FAQs: What to Wear for Whitewater Rafting
What you should wear on a rafting trip depends on the time of year you are going and if you are going on a day trip or an over-night trip. Here are answers to commonly asked questions about how to dress for a whitewater rafting trip.
1. What should I wear for whitewater rafting?
First check the forecast and take into account what season it is. In the summertime, gym shorts and either a short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirt over a swimsuit will work well. I prefer quick-drying synthetic materials over cotton which clings to my skin when wet.
Summer pro tip: For river trips in the full summer sun, wear a thin long-sleeved shirt and shorts or capris that cover your knees. You'll be sitting on the raft in a way that leaves the tops of your thighs exposed to full sun, and covering up means you don't have to worry about applying sunscreen after you get splashed. But don't forget sunscreen for your face and the tops of your hands!
In case of cold air or water temperatures, you may be required to wear a wetsuit and a paddle jacket. The wetsuit will fit like overalls, covering your legs and trunk, and strapping over your shoulders. The paddle jacket is pull-over layer made of a material that is similar to a rain jacket. You should bring your own fleece jacket to wear underneath this layer.
2. What do you wear for cold water rafting?
Unless it is a warm summer day, rafting can be a chilly activity. Being prepared will allow you to enjoy your trip even in cooler temperatures. In the spring and the fall you will want warmer layers like long-john pants under swim trunks, a fleece shirt or jacket, or a wetsuit. Most rafting companies can provide a wetsuit for you if you ask.
Cold-weather pro tip: Buy some neoprene socks to wear with your river shoes. These won't keep your feet dry, but they will keep your feet warm even while wet. You can find some from NRS.
3. Can you wear glasses while white water rafting?
If you wear prescription glasses you can wear them rafting as long as you have a strap. Brands like Croakies make eyeglass straps that attach to each arm so you don't lose them in the water. I would recommend wearing an old back-up pair of glasses if you have one.
You are also welcome to wear sunglasses on a bright day, but you'll need a strap on them and it is recommended that you leave your expensive pair at home.
4. What shoes do you wear for rafting?
Rafting shoes need to be sturdy and stay on your feet, even if you take a swim. You can wear an old pair of tennis shoes, some river sandals, or a water shoe. Many brands are making lightweight sneakers that dry quickly and have small holes for water to drain out that work well. Our favorite river shoes are Chacos or Astrals.
5. Can you wear Crocs or flip flops for whitewater rafting?
No. In case you fall into the river, your Crocs or flip flops will come off in the current and float away. Swimming in the river while barefoot leaves your feet vulnerable to being cut or bruised on rocks. In case you swim to shore instead of the raft, your shoeless feet will be stepping on small rocks and tree branches.
6. What should I pack for an overnight rafting trip?
The rafting outfitter will provide you with a detailed list, but here is a quick list:
7. What do you wear under a wetsuit for rafting?
A swimsuit is the easiest option here. Men can wear boardshorts or synthetic boxers under their wetsuit also. No matter what you decide to wear, make sure it is not cotton. Cotton gets heavy and cold when it's wet so a synthetic material will help you to stay warmer.