Those who are new to float trips might be overwhelmed at the idea of packing because the trip involves an entire additional aspect to prepare for than camping or backpacking. On top of everything you might need for yourself, to sleep overnight and prepare food, you also need to think through everything you need while on the water and for the water.
Of course, the raft itself and the oars to paddle and steer are a given, as well as floatation devices. A well-stocked first-aid kit is another given essential. But there are far more items you might not think to pack for the float trip if you haven’t been before. That’s why we’ve rounded up 11 of the top essentials you don’t want to leave home without.
Dry bags are one of, if not the most important items you can have for a float trip. These air-tight bags will keep everything you need to stay dry while on the water by sealing and locking out water. That means when it’s time to set up camp, your clothes, sleeping bag, and electronics will be ready to be put to use, not set out to dry. Try these versatile bags from Summit to Sea with an easy roll-down top.
Another must-have waterproof item is a phone case that has the ability to float. While a waterproof phone case is great for keeping your phone functioning, your phone won’t do much for you if it falls overboard and is lost to the depths. With this floating phone case, you can easily retrieve it should it fall out along the way.
Flotation straps are similar to a floating waterproof phone case, but they can be easily attached to anything else you absolutely cannot lose while on the trip. Place one of these on your set of car and home keys or anything else that would worry you should it be lost. Snap a couple of extra onto a dry bag for easy access, too.
While there are cooler packing techniques that will maximize your cooler’s ability to keep things refreshingly cold for days on end, it’s also incredibly important that you bring a high-quality cooler for a float trip. Invest in a top-notch brand like Yeti or a classic like Igloo for a piece of gear you know will serve you well. No one wants to sip lukewarm beer that has baked in the sun on the raft after several days on the water — much less dine on questionable food.
Water shoes are always a good idea when taking a float trip, but they are particularly helpful when you are floating in an unfamiliar area. If you are unsure of what the banks or entry and exit points might look like, having waterproof, quick-drying footwear can be a lifesaver. Not to mention, they double as decent camp slippers once they’ve dried out again.
Most rafting float trips can use an emergency tube repair kit stowed away with the first aid kit. Should the inflatable raft get snagged on a sharp tree branch or rocks, or ripped while exiting the water one day, having the ability to repair the tube can be invaluable. Just make sure you pack a pump, too.
Sitting on top of a hot raft during the heat of the day can be extremely draining. That’s why it’s important to cover all your bases for sun protection from plenty of water for staying hydrated to proper clothing to ward off sunburn. Though sunscreen should certainly be in your arsenal, don’t forget to pack a hat or even a sunblocking rash guard you can pull on when the sun is beating down.
From the inescapable space of a raft to dusk in the campground, bug repellant is another absolute essential when taking a float trip. When biting flies, gnats, and mosquitos start swarming, you undoubtedly will want something to keep them at bay. Keep the repellant handy both on land and while on the move downstream or use bug repellant wrist bands while camping.
In addition to a life jacket and a bathing suit, there are other items of clothing you might not realize you need until you’ve experienced your first float trip. Quick-drying clothes are wonderful since you won’t have to wait forever for them to be ready to wear again, but you should also plan on packing warm layers. Sleeping next to the water can get chilly at night, so make sure you have a fleece or down layer to pull on and perhaps even gloves and a warm hat should the temperature really take a dip.
Another type of strap you should take along in addition to floating straps are bungee cords or straps with buckles. These will ensure you can properly secure everything to the raft so nothing should come loose or fall off along the way. Not to mention, they can also be very helpful should you need to use them to compress everything to fit more snugly, too.
Finally, don’t forget to pack everything you need to sleep on land. If you lose sight of the actual camping part of the trip and focus solely on packing for the floating portion, it might be an uncomfortable trip. So toss in a lightweight or compact sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent and pack them safely in a dry bag so you’ll have a comfortable night’s sleep every night of the trip.
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