White water rafting isn’t just for hardcore outdoor enthusiasts. Even beginners can enjoy white water rafting by enlisting the services of a professional rafting outfitter. However, part of the fun of white water rafting comes from staying safe on the water. Safety tips apply to both new and experienced rafters.
Tip One: Know Your Limits
There are six classes of river difficulty for the purposes of white water rafting:
- Class 1 Easy
- Class 2 Medium
- Class 3 Difficult
- Class 4 Very Difficult
- Class 5 Extremely Difficult
- Class 6 Class U
Generally, completely new rafters should stick with the first class while rafters who have been out a few times might be able to advance to medium. Classes three through five are used to designate rivers that require precise skill. Rafters may encounter high waves, irregular waves and tight passages. Class five indicates rivers that present a significant danger to experienced rafters. The last class indicates rivers that are more or less impossible to traverse by raft. It’s important to understand where your skill stacks up to the obstacles in the different classes.
Tip Two: Do Not Raft Alone
Regardless of your experience, it’s incredibly dangerous to raft any whitewater alone. Even the tamest river can be unpredictable. Having two people increases your chances of survival if something unexpected happens. Beginners should almost always raft in a group setting, such as with a professional outfitter.
Tip Three: Always Wear Safety Equipment
Safety equipment for rafting includes a life jacket, a helmet and proper outerwear for the climate and weather. Life jackets should always be worn correctly with a snug fit and properly clipped buckles. The jacket should fit in a way that allows you to breathe easily but without being so loose that it can be pulled over your head. Beginners should generally let more experienced rafters fit them with a jacket. Helmets are very important for white water rafting as you will always encounter rocks and falling out of the boat can happen at any time. Almost as important as the safety gear is wearing the right clothes for the weather. If you’re rafting in the spring, you will want to invest in a wetsuit, splash jacket and waterproof shoes with good tread. Rafting in the summer should involve fast-drying clothes, sunscreen and UV protectant cheap sunglasses with a strap. Don’t take your expensive glasses out on the river as they can and will get lost. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen either. Even on cloudy days, sunburns at high elevations happen quickly and can be quite severe.
Tip Four: Don’t Panic
It will happen eventually. One moment, you’re still in the raft, the next you’re in the water beside it. When this happens, it can be quite startling, but it’s important not to panic. Most of the time, when you fall out of the boat, you’ll end up right next to it. Grab the boat to keep from floating away. If you end up away from your boat, quickly and calmly assess the surroundings for other boats or either bank of the river.
This article was written by Ryan Thomas for Rocky Mountain Whitewater Rafting. Rocky Mountain Whitewater Rafting has guided thousands of whitewater rafting trips on Clear Creek and throughout Colorado.