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Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going White Water Rafting
Published: July 15, 2021
Are you considering unplugging and enjoying some white water rafting this summer? White water rafting is a unique and exciting activity that allows you to see the great outdoors, spend quality time with friends and family, and put your teamwork skills to the test!
If you’re a first-timer, you can never be too prepared to make the most out of your white water adventure. You may have many questions coming up as your trip is approaching.
In this article, we’ll cover the ten more important questions to ask yourself before going white water rafting. Afterward, you’ll feel prepared and much more confident to conquer your excursion.
1. What Should the Difficulty Level of My Trip Be?
Rafters may choose between six classes of difficulty for their white water rafting trip. First-timers will want to consider the type of trip they’re looking for and follow our recommendations. They will also want to take into consideration the other people who will be joining them on the raft. If you have younger kids, you’ll want to consider their needs as well. Let your guide know whether you’re looking for a challenge or some calmer rapids beforehand.
Below are the six classes of white water rafting difficulty:
- Class I – Gentle, calm moving water, ideal for river fishing trips.
- Class II – Small, beginner rapids, ideal for self-guided tours and families.
- Class III – Beginner rapids, ideal for family white water river rafting with guided tours.
- Class IV – Intermediate white water, ideal for stronger paddlers and families with older children.
- Class V – White water rafting, considered more advanced and the most difficult type of white water rafting tours.
- Class VI – Typically unrunnable or only run by the most advanced rafters. First-timers should not attempt.
Most first-time rafters will start on a river with Class I-II rapids, with some Class III mixed in, making the trip challenging with waves up to 2-3 feet high. These runs are typically fun and challenging without being overwhelming.
2. Is the Outfit that I’m Considering Reputable?
If you are going white water rafting for the first time, it’s strongly recommended that you select a reputable outfit to guide you on your trip. A quality outfit will provide a guide who will give you instructions and tips to make your trip more enjoyable. They will have all the necessary gear, and you’ll feel much safer on the river knowing you have a qualified expert onboard. They may also know where to stop along the way to explore landmarks, do some cliff jumping, or some side hikes.
Quality outfits will typically provide the following:
- Qualified River Guide
- PFD (a coast guard rated Personal Flotation Device)
- Transportation to the starting point
- Wetsuit or splash jacket (during colder months)
- Lunch (if you’re going for an excursion longer than a half-day)
- First aid kit for emergencies
You’ll want to ensure that the outfit you choose has good reviews and can speak confidently about these amenities.
3. How Fit Should I Be to Go White Water Rafting?
Since white water rafting requires a fair amount of paddling, you need to have established some baseline fitness. You’ll need to ask yourself if your upper body strength and mobility could be an issue. With that said, it certainly doesn’t take an advanced level of fitness, and there will be varying degrees of intensity throughout your trip, so you will have time to rest and conserve energy periodically.
4. Do I Need to Be Able to Swim to Go White Water Rafting?
The ability to swim isn’t a requirement for white water rafting, but it can certainly help you if you happen to fall out of the raft and need to get to shore. By law, all passengers must wear a PFD at all times while on the water.
If you cannot swim, it’s a good idea to let your guide know beforehand. Your guide can give you tips on how to keep you safe in case you end up in the water.
5. What Do I Need to Bring With Me?
On the day of your trip, you won’t need much. Your outfit should be able to provide you with most of the gear you’ll need on the river. However, you will want to come prepared with the following:
- Change of clothes
- Extra shoes
- Light jacket
Since your clothes may get wet on the trip, it will be nice to have a spare outfit in your vehicle after getting out of the river. As for what materials to wear, steer clear of cotton since this fabric absorbs water and makes you cold. Instead, opt for synthetic blends or polyester to keep moisture away from the skin. You’ll also want to wear closed-toed, durable shoes.
6. How Long Will the Trip Last?
This will be largely up to you. Many outfits will fit half-day, full-day, or multi-day trips, depending on what kind of adventure you’re seeking. Most first-timers will opt for a day trip, which lasts, on average, two to six hours. Make sure to ask your guide how they quantify their time as some outfits go by time spent on the water and some by total time. To make the trip worth your while, make sure the company you choose allows at least two hours on the water.
7. Are There Any Age Restrictions?
If you’re planning to go with a group with children, you may need to inquire about age restrictions.
All outfits will have minimum age restrictions, but those will tend to vary depending on the company. So, make sure to learn about any age restrictions before you go.
As long as the participants do not have health issues, white water rafting outfits tend not to put a maximum age restriction on their excursions.
8. Are There Any Weight Restrictions?
For safety reasons, a rafting outfit will usually have a minimum weight limit. But due to the raft buoyancy, there is usually no maximum weight limit. However, keep in mind that everyone will need to fit into a life jacket.
9. What Do I Do If I Fall Out of the Raft?
Your guide will provide instructions on what to do if you fall out of the raft since every river and location is different. Make sure to pay close attention to your guide’s safety instructions. For this reason, your guide must know whether you can swim or not as what you should do, in this case, may depend on your swimming ability.
10. How Dangerous Is White Water Rafting?
As with any recreational water sport, white water rafting does carry some inherent risks.
Luckily, the chances of getting injured while white water rafting are minimal if you take proper precautions. Here are some tips to stay safe on your trip:
- Listen carefully to the guide’s safety instructions provided at the beginning of your tour.
- Choose a river that is appropriate for your level.
- Be mindful of any potentially existing injury or physical limitation that may restrict you.
- Wear your helmet and life jacket at all times while on the raft.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are the Best Locations for White Water Rafting?
In North America, there is no shortage of destinations to get a white water rush. In the U.S., the states that provide the best white water rafting experience are:
- North Carolina
The following Canadian provinces and territories offer excellent rivers for white water as well:
- British Columbia
- Northwest Territories
Can I Teach Myself How to Go White Water Rafting?
Attempting white water rafting on your own for the first time is not recommended. Even Class II rapids can be dangerous for inexperienced rafters. Meanwhile, a trained guide will provide you with essential skills and the necessary equipment to get you going on the river.