10 Must-Have Rafting Equipment for Your Next Adventure

Whitewater kayaking, extreme kayaking. A guy in a kayak sails on a mountain river

Key Points

  • Always bring must-have rafting essentials like a helmet and a repair kit when rafting.

  • Check out the various companies that sell rafting equipment.

  • Know how to use each piece of equipment so that when the time comes, you're prepared.

Rafting is the perfect mix of exhilarating adventure and getting soaking wet. It's like a waterpark, but instead of kids piddling in the pool and howling helicopter parents, you get class III rapids, gnarly waves, and some adrenaline-pumping drops — sounds a heck of a lot better.

It's a rough-and-tumble sport requiring the right equipment. Fail to bring along the 10 must-have pieces of river safety equipment, and you might be knocking on the pearly gates. You seem like a nice person, so make sure that doesn't happen.

The best way to do that? Bring along the following whitewater gear on your next rafting trip.

Raven I Pro Inflatable Kayak-Red

by NRS 

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1. Raft or Kayak

If you're slaying the rapids with a gaggle of folks, the most important rafting essential is well, the raft. If you're doing the solo stroke, a kayak is in order. It's the main entre of the rafting experience, without which the entire event is kaput. Most are inflatable rafts and kayaks, filled with the power of your lungs or an air pump. Inflatable rafts need about 20 sets of lungs to fill up, or a high-quality air pump works just fine.

Perhaps you're an introvert seeking adventure gear for one. Look no further than the NRS Raven Pro Inflatable Kayak, a top-notch raft for paddlers of every skill level. The positive aspects are five-fold.

The Raven Pro has high-quality, puncture-resistant material capable of withstanding the rigors of whitewater rapids. It has a wide, stable base that makes maneuvering through rough waters easy, and the self-bailing design ensures that any water that gets into the kayak quickly drains. It's also easy to inflate, has comfortable seating, and is versatile enough to take on various water conditions.

Camano Carbon Straight Shaft Kayak

by Werner 

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12/05/2023 03:50 pm GMT

2. Paddle

A paddle is a piece of water crafting gear that allows you to steer the raft. It also helps regulate speed and avoid obstacles, making it top of the essential equipment list.

A good paddle to check out is the Werner Camano Carbon Straight Shaft Kayak Paddle, the perfect tool to add to your kayaking equipment arsenal. One thing you need when rafting is adjustable paddle sports gear. With this paddle, you're able to adjust the feathering angle to your preference. The angle ranges from zero to 75 degrees. Its two-piece design makes it easy to transport and store. It's also lightweight, resulting in lighter swings and less fatigue.

Edge Personal Flotation Device

by Stohlquist 

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12/05/2023 04:16 pm GMT

3. Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

A personal flotation device, or PFD, is a vital piece of rescue and river safety equipment that might save your life in an emergency. A PFD keeps you afloat in the water, even if you're injured or unconscious. Without a PFD, your chances of survival during a nasty incident hover around zero.

Don't ever skimp on rescue equipment like a PFD. The Stohlquist Edge Personal Flotation Device is one of the top PFDs on the market. It boasts an ergonomic shape that conforms to the shape of your torso, so it's always a comfy fit. The last thing you want is uncomfortable kayaking equipment. The adjustable shoulders, four side pulls, and front waist buckle ensures a snug fit for every body type. 

Current Kayak Helmet-Fjord-S/M

by WRSI 

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12/05/2023 03:22 pm GMT

4. Helmet

A helmet takes the number one spot on the essential equipment list. It protects your head from impact with rocks, branches, floating debris, or whatever is out there on — or under — the river with you.

The Whitewater Research and Safety Institute is at the forefront of advancing safety technology for whitewater activities. One of the offspring of their work is the WRSI Current Kayak Helmet. The multi-impact shell helmet dissipates impact and provides supreme protection for your noggin. It's comfy on the inside, with a breathable plush liner. It's a rafting essential that's easy to wear and provides maximum safety.

Rapid John Wetsuit, Black

by Stohlquist 

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12/05/2023 03:57 pm GMT

5. Wetsuit

A wetsuit provides insulation to keep your body warm in chilly water. It's like a layer of hide over your skin that also protects from cuts or abrasions. Too much time spent flopping around in the water without a wetsuit is likely to lead to hypothermia.

