Packing for a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip

categories: USA Travel

So, the dates are set and written on the calendar, and everyone is looking forward to white water rafting through the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, there are plenty of things to think about while the date of the trip slowly approaches – things like how to pack for it. What kinds of clothes are right for spending a few days on the river? Where do you keep the clothes? There are plenty of things to consider when packing for a Grand Canyon raft trip, but Arizona River Runners would never leave anyone in the dark about such an important part of the trip.

If there are three important things to remember when packing for a whitewater trip it would be: water, sun, and dirt/sand. These aren’t things to bring, but what needs to be kept in mind when deciding what to pack for a Grand Canyon rafting trip.

“Forget Fashion”

First, a trip will involve a significant amount of time on the river, which means a lot of time will be spent on, near, and perhaps in the water. Clothes should be fast drying and okay to get wet. Leave the jeans and fashion tops at home. Bring quick-drying nylon shorts and shirts that will dry off quickly or will be dry by morning. The good news is that clothes like these are not terribly difficult to find, nor are they horrifically expensive. Any sporting goods store or general retail store will carry clothes like the ones described! Don’t go overboard though – no need to bring a new outfit for every day on the river. Shirley, a long-time employee, suggests a rule of thumb that “for six days – bring four of each shorts and shirts. You don’t have to change clothes every day.

“avoid one-piece bathing suits”

Bathing suits are a good idea to wear beneath your clothes, or even as clothing. However, women should avoid one-piece suits, which may seem a bit counter-intuitive. While a one-piece may provide more coverage it makes things like going to the bathroom or changing clothes much more difficult. Privacy is in short supply while on the river; something to keep in mind while deciding what clothes to bring. Keeping things simple and easy will make everything less stressful during the trip.


Finally, the water in the Colorado is not clear, clean glacier water by any means – come August it can be a muddy brown; due to rains and rafting. Clothes soaked by the water have the potential to take on the color of the river itself, so leave the designer clothing behind! Bring clothes that will not be missed if they happen to change color to a less flattering shade of “dirt.”


Sun protection is very important when getting ready for a Colorado River trip. Especially rafters coming from outside Arizona, it must be understood how important it is to have sun protection at all times. Lip balm and lotion with an SPF of 30 is recommended, and reapply often. Sometimes a long sleeve shirt with built-in UV protection is the best idea during the months when the sun is especially strong, such as June, July, and August. These long-sleeved shirts can be found in sporting goods stores. They are lightweight without any cotton, will dry quickly, and be less likely to irritate the skin when they do get wet. Don’t forget your hat and sunglasses (both with retention string) for added protection.

For cooler times and rainy weather, a lightweight fleece or fleece-lined jacket will keep you cozy. Rain gear is a MUST. Look for quality pieces that are waterproof, not just water-resistant. The point is to stay dry!

“one of the raft, one for the camp”

A couple of other packing tips…Bring two pairs of shoes, one for the raft and one for camp; make sure they are well broken in! Don’t forget socks, these are great for camp and help your feet if you get sore spots from your shoes. Make sure your camera has extra batteries and memory cards, and store it in a zip lock bag – not just to protect it from the water, but from the sand! A bandanna is helpful too, it comes in handy for cooling off or keeping the sun off your neck… Lastly, bring a water bottle; hydration is important on the rafts and on the hikes.


The outfits have been picked, now how should they be packed? Everyone on the trip is advised to pack one sports bag/duffel to bring with them on the boats measuring 24x12x12 inches. One of the best ways to make sure the clothes stay organized and dry is to use plastic zipper bags. Shirley is also a veteran rafter and offers this advice: “I roll my shorts and shirts up like a cigar and put them in zip lock bags…Keeps things separate and easy to get to!” “And don’t forget to pack a hoodie, they are great to wrap around a pillow for softer sleeping.”

With packing lists, articles, blog posts, and an open line of communication for any questions, Arizona River Runners wants to make sure that no one leaves unprepared. Shirley says “people try to make it more complicated when it comes to packing – just go by what’s on the packing list and they’ll be fine, and always call with questions.”

This article is provided by Arizona River Runners

With over forty years of experience, Arizona River Runners knows the ins and outs of what is a must for a whitewater trip, as well as what to leave behind. White water rafting through the Grand Canyon offers a unique view of one of the most incredible natural wonders of the world. Since 1970 Arizona River Runners has provided all-inclusive Grand Canyon rafting trips. They are one of the most innovative, progressive, and well-respected outfitters operating with customized state-of-the-art rafts, a wide variety of trips from 3 to 8 day motorized Grand Canyon rafting trips to 6, 8, 13-day oar powered whitewater trips.

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Haley McInnis

by Haley McInnis

Haley has been writing articles, blogs and press releases for LuCorp Marketing, LLC for two years. She is a senior at Arizona State University, double majoring in psychology and sociology.

4 Responses to “Packing for a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip”

Ridley Fitzgerald


I have always wanted to raft the Grand Canyon, and I think we are going this summer. I can definitely see how sun protection would be vital. Normally I don’t like wearing sunscreen, but for this, I will take along some SPF 30 for the trip.

Millie Hue


It really helped when you said that it would be best to have a hat and sunglasses during the trip for added protection. I am the kind of person who doesn’t usually wear hats and sunglasses because I do not like to much stuff on my head. But this will really be useful if it means protection. I will definitely bring these things once we’ve finally found a trip that we would book.

Callum Palmer


We are going to be taking a trip to the Grand Canyon sometime soon. As you said, there are many things that we should pack. I’ll for sure bring sun protection as I don’t want to get burned out there in the heat.

Matt Frandsen


I went when I was a kid with a company called Crate and absolutely loved it. I have 4 kids now and I take them on the Boise river for a slow fun ride but as my oldest is now 9 I have taken him down the Payette river and he loves it! It is a really great chance for me and him to spend some time together. I am hoping soon again that I get a chance to go down the Grand Canyon and hopefully take him as well as it was a blast!

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