by Dave Inks, with
some ideas from Ron Castle
is critical to the safety and
enjoyment of your wilderness rafting
expeditions. The time you
spend in advance planning and
preparation is very important to how
well you do on your trip.
The first thing I do
when expedition planning is to try
and get a good topographical map of
the area to study. You don't
want to end up facing a big rapid
near dusk with no suitable place to
camp above. Find someone
who has been where you are going
before and pick their brain.
An online fishing or adventure forum
is a great place to make
connections. Find out how they
were outfitted and what they took
that they did not need or what they
did not take with them that they
needed. Ask about river
conditions, rapids, changes in river
flow based on rainfall, sweepers,
log jams, good camping sites, any
problem areas for bears.
Next, make up a
expedition planning gear list. I
lay out all my gear, double check my list
and get packed several days before my
departure date. The equipment you
select will determine much about how well
your trip turns out. Sometimes
even the best equipment fails, usually due
to human error. Plan for backup on
critical items like oars, pumps and patch
Time of year and
water flow are important things to
consider. What kind of insect
life you will experience also is
very important. A bad case of
bugs can really make the trip very
uncomfortable if not miserable.
suggestions in mind you can start
making your plans and deciding who
will join you. From your gear
list you can decide among your group
who will bring the gear items that
can be shared by the group.
The Water Strider
Raft Package is designed for
extended journeys. Our
suggestion is each group take along
a few extra items like an extra oar
for each person. A good
first aid kit for each group is
a must. Don't forget any
prescription medication required
for each person. Always plan
for a few extra days of food and
supplies just in case you do not
arrive at the take out as planned or
you get fogged or rained in.
Expedition rafting is
a lot like backpacking. The
fewer items you have along with you
the easier it is to pack and to
float. Make a list of the
items you took and didn’t use or
really need along so on the next
trip you will be lighter and better
prepared. Having a journal
along to record each day’s
activities is a great way to record
information that you might forget
about by the time you start to get
ready for your next trip.
Take a look at this list from our
last expedition to see what goes
into the planning process.
Some tips about
I recommend a good
double door 4 season tent. For
one person use a 2 man tent and for
2 people use a 4 man tent.
This will give you plenty of room
for your gear and will allow you to
be very comfortable should you get
delayed by high water or bad
In addition to your
tent I recommend a large plastic
tarp at least 12 X 14 feet.
A tarp is important for both shade
and for rain cover should it rain 20
inches in 4 days like it did on my
last expedition. The tarp will
fit in your Water Strider dry bag
Mid afternoon is
the best time to stop to prepare
your campsite for the night, to
collect firewood and to put your
tarp overhead where you are going to
put up your tent. Always look
up when you plan you tent sight.
Look for dead tree limbs hanging
overhead that could drop on you.
I take 2 50’
plastic shielded clothesline ropes
along to use to tie my tarp up and
to pull a small supply of food for
the next day up a tree in a stuff
sack. The plastic line is
tough and does not bite into tree
limbs when you pull your food up for
Meals are best
eaten earlier rather than later
during the afternoon and food
preparation and eating should be
done away from your tent. This
prevents food smells from lingering
in your camping spot. If you
spill food or drinks on your clothes
rinse them out right away and don’t
put them in your tent. Be neat
and tidy with food scraps.
Burn them in your fire.
There are all kinds
of nocturnal critters in the
wilderness who love to invade your
camp. Keeping it clean really
helps to avoid critter problems.
In bear country, setting up
some protection like our Yellow
Jacket electric fence will keep the
larger animals out of your camp.
Having a nice pile of
firewood that will last the whole
night with enough for the next
morning is a good idea. All
you have to do in the morning is
take you Water Strider foot pump
and make a few quick blasts into the
hot coals and you have a fire
Be careful when
you collect downed wood.
Hornets and yellow jackets love to
make nests in old rotten wood and
when you start to pull a log over to
the fire you can really have a
problem. If hornets, bees or
yellow jackets attack, whatever you
do don’t run toward the other people
in your group. Head toward
dense brush or jump into the river
if you have to.
Be prepared for
first aid. Several people
going on the trip should be
qualified first air providers or
should take a first aid course.
I am a licensed guide and carry a
first aid card and a CPR card which
are required by law in Montana.
A good book to help
you prepare for life in the
wilderness is "The National Outdoor
Leadership School's Wilderness
Have fun and be
careful. I wish you tight
lines, dry waders and big fish.