Preparing for our Utah family river rafting adventure was unlike any trip we’d been on before. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I went on a researching frenzy to find what I needed to pack for a multi day rafting trip for myself and David, as well as for the kids (ages 9 and 7).
Moab Adventure Center supplied a packing list of items they recommended we have. We used this as our base list, then took into account blog posts from people that have been of similar adventures and recommendations my outdoorsy Instagram friends sent my way (which I’m super grateful for or we would not have brought beanie hats!).
I felt pretty darn prepared, but promised myself I’d write the detailed “how to pack for a multi day rafting trip” post upon my return for my own future use (in case we do this again!) and to be helpful for others going on a similar adventure.
These are my personal thoughts, so consider your own needs when perusing the list, but this is the packing list I wish I would have had myself when planning our adventure.
How to Pack for a Multi Day Rafting Trip
Must have items:
- duffle bag – 40L was the ideal size for our 5 day trip
- wide brim hats – for both adults and kids
- your own sleeping bag – our personal experience was that the sleeping bags given to us were not rated for the low temperatures of the night air. We were all cold. If we went again, we’d try to bring our own sleeping bags.
- beanies and sweatshirts – again, the nights get cold. I recommend beanies, sweatshirts, sweatpants, and socks for sleeping at night.
- camping pillow – this pillow is less than $5 and so worth having for increased comfort sleeping on a cot
- sunscreen (for body and lips)
- lotion – we brought travel size bottles of cetaphil for all of us
- Keen sandals – buying keens for the kids is 100% worth it. They are durable and sturdy, but cool and comfortable. The kids never complained about comfort. David had men keens and I had Tevas and we were all happy with our choice.
- comfy camp shoes – simple comfy slides for the kids and Birkenstocks for me
- beer – in the packing list, there is little mention of adult beverages and we figured we wouldn’t have time to sip on one anyway, but we were wrong. Our trip would get to camp by about 3:00 in the afternoon (quite early it seemed). After setting up our cots, there was plenty of time for sitting the river, playing games, and yes, drinking a cold one. If that’s your thing, I recommend bringing a beverage of your choosing, whether it’s canned beer, canned wine, sparkling water, etc.
- bathing suits – I brought three which was probably overkill. Two quality suits you can alternate is sufficient. I really loved my Carve swim shorts and would highly recommend them.
- sun shirts – Instead of having to get crazy with sunscreen, these kid sun shirts, women sun shirts, and men sun shirts were great for keeping us protected from the sun and cool at the same time.
- insulated water bottle with carabiner
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- polarized sunglasses with croakies
- rope and clothes pin to make a clothes line at camp
- clean underwear and comfortable, cotton clothes for camp
- Ziplock bags – we packed all out items in gallon Ziplock bags, which was nice to keep it organized and wet items separate from dry items. We also used snack size Ziplock bags to individually wrap each item (camp suds, lotion, etc) and I’m glad we did because one burst in transit and it was so nice that it didn’t get all over anything else.
Nice to have item:
- Go pro camera – this is how we 95% of our pictures and videos
- biodegradable soap for river baths -not that you’ll ever really feel clean, but a thorough rinsing in the afternoon is quite refreshing!
- small quick dry towel – because the river is cold and you’ll want to dry off as soon as you get out after your bath
- plastic bag for wet/dirty clothes
- medication- obviously a must if you take something daily, but also nice to have a few things of hand you might need like antacid, allergy medicine, pain medication, etc.
- pack of moist towelettes to wipe your face before bed
Things we packed but didn’t use (but maybe you will!)
- head lamps – we did use this one for finding the groover in the middle of the night, but that was it. If you do opt for one, get one with a red night light option because it doesn’t attract bugs.
- two piece rain suits – these are on the “do pack” list given by the company, but we never touched ours. If you are doing bigger rapids, you might want to rain coat to keep you drier and warmer, but we didn’t need it.
- insect repellant – might be nice to have but we never had a big problem with bugs.
Multi Day Rafting Trip FAQ
What age range is this trip appropriate for?
The trip description on the company’s website offers guidance as to appropriate ages for each trip. For Desolation Canyon (our trip), children must be at least 5 years old. Kaitlyn just turned 7 before this trip and personally I would not have done it before this age. The days are long (wake up at sunrise, bed and sunset, which is 9:00 ish), and they really need to be able to hang for the full day.
What is the bathroom situation?
All liquid has to go in the river, so you either wade in or squat beside it for that purpose. However, I assume you are referring solid waste, so let’s talk about the groover.
The groover is a metal rocket box with a toilet seat attached to it. Think of it as a small porta potty. When you arrive at camp (for us that was around 3:30 PM), the guides set up the groover in a private spot, slightly away from the main camp site.
Next to the groover, they set up toilet paper, air freshener, Lysol spray, and feminine hygiene products.
The groover is for everyone to use for solid waste disposal. The guides set up a new groover each day when we reached camp. It stays set up in that spot until after breakfast the next morning. The guides will make a final call for the groover, then pack it away until you reach the evening’s camp.
Near camp, the guides set up two buckets for handwashing and place a orange flotation device next to them, referred to as “the ticket.”
If you need to use the facilities, you take the ticket with you to the groover. This was others know the groover is in use and no one walks up on you. After you handle your business, you return the ticket and wash your hands.
How much does a multi day river rafting trip cost?
The cost varies based on company, length of stay, and location. For our trip, the cost included transfer from the hotel to the airport, scenic flight to launch site, all meals, and camping set up.
The cost for ages 16+ started at $1,795 and ages 5-15 $1,095 depending on your chosen dates.
The flights to Utah and the hotel before and after the trip were not included in the trip cost.
Was it scary for the kids? Did they fall over board?
I can only speak for my kids (ages 9 and 7) and my nieces and nephews (ages 10-16), but no, nothing was scary. This trip had rapids ranging from class I to class III. The class I rapids were barely ripples in the water and we only had 3 or 4 class III rapids, which were more exciting!
The kids loved getting bounced around on the class II and class III rapids and they did get splashed, but the rapids were such that if they didn’t want to get wet, they could have easily sat in the back of the raft and been just fine.
My niece (10) and Kaitlyn (7) both went overboard at one point, but were pulled back on quickly and both laughed heartily about it, thinking it was fun.
How far ahead of time did you schedule this trip?
By my standards, we planned this very last minute, just a couple months ahead of time. I’d recommend planning at least 6+ months out to assure you get the dates and experience you prefer.
What company did you book through?
I hope this is a helpful look into what to pack for a multi day rafting trip. However, if you have any questions about items to bring or not bring, or questions about the experience, just ask in the comments!
I’m happy to offer my two cents as you get ready to embark on this epic adventure!