How do you choose an outfitter for a rafting trip? Remember,
this is your vacation. It's going to be fun, but one where
you truly need someone to take care of you. Someone you trust.
Keep these two points in mind:
First, look for a company that has been in business for
several years, has a current operating license, and is an
active member of a professional rafting association. You
should feel confident in the hands of a qualified guide:
Very few accidents occur among the 2 million people a year
who take trips with commercial outfitters.
Second, ask questions. Lots of them. There are no right
or wrong questions, but there are a few things not to overlook:
Costs- Make sure you understand exactly what's included
in the price. Prices vary. depending upon your destination,
the trip's duration, and what the outfitter must do to prepare.
Expect to pay a deposit up front, and the balance two weeks
before the trip. Ask about group discounts if applicable,
and always ask whether your deposit is refundable should
you (or your outfitter) cancel.
Equipment- Ask for a list of gear showing both what will
be provided and what you're expected to bring. In general,
the outfitter provides all the boating equipment (boats,
paddles, and lifejackets), while you bring personal gear.
Some equipment, such as a wetsuit or wetsuit booties, you
can rent from the outfitter. Food is also provided, and is
invariably superb, prepared by cooks trained in outdoor cuisine.
Seasonal Considerations- When is the peak time to take your
specific trip? Ask about water conditions, but also about
foliage, wildlife, and river traffic.
To asses the rigor of the trip, consider the river's technical
dificulty and your expected level of physical activity. Longer
trips or trips that require you to help power the boat are
more strenuous. You may even be asked to pitch in with portages
and other chores, adding to the expeditionary spirit and
physical challenge of the venture. A good way to initiate
yourself is to take a day trip on a mild river. Then, if
the sport appeals to you, try some more challenging whitewater.
Age Requirements- Most outfitters have minimum age requirements
(usually somewhere between 8 and 18), for liability and safety
reasons. Maximum age? As long as you're enthusiastic and
your health is up to the challenge of the trip you choose,
the sky's the limit.
Basic lunch and pit stop on the Hagerman Section
Extracurricular Activities- A rafting trip is more than
just adrenaline-pumping thrills. On most multi-day trips,
you'll spend only 5 or 6 hours a day on the river, so there's
time for games and exploration. Does your outfitter have
plans to fill that time, or are you on your own?
Specialty Trips- Does the outfitter run trips that cater
to large groups? Families? Fishing parties? Adults only?
Can the outfitter support a kayak or canoe trip? Can it accommodate
someone with a physical disability? You will only help yourself
by planning ahead. Start by deciding what you want. A white-knuckle
ride? Quiet and solitude? Scenery? Fun with friends? Do you
want to be pampered, or be an active participant? Be specific.
Then pay close attention and compare how each outfitter responds
to your query for information. How they treat you as a prospective
customer may very well indicate how they treat you on the
So do your homework. You'll be a more confident shopper,
and a more relaxed traveler. And hey, that's the whole idea,