How to Dress for Whitewater Rafting

Upper Yough Spring Rafting

How to Dress for Whitewater Rafting

What should you wear whitewater rafting? Your whitewater rafting trip includes the basic gear you need to paddle down the river. We provide helmets, whitewater-specific person flotation devices (PFDs) and paddles. On cold days, you can rent wetsuits and splash jackets when you check in for your rafting trips. All other clothing and personal items are your responsibility to bring along or leave in your car.

So what should you bring and wear?

What to wear and bring on the river:
  • Shoes that will stay on your feet in swift moving water or while swimming, and are okay to get dirty or wet. (Chacos, Keens, Tevas, and watershoes that have a heel strap are all great. Don’t have these? You can buy them at our Ohiopyle outfitter store when you arrive to check in!)
  • Swimsuits, or quick-dry sports clothing.
  • Sunglasses with a retainer such as Chums or Croakies.
  • Baseball cap or visor to wear under your helmet.
  • Sunscreen that you apply before getting on the water.

If you’re missing any of these things, or you’ve forgotten them on the day of your trip, you can purchase rafting gear at our outfitter store when you check in!

What NOT to wear or bring on the river:
  • Cowboy boots, high heels, flip-flops, or anything similar.
  • Heavy clothing that will weigh you down in the river, such as sweats or jeans.
  • Cotton clothing (it will keep you wet and cold).
  • Clothing that impedes your freedom of movement, like leather or formal wear.
  • A non-whitewater PFD (that you use for fishing or jet skiing).
  • Smaller personal items such as jewelry, keys, phones, electronics, and wallets.

Feel free to leave these things in your car, along with a change of clothes for after your rafting trip. We’ll keep your keys in a secure location for the duration of your adventure! 


Here’s a handy video on warm-weather rafting gear:


What about rafting in cold weather?

Cold weather for rafting is generally any temperature under 70 degrees, which you’ll usually encounter in the spring and fall. You’re gonna get splashed, and the river water is quite a lot colder than the air. Dress to keep yourself as warm and dry as possible, so you can have a safe and fun rafting trip.

For rafting in chilly weather (under 70 degrees), we strongly recommend:
  • NO COTTON: it stays wet for a long time, and it’ll make you cold.
    • For the first layer against your skin: wear a light polyester or wool top and bottom (i.e. a light, longsleeve running top and a pair of yoga tights) that will dry fast when wet, and won’t weigh you down.
    • An insulating layer is optional, like a light fleece top
    • On top, wear a rain jacket or windbreaker to keep off splashes and wind. You can also rent a “splash top” (a jacket designed for paddling) at any of our rafting locations when you check in.
    • On your feet: Wear heavy wool or synthetic hiking socks to keep feet warm from brands like Smartwool or Darn Tough. Wear shoes that won’t fall off and can get wet – old running shoes, or sandals with a back strap like Chacos or Keens.
      • OR buy an inexpensive pair of watershoes that you can reuse on next rafting trip! These are available at check-in on our Youghiogheny River trips.
    • If weather is very cold or you run cold: you can rent a neoprene wetsuit to rent at check in. Thick neoprene traps heat and keeps your core warm when it’s wet. These are required throughout most of April and October, when temperatures tend to be colder.
    • Over top, you’ll be wearing a lifejacket, which also helps insulate your core with thick foam.
    • On your head: you can wear a warm wool or synthetic fleece hat that fits under helmet


Spring and fall are awesome times to go rafting, as long as you’re prepared with the right gear. Just remember not to wear anything cotton. When you check in for your trip, we have wetsuits and splash tops for rent, and you can buy inexpensive water shoes, socks and warm hats. Thanks & happy rafting!


NoteWe are adamant about our customers not wearing cotton on the river as a matter of safety. Cotton does not dry quickly and leaves you with a wet layer against your skin. That means you’ll be out in the cold without any insulation, putting you at risk for hypothermia! Cold rafters are not happy rafters, and we want you to stay warm and have fun!