Equipment guidelines for river courses

Required equipment

You are responsible for all of your layering, sunscreen, lunch, snacks, water, and hot drinks during class. We will never be too far from the cars. Other required equipment is listed below.

  • Personal flotation device (PFD): USCG-approved Type III lifevest or Type V rescue vest. If you are purchasing a new vest, pay attention to the bulk of the chest panels and pockets: a lower-profile chest makes it easier to re-enter the packraft from the water.
  • Packraft and paddle: If possible, it is best to bring a packraft and paddle similar to what you will use during your outings. 
    • Thigh straps are nice to have but not required.
    • A whitewater paddle is preferred, but longer paddles will work.
    • Other vessels (river kayaks, duckies) might be acceptable—contact me if you have any questions. 
  • Dry suit: We will spend a lot of time in the water—a dry suit will be the most comfortable. Semi-dry suits work, but you should anticipate getting wet through the neck during swimming drills. Wet suits do not seem to be as warm in Alaska's waters.
  • Helmet: Dedicated whitewater helmets are preferred because of their durability when wet. But other helmets (bike, climbing, etc.) are acceptable. If you are purchasing a whitewater helmet, I recommend the models that include a short bill that sheds water.
  • Whistle: Everyone should have a whistle tethered to their PFD—this is a safety standard for our time on the water. I have whistles for sale, and will have some available for $5 when we meet.
  • Appropriate footwear: Close-toed shoes with good traction.

Additional considerations for river running courses

Packraft: If possible, it is best to use a packraft similar to what you will use during your outings. 

  • Thigh straps are very helpful for boat control and river-running courses. If you plan to paddle Class III and harder water, you will want a packraft with thigh straps.

Paddle: Err on the side of too short. Long paddles (sea kayak) are not as effective for boat control. 197 cm is a good length for most paddlers and body types.

Optional equipment and considerations

  • Throw rope: If you have one, bring it. If you are looking to purchase, I prefer the models that can be worn on a hip belt, such as the NRS Guardian. Polypro rope is sufficient for our needs. Dyneema ropes are stronger but more expensive. The rope should be at least 55 ft. long. Please label your bag.
  • Knife: I am partial to asymmetrical knives tied to the PFD's lapel. You can read more about my preference in this post. I stock the CRKT Bear Claw when it is available.
  • Hardware: A locking carabiner or two always comes in handy. Consider using tape or other identification. Don't bring non-locking 'biners.
  • Neoprene gloves: Our swimming exercises are MUCH more comfortable with gloves. Walmart and Amazon sell Glacier Gloves, a good option for $35.

I will provide

  • Throw ropes
  • Any needed hardware (pulleys, locking carabiners), cord, and webbing
  • A first aid kit with CPR mask and BVM
  • Basic packraft repair supplies
  • Bear spray

Other preparation

Packraft Safety & Rescue: Review Paddle Up a Level modules 1&2.

River Running (hybrid): Complete Paddle Up a Level modules 1-3, and review module 4. You must have practiced swimmer/equipment recovery before we meet.

Useful texts: In addition to The Packraft Handbook ($20 for course participants), these are my favorite rescue texts:


Feel free to reach out with any questions.