The first time you head out on an overnight river trip with your new raft is always a bit exciting, and you will always realize after the fact just how much extra gear you will need to invest in. Unless you purchased your boat fully equipped with all the extras from a former raft guide or serious boater family, you will need to buy accessories and fittings to equip your boat and get it fully dialed.
Our gear expert Ben Thornton has outlined his dream overnight raft set up.
When building out your raft setup, a few things need to be taken into account.
First, you need to consider what kind of rivers this setup will be used on. The size of your boat should be big enough to hold all the gear you need and make it through the waves you will be encountering.
Once you have figured out what boat you want and what kinds of water it will be on, its time to start building your setup! My picks below are for my ideal overnight rowing setup.
I like the Hyside rafts because they are high quality boats that thrive in all sorts of river conditions.
I love this frame because it is sturdy, and has the diamond plate decking. While the diamond plate does get a little hot, it provides more stable surface to walk on (which is a premium on rafts) and it also provides some sturdy rigging points for ammo cans.
A good cooler is essential. It not only holds all the food and beverages you would need for a big trip, but it also serves as an excellent seat. To complete this, strap an NRS River Bed sleeping pad to the top of it and you are riding in style and comfort.
This drybox is awesome because not only does it fill the entire bay and avoid anywhere for your feet or gear to get wedged into, its metal tabs keep the bottom of the box off of the floor of the boat which will only improve the overall longevity of your raft.
The cooler and the drybox are no brainers when talking about must-haves. With these two things you can transport all the food, water, and kitchen items necessary to survive in the wilderness.
The sleeping pad is a must have because, personally, weight and size are of no concern for me when it comes to rafting, and if I am going to sleep on the ground you better believe I’m going to do so in maximum comfort.
Plus the sleeping pads double excellently as a comfortable seat while on the river.
I really enjoy the NRS Sleeping Bed, but most of my coworkers prefer the AIRE Landing Pads. Both offer the same sleeping and sitting experience – the Landing is, however, a bit more expensive and will give you the on-brand points you might want on the river.
I like to have 2 of these, so both the rower and the passenger have a pad for optimal seating comfort. I also have the XL because they are doooooope. Some people like to bring the standard foam sleeping pad because they take up less space and are lighter, but on a raft neither of those factors play into my decision of what gear to bring.
Bring the big one and sleep like a king. Rig one on top of the dry box, one on the cooler, and for those bringing more than 1 passenger or those with the double sleeping pads, rig one on top of your table and you basically have a flat and squishy boat perfect for lounging.
The reason I like this so much is because it keeps your gear off of the floor of the boat, allowing for some better maneuverability. Inversely, if you use this as a net and not a floor you don’t need as many straps to keep gear rigged in. This will pressure rig all of your dry bags into your boat in the case of a flip.
I use this to carry water jugs, groovers, random extra cases of beer. Its great for the same reason as the cargo floor or the tabs on the dry box, it keeps heavy things off of your floor. This allows the floor to last longer due to reduced stress, but also allows the boat to move better.
This one barely needs an explanation. If you are on the water for 6 hours a day, for 8 days straight (or more) you know you want some shade. It takes up no room and provides so many benefits in the form of shade. This is one of the upgrades that takes a raft from cool to bomber.
This can secure groovers, or in the case of someone like myself – secures the captain's box. My groovers get rigged under my table, so this is for the captains box aka my fancy liquor cabinet. Cut up an old wetsuit for a liner, and you have a padded metal box that will keep anything valuable safe and dry.
Every good camp needs a solid table. This table has the plastic surface so it doesn’t get as hot as the metal-topped ones, and when rigged over a DRE Drop Bag it provides even more flat and sit-able surface to your boat.
I love these because they allow for quick and easy rigging, they keep everything nice and secure, and you don’t need them to be 20 feet long to still fit over whatever you are using them to secure. I have 3 pairs and they never get taken off my frame.
These are for my ever-recurring gear use of keeping things off of the floor. The cooler is generally the heaviest single piece of gear, so keeping this off the floor is crucial in my mind.
Extra Strap Storage
If you don’t have an assortment of straps then you’re doing it wrong. Every trip I have ever been on I bring extra straps because there is always a use for them and always a use you forgot.
Back to Basics
Not ready to fully deck out your rig yet? Check out our Guide to Building Your Raft Setup here.