Summer Rafting Trips:
What to Wear & What Not To!

So you're heading off for a California whitewater rafting trip? Listed below are some of the items you'll want to bring with you, as well as some you want to avoid.

Quick-drying shorts

Nylon shorts are perfect. What you need to look for is a fabric that will dry quickly. You want to be able to get splashed, jump in the water, and yet still have dry shorts at lunch. Your day will be a lot more comfortable that way.

What you don't want: Jean cut-offs!

Cotton T-shirt

On cold weather trips a cotton T-shirt is the last thing you'd want, but on a summer trip it's a great way to keep cool and keep from getting burned by the sun. If you're sitting on the boat and get too hot, you can just dip your shirt in the water and put it on—instant comfort!

What you don't want: Extremely heavy cotton t-shirts with low-hanging sleeves that would make it difficult to swim.

Old athletic shoes

Old athletic shoes are great on the river. They stay on your feet when you're swimming and they offer more foot protection than sandals. No matter what kind of sneaker you wear, make certain you've broken them in before your trip so as to avoid getting blisters.

What you don't want: Flip-flops or boots!

Hat with a brim

Whether it's a ball cap or a wide brim sun hat, you've got to wear a hat on your river trip. As we all know, protecting yourself from the sun is very important. A hat will keep your face, ears and scalp out of the harsh rays. One exception: if you'll be on a Class IV-V river, you'll be required to wear a helmet during your trip. Wearing a hat under your helmet can often be uncomfortable. To avoid this situation we suggest you wear a visor under your helmet.

What you don't want: A skullcap or no hat at all!


Just like when you're snow skiing, you've got to protect your eyes from glare. Wearing good sunglasses is key to avoiding sun-damaged eyes (make sure they provide UVA/UVB protection). Make sure you also have a retention strap like Chums or Croakies attached to your glasses so you aren't at risk of losing them.

What you don't want: To depend on your hat to provide sun protection for your eyes.


This is the single most important thing to wear on your rafting trip. There's nothing worse than having a great day on the river, then suffering through the next day with a blistering sunburn. Besides, studies show that each sunburn raises your cancer risk (especially every sunburn before age 18). Do yourself a favor and slather on the sunscreen. Make sure to get one that's at least SPF 30. When you're applying it, don't forget your ears and neck. And if you're not wearing a hat (God forbid!), make sure you put sunscreen on your hair part as well!

To get started on your next California river rafting trip.

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