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There are many lists online to guide packing for a Grand Canyon river trip. The packing list I provide is aimed to help those packing for a trip during the warm/hot months. Our trip was from August – September and a mix of kayakers and rafts. Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit and did not cool off much at night. I kayaked all 280 miles from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry in the Jackson Kayak Antix 2.0. I hope this blog helps you with planning for your trip and acquiring the gear you need for a fun and memorable trip. The Grand Canyon is a remarkable American treasure if you’re lucky enough to secure a permit and find a group of adventurers with the appropriate experience to join you.

Packing for a Raft Supported Grand Canyon Trip

The Grand Canyon is unlike any river trip I have completed previously. Our trip lasted 18 days, we planned our trip through a local outfitter, and our group traveled to Arizona by car and by airplane. The whitewater is BIG, the hiking opportunities are endless, and experience in the Grand Canyon goes a long way. During our trip, our outfitter provided the rafts, rigs, storage boxes, coolers, food, produce, kitchen gear, and so much more. A lot of hard work goes into each trip, so don’t forget to tip your outfitter staff!

Watch the video

On the Water / In the Kayak:

• Kayak – Half slice was a good choice for me. The Jackson Kayak Antix 2.0 was an amazing choice! You want to have enough volume to stay comfortable while navigating the big rapids and long sections of flat water. If you would feel more comfortable in a Jackson Kayak Nirvana or Zen, you’ll have an equally fun trip.
• Float Bags – Friends never want to chase a kayak without float bags. Be considerate to your friends.
• Sprayskirt – Make sure it can handle big water. Test it before your trip.
• Helmet – Protect your brains, especially during those big rapids.
• Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – Wear it! Park rangers have a mandatory check of the quality of PFDs on the trip, so make sure the safety text/label is readable, it has appropriate flotation, and all straps and buckles are functional. When in doubt, have your group bring a few extra PFDs in case some don’t pass inspection.
• Paddle – For kayakers or rafts using paddles instead of oars
• Spare Paddle – Make sure your crew has an extra paddle(s) just in case.
• Pogies/Gloves (Optional) – The water at the beginning of the trip is quite cold.
• 2x Sunshirt – Lightweight, quick dry, and long sleeves. If it gets too hot, dunk your shirt in the river water and put it back on.
• 2x Swimsuit
• Neoprene Swimsuit Liner – You may end up in the water while helping with rescue, flipping a raft, loading a raft, or if you end up swimming. During the bigger rapid days, I wore an extra layer to keep me warm.
• Dry Top – Even though the weather was hot, the water was really cold. While on the water, I felt comfortable in my dry top. If I got too hot, I rolled my kayak, dunked my paddling shirt, or splashed my face with water.
• Paddling Shoes – Protect your feet while scouting rapids and wet hikes. You want these to stay on your feet just in case you go swimming.
• Wet Socks (Optional)
• Grand Canyon River Guide – This is a helpful resource for finding details about rapids, hikes, camp sites, and landmarks. I recommend having multiple on the trip for the group.
• Map Dry Bag – For protecting the river guide. The book may be water resistant, but the pages tend to stick together if you keep it unprotected.
• 4x Water Bottles – For storing clean water throughout the trip
• 4x Carabiners – For securing water bottles to a raft or kayak
• Big throw rope – Just in case a raft needed to be flipped upright. This should be more robust than a typical throw rope.
• Paddler’s Knife – If you bring rope, bring a knife.
• Paddler Gloves (Optional) – If you try navigating the oars on a raft, gloves will help to protect your hands.

Clothes & Gear:

• Camp Shirts – For comfortable camp attire. Change out of those wet clothes at camp to prevent nasty rashes.
• Hiking Shorts/Pants
• Underwear – Quick dry. Bring enough pairs for the amount of laundry days you want to have. Keep it clean to prevent rashes!
• Rain Jacket
• Lightweight Jacket – For those cooler days on the trip. There weren’t many for me.
• Wet Hike Shoes – Plenty of hikes had me getting fully submersed in water. Often these may be the same shoes you use while kayaking or rafting.
• Chacos/Crocs – To allow your feet to breathe and dry out after long hours in the water.
• Dry Hike Shoes – Remember to keep these easily accessible while on your raft.
• Socks – For hikes and camp
• Sunhats – A wide brim will help you to avoid sunburn. Make sure it has a chin strap to stay on during those strong winds. Bring an extra.
• 2x Sunglasses – Protect your eyes from constant exposure to sunlight. Hopefully you don’t lose any on the trip, but sometimes it happens.
• Sunglass Retainers – To help you from losing sunglasses on the trip.
• Costumes – For theme days during the trip. Our themes were: 1) Hawaiian Vacation; 2) Red, White, & Blue; 3) Rave Party; 4) Tutus

Packing for a Raft Supported Grand Canyon Trip

At Camp – Sleeping Setup:

