Best Gifts for Whitewater Rafting

It’s definitely the off-season in my neck of the woods for rafting, but that only means it’s time to gear up for the upcoming whitewater season.

Christmas is the perfect time to pad out your rafting gear. So what should Santa bring his whitewater rafting good girls and boys? Here are 5 essentials:

  • Dry Bags- is your dry bag on its last leg? Is the bottom covered with more duct tape than rubber? Dry bags these days are very well made, but they still wear out. I’ve owned many dry bags, in fact my first was a Navy surplus black bag that worked beautifully for over ten years. Dry bags come in all sorts of sizes these days, so even if you don’t need a full size personal bag how about a small or medium-sized one for a quick access day bag? My most recent dry bag is made by SOTAR. It is well made and is relatively inexpensive. NRS also has good dry bags.
  • Sleeping Pad- How long has it been since you upgraded your sleeping pad? For years I used a tiny Therm-a-rest pad, I had the smallest version possible to accommodate my self-support kayaking trips. I could only afford one pad back then, but now I can actually afford 2. There are some awesome therm-a-rest pads out there and the company is second to none in customer service. In fact when I was a poor starving river guide I bought the pad, and whenever it needed repairs I’d send it back to them and they’d replace the pad free of charge. I don’t know how they ever made any money, I never bought more than one therm-a-rest in over 10 years of guiding!
  • River Knife- If you’re like me you can never have too many river knives. I’ve never had to use one to save my own or anyone elses life, (I usually use them for spreading peanut butter) but when you need a knife you better hope you have one handy. My favorite river knife is the simple yet reliable spyderco knives. I have the serrated knife-edge for sawing through thick rope or even tenacious kayak plastic. I’ve had my knife attached to my life jacket for over 15 years now, and only the color has faded. It’s performance is still awesome, it cuts effortlessly and stays attached to my jacket through thick and thin.
  • Life Jacket- It may be time to update your life jacket. There are a lot of choices out there, but I choose the PFD that works for both rafting and kayaking. I’ve had my Kokotat life jacket for many years and it never seems to lose any of its functionality. It’s by far the best, most comfortable life jacket I’ve ever owned. I love the pockets, the ease of fitting and the safety features…don’t do class V without it.
  • Raft Pump- Finally a raft pump that is small enough and sturdy enough to stuff into the load but will pump up a raft in no time. Oh yeah and it’s super easy to operate. Even if you have a pump you’re happy with, I bet you’ll switch to this one after you try it.

So if you’re stumped on what to get your river person this year, these 5 ideas are a great start. Already got it? well a rafter can never have too many beer huggies!

4 thoughts on “Best Gifts for Whitewater Rafting

  1. Those are all great recommendations. I can attest that SOTAR dry bags (and rafts), thermarest pads, Kokotat PFDs, and K-Pumps are all quality items.

    1. thanks for the comment Zach, it’s almost time for me to replace those items, although the K-pump is new. Also we recently acquired a 15 foot SOTAR, and love it

  2. Chris, I’m a huge fan of SOTAR as well. What boat did you get?

    I just returned from an outfitter conference and found that there are great deals on quality stuff. Sleeping pads and sleeping bags from Alps Mountaineering, helmets from Shred Ready, and Type V PFDs from Extrasport are examples of high quality equipment at a great price.

    1. We got a 15 foot elite at the end of the season last year. We’ve used it on 2 rogue trips, handles like a dream. I hope to get it down the Illinois this spring for its true christening.

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