All you need to know before your first rafting activity

by Rita Costa

White water rafting offers a blend of natural beauty and heart-pounding excitement. It's an adventure that allows a unique way to experience the great outdoors, so whether you're seeking an adrenaline-fuelled journey or an exciting new way to enjoy nature with friends and family, white water rafting is a great choice. Here’s your essential guide to make your first rafting trip enjoyable, safe, and unforgettable.

What to wear

The key to a comfortable rafting experience lies in your attire. Steer clear of cotton, as it absorbs water and chills the body. Opt instead for materials like polyester, nylon, or wool, which dry quickly and maintain warmth. Essential items include:

  • Wetsuit: Vital in colder waters to retain body heat. This is sometimes provided by the rafting company but not mandatory so make sure to check.
  • Water shoes: Closed-toe shoes are a must for protection and grip.
  • Sun protection: A combination of waterproof sunscreen, sunglasses with retention straps, and a hat will protect against sunburn.
  • Safety gear: Helmets and life jackets are non-negotiable and are provided by your rafting company.

Preparing for the experience

Physical fitness: While you don’t need to be in peak condition, a basic level of fitness enhances your enjoyment and endurance, especially since paddling and potentially swimming are involved.

Swimming ability: By no means do you have to be an Olympic swimmer, but a basic level of swimming and being comfortable in the water is necessary, not only for your safety but very often you won’t even be allowed to take part in the activity if you can’t swim.

Understanding river classes: Rivers are classified I to VI, reflecting their navigational challenges:

  • Class I: Gentle, straightforward currents.
  • Class II: Slightly more challenging with simple rapids.
  • Class III: Moderate difficulty with irregular waves.
  • Class IV: Advanced, demanding precise navigation.
  • Class V: Expert level, with intense and dangerous rapids.
  • Class VI: Extreme, often considered impassable.

Beginners typically start with Class I or II rapids, offering a manageable yet thrilling introduction to rafting.

During the adventure

A group activity: Rafting is a fantastic group activity since there are plenty of spaces in a raft (usually up to 8). You can bring friends and family for a shared adventure, or join as a solo participant and bond with new people.

Teamwork is crucial: Rafting requires coordinated effort. Listen to your guide’s commands and cooperate with your teammates for a smooth ride. Communication and working as a team is essential.

Capsizing: It’s possible to capsize in rougher waters. If this happens, stay calm and listen to your guide. They will instruct you on how to safely return to the raft or swim to a calm area.

Enjoying the experience

Respect the river: Acknowledge the power of the river and adhere strictly to safety guidelines. Your guide’s expertise is invaluable, ensuring a thrilling yet safe adventure.

Savour the moment: Amidst the focus on paddling and navigating rapids, don’t forget to appreciate the surrounding natural beauty. Rafting offers a unique perspective on the landscape, often inaccessible by other means.

All you need to know before your first rafting activity

White water rafting is an exceptional adventure that combines physical challenge, teamwork, and the unparalleled beauty of nature.

Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned rafter, the river offers a fresh adventure every time, with each rapid and bend bringing its own set of challenges and joys.

Prepare to paddle, laugh, and maybe even swim a bit, but most importantly, get ready to make memories that will last a lifetime on the river!


Need for a booking system to help you run your outdoor activities? eola is dedicated to helping instructors and outdoor activity centres share their passion with more people. We reduce your administrative burdens, so you can have more time to spend doing what you love. Find out more at our watersports page.

Looking for more ways to get outdoors in 2024? Check out All you need to know about white water rafting and Best spots for white water rafting in the UK.

Are you a rafting instructor or own a rafting centre? Find out more about how eola can help you grow your business this year and make your day-to-day operations easier!

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