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Grand Canyon Trip Packing List

So…You’re going on the Grand Canyon! Congrats! All that’s left to do is gather your personal river gear. Here’s a list to help streamline the process.  By the way no one pays us to write these lists, and none of these links are paid affiliate links! These are real recommendations.  Some of these brands are generous sponsors, like Pistil Designs, but I don’t think they even know we write these lists.  Either way nobody pays us to write these packing lists and we only recommend products we think are excellent, useful, high quality items.

river trip packing list spread on beach

Me and All My River Gear



Me and all my gear, April 2015. Amazingly it fits in two 50L drybags 🙂


Category 1: What to Wear on the Boat

1. Sunny Weather Outfit

  • –  Sun Shirt (long sleeved, collared, bonus points for pearl snaps)
  • –  Shorts (quick dry, long board shorts, a zippered pocket is nice)
  • –  Sun pants (works better than sunscreen!)
  • –  Sun Hat.  Buy your Backcountry Babes Trucker Hat here:
  • –  Lip Balm w/SPF
  • – Sunscreen
  • – River Shoes – old sneakers, Astral Water Shoes, or 5.10 5-tennies all work great. It’s nice to have your feet covered from sun and good traction for side hikes.
  • – Bathing Suit top or quick dry sports bra
  • – Sunglasses (don’t skimp, get a high quality pair like Smith Optics) w/ croakies. Maybe bring 2, in case you or a friend needs a spare.)
  • – PFD – Coast Guard Approved type III or V. Nice to have a little pocket for snacks, etc.   Your outfitter will have one for you if you don’t want to buy one.  An outfitter provided PFD likely be huge and orange with a neck pillow.
  • – Whitewater Helmet – mostly for protecting you from an errant oar, rock, or gear accident during big rapids. Not necessary all the time.


2. COLD on the Water Outfit – windy, cloudy, splashy

  • –  Splash Shirt
  • –  Splash Pants
  • –  or, go for the full Drysuit (wear long underwear and socks underneath)
  • – consider a She-Wee, Lady J, Sheenus, or some other brand of pee funnel to help you pee without taking off your drysuit
  • – Neoprene Booties – go warm here, the water is 54 degrees! Look for good traction for short side hikes.  Try these (go 1-2 sizes up)

3. Staying Warm at Camp

  • – Down Jacket
  • – Patagonia R1 Hoodie or some kind of expedition weight base layer
  • – Wool Buff – neck warmer or hat
  • – Wool Long Underwear
  • – Fleece Pants
  • – Down Booties
  • – Wool Socks
  • – Warm Hat – Pistil Designs for style points
  • – Raincoat – acts as a windbreaker, too
  • – Rain Boots – big, tall rubber boots.  nice for your feet while loading boats in the morning on a November – Feb Trip. Not needed in summer.


4. Staying Stylish at Camp

  • – Thrift Store Skirt: for lounging, air drying, changing, looking fashionable
  • – Sandals
  • – Costumes, Fake Mustaches, Formal Wear, Hawaiian outfit, etc
  • – Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
  • – Medication: an extra supply
  • – Tampons, ibuprofen, menstrual cup, baby wipes (pack these out in a separate trash bag; not in the groover.)
  • – 48oz yogurt container (personal pee bucket for night time use, rather than walking to the river. Okay, this is somewhat unique, but try it if you like!)
  • – Soap (Dr. Bronners,) shampoo, moisturizer, lotion, salve, moisturizer, salve. The sand, river water, and desert are very, very drying.  Socks and gloves for sleeping with moisturizer on are nice. Bag Balm, Super Salve, Olive oil…
  • – Clean Undies, Clean Socks
  • – First Aid Kit.  Your outfitter will have one, but nice to have a few things you like handy.
  • – Camp Chair
  • – Mug – for coffee or drinks
  • – Backcountry Babes T-shirt for sale here:

5. Sleeping System

  • – Paco Pad (or inflatable sleeping mat, thermarest, ridgerest)
  • – Sleeping Bag (inside a waterproof stuff sack)
  • – Sleep Sheet (for hot nights)
  • – Tarp – to sleep on
  • – Tarp – to put gear on (sand management)
  • – Tent – MSR’s Mutha Hubba fits 2 paco pads nicely
  • – Pillow Case  (I then put my down jacket inside for a comfy pillow)
  • – headlamp (w/extra batteries.)

5. Put it in Dry Bags

  • – A drybag backpack is nice…think 100L, or 2 50L bags.
  • – A small drybag is good for on-the-boat accoutrements, like sunscreen, coffee mug, 1 layer, etc. Think 15L
  • – An ammunition box – to put books, head lamp, little accessible things into.  Find at army navy surplus.
  • – A wet bag- a big mesh bag that straps to the boat is nice, too.

