Beginner's Guide to Rafting

The Basics

Rafting down a river, whether through treacherous currents or turtle-paced streams, allows people get out of the daily routine and into the wild. With striking outdoor scenery and good company, a rafting trip can give you thrills as well as give you some time to clear your head. Huck Finn found his freedom once he set off down a river, and rafting can certainly do the same for everybody.

One of the benefits to rafting is that you don’t have to be in the best shape to do it. Sure, navigating through rough waters is easier when you’ve frequented the gym more than on a few rare occasions, but because rafting is a group activity, people can pick up the slack.

Trips can range from half-day getaways to multiple-week excursions. Many rafters are also avid campers. After a long day of being out in the water, sitting a warm fire and eating plenty of food are some of the most treasured memories on a rafting trip.

Holiday Options

From New Zealand to California, rafting can be done almost anywhere, as long as there’s a river. Beginners should first go on a guided tour in order to get a feel for what rafting is like. Rivers are ranked from Class I to Class VI rivers, with Class VI being the most extreme. First timers should look for a tour with a Class I or II river. Some tours can be arranged the day of, but it’s best to book in advance or call ahead to check availability. Most rafting services provide all equipment, but check to see if there are clothing requirements.

When looking for a guided tour, don’t be stingy. Rafting can be dangerous, and it’s worth spending the money on a quality tour that cares about safety. Ask the tour company how long they’ve been in service and how experienced the guides are before committing to an outing, as well as the insurance policy they have in place and risk assessment.

Rafting is known to be one of those sports that also doubles as a dedicated social network. Beginners wanting to raft without a guide should consider a rafting club in their community in order to gain sage advice and meet a few nature-loving buddies.


Children can also join in, but parents should take professional advice beforehand. It is recommended that children under the age of 6 do not take part and that children know how to swim beforehand.


Preparation is the most important part of a rafting excursion. Do research on rivers so you know what to expect. There’s no turn around point on a river, so knowing what you’re up against is key. Some rivers also require permits or have special access hours.

Make sure you’ve packed everything you’ve needed, but remember that you also don’t want to lug around extra weight. Lifejackets are absolutely necessary and should always be worn. Helmets are usually worn if the river is Class III or above, and wetsuits are advisable when you know the water will be colder, or when you think you might fall in. Consider bringing a GPS in order to figure out your location if you get lost.

Because you’re out in the sun, pay attention to skin care. Wear sunscreen and bring lotion to avoid cracking on your hands and feet.

Entrapment, or getting stuck in the water in such a way that you can’t get your head above water, is the biggest danger in rafting. Bring a knife in case you need to cut someone loose from a branch or rope. Make sure your throwbag is working and that you can properly use it if you have to rescue someone.

Also, remember to PAY ATTENTION. It is easy to get distracted by breathtaking landscapes and lively conversation, but also remember to expect the unexpected.


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