Top 5 Things to Bring River Tubing

There’s no bet­ter way to kick off sum­mer than by tak­ing a river trip—not just an inner tube float on a splen­did after­noon, but by tak­ing a bonafide jour­ney in a boat. You need to float for days, where each bend reveals new ter­rain, where your ears alert to white noise down­stream, and were you can lis­ten to the current’s mur­murs each night. Before you go, you need to know what things might be fun to bring. So here’s a list of the top ten most essen­tial. Don’t shove off the bank with­out them.ten-things-you-must-pack-for-a-river-trip2

1. RIVER MAP: Your smart phone won’t cut it. Not only will the sig­nal desert you in a canyon, but your phone will also run out of bat­ter­ies and you’ll acci­den­tally drop it in the cur­rent. Bring a map. Rivers like the Salmon, Col­orado, or Rogue all have their own river guides printed on water­proof paper. They give you a dash of local his­tory, nat­ural his­tory, and accu­rate river mileage, along with notes on how to shoot the fiercest rapids. If your river doesn’t have a good map, then you should cre­ate one. Scrib­ble notes in the mar­gins and it will become a cher­ished heir­loom of your river adventures.

2. AMER­I­CAN FLAG: Noth­ing sum­mons up the Amer­i­can mythos of a river trip quite like the old Stars and Stripes. Buy a cheap hand­held parade-wavers’ flag, the kind that’s sta­pled onto a thin wooden dowel. Secure it into the stern of your boat and all way­far­ers you pass will know at a glance that you’re float­ing for ‘Mericah.

3. FISH­ING ROD: Bring one and the accou­ter­ments to cook fish, but for God’s sake bring your din­ner for each night as well. Noth­ing ruins fish­ing quicker than rely­ing on a cast for nutri­ents. One rod per boat should suf­fice, and in the slack­wa­ter you can sneak off a few casts to the mon­sters lurk­ing beneath. If the river deems fit, you may bestow upon your boat­mates the joy­ous feast of wild procurement.


4. BINOC­U­LARS: Secure them to the top of the cooler—don’t pack them away—and soon you’ll start check­ing out every­thing. It’s all fair game: the mys­tery bird singing in the trees, the day-moon ris­ing over the canyon wall, that bikini, or the hori­zon line down­stream froth­ing a cloud of mist. Binoc­u­lars are a must.

 5. BOOK: The river alone is a story fraught with sus­pense, char­ac­ter devel­op­ment, and, at times, sheer bore­dom. Do your­self and your crew a favor and bring a riv­et­ing book along not for the escape, but so in the dol­drums you can cap­ti­vate your cap­tive audi­ence with a good old fash­ioned, long-winded story.  

 6. CLIMB­ING SHOES: Ok, you don’t really need climb­ing shoes, but the point is you pass a lot of rock. Those grubby cliffs stained with water­lines and bird splats have undis­cov­ered routes. Screw deep water solo­ing in Mal­lorca. The shal­low water solos of your local river are up to snuff. Bring your shoes. Test the rock. You might just find the next new spot.

7. BACKPACKER’S GUI­TAR: Few sounds evoke a home­spun adven­ture more than the twang of a steel gui­tar on the banks of a river. Some­thing about the muf­fled gar­ble of the cur­rent, the enclo­sure of the canyon, and the pop and hiss of the burn­ing logs make camp­fire songs the sweet­est sound to frayed white­wa­ter nerves. If sci­en­tists stud­ied this sort of thing they would undoubt­edly find that it releases the unspo­ken ten­sion of boat­mates who have spent the day at elbow’s length aboard the ves­sel. Just do every­one a favor and rehearse a few songs before you embark.


8. SNORKEL AND MASK: You know what lurks at the bot­tom of a river? Of course not! That’s why you should bring a snorkel and a mask. There may be beer cans, trout in their oth­er­worldly habi­tat, or some other sunken trea­sure. Go on and dis­cover for your­self the last fron­tier of Amer­i­can rivers. It’s wet. It’s wild. And you’re guar­an­teed a cer­tain kind of watery beauty that you won’t find in the magazines.

9. BEER: You knew this was going to be on the list, didn’t you? Refresh­ing. Intox­i­cat­ing. And tasty. Rivers and beer are a lot like love and mar­riage; one leads to the other and each together can increase your odds of fun or drown­ing. The key here, as in life, is to main­tain the buzz. Don’t get drunk. Swim­ming wasted doesn’t work. Main­tain that quick-to-laugh, bubbly-in-the-head enthu­si­asm, so when the wind kicks up and sends you upstream under your fiercest pad­dling, you’ll keep that ever-important pos­i­tive perspective.

10. FIRST AID KIT: When boats in motion try to nav­i­gate hard, sta­tion­ary objects, car­nage is bound to hap­pen. Peo­ple get whacked, hit in the head, or smacked by a branch. Bring your first aid kit. You’ll for­get about it the whole time noth­ing hap­pens, and then when some­thing does, you’ll be like David Has­sel­hoff doing a swan dive off the bow of the boat.

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