What To Wear For River Rafting: The Complete Guide (2022)

White water rafting or river rafting is an exciting sport and an excellent outdoor recreational activity.

It allows you to navigate through the river rapids water using an inflatable boat.

As you go up and down the river rapids, the thrill is often accompanied with risks and challenges so rafting requires a great deal of teamwork.

While you don’t have to be a professional swimmer to enjoy rafting. All it takes is a simple set of instructions from the outfitters and you are ready for the ride.

Yes, you are ready for the adrenaline rush and thrill, but are you dressed properly?

Many people plan a rafting trip with their friends and family. They search for the best outfitter with an experienced guide and reliable equipment. It is obvious that people want safety on this bumpy ride.

So they go for the company which offers the highest levels of safety, have a first aid kit and other necessary equipment on board.

While some do their research for choosing the best and most reliable outfitter, many people are confused about how to dress up for rafting. If you are one of them, this guide is for you.

It includes all the information you need about rafting clothing. Whether you want to go for river rafting in summers or winters, having the right gear will allow you to make the most of your ride.

Below you will find out what to wear and what not to wear. Though the type of dress you choose for rafting clothing is critical, choosing the right material is equally important.

So if you are confused about the right type of material for your rafting clothing, you can find out relevant information here.

Let’s get started with a few tips using which you can make your rafting trip a trip to remember.


  • 1 Significance of Dressing Appropriately for Rafting
    • 1.1 Rafting Clothing
      • 1.1.1 Wet suit
      • 1.1.2 Swimsuit
      • 1.1.3 Shorts or Pants
      • 1.1.4 Shirt
      • 1.1.5 Extra Layers
    • 1.2 Shoes
      • 1.2.1 Do not Wear Slippers or Flip Flops
      • 1.2.2 Go for Strapped Sandals
      • 1.2.3 Crocs Can Be an Option
      • 1.2.4 If You Have No Other Option, Go for Sports Shoes
      • 1.2.5 Don’t Forget the Socks
    • 1.3 Sunglasses
    • 1.4 Accessories
      • 1.4.1 Towel
      • 1.4.2 Sunscreen
  • 2 What Not To Wear?
    • 2.1 Denim/Jeans
    • 2.2 Cotton Clothing
    • 2.3 Inappropriate Footwear
    • 2.4 Jewelry and Other Accessories
    • 2.5 Plastic Poncho
  • 3 A Few Considerations When Heading Towards the River
    • 3.1 Take Weather into Account
    • 3.2 Type of River
    • 3.3 Type of Material
      • 3.3.1 What is Neoprene? – The Best Material for Rafting Clothing
      • 3.3.2 Should You Wear Neoprene Clothing to rafting?
      • 3.3.3 It is Not Woven
  • 4 Ready, All Set!

Significance of Dressing Appropriately for Rafting

What To Wear For River Rafting: The Complete Guide (1)

River rafting is a wet sport.

Whether you stay on the boat or you dive into the river, you are bound to get wet.

And for this very reason, you need to dress appropriately for rafting. Below, you will find out what to wear and what not to wear for river rafting.

What do you wear for river rafting?

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All outfitters provide the equipment necessary for rafting. You will get a helmet, life jackets and paddles.

However, you will need to take care of other essentials such as clothing, shoes and sunglasses.

Though most outfitters provide these rafting essentials on rent, it is always a good idea to bring your own stuff. Let’s have a look at what you will need on your rafting adventure.

Rafting Clothing

Wet suit

Wet suit is a special type of swimsuit which keeps you warm. It is water proof and is designed to insulate the body.


Swimsuit is a must. Regardless of the season, you need a swim suit which you can wear under the wet suit or along with your shorts or pants.

Shorts or Pants

Always go for synthetic material when choosing pants or shorts. Avoid denim or cotton pants or shorts as they retain water, become heavier and do not dry quickly.

Almost all outfitters rent good quality pants or shorts for your rafting ride, but bringing in your own pair will give you all the comfort you need on your rafting adventure.


Many people prefer to wear a shirt over their swimsuit. If you are one of them, choose a tightly fitted shirt. It works best under wet suits.

Choose the shit you are most comfortable in keeping in mind the weather.

If you are comfortable with the sun and want a tan, go for a tank top but if you want to protect your hands from the sun, a long-sleeved shirt is ideal.

Keeping a light weight jacket along is always recommended on your rafting ride.

A light wear jacket made from a synthetic material such as polypropylene or neoprene is ideal. It dries up quickly and provide you all the warmth you need when you are wet and cold.


What To Wear For River Rafting: The Complete Guide (2)

While most people still manage to take care of their clothing, footwear is often the most neglected area.

Many people do not realize that they need proper footwear because they are required to walk through the shallower parts of the river and the river bed is full of rocks which are often sharp and slippery.

So as you are boarding on the raft and getting off it, it can be very painful to walk if you are not using the right footwear.

So always keep in mind that the right footwear can make a whole lot of difference.

When choosing the footwear for rafting, always remember,

Do not Wear Slippers or Flip Flops

Rafting is an extreme water sport.

Though many people choose flip flops as they come off easily but keep in mind that they can fall of the raft as easily.

(Video) What to Wear On Your Whitewater Rafting Trip | Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Tours

In case that happens, you will not have the protection against the rocky, river bed and you might end up hurting your feet.

Go for Strapped Sandals

It is best to go for strapped sandals. Secured by Velcro, these straps allow you to adjust the grip of your shoe according to your comfort.

They also provide adequate grip and safety as you walk into the shallower parts of the river while getting on the raft and coming off it.

An added advantage! Strapped sandals dry quickly. So you can wear them as you leave your home, go rafting and come back in the same pair.

Cool isn’t it?

Crocs Can Be an Option

Crocs are often an option. They stay on your feet most of the time and they dry up quickly. While they give the perfect outdoor look to your attire, they do not have the best grip.

So as you walk in the river, there is a good chance that you might slip. Also, since they are designed to be worn slightly loosely, they can float away as you enjoy the river rapids.

If You Have No Other Option, Go for Sports Shoes

Jogging or sports shoes is something most people prefer. You can wear jogging shoes as they provide full coverage to your feet. However, they can slip easily on wet surfaces.

So before you walk in the river, it is possible that it might even slip in the wet surface of the raft. Also, sports shoes do not dry up easily.

So if you are planning to wear sports shoes to your rafting adventure, make sure you have an extra pair of shoes to drive back home as coming back home in wet shoes can be quiet uncomfortable.

Don’t Forget the Socks

Socks is probably the last thing on your mind when planning rafting. But they can be a life saver.

So if you are rafting during the cooler months, woolen socks can help keep your feet warm during the trip. However, you don’t need socks if you are rafting during warmer months of the year.


If you are planning a rafting trip on a bright sunny morning, then you need a good pair of sunglasses. Certainly you don’t want to be stuck with the sun all day.

But at the same time, you wouldn’t want to lose your favorite pair of glasses on your rafting adventure. So go for glasses which provide a comfortable fit even during the most rough rapids.

At the same time, provide protection to your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun.



As you head out to the river, don’t forget to keep a dry towel. You will definitely need one at the end of your trip. You don’t have to go for a bath sheet.

All you need is a regular sized towel which is enough to dry up after you are all wet. At the same time, it should be small enough to fit in your bag.


You would certainly not want to get stuck with the sun for a few hours and tan your skin. As you head for the river, lavishly apply a good quality sunscreen.

It will not only save you from tanning but will also protect your skin against the harmful effects of UV rays. But sunscreen is something you won’t need on the raft.

So apply it well before your rafting adventure begins.

(Video) What Should You Wear Rafting?

What Not To Wear?

What To Wear For River Rafting: The Complete Guide (3)

Now that you know what to wear, it is equally important to know what not to wear. This information will prevent you from carrying unnecessary baggage to your rafting trip.


Jeans/denim retains water and dries up slowly. As since you are bound to get wet on our rafting trip, opting for jeans can make you really uncomfortable.

Cotton Clothing

Similar to denim, cotton takes up a lot of time to get dry. Though it won’t get as heavy as denim, it is definitely not comfortable to be in an outfit which takes so long to dry.

Don’t go for slippers, flip flops and any other type of footwear which can slip on wet surfaces. Also avoid wearing jogging or sports shoes as they can take very long to dry up.

Jewelry and Other Accessories

Taking care of jewelry and other accessories can be very difficult as you go rafting on the river rapids. Also wearing jewelry on rafting can increase the risk of injury or scratches on the skin.

Plastic Poncho

Don’t bring a plastic poncho on your rafting trip. It won’t keep you dry if it is rainy. Plus plastic ponchos are water resistant but not water proof so at the end of the day, you will be dampened.

A Few Considerations When Heading Towards the River

Take Weather into Account

Weather is one of the key considerations when choosing gear for river rafting. Weather conditions on the river change seasonally so it is important to dress accordingly.

If you are rafting in warmer weather, you should dress lightly. Remember to bring along a bathing suit, some old sneakers or water shoes if you have a pair.

You might also need to bring in a pair of shorts, a t-shirt (quick dry), a hat and sunglasses. Since the river rafting trip is usually a few hours long, it is important to wear a lot of sunscreen.

On the other hand, if you are rafting during the cooler months of the year, it is recommended that you go for heavier clothes. Make sure you dress up in layers which will definitely keep you warm, if not dry.

Adding a fluffy fleece jacket over the swimsuit will give you insulation. Wearing a woolen cap will protect your head from the cold air and water.

Type of River

All rivers are classified into six categories based on the type of rapids. River rapids are sections of river characterized by increased water turbulence due to steep gradient.

Category one is the easiest with limited or no rapids. This is generally safe and you are not expected to wear a helmet or other safety gear as the flow of the river is relatively stable.

But in case of higher categories of river where there are more extreme and dangerous rapids, it is risky to go without a helmet. So decide your gear keeping in mind the type of river you are rafting in.

Type of Material

For some people, it is given that they need a swimsuit and a pair of strapped shoes as they head towards the river. But many people choose the wrong material for their outfit.

It is important that you always go for synthetic material which is not waterproof but dries up quickly.

So always go for woolen, fleece, neoprene, polyester or any other quick drying fabric instead of cotton or any other pure fabric material.

What is Neoprene? – The Best Material for Rafting Clothing

As mentioned earlier, synthetic material is ideal when choosing the material for your rafting outfit. But there are many types of synthetic fabrics to choose from. One of the best choice is neoprene.

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It is a brand name of polychloroprene, which is a synthetic substitute of rubber. It is produced by a process called polymerization. Chloroprene is polymerized to produce neoprene.

Due to its distinct properties, neoprene has wide commercial application.

It is commonly used as orthopedic braces, for electrical insulation and as laptop sleeves. However, one of the most important uses of this material is in swimwear.

Should You Wear Neoprene Clothing to rafting?

What To Wear For River Rafting: The Complete Guide (5)

Neoprene is considered as one of the best materials for rafting outfits. There are a few reasons for that

Neoprene is Impermeable

Neoprene is impermeable. It forms a barrier between the skin of the person and all other elements.

Though this makes neoprene a piece of fabric with zero breathability, it provides insulation from external conditions.

This property makes neoprene an ideal material for rafting clothing as it protects the body from cold water making it completely waterproof.

It is Elastic

While neoprene provides a perfect barrier against river water, it provides a great stretch. The elasticity of this material allows swimmers to get into their swimsuit easily.

Neoprene Retains Heat

Most synthetic materials are sensitive to heat. They can melt as the temperature slightly increases. However, neoprene is heat resistant. Also, this property prevents the water from escaping the suit.

This triggers another action. As your neoprene swimsuit gets wet, the water gets absorbed in the cells of the fabric.

