What should I bring?
Guests should bring their river clothing, camp clothing, hygiene items, flashlight, water bottle and 2-piece rainsuit in a soft-sided duffel bag, not to weigh more than 20 lbs. We provide the dry bag to store your duffel bag in which will also contain your sleeping bag, sheet and ground cover. This dry bag will be stored under tarps during the day and will be available each night as you get to camp. A smaller day bag will also be provided for you to store the items that you need access to during the day, such as sunscreen, rainsuit, camera etc. Because the weather can be so variable in the canyon it is important that guests make adequate preparation for sun and heat as well as cold and rain. If you come prepared with the gear we recommend, you will have a successful adventure. It is better to be prepared and not need it than to need it and not have it! Our Packing Guide page will give you the list, and a video to help you know how and what to pack. We are often asked if guests can bring a pocket knife or multi-tool. Though this is not prohibited on the trip or the charter flight there is no need for a knife or tool. We request you leave them at home.
Do I need a wetsuit or splash jacket?
We recommend a good quality 2-piece rainsuit rather than a wetsuit as you will likely be taking it off or putting it on several times throughout the day. Wetsuits are too hard to get in and out of. A splash jacket is nice if you already have one, but a 2-piece rain suit with a jacket and pants works well and is required for each guest. The water in the river is 50 degrees year round as it comes out of the bottom of Glen Canyon Dam. Depending on where you are sitting on the raft you will be splashed by that cold water and at times the big waves will splash over the entire raft. Trust me - you’ll want that 2-piece rainsuit. It’s the first item on the list of what you should bring. For spring and fall trips in April, May, late August and September, a paddling jacket is recommended in addition to your rain gear tops and bottoms. On very cool or wet days it will provide additional comfort. Here are to reasonably priced options from NRS (Northwest River Supply) to look at.
$55 economical splash jacket
$100 breathable splash jacket
What if I need to take medications?
You should bring with you any needed medications and either keep them in your day bag if you will need them during the day or in your duffel bag if only needed in camp in the morning or night. We do offer cold storage if needed. You will be required to furnish the office with a list of the medications you take and why they have been prescribed so our guides can be well informed about any medical conditions that might impact your trip. We encourage you to bring extra medication - enough for a few days beyond what you will actually need. You will be required to sign a Waiver Form and we require you to list any and all medical conditions. Our trips in the Grand Canyon operate in what is known as the “backcountry.” At any given time, you will be a minimum of several hours, if not a day or more away from medical help. Emergency first aid and trip evacuation are difficult to initiate and carry out in these remote areas. There is no guarantee that we can evacuate you to obtain medical help in a timely manner. If you are on any medications, it is important to determine if those medications could contribute to the possibility of developing a heat-related illness, as many medications (both prescription and over the counter meds) can negatively affect your body’s ability to regulate its water and electrolyte/salt balance.
Can I bring my own lifejacket or PFD?
Guests are not allowed to bring their own lifejacket or PFD. Western River Expeditions is subject to regulations promulgated by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and State Parks. All three of these agencies require that guests of commercial outfitters wear Type V Whitewater lifejackets. Personal life jackets are usually meant for lake sports and even Type III jackets, meant for kayaking or canoeing, are not acceptable for use by our guests.
Fortunately, the newer generations of Type V life jackets are very comfortable. They also have a lot more floatation than the typical personal jacket.
What about fishing on the river?
You will be required to have an Arizona State Fishing License which may be purchased in Marble Canyon, AZ. The fishing may not be successful due to the water being silty. There is not any fishing time during the day and it is a catch and release. Guests generally prefer to use the available camp time to visit with other guests or relax in the beautiful surroundings of the Grand Canyon.
How should I be dressed the morning of my rafting trip?
You should be dressed ready to board the rafts whether you are meeting in Marble Canyon or coming from Las Vegas on the charter flight. That would consist of swimsuit with shorts and quick-dry shirt, sunhat with an under the chin strap or clip to your shirt, sunglasses with a retainer, footwear which can be worn on the raft and during the hikes, your 2-piece rainsuit handy for your day bag, camera and a smile!
What about sun and heat protection?
You will want to have a more than adequate supply of sunscreen and will need to reapply frequently. You also might want to consider quick-dry long pants and long sleeves for added protection. You will need to especially be diligent about protecting your feet with lots of sunscreen or socks. You do not want to suffer from sunburn on this trip. It is important that you have a hat to protect your head and face from the sun as well and have a strap that goes under your chin or a hat clip to keep it from blowing off. Ladies may also find it useful to have a sarong to put over their legs during the smooth-water time as their shorts may not be long enough to cover down to the knees. There is also a recently introduced item out called a “buff”. This can be worn around the neck or put on the head for additional heat relief. Anytime from about mid-May and even into the September launches, the potential for 100 degrees plus temperatures is likely. Managing the heat on the river is very possible and you can have a comfortable trip. Keep in mind that this is the desert with very little or no humidity. Using river water for cooling will help to keep your core temperature cool. Guides will often suggest that guests soak their hat, shirt, and or life jacket in the cold river water. It’s wise to get wet before going on a hike as your body will perspire and you will become dehydrated more easily. It may be difficult to tell because sweat evaporates more quickly in the dry air. You will need to drink plenty of water and be careful not to dehydrate your body even more with too much soda or beer. It’s also important to keep in mind that you will need to eat more salt than you normally do to keep your electrolytes in balance. You will notice that we often offer salty snacks for this purpose. It’s also important that you eat at meals and take advantage of the snacks we offer in between to keep things in balance.
