The Packing Breakdown; Family Rafting 101

Published with NRS Duct Tape Diaries and the Down River Digest, DRE.

After our trip in March, Casey and I reflected on how we get ready for a trip like that. Three days/two nights is not the longest trip we’ve been on, but it still requires a lot of preparation. Through the years, we’ve created (and somewhat perfected) a lot of systems and tricks. These have been built up over years of trial and painful error, as well as very tight budgets. But these practices we rely on eliminate the need to talk through each packing decision for every trip and usually, for the most part, results in a (mostly) diaster-free raft trip—but not always.

The reality is that every family will have to work through the packing learning curve to some extent, but maybe we can make it a little easier for you by sharing what we’ve learned about packing for family river trips.

Four Things to Invest In
1. PFDs: Take time to find a brand of PFD that meets whitewater requirements in your area, fits very snugly but does not cause chafing. I cannot stress how important it is to find a PFD for your kids that does not rise up and rub their cheeks. After a long day on the water, just a little contact can cause a lot of skin irritation and discomfort for the rest of the trip.

2. River Shoes: Keen-style water shoes with lots of openings, but closed toes are ideal. Make sure they are broken in before going on the trip. Traditional water shoes fill up quickly with sand and are usually not very good quality. For muddy trips, or cold ones, good, slip-on, puddle boots are everything. I’m a big fan of the Oakiwear brand, personally, but there are a lot of good ones out there.

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