What to Wear for White Water Rafting: A Guide for Beginners

White water rafting is an exciting adventure sport that is growing in popularity. It can be a thrilling and exhilarating way to explore nature, but it is important to be prepared, especially when it comes to clothing. In this guide, we will go over everything you need to know about what to wear for white water rafting.

Understanding White Water Rafting

Before we dive into the specifics of what to wear, let’s first discuss some basics about white water rafting.

What is White Water Rafting?

White water rafting is a recreational activity that involves navigating through fast-moving, rough waters in a raft. It can be a fun and challenging way to experience the great outdoors, and can require a certain level of physical fitness and endurance.

Different Levels of White Water Rafting

There are different levels of white water rafting based on the difficulty of the rapids. Beginners should stick to Class I and Class II rapids, while experienced rafters may prefer the challenge of Class III, IV, or V rapids. It is important to know your skill level and choose a river that is appropriate for you and your group.

If you’re new to white water rafting, it’s a good idea to start with a Class I or II river. These rivers have smaller rapids and are generally easier to navigate. They are a great way to get comfortable with the basics of rafting, such as paddling and maneuvering the raft.

For those with more experience, Class III and IV rivers offer a greater challenge. These rivers have larger rapids and require more skill to navigate. They can be a thrilling experience for those looking for an adrenaline rush.

Class V rivers are for expert rafters only. These rivers have extremely difficult rapids and require a high level of skill and experience to navigate. They can be dangerous and should only be attempted by those with extensive experience and training.

Choosing a River

When choosing a river to raft on, it’s important to consider your skill level and the skill level of your group. You should also consider the time of year and weather conditions. Spring runoff can make rivers more difficult to navigate, while summer months may offer calmer waters.

It’s also important to research the river and the rafting company you plan to use. Look for reviews and recommendations from other rafters to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Overall, white water rafting can be a thrilling and rewarding experience for those who enjoy the outdoors and adventure. With the right preparation and research, you can have a safe and memorable trip on the rapids.

Essential Clothing for White Water Rafting

When it comes to white water rafting, it is important to wear the right clothing to protect yourself from the elements and ensure a comfortable experience on the water. Here are the essential clothing items to consider:

Wetsuits and Drysuits

In colder water or weather conditions, wetsuits or drysuits are essential for keeping warm. They can also provide protection from scrapes and bumps from the raft or rocks in the water. Wetsuits are typically made of neoprene and provide insulation by trapping a thin layer of water between the suit and your body. Drysuits, on the other hand, are completely waterproof and do not allow any water to penetrate the suit. They are generally more expensive than wetsuits.

Wetsuits and drysuits come in different thicknesses, so it’s important to choose one that is appropriate for the water temperature and weather conditions. Thicker suits provide more insulation, while thinner suits are more flexible and allow for greater range of motion.

Rash Guards and Base Layers

Even if you’re not wearing a wetsuit or drysuit, it’s important to wear comfortable, quick-drying clothing that won’t weigh you down when they get wet. Rash guards are a great option for protecting your skin from the sun and rough surfaces, while also offering insulation and reducing chafing.

Base layers can also be helpful in regulating your body temperature by wicking away sweat and helping with insulation. Synthetic materials like polyester or nylon are great for base layers. It’s also important to avoid cotton, as it retains moisture and can make you feel colder and more uncomfortable.

Footwear for Rafting

For footwear, it is recommended to wear water shoes or sandals with a secure strap. These will provide good traction on wet surfaces and will allow water to drain out easily. Avoid wearing flip flops or shoes that are not water-friendly, as they can come off easily or retain water, causing discomfort during the activity.

It’s also important to consider the terrain you’ll be walking on before and after the rafting trip. If you’ll be hiking or walking on rough terrain, it may be more appropriate to wear sturdy shoes or boots with good ankle support.

Helmets and Life Jackets

Of course, safety should always be a top priority when it comes to outdoor activities. Helmets and life jackets are essential items for white water rafting. A properly fitted helmet will protect your head from rocks or other debris in the water, while a life jacket will keep you afloat and provide buoyancy in case of an emergency.

It’s important to choose a life jacket that is appropriate for your weight and size, and to make sure it fits snugly. A loose life jacket can ride up and interfere with your ability to swim or move around in the raft. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that all buckles and straps are secure before getting in the water.

By wearing the right clothing and safety gear, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable white water rafting experience. Remember to always check the weather and water conditions before heading out, and to follow the instructions of your guide or instructor.