Can I bring a camera on the river? What about charging it?
Cameras can be charged if guests bring a portable charging device. We recommend bringing extra batteries or a battery pack, rather than relying on a solar charger. If a cell phone is used for picture taking, it should be in airplane mode to conserve battery life, and be in a waterproof case.
This video features some excellent camera tips:
You are free to film and shoot photos during our trips, however, we ask that you consult with your guide before doing so. We have some guidelines you will be asked to follow. These include:
Shooting from an appropriate location - Wearing a camera in certain locations could endanger yourself or others around you. If your guide feels that your use of a camera may put you or another guest in danger, you may be asked to put the camera away or move to a safer location for filming.No pole mounts or extension devices on rafts - Cameras cannot be mounted to poles or other extension devices while on rafts as this may endanger you or other guests.Shut down cameras in emergency situations - For the privacy of those involved and your own personal safety, you will be expected to shut your camera down if first aid is being rendered or in an emergency situation. We need all guests to remain alert and undistracted from filming or taking pictures in such situations.Anticipate battery or card change necessities - If you see your card getting full or battery getting low, change them ahead of time during an appropriate moment. Rafts or vehicles cannot be stopped to change batteries or memory cards.Cameras may be damaged or lost - We cannot guarantee the safety of your camera. It may become wet, sandy, lost in the river, dropped on a hike, etc.Respect the privacy of others - If someone does not want to be filmed or photographed, please respect their privacy.
If you’re wondering what type of camera is most suitable for the river, here are a few thoughts.
Waterproof/Shockproof Digital Cameras - These cameras are perfect for everyday use and have become very affordable with most at $100 to $300. They’re rugged and waterproof, but also elegant and trim like any other digital camera.
GoPro and Similar Cameras - Together with their durable waterproof cases, these cameras can take some nice shots while on and off the water. Generally, the wide angle zoom cannot be adjusted so this should be taken into consideration. We ask that you plan to mount these cameras only with the head strap or helmet mount options (bring your own helmet). You will not be allowed to mount the cameras anywhere on the rafts during travel on the river.
Larger SLR Cameras - It is possible to bring a larger SLR camera, but be sure to have something sturdy to protect it. We recommend a hard-shell Pelican Case if you’re planning to bring a more expensive camera. Space is limited on the boats, so we try to keep additional camera equipment minimal.
Aquapac - This is a good solution if you aren’t in the market for a brand new camera, but just want to protect the one you have. It is a flexible waterproof housing to fit a number of camera types -- including video cameras. You do need to make sure the plastic housing stays clean as you’re shooting through it, but a lot of our guests find this to be a nice solution.
See it at Red Rock Outfitters
Batteries and Cards - While your are in remote areas during your trip, there will not be any location to charge your batteries or devices. Consider bringing extra batteries and memory cards and don't forget to charge your extra batteries before you get to the river.
Small Float - You might consider attaching your camera to a small float that may save your camera if you happen to drop it in the river. GoPro sells a small, attachable float that fits on the back of the camera housing that many of our guests find useful.
How do I protect my belongings from getting wet?
The dry bag we provide will keep your duffel bag and its contents dry if it is properly rolled down and secured with the straps on the sides. You will use the smaller day bag in which to keep items that you will need access to during the day, and if you are careful to secure it properly those items will stay dry as well. You may tuck your raingear under the ropes on the raft when you are not wearing it so that you don’t have to put it away in your daybag when it’s wet
What gear is provided with the trip?
Western River Expeditions will provide all of your camping equipment including tent, sleeping bag, ground cover, sheet, dry bag, and all eating utensils. Learn more about camping in Grand Canyon here.
What do I do with extra luggage?
If you are staying at The Las Vegas Marriott in Las Vegas prior to your trip they will store your extra luggage for $5 per bag/per day. You can arrange this the night prior to your trip or when you check out in the morning. You will only want to bring on the trip those items on the packing list, and we recommend you pack as lightly as possible to keep the weight down as you will be transporting your dry bag with your duffel and sleeping bag back and forth from the raft to your campsite each evening and morning. If you are meeting the trip in Marble Canyon, the lodge there does not store luggage or personal items. You will need to leave additional items that you are not taking on the river in your car trunk. Be aware that the Arizona heat in a car can be very extreme over a week’s time.
What if there is a medical situation on the river?
All of our river guides are certified with a minimum of advanced first aid and many hold more advanced certifications such as Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). We carry multiple, well stocked first aid kits on every trip and the guides will provide any “first aid” level care that is needed or you have the option of using our first aid supplies to treat yourself.
If the injury or illness requires medical attention beyond what is possible on the river, we evacuate the affected guest. The most common means of evacuation is via helicopter. However, on some river stretches, evacuation may occur using a high-speed boat or even a vehicle. We carry satellite phones that allow us to communicate with emergency medical professionals.
Because we are in remote, wilderness settings, it may take a while for more advanced medical help to arrive. Please note that the satellite phones are only used during emergency situations. Because they have limited battery life, we do not leave them on at all times and it is not possible to call the satellite phone to deliver a message from off the river. There is no cell phone reception in the remote canyons in which most of our trips are conducted.