Called the palace of tents, the Lunar Duo is a spacious 2 person tent for all of your backcountry trips. photo by Caroline Hinchliff
As an avid backpacker, I was completely awed by my first multi-day river trip. “You mean I can bring as many clothes as I want? A full-size, fluffy pillow? Wow, we have a whole kitchen setup? And look at all these fresh veggies!” We loaded up the boats and splashed into the river. Over the next few days, we saw zero cars, zero other humans, and lots of beautiful wildlife. I was hooked. It was a lot like backpacking…except the boat was doing all the heavy lifting.
Not ultra-light, just ultra-right! photo by Caroline Hinchliff
For those of you who haven’t been on one yet, a multi-day river trip is a fantastic way to escape into the wild without sacrificing your modern comforts. You can see really special places on the planet, accessible only by boat. Wildlife abounds. And as far as river trips go, a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon is considered the ultimate adventure.
It takes some planning, preparation, and sufficient time off work, but a trip down the Colorado River is unforgettable. For most of us, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Very few visitors to Grand Canyon National Park see the bottom of the Canyon at all, and even fewer get to experience a 2-3 week float down the river (less than 1%, in fact).
A wise man once said, “You don’t say no to the Grand Canyon. You say yes.” If you get an invitation to join a trip, say yes. Here’s a high-five from me in advance. And here’s a list of four ways to stay comfy, happy, and healthy on this trip, or during any multi-day river trip.
Sleep on the boat
Sand is nice and all, but laying your head in it every night gets old fast. Depending on the size of your raft, you can set it up in order to sleep on it! Ask your outfitter about sleeping plates, or ask them to show you how to rearrange the boat frame to allow for what’s sometimes called a “dance floor,” a wide flat area with enough room for two sleeping pads. Nothing is nicer than sleeping on the boat with a cool river breeze on your skin, sand-free. While clear evenings are wonderful for star-gazing, there will likely be nights when you’re in the mood for some privacy, or it will rain (yes, it does happen sometimes). A shelter with versatile and/or stretchy stake loops and guy lines will enable you to set up your tent on the boat rather than dealing with the sand. Check out this photo below of our Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo tent set up on our 18-foot raft. We used umbrella poles to help secure the tent, and attached the stretchy stake loops to D-rings on the side of the raft.
A Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo makes a nice tent for two and can even be set up on a raft. photo by Caroline Hinchliff
Plan for costume changes
Typically on river trips, your clothes are all sealed up in a big heavy dry bag and securely stowed for the day while you navigate the rapids. But temperature and weather conditions can change fast on a river, especially when whitewater is involved, and especially in the desert. You’ll want to leave a few select items out for layering and clothing changes throughout the day as you get wet, dry out, get hot, it gets windy, you get cold again, now you’re wet again, and so on and so forth. Keeping a lightweight, medium-sized waterproof bag in the bow of the boat (or somewhere easily accessible) with all the possible clothes you’ll want to wear that day ensures that you can stay comfy. Ideally, your bag has an easy-open, easy-close mechanism like a roll-top (rather than a heavy-duty zipper seal that takes more time and effort to open and close). We loved our Six Moon Designs ultralight 50-liter dry bag as our day bag.
Flex 50 dry bag with a purge valve is a great item for keeping your gear dry on the river. photo by Caroline Hinchliff
Play some tunes
Is there anything more delightful in the world than gathering around a campfire with a plate of freshly-prepared food while watching the sunset over the rim of the Canyon with a cold beer in your hand after a great day on the water? Probably not. Except maybe some jams to go along with that scene. Perhaps some folks on your trip are musicians—will they bring a banjo, guitar, or a ukulele? We were lucky enough to have a banjo player on our trip, and we listened to music through our Bluetooth speaker too. As much as we loved unplugging and disconnecting from technology during our trip, we also loved playing music in the kitchen while we cooked and served dinner. We even strung up some party lights around the buffet tables, adding to the ambiance of our backcountry café. We kept the volume low to respect other campers and avoid disturbing wildlife.
Don’t forget your fiber
Now for everyone’s favorite topic: digestive health in the backcountry. It can be hard to stay regular on a multi-day trip through the desert…sharing a toilet with lots of other people, eating foods your body isn’t used to, and experiencing the physical stress of living outside for weeks at a time, all while constantly battling dehydration. But keeping your guts happy is just as important as putting on your sunscreen every day. An easy way to maintain or improve your digestive health is a daily fiber supplement. We made our own before the trip—a ground-up blend of chia and flax—and mixed it with water each day as part of our morning routine. Lots of fiber and lots of water will help keep your digestive system functioning at its best, which frees you up to relax and enjoy your trip.
A sandy camping spot along the Colorado River. photo by Caroline Hinchliff
What are your favorite ways to stay comfy, happy, and healthy on your trips into the wild? We’d love to hear from you—leave a comment below!