Rafting Packing List
This rafting packing list will help you prepare for your rafting adventure through Grand Canyon National Park. We say “the Canyon is not a “stuff” place,” and “less is more” but there are certain items you need to bring on your trip. The list is split into three categories: recommended clothing, miscellaneous items, and optional items.
The most effective way to plan for temperature and weather changes in the Canyon is to be prepared for both hot & dry and cold & wet, April through October. This Grand Canyon rafting packing list is recommend for ALL seasons. PLEASE don’t be frustrated if you bring something you don’t use (even in the summer). The air temperatures can often exceed 100 degrees during the summer months and the Colorado River’s temperature is a constant 48-52 degrees. Combine a cloudy, windy, or rainy summer afternoon with cold rapid water and you will understand why you need to be prepared for all extremes. With this in mind, pack according to your own tolerance for heat and cold. Here are two additional tips to help maintain a comfortable temperature through out the day: (1.) light colors are recommended in the summer and (2.) “layering” different key pieces of gear is key.
How much is enough or too much? Pack for the season and your personal needs. You should be prepared for temperature extremes in the Canyon. It is difficult for us to advise you of exact quantities (i.e. 2 shorts, 3 shirts, etc.), as everyone has different needs. Base quantities on trip length, month, and your own tolerance for heat and cold. Guests are frequently amazed at how much they can do without. On the other hand, if yours is the one trip a year with rain everyday, you’ll be glad you were prepared. Due to space limitations, please do not bring any more than can fit into your waterproof bag. It is also important to remember, although you will not have to carry your dry bags all day long, you will have to haul them back and forth at camp everyday. You might like to consult Red River Sports Retail for gear.
- Rain Jacket and Rain Pant – Rain gear is used for protection from wind and spray from the rapids, as well as from rain showers. Look for waterproof rain gear with sealed seams and fitted wrist and leg cuffs. A rain jacket is essential all year (April-October); rain pants are important for spring and fall trips(April-May & September-October). Bring rain pants in the summer months if you are cold natured. Do not bring ponchos and plastic rain suits as they are not appropriate for this trip. Paddle jackets and paddle pants are also popular substitutions for rain gear and nice on spring and fall trips.
- Polypropylene Long Underwear Top and Bottom – Polypropylene is a quick-dry performance material that wicks moisture away from your skin which keeps you warmer. There are many names for similar types of material such as capilene, coolmax, etc. This is another “must have” item. Although there are certainly times throughout the year that you may never use this item, weather in the Grand Canyon can be unpredictable and you should always have this item with you. Bring bottoms during the summer months if you are cold-natured. A second top and bottom might be useful during early spring and late fall trips.
- Non-Cotton Base Layers – Women wear swim suits or quick dry underwear and sport bras as a base layer during the day. Over the base layer, wear a pair of quick dry shorts and the shirt of your choice (polypropylene if you are cold, cotton if you are hot). Two piece swim suits are convenient when changing or going to the bathroom.
- Quick Drying Shorts – The best thing for men is to wear swim trunks as shorts. Women might want to consider a pair of quick dry shorts with a built-in underwear liner. Swim trunks and loose, nylon material dries fast, allows freedom of movement and does not chafe. Do not wear cotton shorts on the river.
- Long Sleeve Cotton Shirt and Pants – Bring at least one long sleeve cotton t-shirt or button down shirt to help keep you cooler on hot days. Button down shirts provide more sun protection on the neck and are easier to put on and take off. Long sleeve nylon shirts with SPF are a popular second shirt. Bring lighter colors during the summer to help reflect the sun light. Pajama bottoms, hospital scrubs or light nylon pants provide additional protection on your legs.
- Light Weight Cotton Pant, Nylon Pant or Sarong – These might be considered an optional item. They will help keep sun exposure to a minimum. Pajama bottoms and hospital scrubs are great cotton options. May be used as camp wear too.
- Shirts – Cotton t-shirts, sport bras, and tank tops work well because cotton evaporatively cools you when it gets wet; an advantage during hot summer months. Polypropylene and capilene work well in cooler weather.
- Hat – A large brim offers sun protection and a good quality stampede strap or cap strap keeps you from losing your hat in the wind or rapids. It is not a bad idea to bring an extra hat or visor just in case you need it.
- Socks – Bring a cotton/synthetic blend for hiking and to protect your feet from the sun. Bring wool, polypropylene or neoprene socks to wear on the boats with booties or recreational sandals to keep feet warm. Keep one clean pair for the hike on the Bright Angel Trail if you are hiking out of the Canyon.
- Fleece Hat – A wool or fleece hat is recommended during April-May and August-September or in the summer if you get cold easily.
- Camp Wear – Bring something comfortable to wear around camp. Cotton dresses, skirts and sarongs are all popular options. Sarongs can also serve as sun protection during the day. You may also like cotton underwear along with cotton shorts and short sleeve shirts, tank top, or capri. Previous passengers have also suggested flip flops for camp.
- Sleepwear – You might choose to sleep in your camp wear. Otherwise, you might like to bring something comfortable to sleep in.
- Shoes – You will need shoes for hiking and boat wear. We recommend bringing two pairs. See footwear and care suggestions.
- Medium Size Internal Frame Backpack – ONLY NEEDED IF YOU ARE HIKING IN OR OUT OF THE CANYON (6-7 day classic/paddle or 8-10 day classic/paddle trip) This pack is used to hike personal gear into or out of the canyon. Packs will be stored in a large community waterproof bag while you are on the river.
- One Locking Carabiner – Pronounced cara “beener.” Used to secure your day dry bag to the boat. 4″ size with screw gate locking mechanism. Some customers have recommended a second carabiner to attach your water bottle to the outside of your day dry bag.
