River Trip Packing Essentials: the Day Bag

The items from the day bag kept us warm

When packing for a river trip it’s pretty obvious you need a couple changes of clothes sleeping bag, sleeping pad, shoes, etc… This post isn’t about the obvious stuff, this is about the importance of the Day Bag.

So what the hecks a day bag? A day bag is a sealable water proof bag (dry bag), that’s about half the size of a full dry bag.

It’s different from a full dry bag because it doesn’t get loaded deep in the raft during the day. Your full dry bag is filled with things you’ll need at camp, not things you may need during the day.

The day bag is smaller so it’s easier to attach to the top of the main load in the raft. It should be small enough so you can attach it with a simple carabiner. This makes the bag accessible without too much trouble.

What’s in a day bag? It should contain articles of clothing you may need throughout the day. Your day may start off summery warm, but what happens if an unanticipated rain storm rolls through? Do you have something warm you can put on? That’s what should be in the day bag.

Here’s what I typically have in my day bag:

  • A medium weight, long-sleeved polypropylene shirt
  • A lightweight splash jacket (it doesn’t need to be waterproof), mostly to stay warm in wind
  • A light waterproof pair of rain pants and coat

Pretty basic stuff, but it can make you a lot more comfortable if the weather changes. And, since it’s in the easily accessible day bag, you don’t need to untie your raft load to get it. Simply unclick the carabiner and you’re good to go.

My family of four can easily fit the clothing listed above in our day bag.

However, the day bag always seems to grow during a river trip. By the end of a 3 day trip it’ll be filled with things that weren’t originally in it: T-shirts, socks, camp shorts, the list goes on. Usually its items that didn’t get put into the full dry bag before they were loaded on the raft.

Sometimes the bag gets so out of hand we’ll have to start a second day bag. But that’s okay, the day bag needs to be small, but if you’ve got room there’s no reason not to have more than one.

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