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Packing Hacks

By Marie • September 2, 2020

Don’t want to spend a small fortune on gear for your trip? We totally understand! There are a few items we don’t recommend skimping on like rain gear and river sandals, but here are a few packing/gear hacks to help you save where you can.

Hat with retention strap and wide brim

Lots of guides wear ball caps, but be aware that the wind may blow it off your head. You may want to bring two and don’t bring your favorite one! Chums also makes a handy hat retainer. Be sure you load up on sunscreen on your ears and the back of your neck. Some guests put a bandana under their ball cap or wear a sun shirt with a hood to provide shade without buying a special hat.


Sarongs are a staff favorite! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Find the most worn-out sheet in your house and cut it to about 66” x 44” (166 cm x 112 cm). The thinner the better! You want it to be able to absorb lots of water, yet dry quickly. It does help to prevent fraying if you sew the edges, but it’s not totally essential.

One liter water bottle

If you are hiking in or out of the canyon, please see your trip packet for your trip-specific needs. Plastic Nalgene’s are the most popular, but there are all kinds of water bottles that will work. Just make sure your bottle is leak-proof. There’s nothing worse than your water bottle leaking into your dry bag! It helps if your bottle has a carabiner attachment so you can clip it to the raft for easy access. You’ll also want a way to carry your water bottle hands-free so attach it to a shoulder strap or put it in a small daypack.

Duffel bag

No need to purchase one from an expensive outdoor brand, any collapsible/soft-sided duffel bag or gym bag will work just fine. Just keep it in the 55-liter capacity or approximately 12 inches tall, 12 inches wide, and 24 inches long to fit your personal items and clothes in. Places like Amazon and Target have lots of options.

Sunglasses with retention strap

Chums are great and relatively cheap, so it’s worth buying them especially if you have expensive sunglasses or prescription lenses.


A total must! Opt for a higher quality choice as cheap varieties typically have to be put on more frequently or are less water-resistant. If you get burnt early in your trip, the rest of your trip is no fun! If you are flying with checked luggage, you’ll need to buy sunscreen once you reach your destination. Pack it in a Ziploc bag, so it doesn’t explode all over your day bag.

SPF chapstick

It’s affordable and totally worth it! You can find it at pretty much any convenience store or drugstore.

2 carabiners

No need to spend lots of money on these. Guests tend to use them mostly for water bottles and camera case straps, so make sure your carabiners are big enough to connect your items to straps on the boat that are roughly an inch wide.


For information on cameras and gear, check out our camera blog.

Small towel

If you are bringing a sarong or bandana, just use that as your towel! You can even use a clean shirt to dry off. Chances are you’ll dry off super quick in the canyon anyways.

Moisturizing lotion

Even better is a salve or intense cream such as Udderly Smooth Udder Cream. The longer your trip, the more important this item becomes. The dry air, hot sun, and constantly changing from wet to dry can take a toll on your skin when it’s days on end.

Biodegradable soap

Campsuds is a cheaper brand found in camping sections of most discount retail stores. Dr. Bronner’s is more expensive, but it’s super concentrated, so a small bottle will easily take care of your needs. Both of these brands can work for body wash and shampoo.


Guests often ask why they should pack Ziploc’s and the reasons vary, but you’ll quickly find tons of uses for them. Some guests put all their toiletries, including sunscreen, in a Ziploc bag in case of an explosion. You can also put a clean pair of clothes in a gallon-sized Ziploc at the bottom of your duffel bag to have something sand-free to wear at the end of your trip. Use Ziploc’s to organize your clothes: shirts in one, shorts in another, etc. You can also pack things you want to keep dry like your phone, wallet, keys, and a book to read. You can use reusable sandwich bags and/or packing cubes as a zero-waste alternative option.


Check out our blog about feminine hygiene.

Wet wipes

While we try not to advocate for single-use items, wet wipes are tough to beat on a river trip. The river water is cold and these are a great alternative way to clean up before going to bed. Wipe down your feet before crawling into your sleeping bag as it is impossible to rinse your feet in the river and get back to your cot without getting sandy again!

Where to find these items:

Borrowing is always a great way to go. Do you have friends who like to run, bike, or hunt? Quick-dry clothing is used by all kinds of outdoorsy people. Friendly advice – be prepared to replace their item if you lose it or destroy it on your trip. Saving a bit of cash isn’t worth souring a friendship.

Thrift shopping! This method is for people like me who have more time than money. Search for synthetic fibers – polyester and nylon are the most common. Not into thrifting? Target and Walmart have expanded their “workout” clothing sections. Amazon also has some great options. Workout tights and quick-dry shirts are reasonably priced and come in fun colors.

We hope these tips will help you prepare for your trip. Always feel free to call us and chat. No question is too small and we’re happy to share advice from our personal experiences.

No question too small!

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