Choosing the Right Gear for the Weather

When selecting what to wear for white water rafting, it’s important to take into consideration the weather conditions and temperatures. Here are some tips for dressing appropriately for different weather:

Dressing for Warm Weather Rafting

In warm weather conditions, it is recommended to wear light and breathable clothing. Shorts, a t-shirt, and a hat for sun protection are all good options. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen frequently to avoid sunburns.

It’s also important to consider the type of fabric you’re wearing. Synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon are great for warm weather rafting because they dry quickly and wick away sweat, keeping you cool and comfortable.

Another thing to keep in mind is the potential for water splashing onto your clothing. Consider wearing quick-drying clothes that won’t weigh you down if they get wet.

Cold Weather Rafting Attire

For colder conditions, layered clothing is key. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add a mid-layer for insulation, and then finish with a waterproof outer layer. Wearing a beanie or hat and gloves can also help keep you warm.

It’s important to note that cotton should be avoided in cold weather rafting as it retains moisture and can actually make you colder. Instead, opt for synthetic or wool fabrics that will keep you warm even if they get wet.

If you’re unsure about the weather conditions, it’s always better to overdress and remove layers as needed rather than underdressing and being uncomfortable or even risking hypothermia.

Layering Techniques for Changing Conditions

In scenarios with changing temperatures or changing weather, layering can help you adjust to the changing environment. Be prepared with extra layers that can be added or removed as needed.

It’s also important to consider the type of activity you’ll be doing. If you’ll be paddling vigorously, you may want to wear fewer layers to avoid overheating. On the other hand, if you’ll be taking breaks or moving slowly, you may want to wear more layers to stay warm.

Ultimately, the key to dressing appropriately for white water rafting is to be prepared for a range of weather conditions. By following these tips and considering the type of fabric and activity, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable rafting experience.

Additional Accessories for a Comfortable Rafting Experience

White water rafting is an exhilarating outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. However, it is important to be prepared with the right gear to ensure a comfortable and safe experience. Aside from clothes, there are a few additional accessories that can make your white water rafting experience more comfortable. Here are a few items to consider:

Gloves and Paddling Mitts

While paddling through the rapids, your hands can take a beating from the constant gripping and handling of the paddle. To avoid developing blisters or calluses, consider investing in a pair of gloves or paddling mitts. These will not only provide added protection for your hands, but also give you a better grip on the paddle, allowing you to maneuver the raft with ease.

Sun Protection Gear

Spending hours on the water can expose you to harmful UV rays, which can cause sunburn, skin damage, and even skin cancer. Therefore, it is important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. In addition to sunscreen, consider wearing sunglasses with straps to keep them secure during the activity. A hat can also provide added protection for your face and neck.

Waterproof Storage Solutions

When rafting, it is important to keep your personal belongings and electronics dry and safe. Waterproof bags or dry bags are great for storing your valuables, such as your phone, wallet, and camera. These bags are designed to keep your belongings dry, even if they accidentally fall into the water. This will give you peace of mind and allow you to fully enjoy the experience without worrying about your belongings.

Wetsuits and Water Shoes

If you are rafting in cold water, a wetsuit can provide added warmth and protection. Wetsuits are designed to keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of water between your skin and the suit, which is then heated by your body. Water shoes are also a must-have for rafting, as they provide added traction and protection for your feet. They are designed to be worn in the water and can protect your feet from sharp rocks or debris.

Insect Repellent

When rafting in areas with standing water, such as lakes or slow-moving rivers, you may encounter mosquitoes or other biting insects. Insect repellent can help keep these pests at bay and prevent uncomfortable bites or stings. Look for a repellent that contains DEET, which is an effective ingredient for warding off mosquitoes and ticks.

By investing in the right gear, you can ensure a comfortable and safe white water rafting experience. Whether you are a seasoned rafter or a first-timer, these accessories can make all the difference in your enjoyment of this exciting outdoor activity.


With the right clothing and gear, white water rafting can be an exciting and comfortable adventure. Regardless of your skill level or the weather, it’s important to be prepared and dress appropriately. Use this guide to help you choose the right gear and clothing for your next white water rafting trip.

Katie Sophia

Hey there! I'm Katie Sophia - your go-to gal for all things style at WhatKatieWore.com. With a love for fashion and a knack for picking the perfect outfit, I'm here to make dressing for any event a breeze. I believe in looking fabulous without the fuss. Join me as we conquer the fashion world one outfit at a time!

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