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25 Top Float Trip Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

River for a float trip
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A river float trip has to be one of my favorite summer activities! What could be more relaxing than kicking back on your tube as you float past the gorgeous shoreline, soaking up the sunshine with not a care in the world?

Floating the river is all that and more, but knowing what to bring and how to prepare makes all the difference in having a fabulous time. To help you have the best experience possible, I’ve compiled a float trip packing list, as well as what to wear on a float trip, what NOT to bring, and answers to the most-asked questions. Happy floating!

Man on a float trip
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What to Pack for a Float Trip – 25 Essentials

  • 1. Raft or Tube

    Tubes are ideal if you are going on a hot day and want to be partially in the water as you float. If it’s a cooler day or you’re taking children or lots of picnic supplies, a raft may be more comfortable. But you really can’t go wrong with either of these great float options!

    Raft or Tube

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  • 2. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    You want to have a towel stashed in your car for when the float is over. This towel is so compact that it can easily fit anywhere, and it has great absorbency, so even if you decide to take a turn on that rope swing, you know you can dry off later! We use this as a beach towel, sweat rag, and seat cover, and you can find infinite more uses!

    Quick-Dry Travel Towel

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  • 3. Cooler Tube

    Half the fun of a successful river float trip is the cold drinks and snacks! A tube like this with a built-in spot for a cooler makes it a breeze to throw all of your food and drink supplies in one spot. You can then simply strap the cooler tube to your tube and float with all the comforts of home!

    Cooler Tube

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  • 4. Waterproof Phone Pouch

    If you want to take your phone along for safety or to document the fun day, make sure to get this case! The waterproof case will be a lifesaver if your phone goes overboard! And you can even film stunning underwater videos and your adventures as you river raft, drink beer, and enjoy the sun! These shots will make beautiful memories to look back on.

    waterproof phone pouch

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  • 5. Swimsuit Cover-Up

    A sunburn is one surefire way to ruin even the best day on the river! So make sure you have some sort of swimsuit cover-up. This one is super cute and stylish, but its short length and pullover style mean that it won’t be in your way during the float.

    Women’s Crochet Chiffon Tassel Swimsuit

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  • 6. Dry Bag

    This one is essential for any float trip. When you’re on the river, it’s necessary to have a stow option that you can trust to keep your supplies 100% dry. This bag is perfect for that! You can rest assured that whatever you put in it will still be dry even if your buddy decides to instigate a water fight. It will hold your cash, wallet, phone, medicine, and any other belongings. If you fold it with some air, it will float!

    Dry Bag

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  • 7. Travel Insurance

    If you’re traveling more than 100 miles away from home or out of the country, you will need travel insurance. It protects you against theft, baggage loss, delays, medical emergencies, and transits that could get very costly if you’re not covered by your domestic provider. