If you booked a winter Grand Canyon rafting trip, congratulations! Now, all you need to do is prepare for the trip and wait until the date when you roam through the Colorado River comes. Oh, and you will also need some advice in terms of packing, which is why we are writing this guide below.
As you may know, the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular attractions in the United States, touted among the seven wonders of the world. The beauty of the canyon is unique in every season, which means that any winter trip can be as exciting as a summer one. Before we show you the essentials you'll need for your packing list, let's talk a little about Grand Canyon rafting in winter, the route from Lees Ferry to Phantom Ranch, Lake Mead and why you'll need more layers.
About Grand Canyon Rafting In Winter
There are many reasons why a trip to the most famous canyon in the United States in winter can be a fun experience. First of all, there are no crowds – the South Rim stays open year round and all of the roads are well maintained and passable. Also, you won't need that much sun protection, and the sunrise and sunset are definitely worth watching even from your sleeping bag.
Assuming that you won't mind a bit of chill, the Grand Canyon's winter weather is beautiful and there are plenty of sunny days. For many, the winter weather is a unique experience on its own, and putting on your rubber boots will certainly bring a lot of excitement.
Lastly, going rafting in the Grand Canyon in winter may also bless you with a rare phenomenon known as a cloud inversion – where cold air is trapped in the canyon underneath a warm layer of air, condensing and being magnificent to watch from the tops of the high mountain walls. Now, let's talk about planning this adventure and all you need to know before you step foot in the raft.
Planning Your Grand Canyon Trip
As we said above, going rafting in the cold requires some preparation. You'll need more than just sleeping bags and gear for the rapids, which is why we are dividing this section into three sub-sections covering the essentials for sunny weather, how to stay warm in the cold waters, and what to bring for spending a night in the camp and on the hiking trails.
1.What to wear when rafting in winter
If the weather is sunny, you will need the following:
- A long-sleeved sun shirt (getting one with a collar and pearl snaps is a bonus)
- Quick dry long board shorts (a zippered pocket can save you from trouble)
- Sun pants
- A trucker or similar hat (consider one that can protect you from the rain)
- Lip balm with sun protection factor (SPF)
- Old sneakers, Astral Water shoes, or high tennis shoes that cover your feet from the sun and give you comfort for the hiking trips
- Bathing suit or a dry sports bra
- Sunglasses (a good model will help you experience all of the canyon's colors)
- Whitewater helmet (for protection from an oar, rock, or gear accident), though it is not necessary all the time
If the weather is cold, you will need the following gear:
- A splash shirt
- Splash pants
- A full drysuit as an alternative
- Long underwear and socks underneath
- Pee funnel (only for the bravest)
- A pair of neoprene boots that keep you warm (the water is 54 degrees in winter)
- Comfortable hiking shoes
2.How to stay warm at camp
When camping near the Colorado River, you will need more than just a rain coat and sleeping bag. These are some of the gear essentials:
- Down jacket
- A warm hoodie with a base layer
- A wool buff
- Wool underwear
- Fleece pants
- A pair of down boots
- Wool socks
- A warm hat
- Raincoat (windbreaker)
- A pair of rain boots or big tall rubber ones
If you want to be the most stylish person on the trip and pack a little bit more, you can get:
- Baby wipes
- Clean underwear and socks
- A First aid kit
- A mug for coffee or drinks
- A camp chair
- A costume, formal wear, shirt, etc.
3.Sleeping in the cold
If you want a good night's sleep, you need to take the following:
- A personal Paco Pad or inflatable sleeping mat/ridgerest or thermarest
- A sleeping bag (with a waterproof stuff sack for your personal belongings)
- A sleep sheet (for the hot nights)
- A tarp to sleep on
- A tarp to put your gear on
- A good tent (if you are going with a partner, bring one that can fit 2 paco pads and is rain/waterproof)
- A pillow case (you can put your jacket to make for a nice and comfy pillow)
- A headlamp
- Duct tape (if needed to seal or connect something)
When it comes to gear to put your stuff in while at camp, it's recommended to have:
- A dry bag backpack (100L works, or dry bags)
- One or more small dry bags for on-the-boat items such as sunscreen, coffee mug, layers, etc. (it can be 15L)
- An ammunition box for your head lamp, books, little accessible things, etc.
- A wet bag (getting a mesh one which straps to the boat is nice)
When it comes to equipment and gadgets, there are just so many nice pieces you can bring in your personal gear, including:
- Sun shades (with straps)
- Rock climbing gear
- Pocket knife
- Extra batteries
- Head lamp with bulb (and extra batteries)
- GoPro (with cam straps)
- Duct tape
- River knife
- Spare prescription eyewear
- First aid kit
- Backgammon, cards, board games
- An extra pack of cigarettes if you are a nicotine addict
5.Food and snacks
A trip in the rapids can be both exciting and delicious if you bring some home specialties for your friends. You can prepare or buy:
- Chocolate chip cookies (make sure to store them in an airtight container)
- Mixed drinks (wine, beer, etc.)
- Water bottles
If you want to prepare a meal during your camping trip in the Grand Canyon National Park, your packing list should include:
- Sharp cutting knives
- Bowl,plates and hot/cold cups
- Pot scrubbers and sponges
- Dishwashing detergent and buckets
- Dry boxes
- Pots, pans, cooking utensils
- Propane tanks
- Wire brush for cleaning grill
- Kitchen tables
Make sure you bring personal drinks in plastic bottles, and do not consider the use of glass.