The Stohlquist Men's Rapid John Wetsuit is a piece of paddle sports gear that's sure to keep you warm at all times. It features three-millimeter super-stretch neoprene. That doesn't seem very thick, but this material provides excellent insulation. A big problem with many wetsuits is the seams. Heat usually seeps out through them. Every Rapid John Wetsuit has glued and blind-stitched seams that seal in the heat.

Oh, and if you need to pee, don't worry. There's a relief zipper with an elastic zipper lock, so it's easy to tinkle.

Kinetic Water Shoes

by NRS 

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12/05/2023 04:54 pm GMT

6. Water Shoes or Boots

Water shoes provide protection and grip for your feet in wet, slippery environments. River beds aren't soft and stable surfaces that feel like Tempur-Pedic mattresses. Actually, they're the exact opposite.

NRS Kinetic Water Shoes are an affordable addition to your whitewater gear list. They're flexible and compact, well-insulated enough to keep your feet warm but not so thick that you can't feel what you're stepping on. With these shoes, it's easy to shimmy your feet into tight kayaks or feel more connected with the raft.

Pop Top 3/8 Polypro Throw Bag-70'

by Salamander 

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12/05/2023 04:30 pm GMT

7. Throw Bag

A throw bag is essential rescue equipment because it allows you to rescue someone who falls overboard or is stuck in a dangerous situation.

The Salamander Pop Top Polypro Throw Bag provides 70 feet of rope, a detachable waist-belt system, and an independent clip attachment. With this throw bag, it's easy to save someone who's gone overboard — or have some save you.

8. Pump

Not all adventure gear is exciting. Sometimes you just need help inflating your raft. That's where a pump comes in.

Your lungs don't always feel like inflating a six-person raft, and they don't have to! Enter the K-100. It's a high-volume pump that makes blowing up rafts, tubes, pontoon boats, and other aquatic floaties a breeze. It's capable of performing on uneven ground and turbulent waters. The little storage bag, lubricant, and inflation adapters make it a complete package capable of inflating everything but your ego.

Vinyl Repair Patch Kit Type B

by Tear-Aid 

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12/05/2023 03:51 pm GMT

9. Repair Kit

Every water rafting gear checklist must include a repair kit. As the old adage goes, "Sh*t happens." A repair kit gives you the tools to fix punctures and tears on the spot. Small problems might become major issues without a repair kit, potentially ruining your rafting adventure.

The TEAR-AID Vinyl Repair Kit offers easy-to-apply patches for any holes and tears in your raft. A highly durable elastomer that resists tearing and punctures goes into each patch. A matte finish coats each patch, giving it an extra layer of protection against abrasions. They're easy to apply and long-lasting, perfect for a rafting trip.

Panga 50 Airtight Waterproof Duffel Bag

by YETI 

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12/05/2023 06:19 pm GMT

10. Waterproof Bag

A waterproof bag protects your belongings from getting wet, plain and simple. You're able to keep your gear, electronics, and other valuables safe and dry, even if your kayak goes topsy-turvy. Without a waterproof bag, you risk ruining your belongings or losing them in the ceaseless flow of the river.

The YETI company has a reputation for its stellar coolers, but the brand's waterproof bags are pretty solid too. YETI's Panga Series Submersible Bag is an airtight duffel bag made to withstand water. Anything you put in there comes out bone dry, even after a trip through the rapids. The thick shell has high-density nylon and thermoplastic polyurethane lamination, providing exceptional resistance to bumps, crashes, and unexpected tip-overs. 

If you need something to keep all your rafting adventure gear drier than the Sahara, then this is the bag for you.

The Twists and Turns of the River

As the actress and musician Eartha Kitt said, "The river is constantly turning and bending, and you never know where it's going to go and where you'll end up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don't let anyone deter you from that." 

Whether you're navigating the metaphorical river of life or an actual river, preparation is everything. The only way to follow the bend of the river and stay on your own path when rafting is to bring along the rafting essentials. Raft without a paddle, helmet, or pump, and you might succumb to the forces of the river. It's nothing personal. The river isn't out to get you.

Equip yourself with the right water rafting gear for your adventure. That way, you're always one step ahead of the twists and turns of the river.

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