This retained water gets heated due to body temperature. In turn, your body stays warm even when your swimsuit is wet.

It is Not Woven

Unlike most other types of fabric, neoprene is not woven. Instead, it is formed. It can also be pre-made literally into any shape and size. So it saves a lot of work in terms of customization.

In all, neoprene is the best material for swimsuits because it keeps the divers warm and waterproof even when they are fully submerged in river waters.

Ready, All Set!

A well thought out and the appropriate outfit is critical when planning river rafting.

It can make all the difference as you head out for your adventure. But an outfit is not all that you need.

As you head out to the river, you need a dry set of clothes, wear appropriate footwear, sunglasses and a dress made from the right material.

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So if you follow the tips highlighted above, there is no doubt that you won’t enjoy your rafting adventure.

Last updated on:


What To Wear For River Rafting: The Complete Guide? ›

Rafting Clothing
  • Wet suit. Wet suit is a special type of swimsuit which keeps you warm. ...
  • Swimsuit. Swimsuit is a must. ...
  • Shorts or Pants. Always go for synthetic material when choosing pants or shorts. ...
  • Shirt. ...
  • Extra Layers. ...
  • Do not Wear Slippers or Flip Flops. ...
  • Go for Strapped Sandals. ...
  • Crocs Can Be an Option.
Feb 28, 2020

How do you dress like a river guide? ›

Nail the authentic river guide look with close attention to details like sunglasses in the shape of martini glasses, a Western-wear straw hat, a sunburnt nose and sandal tan, the occasional black eye, a can of PBR shoved precariously into a back pocket, foot cracks, thighs that are tan in front and eerily pale in back, ...

Can I wear slides to rafting? ›

Flips Flops or “Slides” – many Crab Apple Whitewater rafting guests arrive with only Flip Flops or “Slides” to wear on their rafting trip. Neither kind of footwear is a good option for several reasons. Most importantly, flip flops do not give you security in the raft.

What do you wear white water rafting in Costa Rica? ›

The most comfortable clothing to wear on the river is a pair of shorts which are not too short so that they're not hiking up on you all day, a quick drying t-shirt (rashguards for surfing are a great option) and shoes that strap onto your feet. Your shoes can be tennis shoes (they'll get wet) or river sandals.

What should I wear for rafting in Rishikesh? ›

Things To Do During Rafting In Rishikesh

Wear a life jacket: It is a mandate for all who undertake the expedition. Make sure the jacket is snug and buckled throughout. Wear a Helmet and all the safety equipment provided. Wear proper shoes: Do not wear flip- flops, and slippers.

Do you wear a swimsuit for rafting? ›

Bathing Suit

This should be the first thing you pack. You're going to want to wear something that dries quickly when it gets wet, and bathing suits are designed to do just that. Most people who raft with us are comfortable in just a swimsuit and shorts! Make sure if you visit during the summer to wear sunscreen too.

What shoes do you wear for river rafting? ›

A: Closed-toe athletic training shoes, running shoes, or water shoes are the best choice for most river rafting trips. Whitewater-specific shoes are nice—but not necessary for Timberline trips. In cold temperatures or on high-intensity sections of whitewater, neoprene booties with rugged soles are often worn.

What sandals do river guides wear? ›

Chacos. These are the guide favorite of river shoes. They are super comfortable and versatile for going from rafting to light hiking. Just be sure to wear them a few times before your river trip.

Do you need gloves for white water rafting? ›

Gloves aren't a necessity in most weather, but when the water is frigid, you'll be glad you have them. Make sure they're a tight fit, dry rapidly and are quickly removable if they snag on something.

How do you stay warm in white water rafting? ›

Wetsuits, splash jackets, and river shoes (available complimentary at our office); a swimsuit and synthetic layers to wear underneath your wetsuit. Synthetic layers to wear under your splash jacket, such as fleece that will continue to keep you warm while wet… NO COTTON. A fleece or wool winter hat or beanie…

Can you wear sandals to white water rafting? ›

Sandals like Tevas, with straps across the toes and behind the heel, are always the most ideal ones to wear when white water rafting. These provide the comfort needed but also have the capability to shed water and dry quickly. Tennis shoes are also a great option if you're in a pinch and don't mind getting them wet.

