8 Tips for Rafting with River Groms

8 Tips for Rafting with River Groms

Ashleigh Diaz
1 Set yourself up for success. Rafting with infants, toddlers and young kids can feel like a daunting undertaking. It will require more planning and preparation to have a smooth trip! First, make sure you have a good ratio of kiddos to adults and that the adults have experience doing self-guided trips. Rafting with small kids is not the time to try your first self-guided trip! Make sure to stick with rivers rated Class II and under. Some of my recommendations in the SW are:

2 What to Pack. As every parent knows, kids require a lot of stuff! Give yourself time to strategically pack for your river trip. When packing the kids clothing, I use reusable bags for each kiddo and then put both into a drybag. Once they are older they will have their own drybags, but I don’t think it’s necessary to have their own when they are under 5 years old! Here are some photos of a recent trip I took with my boys (ages 2 and 4) and what was in their bags.
  • Clothes:
    • Sleepers or PJ’s
    • Board Shorts and long sleeve for each day on river. I love the Patagonia Cap Cool Hoodies (you can find locally at 4CRS)! It’s worth it for the sun protection and comfort!
    • Light weight pants or shorts
    • T-Shirts
    • Socks and Undies
    • Fleece or Hoodie
    • Two pairs of shoes: Chaco’s, Crocs, Flips, whatever can get wet
    • Extra hat
    • Diapers/wipes if needed
  • Camping Gear:
    • Sleeping Bag
    • Paco Pad or Thermarest
    • Fitted sheet to go over the pads so the kids don’t stick to them
    • Small pillow if that’s what they are used to
    • Books for tent time
    • Camp Chair!
  • Games to bring:
    • Paco Pad for beach playing and swimming (PFD’s at camp too!)
    • Metal buckets (plastic ones just break), shovels, and rakes
    • Water Guns
    • Cards
    • Binoculars
    • Nail polish for camp spa night
    • Costume night: plan ahead of time and dress up and be silly.
    • Micro Trash Clean Up Game. Bring small silly prizes for the kiddo that picks up the most Micro trash while the parents are packing the boat!
    • Dirt Bag River Log Book (2.0 coming soon!) to write down favorite camps, animals and birds seen on the trip, and to save the memories of all of the river trips you have done with your kiddos.
  • Checklist for Infant/Toddlers:
    • Pack N Play
    • Shade for camp
    • Favorite toys and tethers
  • Diaper Change Station:
    • Diapers and wipes! Swim diapers during the day and regular diapers for camp
    • Changing pad with essentials like doggie poo bags, hand sanitizer, and diaper rash cream.
    • Old drybag or bucket to put dirty diapers in
3 Rig your Raft. When rigging your boat, make your kids a few places where they can hang out while on the boat. I set up a Prince/Princess throne using drybags and paco pads in the stern of the boat. The trick is to bring another fitted sheet to go over the pads to keep the pads cool and more confortable. Kids are going to be less tolerant of the elements so plan to set up a shady spot on your raft with a Bimini or umbrella setup. This is a great place for kids to nap and just relax out of the sun.
  • Snacks: have snacks ready to go and handy! In my drybox I have 3-4 mesh drybox organizer bags (found at 4CRS) where I keep snacks separated for easy grab. Also in an organizer bag is the diaper set up!
  • Water Bottles: in the desert it’s super important to keep everyone hydrated. Get a DRE drink holder to keep the kids water bottles close by.
  • Organizer Bags: Along with the mesh drybox organizer bags, having a DRE Captain’s bag is amazing for anything from maps, toys, to sunscreen!
4 Safety and First Aid. Even the youngest kids can learn basic water and rafting safety. Before we get on our boat we have a safety talk about what could happen and what to do if you fall into the river. The biggest thing is to get them comfortable in the water so they can remain calm if they fall in. Make sure you get your kids a quality life jacket (PFD) as they need to wear their life jacket at all times (even in camp). Each river has an agency with specific guidelines at recreation.gov
  • How to pick a PFD:
    • Find a Type III, which is standard for running rivers. Make sure for the littles that there is a pillow for their heads and crotch strap for extra safety.
    • Weight range! Know how much your kiddo weighs to get them into the correct jacket.
    • Wear it and get used to it! On the river the kids are in them pretty much all day.
    • Top picks for kiddos are the Stohlquist Infant or Child, Stohlquist Youth Drifter, and Astral Otter
  • First Aid Kit:
    • Make or buy a complete first aid kids with the essentials like band aids, wraps, wound ointment, diaper rash cream, age appropriate Benadryl and Tylenol, tweezers for splinter’s, hand sanitizer, and the list goes on. Have your kit in an accessible spot on your boat in a drybox or bag. I have my First Aid Kit in an ammo can on my deck plate.
    • Other nice things to have in your kit are Pedilite powder in case anyone gets dehydrated (or hung-over), peppermint essential oil is good for hot kiddos or fevers, as well as a natural bug repellent!
5 Setting up Camp. When you get to camp it’s best to get the kids situated playing in the water (always wearing PFD’s) or building sand castles. Once they are good and you have someone to watch them it’s time to find a spot for your tent. Think about where the sun is going to come up from and if you are going to get baked out of your tent in the am or if you will have a little shade.
6 Meals and Snacks. No one wants a hungry kid on the river. Spend time planning your meals and ALL the snacks for your river trip. Bring more snacks than you think you will need! When kids are bored they just want to eat! The more you can do at home to prep meals the better! Freeze already cooked meat so you are just warming on the river. Here are some of my favorite meals to make on the river!
  • Breakfast: Dutch Oven French Toast! I use cinnamon raisin bread, honey crisp apples, eggs, cinnamon, and some creamer in mine! Make the night before and put into a cooler to have everything settle.
  • Lunch: Meat and cheese rollups, fruit, crackers or chips, PBJ sandwiches
  • Dinner: Burritos! Pre-grill chicken thighs, beans, cheese, salsa/or Pico, SW slaw, and tortillas!
7 Plan for activities. While adults are happy to row and just enjoy nature, kids will get bored. Plan ahead and plan for more frequent stops and bring games and activities to keep the kids entertained. Get yourself a good guidebook and find side hikes or archaeological sites to visit. Stop at beaches to have the kid’s swim, burn some energy and grab a snack.
8 Don’t forget about taking care of the adults! It never hurts to have a nice cocktail or Talon at the end of the day, stargazing in silence, while your kiddos are passed out in the tent! It takes a tribe to raise children and the river is the best place to do it! Be sure to go with your river community and live, love, laugh lots while on the river!