- Water bottles/hydration pack – Hard plastic or polycarbonate bottles recommended (much like the Nalgene brand). It is recommended you are able to carry 3 quarts worth of water if you are hiking in or out of the canyon. You must have a strap on bottle so you can sling it over your shoulder or carry it in a pack to allow hands-free hiking. If you bring a hydration pack, bring a spare water bottle for mixing powdered drinks. Two quart carry capacity is appropriate for motor trips.
- Sunglasses – 100% UV protection is recommended. You must have a retainer to keep from losing in the rapids. Having a second pair is a good idea but not necessary.
- Small Day Pack or Lumbar/Hip Pack – For use on side hikes to carry water or camera. This pack is necessary to allow hands-free hiking. The waterproof day dry bag provided is not a backpack.
- Moisturizing lotion– We recommend two bottles. Avoid lotions containing alcohol because it dries out your skin. Bring plenty!
- Headlamp or flashlight – Headlamps are great for hands-free movement around camp. Don’t forget extra batteries!
- Foot powder or ointment – Mole skin is recommended if you are hiking in or out of the canyon.
- Eye glasses or contact lenses – Lens cleaner for contacts and an extra pair of prescription glasses are recommended. Some find contacts to be a bother in the wind and sand. For contact care suggestions, see the Frequently Asked Question regarding personal hygiene.
- Waterproof Sunscreen and Lip Balm – We recommend two bottles of 30 SPF.
- Medications – If your medication is mandatory, a double prescription is recommended; one to be given to the trip leader for safe keeping. Diabetics should bring a glucose monitoring kit. You will have access to a fully-stocked first aid kit however if you routinely take an over-the-counter medication, you may want to bring your own supply.
- Epi-Pen or Ana-kit – Individuals with allergic reactions or potential for an allergic reaction to insect bites or food must bring two.
Optional Rafting Packing List Items
- Gloves– Guests recommend gloves for various reasons: warmth, climbing around on hot rocks, paddling, and to reduce exposure to the sun. Light cotton garden gloves work well for sun protection. Some people like neoprene gloves for the oar or paddle boats during the cooler seasons; a pair of light warm gloves for camp during April-early May or late September-October are often appreciated during the chilly early morning hours.
- Paddle Jacket, Paddle Pants – Offers added protection from the cold river water in place of rain gear (or in addition to rain gear if you are going in early April or October)
- Microfleece Top and Bottom – Microfleece is a performance fleece that is less bulky than regular fleece. This is useful if you are cold natured or if you are going in April-early May or late September-October.
- Neoprene Socks – A technical fabric that retains water and then warmed by your own body. Certainly not ideal for everyone but some passengers like neoprene.
- Towel – A small towel might come in handy for “freshening up” or bathing.
- Bandana – Dip your bandana in the river and tie around your neck or wear under your hat to keep cool.
- Small pillow – A cotton pillow case stuffed with clothes also works.
- Hygiene Products -toothpaste, toothbrush, nail clippers, tissues, tampons, extra eye glasses or contacts, biodegradable soap and shampoo.
- Camera Equipment – Some guests like to bring a point and click waterproof camera (picture quality is low with this type of camera but can provide some fun water shots). Many guests bring an inexpensive digital camera. It is advisable to purchase a waterproof camera bag or hard shell case for cameras (like a Pelican case). The waterproof case must fit into the day bag provided (lunch box size or smaller). There is not a way to recharge cameras so plan on conserving battery power and bring extra batteries or a small portable solar charger.
- Compact Camp Chair – Camp chairs of standard height are provided on all our trips, however, you may want a small personal chair such as a Crazy Creek or REI Flex Lite to bring on hikes, or to use in your campsite. This chair should fit in your blue bag or white bag that we provide.
- Binoculars – Small and compact sizes only.
- Book, watercolors, journal, and pen – for your personal enjoyment and creative expressions!
- Fishing Gear – You may bring a telescopic fishing pole stored in a hard-shell case. You also need an Arizona fishing license. You can purchase in advance from the Arizona Game & Fish at 800-705-4165. License’s are also available at Wal-Mart in Flagstaff. We have a very descriptive page on our website about fishing the Grand Canyon. Click here to read more about fishing.
- Valuables – Leave them at home! We recommend that you put essential items (wallet, credit cards, traveler’s checks) in Ziplock bags- double bagged- and store them in the bottom of your waterproof bag with your clothing. Handle exposed film and medications in a similar fashion. You may want some cash on you for emergencies or gratuities.
- Beverages – Coffee, teas (black and herbal), hot cocoa and juice in the a.m., as well as filtered water and electrolyte replacement mix throughout the day are provided. If you want additional beverages such as soda, beer, wine, mixers, hard alcohol or additional juice – you may bring your own. Soda, beer, mixers and juice must be in aluminum containers. You may bring wine or hard alcohol as long as it is NOT in a glass container. You can either decant into a hard plastic bottle (Nalgene bottles or Platypus bags work well) or purchase boxed wine. Since space is an issue on most trips, we have limited the number of canned drinks per person according to trip type: motorized trips may bring up to 36 cans for the entire trip and non-motorized trips may bring 3 cans per day. A box of wine or a Nalgene or Platypus container is about the size of 6 cans. If you are on a Full or an Upper Canyon trip, your trip begins in Flagstaff. There is a Safeway grocery store within walking distance of the DoubleTree by Hilton Flagstaff and have a good selection of soda, beer, wine, juice and alcohol. If you are on a Lower Canyon trip, the trip begins up at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We don’t want you hiking down the extra weight of beverages so we provide a Beverage Order Form in your trip packet to order ahead. Follow the directions at the top of your Beverage Order Form to receive this service (lower trips only).