This is the most important piece of equipment and is required for any white water rafting tour with outfitters.
Again, if you’re particular about the gear you put on, you can bring your own life vest with you. Keep in mind that some companies may legally be required to give you one of their own life jackets for insurance purposes.
What Not To Wear
Usually, we operate by the “wear what makes you feel confident” rule, but when it comes to white water rafting, these guidelines are more about comfort than fashion.
There are a few pieces of clothing that will make your white water rafting experience more uncomfortable or more difficult.
When choosing the top layer to put on over your swimsuit, try to avoid cotton. Cotton sucks up water and holds onto it. The water in your clothes can add pounds of weight and can make you more susceptible to shivering in a cool breeze. Additionally, cotton stretches easily, and cotton clothes can start to sag uncomfortably on your body when it holds onto water.
Like we said before, try to use athletic, quick-drying materials rather than cotton-based clothing.
Flip flops are a major no-no on a rafting boat. Even if you think your flip-flops fit your feet snugly, they will fly off of you when white water rafting. If they fly off and land in the water, you’re never going to see them again, and the plastic in the shoes hurts the ecosystem of the river.
If they fly off towards the other people in your boat, this can be extremely dangerous. Whether they hit someone or distract them, you don’t want to run the risk of being responsible for someone losing their concentration on the water.
Long story short, stick to closed-toed water shoes.
What To Bring With You
While you can’t bring much with you on the small and wet boat, there are a few essentials you can’t leave the house without.
First and foremost, you need to protect your body from the sun! The cold water from the river will be splashing on you the entire time, so you might not even notice the sun beating down on your skin, which can lull you into a false sense of security. Bring a bottle of broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen with you and slather it on before hopping into the raft.
If you want to protect your eyes from the sun, you can choose between a hat or sunglasses. If you are choosing a hat, it’s best to pick one that has a string closure that rests underneath your chin to eliminate the risk of losing it on the water. If you choose a ball cap, just be sure that it is adjusted to fit tightly on your head.
If you want to throw on a pair of sunglasses, just be sure they fit snugly on your face. Our Bella shades are sturdy and large enough to protect your eyes from the sun at every angle. Not to mention, they’re totally stylish. To make sure you bring your favorite sunnies home, consider an “eyewear retainer,” aka the fabric that connects the arms of your glasses and circles your neck.
At this point, it’s no secret that you’re going to be soaked when you’re finished white water rafting. While your soaked hair and clothes will seem like a small price to pay for the adventure and excitement white water rafting brings, you probably won’t want to get your car seats wet. Furthermore, it’s totally uncomfortable to sit for a long drive with your clothes soaking wet.
You will thank yourself after the trip if you bring an extra set of dry clothes with you. Some white water rafting companies have storage lockers for you to stash your belongings, but if that’s not an option, bring a small dry bag with you.
Our Favorite White Water Rafting Spots
Now that you know what to wear and what to bring, it’s time to pick your white water rafting destination!!
Snake River, Wyoming
Snake River is an extremely popular spot for white water rafting, and Teton Whitewater has been leading tours down the river for years. When booking their classic Snake River Whitewater rafting trip, you’re signing up for 3.5 hours of pure joy and excitement.
You will cover eight miles (round trip) of water alongside beautiful scenery and lush foliage. Their experienced guides will teach you the ropes and show you the best of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
This trip takes you down iconic rapids like The Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter, which are loved by locals and tourists alike.
Colorado River, Arizona
The Grand Canyon will leave you speechless after just a glance. Can you imagine getting an up close and exciting look at the Canyon while riding down a rushing river? Arizona Raft Adventures offers classic whitewater rafting experiences. These multi-day adventures take you down a significant portion of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon.
These trips are recommended for those who have gone white water rafting before and are ready for a multi-day trip. You can choose from trips that last between six and 14 days. This gives you the chance to experience a variety of river conditions: quiet and still, pounding rapids, quiet again, etc.
Gauley River, West Virginia
A more tamed-down version of the Grand Canyon tours, Ace Adventure Resort offers two experiences on the Gauley River: a Fall Upper Gauley tour for experienced rafters and the scenic Fall Lower Gauley tour for first-timers.
These all-day trips will allow you to marvel at the gorgeous West Virginia scenery, tackle exciting rapids, and enjoy a mid-day riverside lunch.
They also offer overnight trips if you feel comfortable rafting and are ready to travel down the water two days in a row.
Salmon River, Idaho
Traversing the rapids on the longest undammed river in the US and looking up to admire 100-ft tall pine trees is the perfect combination for an exciting afternoon. With Orange Torpedo Trips, you can choose between half-day, full-day, and 2-3 day trips down the water that start in Riggins, Idaho, known as the “whitewater capital” of Idaho.
This river is completely controlled by snow melt, so rafting in late June or early July will be the prime time of year for exciting waves. This also means that the water is crystal-clear, which adds to the impressive aesthetic of the area.
Kennebec River, Maine
While you might not immediately think of Maine as a white water rafters destination, the Kennebec River provides the perfect conditions for first-time rafters and pros alike. The 12-mile river is also the best length for a satisfying and exciting day trip. With the Forks Adventure Resort, your trip will last four to six hours in total, with a midday gourmet lunch provided to you.
Maine can get pretty chilly, so they also offer wetsuit rentals for every age and size. After traveling down the Class III or IV rapids and stopping for lunch, you’ll end with some time for swimming and floating, too!
Time To Hit the Water
White water rafting is an experience you will never forget. Feeling accomplished after maneuvering through rapid waves and taking in a breath of fresh air as you admire the natural beauty that surrounds you will make your mind, body, and soul feel happy and fulfilled.
To have a successful trip, be prepared. Be sure to wear the ultimate swimwear, top layer, shoes, and sun protection. Your tour company should provide you with the rest, and you’ll be good to go!
Luckily, there are great spots for whitewater rafting all around the country, so you shouldn’t have to travel too far. And no matter which destination you choose, you’re guaranteed to be met with beautiful scenery, adventure, and something new to add to your list of outdoor activities.
Sunscreen | The Skin Cancer Foundation
Safety Code of American Whitewater | American Whitewater