Want to Take the Kids on a Whitewater Adventure? Here's What You'll Need

School's out, summer's in, and families around the US are planning unique vacation ideas that can keep both parents and children occupied.

That's right - we're talking about a family river trip. 

For families new to adventuring on rivers and experiencing the joy of splashing through whitewater, finding all the right gear for your kids can initially feel overwhelming. Our river gear experts have broken down the top things kids will need for a whitewater adventure. 

1. PFD

All river users need a PFD, kids included! Keep those groms safe and teach them the importance of wearing a PFD and the joy of being on the water from a young age.

CKS Online offers many lifejacket options to choose from for children of all sizes.

Here our are favorites: 

For Kids 33-55 lbs
 For Kids 50-90 lbs
NRS Child Crew Life Jacket
Astral Otter 2.0 PFD

These NRS Life Jackets are a fantastic, economical PFD that offer several adjustment points to keep the lifejacket snug on the body.

2. Hat

We know – it's hard to keep hats on small children, but we recommend packing a brimmed hat for everyone on the boat for those hot, sunny, summer days. Spending that much time on the water can result in a ton of sunlight AND rays reflecting off the water back at you and your family. Protect yourselves with hats! 

Tula Cowkids Children's Hat

The Tula Cowkids Children's Hat is made with same quality materials that Tula Adult hats are made with. Any parent knows that this is rare! Far too often, the quality of children's clothes and gear is subpar compared to adults. This is not the case with the Tula Kid's Hat - it has a cotton blend sweatband so the hand-woven palm won't rub against foreheads and create a rash-situation, and it provides much-desired UPF 50+ protection. Plus, it looks cool AF. 

3. Clothing

When it comes to clothes on the river, remember this simple acronym: ABC. Anything BUT cotton. 

Bathing suits that kids would wear to the local pool or beach will typically work fine on the river. However, if you're expecting the water to be extremely cold, we recommend purchasing a wetsuit for your child.

A wetsuit will keep your kid warm when they need it without being overly restrictive and lacking breathability. They also add much needed UV protection! 

Level Six Youth Shorty Wetsuit

4. Shoes

While swim shoes can seem optional on a family beach adventure, swim shoes are a must on river trips. Riverbanks are rocky, and those rocks can be sharp or slippery. It's best for everyone, parents and children alike, to have a solid pair of closed-toe shoes that fit well and offer a great grip. 

We recommend the Astral Loyak Water Shoes for both mom and dad, and the kids too! These shoes are designed to be used on the river. They drain water, have the best grip, and fit like a regular tennis shoe. The Astral Loyaks are play-worthy shoes that will last on (and off) the water.

The Youth Loyaks are available in whole sizes Y1-Y7. The Adult Loyaks are available in whole sizes M5/W6-M14/W15. 

Astral Youth Loyak
Astral Adult Loyak Shoe

5. Chums

Losing sunglasses in the river is something that happens all too frequently with kids. Spend the extra $8 and get a pair of Chums, so you don't have to stop off at a Big Box store on your way home to pick up a pair of sunglasses for a cranky, squinty child. 

Chums Original Kid's Cotton


6. Helmet

We always recommend having everyone wear helmets on the river. The Sweet Protection Wanderer in size Small/Medium will fit most children, and is a quality helmet from a trusted company in the whitewater industry! 

Sweet Protection Wanderer II Helmet

Don't forget - dogs can be considered children too! Please ensure all canines have lifejackets. Find the right CFD for your pup here

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We're a group of whitewater kayak, raft, and stand up paddleboard enthusiasts committed to stocking the highest-quality gear and deliver it to you as quickly as possible.

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