6. Bonus Points

  • – Bake chocolate chip cookies or brownies, store them in an airtight container and break them out later in the trip
  • – Bring costumes for everyone.
  • – Bring mixed drinks for everyone, pass a bag of wine around, pack extra beer
  • – Bring a really nice camera in a Pelican Case and be a really good photographer
  • – Make awesome tie-dye shirts for the whole crew.
  • – Bring a ukulele or guitar and a song book
  • – Bring Tom Martin’s Day Hikes from the River
  • – I HIGHLY suggest  Martin’s River Map (one per boat)
  • – small backpack for day hikes
  • – extra camera batteries
  • – carabiners for clipping water bottles and other various items to the boat (label with your own electric tape)
  • – Solar Shower
  • – Solar Charging Panel for small electronics
  • – Post-trip change of clothes to leave in the car
  • – A little money to buy stamps and postcards at Phantom Ranch. They also sell stickers, snickers bars, chapstick, salve etc. They don’t sell ice cream.
  • – Journal, books, backgammon, cribbage, cards, games
  • – Hairties, hair brush
  • – WetBag: accessible items on boat.  This is kind of nice. An ammo can from an army surplus store can work well, too.
  • – Extra CAM straps – always handy. A good idea to label these so they don’t get mixed in.
  • -BEER. avoid beer stress by packing 1 beer per person per river mile. that’s usually an extremely excessive amount, which is good to avoid stress of running out!
  • – If you’re on a Private Boater Trip, I highly recommend Ceiba Adventures for the job of food pack and gear pack
    all rafting gear

    Ceiba Gear

    rafts, kayaks, rentals, groovers, ammo cans, food

    So glad we didn’t have to plan this part. Thanks Ceiba!

    pumpkin springs, Grand Canyon16 river outfits. Choose your own adventure! at Pumpkin Springs


  • Lesley Wikoff says:

    Thank you so much for this! I keep referring back to it. We are slated for a GC private trip this October: very nice to not see neoprene. I have almost zero river experience, but have sea kayaked extensively in the Pacific Northwest: dress for the air temp? dress for the water temp? Was pretty sure our drysuits would be overkill (I lovingly call them “sweat bags”). If we do end up swimming (knock wood), hopefully we’ll pull out when we can and fluff everybody up with pile and warm beverages. I can do neoprene for a few hours… but not for weeks at a time (we’ll be on the river the full 21 days). Again, thanks for the data (as my hubbie calls it, beta). Will try to add to the body of knowledge after we return. Wet wipes will be heavily stocked & hoarde!. 😉

    • bcbabes says:

      Thanks Lesley! Have a WONDERFUL trip down the canyon! I’ve only used neoprene for some boogie boarding play time in the class 3 rapids. The water temp is 50 degrees, so it took some effort and commitment to gear up for that type of boogie boarding. If you’re in a raft, the good news is that you’ll probably only worry about getting wet in the wavy big rapids. Anything numbered class 6-10 will probably get you splashed. The second piece of good news is that the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon has pool-drop rapids. Pool-drop meaning there is a big slow water pool before and after each big rapid. Plenty of time to prepare with layer changes before and after. Anyway, glad you liked the list and have an amazing 21 days!!!

  • MC says:

    I too am going down the GC for my first private trip in Oct (a week away). I always second guess myself what to bring on river trips. This list pretty much nails it down. Thanks so much!
    Don’t forget, if you happen to bring glass liquor bottles, wrap them in duct tape. Plenty of tequila going on our trip:) Adult onsie costumes are a golden as well, plus they keep you warm on those cool nights.. too bad only a few have drop seats.

  • Jill Dickson says:

    What rain jacket did you use?

    • bcbabes says:

      Hey Jill, My favorite rain jacket is my Arcteryx raincoat. Sure, you’ll drop a small fortune on it, but this is the only rain jacket brand I’ve found to actually keep people dry and comfortable for long, extended days in rain without indoor drying opportunities nearby.

  • Jeremy says:

    Great packing list! As a guy it was still helpful with a couple of new ideas I hadn’t heard of.

  • Trisha Anderson says:

    What about shampoo and conditioner?

    • bcbabes says:

      Yes, good one Trisha. I think a small amount of shampoo and conditioner is appropriate. I rarely shampooed and conditioned on the canyon. I think because the water is SO COLD it’s difficult to take a shower. Some people in our group would fill a water bag, let it warm in the sun, and then shampoo and condition underneath it. It’s important to let your soapy/shampooy run off land in the river rather than land on the beach. Why? The soap and conditioner will be diluted in the Colorado River, but the beaches are much more easily polluted with so many campers impacting the same beaches night after night.

  • Monika Papenhausen says:

    Great list! How should I adopt it for a short (2 days) trip in the last week of June? It will be hot w/icy water during the day, but what about nights?
    thanks for the advice,

    • bcbabes says:

      Hi Monika, Good question! June in the Grand Canyon will be EXTREMELY HOT!!! You won’t need warm layers on the boat or at camp at night. I’ve been on a July trip where I would jump in the river in all my cotton clothes and let the evaporative cooling help me out. Then, in about 15 minutes I’d be very hot and jump in again 🙂
      Have a wonderful time…the Canyon is beautiful and different in each season:)

  • Maria says:

    Hi! I’m doing my first rafting trip in the GC at the end of the month. We’ll be on the river for about 20 days. I was wondering if you had opinion on cots. I see that some people recommend them, but I was wondering now necessary you think they are. Thanks!

    • bcbabes says:

      Hi Maria, Awesome, a 20 day trip on the Grand! In my opinion, cots are not necessary, but cots are certainly a nice amenity!! One big benefit of using a cot is that you’d be elevated off the sand. It’s always nice to have a sand free space to sleep on. The main drawback would just be more gear to load and unload at each camp.

  • bcbabes says:

    I am on my own website, referencing my own packing list for my upcoming Middle Fork Salmon rafting trip. I guess that’s one way to know your list is useful! hahah. Stay tuned for updated packing list post-trip…or summer specific, or Salmon River specific trip packing list.