How to Pack for a Multi-Day Rafting Trip

By Kim Cassels   •   February 22, 2021

How to Pack for a Multi-Day Rafting Trip


The how to’s of packing for a multi-day rafting trip are like preparing for the best camping trip ever. First of all, you’re going on a boat. And that boat will be inside the far reaches of a wild river canyon. And that wild river canyon will be loaded with beaches, brilliant precipices, more canyons, wildlife, unbelievable stories in the making— cue “awwws”. And, as a guest it doesn’t involve any extensive planning get there. Woohoo! Don’t you love those trips where you can just show up and start the party?  

It sounds a little crazy, but you’re actually bringing less on these excursions than you would on a regular camping trip (you know, those ones without the boat inside the far reaches of— ok, ok you get it). Since the guides take care of the boat and camping equipment, all you’re responsible for are the things you want/need just for you, like pillows and underwear, if you so choose to bring underwear that is. 

There are a few other things you should bring, which we’ve listed below for your convenience along with some tips on how to pack those belongings into our special river suitcases. 

Day Bag 

Green River Rafting - Gates of Lodore - Mild to Wild Rafting

Think of this bag as your carry on. It’s smaller and meant for the things you’d like to have access to during your flight, er, float! Be sure to have the following items in your Day Bag for your time on the river: 

—Sunscreen, at least SPF 30. The sun out here is a ruthless beauty! 

—Medications you need on hand. 

—Camera or smartphone. Hopefully one with it’s own water-resistant case. Dry Bags can be a little misleading in the name since some water can get in there if you hit gnarly rapids. 

—Chapstick, preferably with an SPF. Certain canyons tend to get pretty windy (we’re looking at you Desolation!), so you’ll be happy to have it, especially by the second day on the river. 

—Sunglasses with chums, if they’re not already on your face, of course. 

—A water-proof shell or rain jacket for when things get extra splashy.

Extra layers for the day depending on the weather

Sarong For Shade In Cataract Canyon - Mild to Wild Rafting

Warm Weather 

—Sun shirt or sarong, especially for later in the day.  

—A hat if it’s not staying on your noggin’. 

**A quick tip about hats on the river: Ball caps tend to fly right off in the wind. Your guide will do their best to retrieve it, but consider getting a hat with a full brim to avoid the turnarounds. It is authentic river fashion, after all.

Cold Weather  

Always keep these items in your Day Bag if you’re rafting anytime in Colorado, or Utah in spring or late summer during monsoon season. We don’t want you shivering on the river. It can be downright miserable, and there’s plenty of room for those “just in case” items.   

—Merino Wool or Polypro socks and beanies work great for cold snaps. 

—Sweater / Hoodie 

—A lightweight pair of gloves if you really want to make people jealous. 

Don’t put this stuff in your day bag:

—Water bottle, this is the one beverage you really do need to be guzzling all day. Plus, it might get your other stuff wet. 

—Car keys, keep them at the office, since the river basically knows if you’ve brought them along and will wait for the perfect moment to snatch them out of existence. 

To properly close your day bag for optimal dryness:

Fold down the top, squish out all the air, and then roll three rolls on the top before clipping it around something strapped to the boat. 

Overnight Bag 

Yampa River Rafting Rapids - Dinosaur National Monument - Mild to Wild Rafting

These bags are strapped down in the back of the rafts, and won’t be accessible until you reach camp for the evening. In these bags should go: 

—The bulk of your clothing for the trip. We highly suggest bringing warmer, comfy clothes for lounging around camp. 

—Games, books and any other recreational items you so wish to have. 

 —Headlamp or flashlight

—Personal toiletries: Toothbrush, comb, etc. We provide hand sanitizer and soap in camp for you. 

— Sleeping bag

—Sleeping Pad, if you choose not to rent one of our luxurious sleeping pads (seriously, they’re amazing). 

—Tent, also available to rent.  


To organize this bag so it closes nice and water tight:

Pack bigger items at bottom like your tent, sleeping bag, and clothing bag. Then pack in the smaller items like toiletries and flashlights on top. 

Lift the bag and give it a healthy shake to get all the items inside packed closely together. Then fold the top down and squish out all the air. Roll down at least three tight rolls at the top of the bag until it’s all the way down to your stuff. Click down the side straps, tighten them and click the top ones last.  

Alcohol & Snacks

Cataract Canyon Hang by the River - Mild to Wild

You are welcome to bring alcohol on your multi-day rafting trip. Just be sure to have it in non-breakable containers, and if it’s enough to supply a small bar, consider bringing a cooler for it along as well. If you don’t have one, just let your guides so they can pack it into one of ours. 

Also, don’t forget to bring some of your favorite snacks if you love to munch during the float. Keep in mind, things in bags (beloved chips) are quite subject to being crushed. But if you’re okay with crumbs, disregard this warning.   

And another thing! 

If this is your first time learning how to pack for a multi-day rafting trip, you’re probably going to bring more stuff than you’re going to use— which is totally okay! Bring the books if you see yourself reading in camp more than socializing, or those swimsuits if you really want to change it up each day. Heck, bring a costume if you want! This is your vacation after all! But just so you know, as long as you have one base layer, one mid-layer, and a warm layer for clothing, you’re good to go! 

Packing is such an exciting part of any trip, and we hope this helps you sort through the array of stuff you have spread out over your bed or floor. If you still feel underprepared, check out 8 extra things not on the multi-day raft trip packing list. Happy campin’! 


Camp Yampa River Rafting - Dinosaur National Monument - Mild to Wild Rafting

More Reading 

Taking a Multi-Day Rafting Trip When You’ve Never Camped Before 

12 Things You’ll Do on a Multi-Day Rafting Trip Besides Rafting

Get New Blog Posts in your Inbox