What to Wear for Whitewater Rafting

Hitting the rapids in your whitewater raft can be an addicting and freeing feeling. However, if you come unprepared, it can dwarf the exhilarating experience. The two most important things to keep in mind while packing are safety and comfort. 

When you have these basics covered, you can focus on enjoying the moment - instead of how to stay warm or dry!


A helmet should be given by your rafting provider, depending on the class of waves you’ll be experiencing. However, you can always choose to wear a helmet regardless of class. Simply ask, and they will provide you with one. 

Many people hit rocks or bumps of water that cause the raft to tip or someone to fall out of the raft. Don’t worry, this is fairly common and usually a minor issue with smaller classes, but by wearing a helmet you will have a greater chance of protecting your head from more serious collisions or scrapes. 

If you want to ensure that your helmet fits perfectly and stays comfortable, look into ordering your own. That way, you’ll always be prepared. 

Dress in Layers

Depending on the water flow and the terrain, a lot can change, so it’s best to pack for a variety of outcomes. You may experience rain, intense sunshine, heat, and of course, dampness. 

As a base layer, you may want to wear a swimsuit underneath your clothing instead of cotton or cotton blend undergarments, which tend to absorb moisture and stay wet. 

After, we suggest shirts and shorts made from moisture-wicking materials like jersey and spandex. These easy-to-dry materials will help prevent you from remaining damp and getting too cold on a cloudy day. 

Top it off with garments specifically designed to repel water, so you aren’t weighed down by excessive moisture and can continue to move freely and comfortably. If you’re rafting in cooler months, ensure your jacket or pants are made from water-repelling materials, that way you can stay warm all day long. 

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

One of the most important pieces of essential gear is your personal flotation device, commonly known as a life jacket. Your rafting provider should always equip you with a PFD of your choice. 

However, if you prefer your own life jacket that is expertly fitted to you, we suggest finding one in a rafting retailer store so you can try it on and keep it on hand for all of your future rafting adventures. Make sure your PFD is snug, comfy, and above all, stays put!

Water Shoes

Water shoes make maneuvering over rocky riverbeds much quicker and help prevent uncomfortable scratches from sharp rocks. Best of all, unlike normal shoes, they are designed to stay on in fast currents and expel excess water so your feet get warmer and dryer much sooner. 

AVOID Cotton

Cotton is one of the least optimal materials to wear while whitewater rafting. Not only does it tend to hold moisture easily, but it also takes a long time to dry. Wearing cotton means once you get soaked during rafting, you’ll likely be wet for the rest of the day. 

While proven water-repellent materials are the top choice for comfort, the next best fabrics to choose for your outfit would be wool, fleece, or polyester. 

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