What To Bring Whitewater Rafting?

South Fork American River - Lower Gorge half day raft tripWhat should you bring and wear on your whitewater rafting trip? Whatever it is prepare to get wet!

Our staff will collect your car keys to keep them safe from the River Guides while you are rafting!

Rafting Gear provided:

  • PFD (Personal Floatation Device aka. life jacket)
  • Paddles
  • Helmet 
  • Splash Jackets (for spring)
  • Dry Bags (for overnight wilderness trips)

Rentals Available:

Do not Bring/Wear:

  • Denim jeans and heavy cotton are never appropriate on the river as the fabric retains water and loses insulation. Also avoid anything that may hamper your movement in the water.
  • Pets
  • Valuables (cell phones, tablets, wallets etc…leave these in your vehicle)

We are not responsible for damage to, or the loss/theft of any personal gear from our vehicles, on the river or in camp. So please travel light and have travel insurance or household insurance that covers your property when away from home.

Summer Rafting 

(usually late May-Sept):

In summer, the prime concern is sun protection and waterproof sunscreen with a high SPF may be sufficient. 

To wear on your trip:

  • SHOES! (Old tennis shoes or strap on sandals)
  • Swimsuit 
  • Sunglasses (with tether)
  • Hat or visor (suggested or instead of sunglasses)
  • Shorts (quick dry)

Optional to Bring – make sure we can tether to the raft!

  • Water (every raft has a 1 gallon jug of water for the clients on the raft to share, but you are welcome to bring your own)
  • Waterproof Camera (optional – see notes below)
  • Waterproof sunscreen with high SPF
  • Lip balm

For after your trip – leave in your vehicle:

  • Dry Clothes
  • Change of shoes
  • Towel 


  • Socks
  • Shirt
  • Long pants (quick dry)

Spring or Fall Rafting

(usually before mid-May and after mid-Sept):

Be prepared for cold air temperatures and water. Plan on wearing fabrics that are fast drying (e.g. nylon, polyester etc.) and/or that retain warmth when wet ( e.g. nylon fleece, wool, polypropylene). 

To wear on your trip – Avoid all cotton!!:

  • SHOES (Old tennis shoes or wetsuit booties – with sturdy sole)
  • Swimsuit
  • Wetsuit, 3mm farmer john or dry suit (rentals available, $10/ea)
  • Paddle jacket or waterproof jacket (splash jackets provided, no charge)
  • Fleece/polypro top or wool sweater
  • Wool, polypro, or wetsuit socks
  • Sunglasses (with tether)


  • Wool hat and tether
  • Extra wool sweater
  • Polypro or wool gloves
  • Oversized rubber gloves – yes it sounds silly, but those rubber kitchen gloves keep your hands dry and don’t slip on the paddle!

For after your trip – leave in your vehicle:

  • Dry Clothes
  • Change of shoes
  • Towel 

Overnight Trips:

Camping Equipment:

  • Tent and/or ground cloth
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Pillow
  • Pad or air mattress (no electrical hook ups though must be battery powered)
  • Chair(s)

Camping Essentials:

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Flashlight (plus spare batteries/bulb)
  • Camera (and film if needed)


  • Comfortable shoes
  • Towel
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Soap (biodegradable)
  • Shampoo (biodegradable)

If you are not on a multi-day trip with Tributary, remember your cooking gear and utensils, and firewood if fires are permitted. We can arrange for a barbecue to be available at some locations, but bring your own coolers, ice, charcoal and stove if needed.

Suggestions for bringing your own GoPro Camera:

You are welcome to bring your own GoPro camera on your white water rafting trip, or another Waterproof Camera. Be aware you are responsible for anything you bring on the river.

  • Bring your own mounts/attachments etc…Our helmets fit the straps for the GoPro helmet mount.
  • Purchase a flotation device “Floaty Backdoor” for the Hero’s – this will keep your camera afloat if it falls in the river – we have had clients lose their GoPro’s without any floaty on them.

We do NOT suggest you bring your cell phone on the river to capture photo/video!