If wool socks and beanies aren’t something you normally associate with rafting, it probably means you’ve relegated rafting to a summertime-only activity. We’re here to inform you, it doesn’t have to be that way. The New River—and many of the surrounding rivers—can be paddled all winter long, and Adventures on the Gorge is offering rafting trips until November 16th. But, if you want to go rafting as winter sets in—don’t be the rookie that shows up in board shorts.
Before You Leave Home
Dress to Sweat
Dress in a snug-fitting layer of synthetic material—thin fleece or wool—to increase the insulation under your wetsuit (more on the wetsuit later). Then, protect the parts of your body that stick out of the wetsuit with wool socks, a beanie, and gloves (neoprene or wool). If you are sweating in the car on the way to the rafting trip, you’re doing it right.
Ditch the Cotton
There is no place for cotton clothing on the river, whether it’s blue jeans, cotton socks, or even underwear. Cotton collects moisture and drains heat from your body. It should be replaced by synthetic clothing. Check the tags—even a small percentage of cotton can be a heat suck.
Pack Sun Protection
Just because it’s not summer anymore doesn’t mean it’s not sunny, so don’t forget your sunglasses and sunscreen. The sunlight reflecting off the water increases the glare and your chances of getting sunburnt, so, even in fall or winter, the protection is more important on the water than on your average outing.
When You Arrive
Embrace the Wetsuit
Wetsuits are not only the key element to staying comfortable on a cold-weather rafting trip but also crucial to your safety. The neoprene casing is essential to keeping your body insulated and protecting you from becoming too cold on the raft or in the water.
Snag a Splash Jacket
An outer layer to complete the package, a splash jacket is akin to a rain jacket and works great for shedding waves as well as rain. It also adds an extra layer of warmth and serves as a windbreaker.
On the River
Take a Back Seat
Not all seats on the raft are created equal. If you’re worried about getting cold or start to get cold throughout the trip, choose a seat toward the back of the raft where you have less chance of in-your-face splashing action.
One of the best ways to stay warm on the water is to stay in motion. Let your guide know if you are getting cold and you can likely make an arrangement to do more paddling or do some movements to get the blood flowing.
The thrill of whitewater rafting is enough to keep most people warm despite a few splashes. So, embrace the excitement and let the adrenaline stave away the cold.