What to Wear Rafting

If you’ve booked a Vail rafting trip with Timberline Tours, you’re likely wondering what to wear. Well, the quick answer is that what to wear rafting depends on what section of river you’ll be on and at what time of the year. In order to make your clothing selection process as easy as possible, we’ve made a list of what you, personally, should wear, and what gear Timberline Tours will provide. And if you’re curious, keep reading because we’ll also explain why different river sections have different clothing and gear requirements.

dinosaur whitewater rafting trip

The above group is dressed for success on a Class II, Upper Colorado River, rafting trip.

What to Wear for all Vail Rafting Trips:

RIVER FOOTWEAR: Wear shoes that stay securely on your feet and that you don’t mind getting wet. Sport sandals that strap on, tennis shoes, and water shoes all work very well. Flip flops are NOT recommended.
SWIMSUIT to wear under wetsuit -or- to wear with personal nylon SHORTS OR PANTS. Quick-dry fabrics work best; avoid cotton, as it retains water and will make you cold on the river. If a wetsuit is necessary, Timberline Tours will provide it. Generally, it is more comfortable to wear a swimsuit underneath a wetsuit, so bring one along to wear underneath your wetsuit or other quick-dry clothing.
SHIRT made of quick-dry fabric to wear over swimsuit, if desired. Tight-fitting shirts work best underneath wetsuits if they are required for your trip (in which case, the wetsuit will be provided by Timberline Tours). Choose the type of shirt you wear based on your level of comfort with sun exposure. Tank tops are great for tans, but if you sunburn easily, choose a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt instead.
SUNGLASSES with securable strap (straps sold at our Granite & Eagle locations).
EXTRA CLOTHING LAYERS such as lightweight fleece or polypropylene (synthetic layer) or quick-dry clothing.

Rafting gear that Timberline Tours provides free of charge:

• Wetsuits (when necessary)
• Splash jackets (when necessary)
• Helmets (when necessary, not required on Class I or II whitewater rafting trips)
• Paddles
• Life jackets (PFD), required and provided for all rafting trips

Whitewater Rafting Colorado on the Eagle River

Wearing helmets, wetsuits, and splash jackets, the above group is outfitted for an early-season Class III trip or an all-season Class IV or V trip.

Optional Versus Mandatory River Gear:
Helmets, Wetsuits, & Splash Jackets

The water temperature and difficulty of a river section basically dictates what is required and what is not, making some clothing and gear required on some sections of river and not required on other sections. Timberline’s Class I and II (least intense) trips include the Upper Colorado River, the Rafting and Dinosaur Discovery trip, and the Rafting and Wine Tasting Trip. The rapids on these rafting trips are often splashy and mild, so helmets are not required. Generally, wetsuits and splash jackets are not necessary on Class I and Class II trips in the warm summer months, but if wetsuits are necessary, Timberline Tours will provide them. If your guide will be rowing an oar boat, which is common on easier stretches of river, paddles may not be absolutely necessary but can be provided so that you can help paddle.

Timberline’s Class III, IV, and V (more intense and most intense) trips include the Lower Eagle (III), Gore Creek (III), Shoshone (III), Browns Canyon (III), Dowd Chute/Upper Eagle (IV), The Numbers (IV), Pine Creek & The Numbers (IV-V), and Gore Canyon (V). Helmets are always required on Class III – V river sections, and Timberline will provide them. Early in the summer season, wetsuits may be required on Class III sections because of colder temperatures; if so, Timberline Tours will provide them, but for much of the summer season, wetsuits are not necessary (and are way too hot) on Class III rafting trips. However, wetsuits are required all summer long on our Class IV and Class V trips, and Timberline Tours will provide them.

Paddles will be provided for all Class III – V trips, where your paddling effort directly influences the success of your group. Timberline also provides splash jackets as necessary, and guides will advise if neoprene river booties will be necessary for your trip; if so, they will be provided, and guides will help you find the best fit available.

Finally, for your safety, life jackets (also called personal floatation devices, or PFDs) are required on all stretches of the river, no matter how easy your trip may seem. Timberline Tours will provide you with a PFD, and guides will teach you how to secure it properly for a safe and fantastic day out on the river.


Timberline Tours is the Vail-area’s premier whitewater rafting and backcountry jeep tours outfitter, also offering stand up paddle board (SUP) and duckie river trips on Colorado’s Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas Rivers. All of our guided trips are open to Vail, Colorado visitors, locals, families, and corporate groups.

To book your Vail, Colorado adventure, call Timberline Tours at (970) 476-1414, or email us at info@timberlinetours.com.