Winter Rafting Attire: A Steep Learning Curve

Posted January 27, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

Winter Whitewater Rafting AttireI always liked to think of myself as a fast learner, but have lately had a few experiences that might suggest otherwise. One of the most recent of these occured this last weekend, when I went rafting on the North and South Forks of the Smith River, and finally on the Cal Salmon.

Our first morning of boating was Sunday, on the South Fork of the Smith. As soon as we looked at the sky that morning we knew the trip was destined for glory– not a single cloud in sight.

Put-in was similarly decieving. I found myself sweating in thin jeans and two layers of capilene, so thought “Wow, it’s a really warm day.” Seems like a logical conclusion, but I should have kept in mind that it is, after all, January.

My outfit of choice that first day? Chacos (no wool socks), wetsuit pants, two capilene tops, and a splash top. This would be an absolute broiler in the middle of summer… but in the dead of winter- just a little insane.

I had failed to take two things into consideration: water temperature and the difference between shade and sunshine. So half way through our trip in that shady canyon and I was shivering my butt off. My friends asked me what in the world I had been thinking when I put my gear on and, as happens often, I wasn’t quite sure.

Alright, so lesson learned. The next day I added a full dry suit and boots to the ensemble (a great look for anyone) and thought, “Gosh I’m such a fast learner. Look at me styled out for the day.”

Again didn’t take a few factors into consideration: layers and cold hands. I ended up freezing my butt off and was even more annoyed because I should’ve know better.
Finally on the third day I added capilene and fleece and gore tex and warmer cap and gloves (a lot of which was borrowed) and finally had a warm comfortable day on the river. (Just in time for an amazing run on the Cal Salmon.)
So I share this story with you so that you may be a better learner than I and not even have to make the mistake in the first place! Will I have everything I need for that next trip? Probably not… but wool socks for sure.


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