Grand Canyon Rafting
The key to victory on any type of remote expedition is preparation. No matter what time of year your rafting trip is scheduled, the weather and conditions inside the Grand Canyon can fluctuate drastically. This packing guide provides crucial tips and tricks on how to pack so you can be fully prepared for your Grand Canyon rafting vacation. Go straight to our Grand Canyon rafting packing list.
Packing List Tips & Tricks
Below are our favorite tricks to insure being properly prepared no matter what type of weather Grand Canyon throws at you.
The more you pack, the more time you will spend unpacking or re-packing your gear. Pack lightly and you will have more time on your trip to enjoy your surroundings and relax. In addition, your potential hike in our out of the Grand Canyon will be much easier.
Rain Gear is not just for Rain
It protects you from rain, wind, and the inevitable splash of the rapids and can add one more layer of insulation on a chilly evening. It is one of the essential items that all passengers need to have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for a jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant (trust us!). A hooded jacket works best with secure closures around your head, neck, wrists, and ankles. We do not recommend wetsuits. Read more about rain gear.
Video: Why Rain Gear for Rapids
Plan to Wear Your Clothes Multiple Days
Clothing can easily be washed in the river with soap and air dry in the warm, arid Canyon. Make sure everything is completely dry before packing it away because dry bags are tightly sealed and wet items can quickly develop an unpleasant smell.
Pack clean clothes in a pillow case and it can double as your pillow at night. Test out your pillow plan at home before your trip!
Bring a large plastic bag for dirty clothes and a couple of dryer sheets to help freshen up your dirty clothes.
Feet Can Take a Bit of a Beating
Bring sturdy water sandals or quick dry multi-sport shoes with good tread and support for hikes. Chaco, Teva, and Keen are especially good brands that will not get slippery when wet. If you are planning to purchase shoes before your trip, break them in beforehand. This will help to reduce blisters, chafing and sore spots. Be sure to pack a backup pair of shoes or sandals as well. You never know what will happen and you’ll be happy that you have another pair.
Bring two hats to guarantee a backup in case one gets lost due to wind or waves. Make sure each has a strap or that you can attach it to your shirt or lifejacket to minimize the risk of losing them. See some sun protection we recommend.
Functionality vs. Fashion
When it comes to clothing on the river, function takes precedence. In camp, however, you have the opportunity to change out of your river clothes and mix it up with something fun and fashionable – a colorful sarong, printed happy pants, Hawaiian shirt, or tie-dyed sundress.
Store wallets, car keys, and anything else not used on your river trip in a plastic bag and pack it away at the bottom of the dry bag.
Packing for the Colorado River is a Balancing Act
You want to bring nice gear for the trip, but you also must accept that most of what you bring has the potential to get dirty. A year after your trip, you might open a backpack or unzip a camera case and Grand Canyon sand will fall out. The super-fine particles are unforgiving and you should keep that in mind when packing electronics.
Bringing extra Ziploc baggies allows you to have a clean place to stow your camera, phone, memory cards, backup batteries, and other electronics you may bring. Use Ziploc bags to store toiletries to prevent any leakage.
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Shampoo and soap products should be biodegradable and dissolve well in cold, hard water.
For trips in the spring or fall, we suggest bringing two sets of long underwear and fleece. If you have a cooler day, you will want to wear one set on the boats and have a dry set to wear in camp.
Socks and Gloves
Not only are clean pairs of socks and gloves recommended for hiking shoes and sun protection, Having an extra clean pair are great to wear when sleeping to seal in moisturizer for dry & cracked hands and feet.
Bring 2-3 Carabiners
You will find you can clip miscellaneous items to the boat, your day bag, lifejacket, etc. You’ll be surprised at the number of uses you find for the humble carabiner. Most outfitters prefer that you bring locking carabiners. Even these cheap locking carabiners are safer than non-locking carabiners. While a little more expensive, these carabiners have better screw gates.
Any prescription medications should be brought in duplicate and stored in two different places during the trip.
Recommended Grand Canyon River Trip Packing List
To see specific gear we like and use on the river see our recommended gear page.
- Day pack with hydration bladder
- Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with safety strap
- Wide brimmed hat with safety strap or clip
- Bandana or buff
- Headlamp (with extra batteries)
- Sunscreen and lip protection (waterproof and SPF 30 or higher; aerosol sprays not recommended)
- Cash for gratuities – Your guides will make every effort to see that your trip is enjoyable and successful. Gratuities for guides are appropriate, greatly appreciated and at your discretion, as a gesture of thanks for their professionalism and service. A suggested tip guideline is 8-12% of the total trip cost. On the last night, the common practice is to give the gratuity to the trip leader, who will later be divided equally with the rest of the crew.
- Sturdy water shoes or sandals with a heel strap; DO NOT bring water socks.
- Hiking shoes or trail runners for use during hikes or while in camp
- 2-3 pairs of hiking socks
- 2-3 quick drying shirts; lightweight and light color for sun protection (sunhoodies work best)
- 1-2 pairs of long pants; lightweight and light color for sun protection
- 1-2 pairs of quick drying shorts
- Waterproof jacket and pants (“water resistant” rain gear is NOT sufficient, trust us!)
- 1-2 swimsuits (2-piece suits recommended for women)
- Lightweight fleece top
- Sarong; useful for sun protection, changing clothes, etc.
- Personal hygiene products – toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, lip balm, moisturizing lotion
(See specific suggestions for women)
- Biodegradable soap and shampoo in small bottles
- Water bottle(s) with 3-liter capacity
- Major credit card and photo ID in case of evacuation
COLD WEATHER – RAFTING TRIPS IN APRIL, EARLY MAY, SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER
- Warm hat (wool or fleece)
- Fleece or wool gloves
- Thick fleece jacket
- Lightweight long underwear for sleeping
- Splash jacket and splash pants
- Wetsuit booties or neoprene, wool or synthetic socks for inside your river shoes
- Camera and accessories (Read about taking pictures in Grand Canyon)
- High quality waterproof case or bag for cell phone and other electronics
- battery pack for recharging your phone to take photos
- 2-3 locking carabiners
- Bathing wipes; pre-moistened disposable towels
- Plastic bags for separating dirty and clean clothes
- Sun gloves
- Collapsible hiking poles
- Small, quick drying towel and/or wash cloth
Ready to Pack?
We hope this guide helped you gain a better understanding of packing and preparing for your Grand Canyon rafting adventure. No matter which trip you choose, the Grand Canyon never fails to touch the heart and inspire a deep longing to return. Still have questions? Check out the articles below or give us a call – we’ll guide you through!
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