How to Pack your Stuff on an Overnight River Trip

If you search “river raft trip packing” - you’ll likely come across a ton of packing lists. But what you won’t often find is how to pack for your overnight trip.

Since we’ve been down the river a few times, CKS Online's Victoria Ohegyi shares some tips and tricks to make packing and unpacking easier.

How to Pack your Stuff on an Overnight River Trip

  1. Invest in a duffel drybag
  2. Put items you really want to keep dry in separate sacks
  3. Separate your really important items
  4. Bring a tarp or a Sand Mat
  5. Ducttape is Key

Invest in a duffel drybag

They’re just better. Bill’s Bags are durable and less expensive, but holding a massive 110L or 65L bag upright while rifling through it trying to find your toiletry bag sucks. Solution? Get a duffel bag. These open on the longest dimension (horizontally?) and make it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for – because you can see it all immediately in front of you instead of staring into a deep dark pit of a Bill’s Bag

Gifts for Rafters Watershed Chattooga Dry Duffel
NRS Expedition DriDuffle Dry Bag
 Watershed Chattooga Dry Duffel

Put items you really want to keep dry in separate sacks

I have a few Sea To Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks that I like to put my dry camp clothes in. I do this for two reasons.

  1. In case my dry bag fails or somehow gets wet, my dry clothes will stay (mostly) dry.
  2. When arming my way through my larger drybag, I only have to find my dry sack with my clothes in it to get what I want quickly.

I usually keep coats and other bulky items out of these dry sacks  - it’s mostly leggings, underwear, socks, and an extra shirt. Just remember, dry sacks aren’t a replacement for dry bags.

Separate your really important items

On a long river trip, I like to have three things to carry my personal items.

  1. A daypack for my days needs which include sunglasses, sun screen, snack, an extra layer, hat, and phone if I feel like taking pictures.
  2. An ammo can with my toiletries.
  3. One large dry duffel that will fit my sleeping bag, camp clothes, and any other miscellaneous items.

If an item is extra important (for example: contacts or eyeglasses), I prefer to bring extras and split them between the things I carry. That way, in case one of my bags or ammo cans isn’t rigged correctly, I can still have the important things that I need to continue my trip. I’d recommend doing this with medicine, toothbrushes, and wool socks.

Gifts for Rafters Ammo Can Gifts for Rafters Watershed Colorado Dry Duffel Gifts for Rafters NRS Tuff Sacks
Ammo Can 50 C
Watershed Colorado
Duffel Dry Bag
NRS Tuff Sacks

Bring a tarp or a Sand Mat

After you de-rig the boats at camp, the first thing you’re going to want to do is get out of your wet clothes or drysuit. I like to carry a small tarp or Sand Mat in my large dry duffel. I will step on the tarp/pad to take off my drysuit without compromising the integrity of my dry socks (dry socks don’t like abrasiveness!).

Then, I will use my tarp/pad as a way to lay out the clothes or items I’ll need that night in camp without getting sand all over anything. Sand will get into every little corner but the more I minimize it, the happier I usually am.

Ducttape is Key

If you only choose to listen to one of my bits of advice, let it be this: Bring Duct Tape. I cannot tell you how many times ducttape has come in handy on river trips. This past fall, I accidentally (drunkenly) stepped on and broke my sunglasses during a layover on Lodore. Gates of Lodore is in the Utah desert’s bright. Real bright. Duct Tape helped put my sunglasses back together and saved my sensitive eyes!

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