• Cot – This was on everyone’s “I wish I would have brought it” list. When the weather was nice, this was my primary option instead of a tent. It kept me off of the hot ground, rocks, and sand, as well as away from the stinging insects and critters. I had a great view of the stars with no tent obscuring my view!
• Tent – The weather in the canyon had rain, thunder, and high winds during some nights. I found it comforting to have a tent for those days with plenty of room for a cot or two. Keep heavy items in the tent at all times, as those strong winds sent one of our trip’s tents to the bottom of the river.
• Tent Stakes – On most nights, I camped on sand. As mentioned above, stake your tent down and put heavy items in the tent to keep it from blowing away during the strong wind days.
• Tent Stake Hammer (optional) – This just makes life easier when camping on firm ground.
• Thick Sleeping Pad – After long days of paddling and hiking, I needed a good night’s rest. I brought a 4’’ thick sleeping pad. It doubled as a comfortable seat for rafters during the day.
• Packable Pillow – I attempted to find the most comfortable packable pillow I could find. I wanted something a bit nicer than most camping pillows, as I needed to keep my neck pain-free for 18 days.
• Puffy Blanket – Instead of a sleeping bag, I opted for the puffy blanket option. This was easy to pack and can be used while in your favorite camp chair. It also can double as a knee pillow for those side sleepers like me.
• Cotton Sheets – I bought a cheap set of sheets with flamingoes on them. I used a fitted sheet for the sleeping pad, which kept me from sticking to it during the hot nights. On most days, all I needed was an additional sheet. I also used a pillowcase to keep my pillow from getting too sweaty. A lot of people on our trip dunked their sheets in water before bed to keep them cool throughout the night.

At Camp – Other Items:

• Camp Chair – I opted for the two-person camping chair / loveseat. I was traveling with my significant other and this was one of our favorite items on the trip. Ours included large enough cupholders for a Nalgene.
• 2x Headlamps – I brought two headlamps for use at camp and during one of the hikes. It would have also been useful during a night float. I enjoyed bringing a rechargeable headlamp that I could charge with my battery bank.
• Inflatable Lantern – For setting up camp, reading at night, or while working dinner clean-up crew.
• Water Filter / Tablets – Clean water is important in a remote location like the Grand Canyon. When in doubt, clean your water twice.

Personal Items:

• Toothbrush
• Toothpaste
• Toothbrush Case/Cover
• Bathing Wipes – Keeping clean is essential on the trip. You can choose to bath in the river or use a couple of bathing wipes. This helps to prevent nasty rashes that can occur.
• Biodegradable Soap – For bathing in the river, doing laundry, and hand washing. Remember to follow proper protocols for bathing locations.
• Pack Towel
• Sunscreen – Protect yourself from constant exposure to the sunlight
• Lotion – Protect your hands and feet
• Hand Salve – Protect your hands
• Chapstick – Don’t forget, your lips can burn and get chapped too.
• Aloe – Recover from sunburn
• Camp Mug – For coffee, juice, and sports drinks throughout the trip
• Kitchen Rubber Gloves – Protect your hands when handling other people’s food and the bleach used to clean up the camp kitchen.
• Journal w/ Pens – For reflection and documenting the trip to look at years later.
• Travel Wallet – For bringing along your ID, health insurance card, credit card, and cash for a delicious lemonade at the Phantom Ranch oasis. Don’t forget to tip your outfitters!
• Solar Shower (optional) – Early in the trip, the river water is quite cold. Having a less cold water source for showering is quite the luxury. We filled up the solar shower early in the day, left it in the sun throughout the day to warm up, and use the shower in the evenings.

Dry Storage / Storage:

Make sure your dry bags are really dry and reliable. If a raft flips, bags often end up in the water, even if rigged carefully.
• Personal Dry Bag – For carrying a change of clothes (e.g. hiking), sunscreen, hat, camera, headlamp
• Large Dry Bag – For clothes and personal items
• Large Dry Bag – For carrying camp gear. I needed a separate dry bag for my camp chair.
• Mid-size Dry Bag – For other items that don’t fit into the bags above
• Carabiners – For securing each of your dry bags to the raft
• Mesh Bag – For storing gear on the raft that can get wet. E.g. paddling gear, water bottles.
• Day Pack – For bringing along snacks, sunscreen, water, and a camera during hikes
• Packing Cubes – For separating clean and dirty clothes.
• 303 Wipes – To keep your dry bags and tent zippers clean and operable.
• Duct Tape – For sealing beverage bags, labeling bags, and repairing gear.

Technology (Optional):

• Camera – Remember that it needs to handle water and sand. Lenses often get scratched.
• GoPro Camera
• Battery Bank – For charging phones, cameras, and headlamps
• Charging Cables – For phones, cameras, and headlamps
• Dry Storage – Waterproof bags/cases and paddling for lenses
• Extra Batteries – For cameras and headlamps.
• Extra Memory Cards – For cameras