Don’t Make These Newbie Mistakes on Your Rafting Trip

Posted June 5, 2024 by Lenka Bostian

Are you gearing up for your very first whitewater rafting adventure? You probably have a lot of questions. What should I wear for rafting? What footwear should I choose? Where will I keep my car keys? Rather than turning to Reddit or Google, stick with us for a trusty guide to make sure you have the correct information straight from the source. Don’t make these newbie mistakes on your whitewater rafting trip:

Mistake #1: Wearing the wrong clothes on your rafting trip

To have the best possible time on your whitewater rafting trip, you should be dressed in appropriate clothing. We aren’t talking fashion trends here, we are talking function. The specific items and layers will depend on the time of the year and the weather on the day of your river adventure. In general, you will want to wear clothing that is comfortable when wet. Athletic activewear made out of thin quick-drying fabrics is your best bet. Avoid wearing bulky clothes and thick materials on the river. For a handy guide with additional information by season (spring, summer, fall), see our what to wear for whitewater rafting page.

what to wear do's and don'ts
Only one of these models is ready to hit the rapids!

Mistake #2: Showing up in inappropriate footwear for rafting

Unlike some other water-based sports and activities, whitewater rafting requires sturdy footwear. Do not make the mistake of showing up in flip flops, Crocs, aqua socks, or any other slip-on shoes that don’t have laces, straps, or fasteners to keep the shoe on your foot at all times. You need your lower extremities protected and comfy while you are walking on rocky, uneven terrain, inside the raft, as well as in case you go for a swim (intentional or not) in the river. Some people prefer athletic sandals, such as Keens, Tevas, or Chacos. Those are acceptable but keep in mind that they may not offer as much protection, especially for your toes. We recommend an older pair of lace-on sneakers; thin non-cotton socks are optional.

wrong footwear for whitewater rafting
Examples of the wrong type of footwear for whitewater rafting. Do not wear these on your river trip!

Mistake #3: Arriving late or at the wrong meet place

Nobody wants to miss their rafting trip! Be sure to read through your confirmation email carefully and understand where to go to meet your river guides. We operate rafting trips on 10 California rivers and each has its own meet place. Do not just assume the first address you come across on our website is the correct location for your whitewater adventure! 

Rafting trip meet times are set based on several variables, including water flow levels and reservoir release schedules, river permits, and shuttle logistics, to name a few. Oftentimes there is very little flexibility, so it is important all guests arrive on time. Look up your driving directions ahead of time and add some padding for any unexpected delays. Contact us with any questions or in case you are running late.

Rafting Check In on the South Fork
A group of rafters checking in for their South Fork American River rafting trip at the All-Outdoors River Center meet place.

Mistake #4: Skimping on sun protection

Chances are, it is going to be sunny during your whitewater adventure. Make sure you pack a comfortable hat that will stay put as you ride through exciting rapids. A baseball cap is a great choice for rafters who opt to wear their hat underneath the helmet. Sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun and glare off the water. Add a strap to keep them around your neck in case a sneaky wave tries to knock them off your nose. 

Applying sunscreen once you park your car at the meet place is a great start, but it will not be enough. You will want to re-apply regularly throughout the day to stay protected from the rays. Take your sunscreen with you on the raft and make sure you slather some on every few hours. Do not forget about your neck, the tops of your ears, the backs of your hands, your ankles, and the part of your legs where your shorts ride up while sitting. The only parts you may want to skip while on the water are your forehead (so the sunscreen doesn’t run into your eyes) and the back of your legs (so you don’t slip around your seat).

Paddle High Five (or seven)
Have fun in the sun: apply sunscreen regularly and remember to hydrate.

Mistake #5: Too much coffee, not enough water

Many whitewater rafting trips start with an early alarm clock and hitting the road at the crack of dawn. Enjoying a cup of coffee on the drive from home to the river is perfectly fine and a good idea to jumpstart your active day. However, you don’t want to go overboard with caffeine while skipping the good ol’ H2O. Start hydrating early and keep it up during your day out on the river. Drinking enough water will assist in regulating your body temperature and help you fully enjoy your time in the sun. Bring a water bottle with you on the raft where we have a mesh bag available for storage. We also bring a large water jug for refills, so drink up and have a great time!

Mistake #6: Taking valuables or car keys with you on the river trip

Ever since that fateful South Fork American River rafting trip in the All-Outdoors early days when an ammo can full of car keys sank to the bottom of the river, we discourage bringing keys or any valuables on the river. That was a newbie mistake we don’t want anyone to repeat! Leave any expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, or autographed baseball caps safely at home. As for your car keys, our river guides will offer to collect them on the morning of your trip and lock them at the meeting place where they will stay nice and dry until your return.

Now you can look forward to your whitewater rafting trip with confidence. If you still have questions, our friendly and knowledgeable California Rafting Consultants will be happy to help you prepare for an amazing experience. We can’t wait to see you on the river!

Author Bio

Lenka Bostian

Lenka started working for All-Outdoors in the summer of 2005 when she followed her heart from her native Czech Republic out to California. After graduating college in Prague, she packed up her degree in International Business and moved across the pond for good. She’s been part of the AO family ever since, wearing different hats along the way. Besides trail running, tennis, and traveling, Lenka enjoys rafting and camping on the South Fork with her hubby (former AO guide) and their twin boys.


Back to Top

Email Newsletter

Get season updates, latest rafting videos & blogs, plus enter to Win a Free Trip for Two! Learn more

Manage My Reservation