How do you prepare for white water rafting? ›

Follow these tips to make your rafting trip safer and more enjoyable.
  1. Book Early. ...
  2. Consider Everyone in Your Group. ...
  3. Pick a Professional, Licensed Outfitter. ...
  4. Wear a Life Jacket and Helmet at All Times. ...
  5. Hold Your Paddle Correctly. ...
  6. Be Familiar With Proper Swimming Techniques. ...
  7. Listen to Your Guide. ...
  8. Don't Bring Too Many Electronics.
Apr 10, 2019

Can we wear short clothes in Rishikesh? ›

1) It's going to be mostly sunny weather in Rishikesh but one may find it somewhat nippy at night, thus, please carry clothes accordingly. A jacket is advisable for the evenings. 2) For river rafting do carry comfortable clothing such as T-shirts, shorts, track pants.

What type of clothes wear in Rishikesh? ›

Clothing advice for Rishikesh

Since you are likely to visit many chillout places, a skirt would not be as comfortable as light pants, or even better Indian Alladin style pants which you can get in stores of Rishikesh for s about 200 rupees. Some light jacket or pullover will also be useful.

What is the age for river rafting? ›

In a significant decision, the government lowered the minimum permissible age for rafting from 14 years to 12 years. Earlier, the maximum permissible age was 65. Now, it has been done away with. Similarly, for kayaking, the age limit was between 18 years and 50 years.

Can I wear my Apple watch while white water rafting? ›

One of the key new features of the Apple Watch Series 2 is an improved water resistance rating of up to 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010, which by definition means the watch can be used for shallow-water activities such as swimming in a pool or ocean, white water rafting, and fishing without risking water damage ...

Is white water rafting cold? ›

Unless it is a warm summer day, rafting can be a chilly activity. Being prepared will allow you to enjoy your trip even in cooler temperatures. In the spring and the fall you will want warmer layers like long-john pants under swim trunks, a fleece shirt or jacket, or a wetsuit.

What do people wear to float the river? ›

Quick dry t-shirt, and wool or fleece long sleeved top (that you don't mind getting wet!) Waterproof jacket or shell for an extra layer. Sneakers or sport sandals that will stay on your feet. No flip flops!

What do you wear on a float trip? ›

In general, a bathing suit is your best bet when tubing. You'll definitely get wet, so you'll want clothing that is water-safe and dries easily for when you get out or walk back. It will be hot and a bathing suit will be the most comfortable while you are relaxing in the sun.

What do you wear on a raft trip? ›

Sport sandals that strap on, tennis shoes, and water shoes all work very well. Flip flops are NOT recommended. SWIMSUIT to wear under wetsuit -or- to wear with personal nylon SHORTS OR PANTS. Quick-dry fabrics work best; avoid cotton, as it retains water and will make you cold on the river.

What should I pack for a river trip? ›

What Should I Pack for a River Trip?
  1. Clothing. ...
  2. Swimsuit. ...
  3. River Shoes. ...
  4. Camp Flip-Flops and/or Booties. ...
  5. Sunscreen & Other Sun Protection. ...
  6. Drinking Water. ...
  7. Emergency Food. ...
  8. Other Safety & Repair Essentials.
Jun 4, 2021


1. What to Wear Whitewater Rafting in Cold Weather
(Wilderness Voyageurs Rafting & Bike Tours)
2. Multi-day Family Rafting Gear Guide
(Cameron Martindell)
3. What shoes do you wear for river rafting?
(Ask About EVENTS)
4. What to Wear Whitewater Rafting Fashion Show
(Wildwater Rafting & Zipline Canopy Tours)
5. River Rafting Guide Interviews: Kate Wollney
6. How To Pack For A Multi-Day Rafting Trip | Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Tours
(Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Trail Tours)

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