What Is Rafting? The Ultimate Guide

rafting on the river

If you ever want to know what it feels like to be a human salmon, then rafting may just be the thing for you. Zipping around on the river’s white-capped waves, paddling against the current, and trying your utmost not to fall in are all part and parcel of this most beguiling of sports. Rafting is a type of sport where one person navigates a raft through a river's rapids. The only equipment needed is an inflatable boat and oars, which can seat between 2 – 8 people as well as an experienced guide at its helm. Some types of rafts are: canoe-rafts that are shaped like canoes with inflatable sides; mini-rafts that fit up to six people; paddle rafts that require teamwork from everyone on board; and catarafts, which are small boats with low freeboard (the amount of boat above water), and are used for more extreme courses.

So what exactly is rafting?

Rafting, as you can probably guess from the name, involves a raft and some kind of river. But I'll get to that part later. First, remember that rafting is an outdoor activity. It's done on a river. It's a group activity, you don't go rafting by yourself (unless you do). You'll go rafting with your friends or family or co-workers or church group or community organization, or with whoever happens to be putting together the trip at that time.

Once you've got the right people in place, then you can talk about different types of rivers and where they might be found. Rafting can happen on flat-water rivers, which are pretty calm and easy to navigate; it can happen on easy whitewater rivers; it can happen on hard whitewater rivers—and it can even happen in between rapids.

If you haven't figured it out already, this next part is going to blow your mind: generally speaking, when you're doing a rafting trip, if your craft goes through a rapid or set of rapids, there are rocks either visible in the water itself (ergo: "rocky rapids"—a phrase we coined just now), or under the water's surface (hence: "rapids"). If your guide knows what he's doing (or she!), your craft will avoid hitting those rocks and hitting something called "the eddy line" instead (more about what an eddy line does later).

White water rafting is one type of rafting

White water rafting is a type of rafting in which you paddle down a river on a raft, either with a guide or on your own. Rafts are made from PVC or hypalon, and they have one or many air chambers that inflate them. On the deck of the raft are D rings for securing gear and lines that go through rating equipment like straps and pulleys. When you're in the water with your group, there will be passengers who are seated as well as passengers manning the paddles. A guide at the back of the boat will steer it using an oar.

Classes of white water rafting

  • Class I is the easiest class, with little to no risk involved. This is the perfect class for families and beginners. In a Class I rapid, there are clear passages with limited obstructions. The passengers do not have to exert much effort because of low-speed currents and gentle rapids.
  • Class II is a more advanced class for those who have rafted before or are looking for a bigger thrill than what you can get in Class I rapids. Rapids are straightforward without any potential obstacles that could be hazardous to the raft or its passengers. In some cases, waves may be large enough to cause splashing on board.
  • Class III is a great choice for intermediate rafters or adventurers who want an exciting ride but don't want too crazy of an experience. With strong, irregular waves and fast currents in tight passages, this class of white water rafting provides both adrenaline rushes and breathtaking views.
  • Class IV should only be done by experienced rafters due to the danger involved in this type of whitewater rafting trip. Rapids are steep and intense with powerful currents, unpredictable drops in elevation from rocks, complex routes through many obstacles like trees or boulders and small waterfalls flowing into deep pools below.

Equipment needed for rafting

The gear you will need for rafting includes:

  • Oars, used for propelling the raft.
  • Anchor system to help stop the raft from drifting.
  • A variety of clips, pins, and straps that hold the raft together.
  • Pumps for inflating the raft.

Canoe-rafting is another type of rafting

Canoe-rafting is a sport that involves two people paddling a canoe with oars. It can be done on the sea or in rivers. Canoe-rafting has been practiced by people of all ages and nationalities throughout history and is still widely played today.

Mini-rafting is another type of rafting

Mini-rafting is another type of rafting, which usually happens on Class I rapids. It is also called canoe-rafting. The canoes are connected together in a line, and the people who ride in them are usually children or beginners. Mini-rafting offers the same benefits as canoe-rafting because it teaches people how to raft and enjoy the water.

Rafting can be done in many ways and many places

There are a few different types of rafts you could get on. The most popular is an inflatable rubber raft, which can hold anywhere from three to eight people and one pilot. Then there's the wooden dory, which is smaller and shaped like a canoe with a squared bow; dories carry up to five people and their gear, but are generally operated by one person at a time. The third type is a packraft, which is small enough for one traveler to carry over land between waterways and packs down into something the size of a large sleeping bag when it's not inflated.

You can also choose your level of adventure: you can do low-level river trips on Class I or II rapids (perfect for beginners), or go Class IV or V, a highly technical experience that involves big drops and obstacles requiring precise maneuvering (not recommended for beginners). You can even take your raft through whitewater Class VI runs if you're feeling particularly adventurous.

Safety for rafting

Rafting is safest when you wear a helmet and understand the risks of the river, so make sure you know your limits.

Also be sure to:
  • Hire a qualified guide when rafting if you're unsure about any aspect of the trip.
  • Use a properly designed raft.
  • Pay attention to weather conditions before and during your trip.
  • Have a first aid kit on hand with items such as bandages, scissors and disinfectant wipes.
  • Practice rescue procedures beforehand in case something goes wrong during your trip.


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Rafting or white water rafting are fun ways to spend time with family and friends while getting some exercise and experiencing the great outdoors. If you’ve never been before, try it out! It’s something you won’t forget. As we mentioned, there are plenty of ways to enjoy white water rafting. If you plan on going for the first time, be sure to do your research before heading out.

About Author:

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Hi, I'm Kevin Pommells, a lover of camping and the great outdoors as everyone says nowadays. I'm also a passionate soccer fan and the proud owner of CamperRules.com, a website dedicated to helping campers and outdoor enthusiasts make the most of their adventures. With years of experience exploring the wilderness and a deep love for the sport of soccer, I'm always looking for new ways to combine my two passions and share my knowledge with others. Follow me for tips, tricks, and insights on all things camping and outdoor recreation.

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