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Do I really need rain gear?

By Marie • August 30, 2020

In Arizona? During the summer? Are you sure? Short answer: Yes! Good rain gear can make the difference between an enjoyable trip and a miserable one.

“I was surprised that in July I was never too hot, but occasionally too cold (if I sat in the front of the raft for prolonged periods). Rain gear is a must!” – Mary, Seattle, WA

boat being splashed on river

We know it sounds a bit crazy, especially mid-summer when temperatures can easily hit 100ºF in the canyon, but the water itself is cold. Really cold. The water comes out of the bottom of the Glen Canyon Dam at 50ºF and doesn’t warm up much along the way. The relationship between cold water and hot air is usually a pretty nice one, cold water drenches you and the hot air dries you off quickly. However, the problem arises when:

  • The sun is hidden behind the canyon walls. In the mornings the canyon is shaded for quite some time and not being in direct sunlight to dry off makes a HUGE difference. Especially when the rapids are close together. Imagine buckets of cold water being dumped on your head with no towel or sun to dry off.
  • Weather in the canyon is unpredictable. Getting stuck in a rainstorm without proper gear is not fun. There may also be wind in the canyon, wind mixed with wet clothes can be quite chilly especially if you add in some cloud cover. Rain gear happens to work well as a windbreaker too. It is easy to cool down in the canyon (jump in the river!), but it can be hard to warm back up.
  • Your friends decided you would be the best person to ride up front all day. The front seat is exhilarating through the rapids – and also blocks a majority of the water from hitting the rest of the row. You don’t want to be miserable and dreading the next rapid because you are wet and cold when you could be having the time of your life in your rain gear!
  • If you are rafting with us in April, May, September or October, the air temperatures during this time are likely to be a bit cooler than the summer with highs in the 80s and lows in the 50s. Furthermore, you’ll experience less sunlight to quickly dry you off after each rapid. You may want to bring wool and fleece layers in addition to rain gear.
    Occasionally, especially on our shorter trips, rain gear goes unused – that means you had rare perfect weather on your trip! However, as Kafka states it is “better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.” Every time the benefits of bringing rain gear outweigh the negatives.

    We recommend a quality, two-piece rain suit with a hood that cinches at the ankle, wrists, and waist for all trips 6 days or longer regardless of the time of year. For 3 day trips, bring a rain jacket, but pants are optional as you’ll be exposed to the elements for a shorter time.

    Make sure that your raingear is waterproof and not just water resistant. Look for something that can keep you dry, but is also breathable. Plastic ponchos and wetsuits are not recommended for this adventure. Most of our season’s temperatures are around 100 degrees and there are large portions of flat water throughout the canyon. Most rain jackets have pit zips you can open up if you start to get warm between rapids. As the day warms up you’ll have the opportunity to take off your rain gear and store it in your dry bag for easy access. You’ll be happiest in lightweight, easy-to-remove layers.

    Rain gear can either be purchased online or at an outdoor gear retailer. Our sister company, Grand Canyon Whitewater, also sells rain gear in their online store.