Dressing for a summertime rafting trip is a whole lot simpler than finding that perfect outfit for a televised wedding, a State Dinner at the White House, or a winter birthday party with a carnival theme. For a river trip you just want the basics: quick dry fabrics, shoes that will stay on your feet, and sun protection.
Quick dry usually means synthetic fabrics, although frankly on a really hot day a cotton shirt can be nice over your swim suit because it’ll take awhile to dry and thus keep you cooler longer. I do suggest you avoid cotton shorts though–who likes a soggy booty even if it is 110 in the shade?
Shoes that will stay on your feet means NOT your cute summer flips or espadrilles. It means your sneakers, sport sandals like Tevas or Chacos–something will stay on your feet if you swim, offers protection from rocks or herds of buffalo, and that will give you some grip on wet rocks. Never know when those buffalo will stampede . . . or really hungry rafters who’ve just spotted the chips and salsa. I’ve seen it, people, I’ve seen it.
Sun protection. This is fairly obvious, but here’s my tip: sunscreen only protects skin it’s applied to. If I had a dollar for every person I’ve seen with literal hand prints of sunscreen and haphazard stripes of red and white……….and who says “I don’t get it, I put on sunscreen like 5 times!” I would not be sitting here writing this post. I would be somewhere with azure water, white sands, and really high SPF. Hats are good, also sunglasses (with Chums, which you can buy on most of our rivers) and long-sleeves.