Over the past weekend, I worked my way up I-70 and the right down the Arkansas River. Under the guidance of a particular Colorado dreamboat, a raft guide I know from my days as a ski instructor, was kind enough to take me down the river his day off. I am not a professional rafter and have only been rafting five times in my life, which I am told for a Colorado native is very low and I promise to work on my time dedication to the river. However, I had a blast on the trip and got some great advice from friends who live their life on our Colorado Rivers and gained more personal insight on the things that were key to making the day amazing. Here are the essential do’s and don’ts that can help ease your way on your next or first river rafting trip.

Do wear shoes

Colorado Rivers are full of rocks. Rocks in the river beds are what create the rapids, dip and twists in the river as it flows downhill and without them river rafting would just be a float trip. Since there are so many rocks from pushing off to getting out, wear shoes that have these two essential qualities. First, wear shoes that are comfortable when they get wet. They will get wet. Secondly, wear shoes with a substantial sole. Climbing over rocks in thin sandals with wimpy straps is not a good combination. Most raft guides wear Chacos, you know the ones that give you the super cool tan lines. I wore my Nikes that are all mesh and they worked perfectly.

Photo courtesy of Raftmasters.com

Photo courtesy of Raftmasters.com

Don’t wear flip-flops

Flip-flops are comfy and made for soft sand beaches. Trying to get in and out of a boat with your flip-flops and fighting the rocks on the bottoms and current of the river is not a pleasant experience. Flip-Flops are not stable enough for river rafting. They are perfect for your ride home so bring them, but leave them in the car until happy hour.

Do wear a hat

Even on a cloudy day you can get sunburned on the river and a hat is a saving grace. I brought an old trucker hat and it was a great decision. It kept the sun at bay and my hair out of my face. Dipping your hat into the river and putting it back on your head is the original air conditioner, do it and thank me later.

Don’t be wear anything you love

Photo courtesy of oars.com

Photo courtesy of oars.com

If you have an emotional attachment to your lucky hat, sunglasses or anything else don’t bring them on a river rafting trip. Spending time on the river means that you and all of your belongings are going to get wet and possibly float or sink down river at one point or other on your trip. Don’t bring your favorite pair of sunnies because murphy laws you will lose them in the drink promptly five minutes into the float.

Photo courtesy of Raftmasters.com

Photo courtesy of Raftmasters.com

Tips from the Pros: “Do wear sunscreen. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who think they are tan enough to get away without sunscreen. But up here the sun has no mercy. Seriously, wear sunscreen.” – Lyndsey Kirchner

Do eat a hearty breakfast

River rafting is not a leisure sport, you have signed up to paddle down river into rapids, intriguing and also tiring. Eating a good meal before you get on the boat will give you energy for the day and help calm your nerves. No one wants to be stuck in a raft with you if you are hangry.

Don’t drink beforehand

Being alert on the river is vital. Drinking even a beer beforehand can make you a little bit fuzzy. Even though it’s rare, rafts can flip completely over and if that does happen and you need to be able to swim to safety. Plus I can ensure that the majority of raft guides know the happy hour schedules in town and would happily share a beer or three with you after the trip.

Tips form the Pros: “Don’t bring anything that’s not waterproof. It’s going to get ruined, every time.” – Henry Dorris

Do wear dry-wicking clothing

Any article of clothing with wicking or quick dry material is a home run. Work out shirts or dri-fit clothing is essential for a river trip. Swimsuits can also fill this void for gents and ladies alike. Majority of raft guides I know wear board shorts and ladies rocks swimsuit tops with board shorts. Think swimming downhill and you’ll have the right mindset to get dressed.


Don’t wear cotton

Cotton is the fabric of my life but not when I’m on the river. I made this fateful mistake on my first time river rafting trip. It was a hot summer day and I wore a cotton tank top, and I thought it would be perfect. It was not. I was soaked through and never got dry and as the day wear on I got very cold. So just like the flip-flops, bring a change of warm, dry, cotton clothes and leave them in your car for your happy hour excursion.