River Rafting Gear – Get Educated

Posted October 24, 2023 by Reily Schultz

Whitewater rafting is a unique sport that requires much training, enthusiasm, and specialized gear. There are some that seem obvious- a life jacket, helmet, paddle… but how familiar are you really with the equipment and safety gear that go down the river with you each trip? Take a look at some of our essential whitewater gear.


A personal flotation device, or a PFD, is the accurate term for what’s colloquially called a life jacket or a life vest. The personal flotation devices that All-Outdoors provides to all our guests are rated for commercial whitewater rafting trips and must be worn at all times while on the water.

Flip Line

A flip line is a length of webbing with a carabiner at one end which a guide will use to help overturn a raft that has flipped back to its upright position. This line can also be used for tethering boats together or as a rescue tool. Every guide on a rafting trip is equipped with a flip line, many choose to wear it like a belt! (When Your Raft Flips – What to Do & Not Do)

using a flip line to right a flipped raft
Guide school students using a flip-line to right a raft

Rescue Throw Bag

A throw bag is an emergency rescue tool consisting of a bag filled with and attached to 50-70 feet of rope. When the bag is thrown to a swimmer, the stored rope unravels as it travels through the air. The person in the water can then hold the rope tightly to be pulled back to the raft or to shore.

rescue throw bag
A throw bag being prepped and used for a practice throw to a swimmer


A drybag is just what it sounds like- a bag that is watertight and will keep its contents dry even when the exterior is wet. Drybags are used for items that need protection and for packing overnight items on multi-day trips.

Cam Strap

Cam straps are lightweight straps which use tension-buckles to tighten. These are used to tie down any and all equipment to the raft.

multiday gear boat
Cam straps are used to secure guests’ dry bags to the raft

Gear Boat

A gear boat is a heavily rigged boat that accompanies any self-supported rafting trip. This boat is typically equipped with an oar frame, and is piled high with everything the trip needs for the overnight adventure. Kitchen set up, guests’ drybags, camp chairs, etc. all get strapped securely onto this raft.

Gear Boat in Tunnel Chute - Middle Fork American
A gear boat for a Middle Fork American multi-day trip cruises through Tunnel Chute Rapid


Oars are long poles with a long, flat blade at one end, used by a raft guide to propel and steer the raft down the river. Oars are attached to the raft with a metal oar frame that provides a place for the oars to lock in for easier control, and a place for the guide to sit while rowing. Only the guide uses oars, other rafters in the boat will use paddles.

Oar Boats on Cherry Creek
AO guide Jack secures oars to their frames before a rafting trip


Paddles are poles with a wide, flat blade at one end, and a small T-shaped handle called a “T-grip” on the other. Each rafter will have a paddle and use it to help move the raft down river by pushing water in the opposite direction of travel.


A D-shaped coupling link/clip with a spring loaded locking closure used to securely attach rafting gear together. Carabiners are often used to connect rafts, secure a flip line to the boat, or clip smaller items onto the raft.

Guide with flip line and carabiner
AO guide Reese carries paddles down to the river before a trip. Can you spot her carabiner and flip-line?


A groover is the name lovingly given to the portable privy that accompanies multi-day wilderness rafting trips. The groover is set up far away from camp for privacy. It earned its name from its origins- a retired ammo can that would leave grooves on your legs after use. Luckily, the set up has been updated since those days, and rafters now enjoy a proper bathroom seat and the best view you will ever have from the commode.

Guides set up the “best seat in the house” when they arrive at camp


A boom is a type of hydraulic crane that is mounted on a commercial vehicle. We use our boom truck at take-out to safely pick up rafts from the river and raise them up to our gear vehicles after a rafting trip. This saves guides and guests the hassle of carrying rafts and gear up a steep embankment. Boom trucks are ever-present at our standard take-out on the Tuolumne River.

Tuolumne Boom Truck
Rafts are hoisted from the Tuolumne River at the Knight’s Ferry Bridge take-out
Author Bio

Reily Schultz

Reily is a Gold Country native. She graduated from Willamette University with a degree in Studio Art and a minor in Gender Studies and Psychology. She joined the All-Outdoors family in the spring of 2022, working as a California Rafting Consultant and a member of the marketing team. Her favorite All-Outdoors itinerary is the multi-day Tuolumne rafting trip. Reily is an avid artist, outdoors-woman, and purr-fessional cat snuggler.


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