Posted by Western River guest Sarah, May 2011:
I understand packing is a personal thing and it is difficult to create a single packing list to meet the needs of thousands of varying people for the trips you provide. Most of the comments below are very small nit-picky changes. Most of these items are on the packing list Western River provides, but knowing what I know now, the type or style of the item I would bring on a future Grand Canyon rafting trip would be different.
How would I have packed differently:
1) Gloves: Your list says "gloves for protection while gripping ropes". I opted for a nice pair of fingertip-less gloves that were good for gripping ropes, but left my fingertips free for handling those small tasks…clipping life vests and putting cameras in underwater housings. The first day, our guide Wiley, mentions that he hoped none of us were hand models cause our hands will get beat up on this trip. By the third day, we knew exactly what he meant. That’s when the dryness and splitting started. By the 5th day, all my fingers had painful cut-like splits from the abuse of the ropes, scrambling over rocks during hikes, and the extreme dry weather. I had lotion, but quickly went through that trying to keep the hands moisturized. This splitting made easy tasks like setting up tents & cots or clipping life vests difficult and painful (velcro into splitting fingertips hurts y’all). I had asked Wiley if I could have done anything different and he had suggested full fingered gloves might have helped. So next trip, I would get some full fingered neoprene gloves for the raft and also bring some lightweight full fingered gloves for camp and sleeping (lotion up and then slip into the gloves to try to keep hand and fingers moisturized).
2) Lotion: When I think of "after sun moisturizing lotion", I think of lotion to sooth a slight sun-burn so I only brought a little bottle of lotion (I had sun-screen right, so as long as I used that, I wouldn’t need the lotion as much). But I highly underestimated the very arid and dry weather in the canyon. At our exit at the Bar 10 ranch, I bought a large bottle of Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera lotion that I am still using today to sooth the dry skin and healing fingertips from the trip. Next WR rafting trip, I would buy a larger bottle or two of the stuff.
3) Shoes: I brought Teva water shoes and ecco sandles for the trip. I also had a pair of the neoprene socks. After the first day on the river wearing just the Teva water shoes, I found my feet very cold. But the tevas and the neoprene socks wouldn’t fit together. For the rest of the trip, I ended up wearing the neoprene socks (or regular socks later down the river when it warmed up a bit) with the ecco sandles. This left me without a nice dry pair of camp shoes. Next time, I would leave the teva shoes at home and have the ecco sandles & neoprene socks on the river and bring a pair of cheap lightweight flipflops for the camp/beach.
4) Clothes: I would pack less swim tops and more sports bras & quick drying shirts for on the river… just more comfortable for the physical-ness of the trip. I would also pack more long sleeve quick drying t-shirts (I had one) as these were great sun-protection for the arms while still keeping me cool on the raft. I would also skip most of the "camp" clothes and pack more comfy lounging around clothes that could transition easily between eating dinner and sleeping in (ie: cotton t-shirts & lightweight sweatpants).
5) Extra Rope: We ran into a few nights with very windy conditions; waking in our tents under a layer of sand. One of our traveling companions came up with a quick and easy way to tie down the sides of the rain fly with rope to reduce the amount of sand that blew into the tents. I ended up cutting up my clothes line to accomplish this on my tent, but wish I had some extra length of rope to do this instead of destroying the clothes line.
6) Bandaids and a small roll of Duct Tape: See number 1 & 2 above. Anything to protect the hands and fingers.
Things That Were Not on the List but were very valuable (to me or others):
1) Swim goggles: At the last minute, I threw my pair of speedo goggles in the bag and was so glad I brought these. I braved contacts on this trip and after the first day of rapids knocking around my sunglasses (with strap), I switched to the swim goggles for rapids. They were awesome, allowing me to keep my eyes open and enjoy the thrill and view of the rapids more.
2) Sleeping pad: This was an item another traveler brought along. I know sleeping pads were provided, but they were woefully thin and offered only small amount of comfort on the cots. These travelers had found lightweight inflatable pads that fit into their duffle and they said at the end of the trip this was one of the two things they brought that was most valuable. I would definately look into bringing something like this on a future trip.
3) Pocket Solar Shower: This is the 2nd thing the above travelers brought with them that they thought was extremely valuable. Its a drybag like bag that you fill with water and let the sun heat up to enjoy a nice warm shower later. They would fill it up at the start of the day, attach to the raft and let heat up in the sun, and later were able to enjoy a simple small shower with warm water. With the river temps so cold, the first few days it was near unbearable to even walk into the water much less want to dunk you head in there to wash your hair. Again, this is something that I would seriously look into on another GC river trip.
I want to make sure y’all know that I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and would highly recommend Western River for anyone wanting to raft the Grand Canyon (and already have). These are just small things I would do differently on a 2nd trip into the Canyon that I wish I had known before the 1st trip.
Thanks for letting me offer my feedback.
Western River Commentary: Thanks for your comments Sarah! We hope your hands heal quickly, it sounds like a bit of an extreme case! As she mentioned, everyone will have slightly different preferences and experiences on the river – (ie. we’ve seen many bring full gloves and never care to use them). The swim goggles probably ought to make it onto the list! We hope this post helps someone else preparing for a Grand Canyon Rafting Adventure!