6.Boat gear rafts
If you are going on a rafting trip on your own, you will need plenty of things to pack besides the rafts and a tent. Going out for a whitewater rafting trip in a cold river demands the following essentials:
- Tie ropes
- A cargo net
- Water cannon (although this is for summer only)
- Sling shot
- Tool kit (for your rafts)
- Repair kit major + repair kit minor
- Oars (2 runners, 2 spares)
- Bow line
- Spare life jacket
- At least one air pump
- A throwable cushion
- Nylon runners or slings
- First aid kid
- Extra duct tape or electrical (vinyl) tape
- Beaver board
- Foot well floor deck
- Camp straps
- Drag bags
- Drop bags
- A throw bag
- Collapsible bow saw (for cutting drift wood for fire)
For self-support on your river trip, you won't need to carry plenty of things as you won't know where to store them in the raft. However, going out in the river demands that you have at least a helmet, life jacket, sprayskirt, paddle, boat, and water bottles.
Among the other essentials, it's always good to have a drysuit, polypro/fleece and hat (it can save you from the sun), an "advanced" dual first aid kid, a spare pair of glasses, and as much food as possible. On your feet, you should wear a pair of all-purpose shoes.
River adventures can be risky, and rescuing someone would require you to have the following things in your boats:
- Static line or 3-4 throw lines
- Pulleys and locking carabineers
- Orange signal panels
What To Take For Your Winter Grand Canyon Trip
Going on private Grand Canyon adventures guarantees fun and excitement. If you are preparing for your trip and don't know what to put besides a dry bag, a tent and some comfortable clothes, the lists from above can definitely help you.
Experienced rafters and campers know that selecting the best personal gear is very important for a good winter trip in the open, which is why you should definitely stock up on the things that you don't have and be ready for your Colorado River excitement. For instance, many forget to bring more layers of warm clothing, gloves, hat, hiking pants and shoes, etc.
If you want to experience the rapids comfortably in your boat, bring some warm clothes and make sure that you have all the essentials for the boat. For a night out in the open, you will need more than just a sleeping bag – make sure that you've brought fleece and a good hat that can keep you warm but also protect you from the sun.
Rafting In Cold Water: Which Rapids To Visit?
There are plenty of rapids in the Grand Canyon that every group has to visit. The good thing is that these rapid waters get difficulty ratings of 1-10, which means that you can find your ideal ones and take the group on the trip of their lifetime.
Many say that Lava Falls is one of the most storied rapid in all of North America. However, there are plenty of other parts in the river that make for lots of excitement, although Lava Falls is considered a 9 at normal water levels. That is why you need to be careful and know which part of the river you are visiting for your Grand Canyon summer or winter trip.
Gloves are one of the basic essentials you need to take for your whitewater rafting trip in Grand Canyon. They should definitely be part of your dry bag and be one of the most important pieces in your gear, especially if you don't want to experience deep cracks in your hands and.
On the cold and dark mornings, you will need to bring extra clothes – it is very difficult for wet clothes to dry (they will likely freeze on a cold night), which is why you will need socks for sleeping, socks to wear in camp, and socks for the raft. Same goes for other pieces of clothing you should put in your bags – always make sure to consider the boat activities in the rapids, the hiking trips in the cold, etc. The goal is to always protect your hands, feet, and head with some extra pieces.
Outfitting and logistics
They say proper preparation is one of the most essential things when going visiting the Grand Canyon. There are different levels of daunting (whether you are going rafting in summer or winter), and the most complicated is a trip that is maxed out on people and gear. That is why you need to optimize your group and its resources well and ensure the best possible experience.
Also, know that almost no one has all of this gear in their packing list, so don't feel discouraged. The good thing is that there are plenty of outfitters that are happy to lease all types of gear – you can rent from companies in Flagstaff, Arizona (they know the area well and have the operations sorted). Also, you can order a private package that will take care of all the boat essentials, rigging, group kitchen, and camp gear, as well as food, shuttle to and from the river, and expert briefing on how to coordinate. Despite the higher price, many think that this is the best way to experience winter rafting in the Grand Canyon.
Finally, there is the river itinerary, which is where you need to sort out your logistics well. In the Grand Canyon, you do not have to declare your camps ahead of time (especially in winter), which is good. You will certainly find plenty of space to stretch your legs, lay out the wet gear and position yourtent. However, you should plan your trip accordingly and know which part of the Colorado River you will be visiting each day.
If you go for a river raft trip in the summer, your boats will be lighter as you won't have to carry so many things. However, a journey in the Colorado River during winter is more demanding as the air and water are colder, tossing waves of cold water in the as you race through the rapid and slow waters in your raft. Don't be surprised if you experience raft flips, some near misses, and plenty of chances for the boats to escape from each other. Make sure you are experienced for a river adventure like this and that you can handle the wet with proper gear, group activities, and enough water (and beer) for refreshment.
Obviously, the most vital thing to carry during your Grand Canyon trip is a positive attitude – you should not be a frown and even if you forget something, there are stores close to Phantom Ranch where you can grab a bag and stock up with some of the essentials you missed (sunscreen, hat, jacket, first aid kid, extra clothing, gloves, etc.)