10 Things to Buy to Get Invited on a River Trip

It can be hard to get invited on coveted river trips if you don’t personally own your own overnight rig, and acquiring a full rafting setup is a significant financial and time investment that you might not be ready for yet. There are, however, 10 things you can buy today to get invited on future river trips!

Why this List Doesn't Include a Boat

Private TLs (Trip Leaders) are limited to a certain number of people. When planning, TLs usually fill spots with people who own gear to make the trip come together easier, without the need for rental equipment or confusing logistics.

It’s rare that one person or family owns every last thing you need to make a 25 person trip come together. In fact, many private boaters who own rafts don’t own a lot of the other things that make a trip successful.

What exactly is the "group gear" that's needed for successful trip? Assuming you already have a group-oriented mindset and a glowing personality, what can you own that will contribute to a river trip that will potentially land you a spot on the permit?

10 Things to Buy to Get Invited on a River Trip

  1. Portable Toilet (aka Groover) + Spare Waste Tanks
  2. Rocket Box 20mm Ammo Can
  3. Kitchen Gear
  4. Fire Pan or Fire Pit
  5. Sand Mat
  6. Pin Kit
  7. Beach Games
  8. Handwash Station
  9. River Wing Solar Lights
  10. River Maps

River Float Trip

The first one isn’t the most pleasant, but owning your own Portable Toilet (called a “Groover”) and some spare waste tanks will for sure get you a leg up on other folks that don’t have much to offer.

If a TL doesn’t have this already, they need a system and at least a couple tanks per permit regulations and will be asking around to see who owns a groover. 

A groover is not a fun thing to own, though it’s less unpleasant to clean out one like the Eco-Safe Toilet than you might think. You’ll need a 20mm “Rocket Box” ammo can for each of your tanks, and it’s a good idea to have a spare to store your toilet seat, TP, cleaning supplies, etc. in as well. 

Groover Split Mountain Rafting

Owning a 20mm ammo can that can be used for multiple purposes for group needs is a good idea. They are excellent for sealing away trash bags and crushed aluminum cans in a crushproof and watertight box.

If you are on a winter trip, rocket boxes are great for disposing fire pan ash as well. People tend to run them on rigs in a drop bag in place of a full-width dry box. 

River Kitchen Grand Canyon

All trips, regardless of the number of people, need a kitchen. Kitchen gear that is intended for river trips can be exceptionally specialized, and it can take even people who own their own rig a couple of years to acquire all of it.

A lot of folks have some of the elements of a kitchen box, but not the whole thing. This can be a bit of a logistical nightmare when planning a trip, because everyone brings what they have and way more cooking gear ends up on the trip than there needs to be.

Building a kitchen box with everything that could possibly be needed for up to 25 people and having it ready for any trip will definitely make things easier for the TL when they are trying to pull a trip together, and may secure your spot on a trip without a rig. 

Snake River Trip

Most trips require a specialized leave-no-trace fire pit, known as a Fire Pan. There are a couple of versions, but the Fireside Pop-Up Pit is sensibly-priced and holds up to many of the same abuses that more expensive pans do. 

The whole thing breaks down to about the size of a folding chair, and the fire is built on a screen that promotes airflow and eliminates large coals smoldering in the morning.


CKS Online Hot Take: There are certain trips that require you to have a firepan with you, even if the local fire regulations prevent open fires... The intention is for emergency situations like severe hypothermia. So, an even better reason to own one to take on every trip. Did we mention that they also make a great tailgating centerpiece??

River Camp Kitchen Snake River

Another thing that is a valuable piece of gear to own is a sand mat. A sand mat is a regulation requirement to keep food crumbs and microtrash from ending up on the beach and inviting rodents to the camp site and your food stores at night. We recommend the 10x10 size as it fits most kitchen setups nicely.

There is also a smaller mat from CGear - which is awesome for outside your tent or under your sleeping pad if you are sleeping without a tent. 

Grand Canyon River

In reviewing the regulations for any permit, most river sections require a pin kit.

While this is something that can be assembled from your retired climbing equipment in some cases, you can purchase the NRS Pin Kit that is the real-deal for extracting pinned overnight rigs. It comes with everything you’ll need for the worst of pins and a reference card to help you remember how to set up mechanical advantage systems.

Learn more about recommend safety essentials here!


Having one pin kit is typically required, but having multiple ones spread out on a couple different boats ensures that one is close by when needed (or if the boat with the pin kit on it is the one in trouble!).

Main Salmon River Trip

Owning a bunch of beach games is another thing that sparks a TL’s interest.

Boaters tend to love:

  • Bocce
  • Kubb
  • Corn Hole/Washers
  • Volleyball/Badminton
  • Spike Ball
  • Frisbee
  • Can Jam
  • Polish Horseshoes

The key to all of these is that they need to break down reasonably small. If they have carry bags, even better. Ideally you have a “big drybag of fun” that comes out on the beach and is full of all sorts of activities. 

A handwash station is required on permitted rivers and is simply the best thing to bring along for keeping your crew healthy and safe on the river. There is no reason each trip shouldn't have two handwash stations (one in the kitchen, one for the bathroom).

river wing, or other sun shelter, is super important on mid-summer trips where hiding from the sun becomes a daily struggle. These usually don’t take up much space but provide much-needed shade at camps that otherwise do not have any. 

Upper C August 2020 Kitchen

Another thing that is always a bonus on a trip is having really good camp lighting. There are a lot of choices out there. I have found that the Luci Solar String Lights are taking the boating world by storm. They are bright enough to light a kitchen where sharp knives are being used, or for adding some light over near the groover set-up. 

The Luci Inflatable Solar Lanterns are another favorite for adding a bit of light here or there; be that to mark where your tent is in the darkness, light up the cocktail table, or to throw a couple in the middle of a circle of chairs if you are under fire ban and can’t have a fire (way better than staring at headlamps).

River Kitchen Lights

Lastly, knowledge and experience is generally something you can’t buy. But, you can buy River Map Guides and other important literature about popular sections of river.

Every boat captain is going to want to have a guide book that explains the rapids coming up, as well as important landmarks, camps, side hikes, or private property to avoid. Having a good library that is ready for any trip you could be invited on will be something that the boat captain you end up being a passenger for will appreciate.

River Maps

10 Things to Buy to Get Invited on a River Trip

  1. Portable Toilet (aka Groover) + Spare Waste Tanks
  2. Rocket Box 20mm Ammo Can
  3. Kitchen Gear
  4. Fire Pan or Fire Pit
  5. Sand Mat
  6. Pin Kit
  7. Beach Games
  8. Handwash Station
  9. River WingSolar Lights
  10. River Maps

Originally posted February 25, 2021
Updated April 7, 2023


Bob Marshall

Bob Marshall

I’m the Admin. for Friends of Dinosaur Nat’l. Monument – you entered our Photo Contest in teal. I’d like to share this article with the ‘Friends’ followers – possible?

Scott Carpenter

Scott Carpenter

You forgot a couple huge items that are required for group trips. Big shuttle vehicle and capable trailer. Then again CKS doesn’t typically sell those items.

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