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 (rain gear and sandals for example), but here are a few gear hacks from thrifty shoppers to help you save where you can.
Some specific items that can be fudged:
Hat with retention strap and wide brim – Lots of guides just wear ball caps, but be aware that the wind may blow it off your head, so bring two and don’t bring your favorite one! Also, 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 to provide shade without buying a special hat.
Sarong – This is an item I wouldn’t be without on the river, but 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.
Headlamp – The key here is you don’t want to have to try to hold your flashlight when you use the bathroom in the middle of the night. A hand-held flashlight will work, but take into consideration how often you get up to go and how agile you are in the near darkness. If you decide to bring a small flashlight, many of them have a place to connect a strap to it. Consider adding enough cord so you can hang it around your neck. It’s better than laying your flashlight on the ground and not being able to find it when you’re all done.
One liter water bottle with shoulder strap or belt attachment – There are all kinds of things that work for this. (If you are hiking in or out of the canyon, please see your trip packet for your trip-specific needs.) 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. Our staff have found various ways to carry water hands-free while hiking in the canyon. My personal favorite is packing a cheap, nylon, drawstring backpack. I carry my water bottle and camera in that bag for each side hike. Another staff member brings webbing and creates a loop to attach items to.
Sunglasses with retention strap – Chums are relatively cheap, so it’s worth buying them especially if you have expensive sunglasses or prescription lenses.
Sunscreen – 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. I use them mostly for my water bottle and camera case strap, so make sure your carabiners are big enough to connect your items to straps on the boat that are roughly an inch wide.
Camera – For information on cameras and gear, check out our camera blog.
Small towel – I use my sarong for that. Did you already cut your sheet? Then you’re all set!
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 constant 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.
Ziplocs – People often ask why they should pack ziplocs and the reasons vary, but you’ll quickly find that you can never have enough of them. I like to put all of my toiletries in a ziploc bag in case of an explosion. Sunscreen too. I put a clean pair of clothes in a gallon-sized ziploc at the bottom of my duffel bag so I have something that isn’t sandy to put on after the trip. Some of our staff love packing entirely in ziploc bags – shirts in one, shorts in one, underwear and socks in one, etc. It’s kind of like have dresser drawers in your duffel bag that way! I also pack my phone, wallet, and a book to read in a ziploc. You get the idea.
Wet wipes – I love these! I’m not normally an advocate for disposable things, but wet wipes are tough to beat on a river trip. I like to use one on my face and neck before I go to sleep. I also often use one to clean my feet before I put my lotion on and crawl into bed. It’s 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. Workout tights and quick dry shirts are reasonably priced and come in fun colors.
Bargain hunting – Want to use your trip as an excuse to get some new gear? Start shopping early and watch for deals on some of our favorite websites – backcountry.com, theclymb.com or steepandcheap.com.
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.