Pro Tip: Sun Protection
We all enjoy a sunny day on the water, but a sunny day without the proper protection can quickly turn the rest of the week into a painful nightmare of sunburns, dehydration, and general misery. Even if sunburns are not normally an issue for you, the sunlight reflecting off the water doubles its intensity and makes sun protection a must. Fortunately, a little preparation goes a long way. Speaking as someone who's skin tone can accurately be described as "fish belly white," these are my sun protection recommendations for any river trip.
Whenever possible, I wear long sleeves on the river. Many companies make sun shirts or hoodies from lightweight, synthetic materials that are breathable and comfortable. Not only will a long sleeved shirt keep the sun off your arms, it will also keep you cooler than you would be in short sleeves.
Pro Tip: Quick dry pants or tights can also be worn to help keep the sun off of your legs
On the river, sunlight reflects off of the water, and up into your eyes. Even if you wear a hat, sunglasses are a must-have. Polarized lenses are designed specifically to filter out reflected light. They are definetly worth the extra price tag. I really like Smith Optics as they have a vast range of styles. While you may not plan on swimming, it is a good idea to secure your sunglasses some sort of retainer.
A good river hat is worth it's weight in gold. A ball cap will do, but the best river hats have wide brims all the way around. Don't forget to add some sort of strap to keep it on your head for when the wind picks up. There are many different brands of hats, but if you ever find yourself in Salmon, ID, be sure to stop by Jaxonbilt Hat Co. to check out the best river hats ever made.
This one seems obvious, but is easy to forget in all of the excitement of the day. Sunscreen should be water resistant, and at least SPF 30. I prefer to carry a small tube that fits in a pocket, so that I never need to go looking for it in the morning. This sunscreen from EltaMD helps keep my "fish belly white" skin looking good.
Reapplying after lunch is always a good idea, but the most important thing about sun screen on the river is to NEVER SUNSCREEN YOUR FOREHEAD! No matter how waterproof it is, it will always end up running down into your eyes. Your hat or helmet will cover your forehead, so keep the sunscreen for the bottom half of your face. Don't forget the tips of your ears and feet!
A sarong is a light piece of fabric that can be either tied around your waist or laid over your knees while on the raft. Like a sun hoodie, they help keep the sun off you. A sarong really comes in handy when you are sitting in a raft or a ducky all day. The tops of your thighs are a common place for sun burn. A sun burn early in a trip can be tough to deal with. You can also dunk your sarong to help keep you cool when out in the sun all day.
The boat umbrella is a luxury most often seen on the hottest desert canyon trips. They are a huge hassle when the wind picks up, and often break over the course of longer trips, but can make a brutally hot day a lot more bearable. They are also really awesome to have if there is a quick afternoon rain storm! Also really nice to have if you are just hanging out on your raft on a lay over day or when you get to camp early.
While it is nice to work on your tan, a summer filled with rafting can lead to some problems down the road. Make sure to protect your self form the sun with the proper gear. I have yet to meet someone with a terrible sun burn that was really happy about it.