A Final Word of Warning. Taking a River Trip May Change Your Life.

Be Prepared

You have checked everything 10 times. The check list is in tatters from the number of times it has been unfolded and refolded. You know you can do this, and yet in the faces of your family and friends you still see apprehension, doubt, but maybe also a little excitement.

Something Of A Surprise For Such An Outdoor Orientated Country

Something that still surprises me is how relatively few people, Kiwis in particular, look to rivers for recreation.

Is it because of lack of knowledge? Is it because of fear? Is it because of lack of equipment? Is it because of all these factors, and more besides?

I thought I would write an article and set out just what you need, equipment and skills, to take your family or friends on a private (not involving a commercial operator or outfitter) multi day river rafting trip. What is set out below is general enough that it could apply in any country, though there will be specifics that do or do not apply to your particular circumstance.

An example of one of these circumstances would be where you can camp on the riverbank. Riverside property ownership and access varies from country to country.

But First The Why?

Why would you want to take your family or friends on a multi day river trip. Surely if you are looking at camping then car camping is so much easier. You put everything in the boot, drive to a camp ground, set up the gear, and if you forget anything, drive to the nearest shop to get it.

Where we are talking here on a multi day river trip, there are no shops. In fact there is not even a campground, and what is more there are unlikely to be any other people.

It is precisely these reasons that we choose to go on a river trip that extends over several days. The chance to be away from the crowds, to explore beautiful river canyons, to unhook for what will still be a relatively short while.

A raft with gear and passenger loaded for a multi day rafting trip

What Equipment Is Required to Undertake Your Own Trip?

Before you purchase any equipment, realise that with average use a few times a year, this gear will last you years, and not go out of fashion. Second, raft supported river trips have something in common with car camping. You can carry a reasonable amount, unlike back packing or kayaking, and there is no reason to be uncomfortable.

This Is What You Will Need:

  • A raft – for 3 or 4 people should be in the region of 3.8m or bigger (that is 12’6″)
  • Paddles and/or oars plus puncture repair kit and pump
  • A good First Aid kit
  • PFD (lifejacket) for each person
  • Throw bag
  • A good Dry Bag for each person to keep personal clothing dry
  • Camp cooking equipment, including a roll up table
  • Fold up chairs – not essential I know, but certainly add some comfort around camp.
  • Communal fly in case of rain
  • Some sort of toilet set up. If you are camping in seldom visited areas, this could simply be a fold up spade.

Personal Gear for Each Person

  • Tent – say shared between 2 people
  • Sleeping pad – thick or down filled pads are so much more comfortable
  • Sleeping bag
  • Personal gear to wear on the river, and depending on the Grade of river this could include a helmet
  • Camp clothing, torch, sunglasses, camera etc.

Non Essential Extras

There is a huge range of equipment available now to make camping more comfortable. If we were to suggest anything, we would go with a solar set up for lighting and to keep cameras charged.

Safety Is Not All About Numbers

Probably one of the primary reasons river trips are not undertaken, especially by families, is concerns about safety. This is a legitimate concern. Our advice.

  1. Start easy, rafting sections of river not classed as more than Grade 1 or 2. This will slowly build your skill level.
  2. Undertake a River Rescue Course – in New Zealand a good place to start would be to look at Whitewater NZ’s website – www.rivers.org.nz – Whitewater NZ is an organisation for recreational kayakers and canoeists and have regular safety courses.
  3. Do some reading. There are some excellent books available on reading white water, camp cooking, river rescue, and if you are lucky, books about the river you are planning to raft.
  4. Book a commercial trip and get some advice from a professional river guide.

One of the reasons to go multi day rafting – seeing canyons like this

At The Put On, Got The Gear, Done The Training, Read The Books

You have done all the above, plus organised someone to meet you at the other end, checked the weather forecast, been over the checklist for the 10th time, you are about to set off and you look in the faces of your family and friends. Yes, there is some excitement, but there is also apprehension. Keeping your most encouraging look on, you get them in the boat and set off.

River trips are like this. Once you set off and get around the first corner, everything changes. Now there is only you, your family or friends, and the river and its environs.

Several days later you arrive at the finish point, called the Take Out. Unless you have read the weather forecast wrong, you will have enjoyed a simple journey of exploration, but more importantly quality time spent with those people close to you. You will have seen some beautiful scenery, you will have experienced the thrill of running a few rapids, and you will have sat around a camp fire simply enjoying good company, good food (we hope), and companionship.

Your Own River Trip Is Quite Achievable

The popular perception of river rafting is big rapids, excitement, professionally guided commercial trips. However organising your own trip is quite achievable, and making the first steps to doing that will open up a world you can enjoy your whole life.

However, private trips are not for everyone. If you want to experience the call of the river, the remoteness and peacefulness of a river canyon, but would prefer someone else to look after the details, look for a commercial rafting company in your area.

In the case of the author’s rafting company, we offer a range of river trips from half day to 4 days on the Ngaruroro and Rangitikei Rivers on the North Island of New Zealand. You can find more details here.

A final word of warning. Taking a river trip may change your life. Be prepared.

Brian Megaw