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The Breakdown on Bags: Hiking Packs, Duffels, and Dry Bags

By Nick • September 10, 2023

Are you feeling like you need a bag for the bags you bring on the river? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Here’s a rundown on your baggage:

Dry Bags:

These are water-resistant bags made with a thicker material and a roll-down closure with straps. Please do not bring your own dry bags. ARR will provide you with the following at your river orientation:

– A large, “checked” dry bag: You’ll arrive at the river and choose a large dry bag. Although this dry bag is quite large, it will be prepacked with an ARR-provided sleep kit. Your duffel will go on top of the sleep kit. You won’t have access to this dry bag again until you get to camp that afternoon, so take out any items you’ll need throughout the day.
– A smaller, “carry-on” dry bag (7”x14”): This is where everything you need on the water will go, and you can access it 24/7 throughout the trip. Store your phone/camera, rain gear, chapstick, sunscreen, sarong, small daypack, and Belknap River Guide in this dry bag. You will open this bag a lot while on the rafts, so some water will inevitably make its way in. Keep this in mind as you select items to keep in your bag. You may want additional protection for items that need to stay completely dry.

Duffel Bag:

This may seem self-explanatory, but there are a few parameters for your main piece of luggage on a river trip:

– We recommend bringing a soft-sided duffel bag approximately 12 inches tall, 12 inches wide, and 24 inches long. This equates to around 55 Liters or less to fit your personal items and clothes. It is okay if your bag has different dimensions as long as the volume is similar and the sides squish down. Do not bring hard-sided luggage. Read more here.
– Any type of bag can work: there are plenty of high-end, water-resistant duffel bags complete with lash points and multiple straps made for outdoor adventure travel. But in the end, ANY soft-sided bag of the correct size will work, including that old gym bag in the back of your closet. There’s no need to break the bank on a duffel bag for your river trip.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are hiking in or out of the canyon on your river trip. You will need a hiking backpack, not a duffel bag.

Day Backpack:

For most trip types 6 days or more, a small backpack or fanny pack is nice to have so you can enjoy the side hikes without having to carry items in your hands. Friends and family can easily share a pack or two as not everyone needs one. Most of our hikes are not terribly long, but several of them require a bit of maneuverability. So if you have your water bottle, camera, sunscreen, and a snack, a little bag will go a long way.

Drawstring bags or collapsible backpacks work great for river trips. They are lightweight, pack into our provided day drybags, and allow you to keep your hands free while hiking/scrambling. If you already own a small hydration pack, that may work. Just make sure it is small enough to fit into the small dry bag (7″ x 14″) we provide. Otherwise, the pack and all its contents get wet running the rapids.

– Finally, if you’re thinking, “All I really need is my water bottle.” No worries! Your guides will be carrying extra snacks and first aid, so if you want to carry only a water bottle, find a way to strap it to your person. You can use a simple shoulder strap or rig something up yourself. Make sure that your water bottle is approximately one liter.

EXCEPTIONS: If you are on a full canyon Hiker’s Special trip, you’ll likely want a comfortable backpack as your hikes will be longer. If you are hiking into or out of the canyon, be sure to read your trip packet for specific details regarding backpack requirements and hydration pack/water bottle recommendations.

hiking water bottle

No question too small!

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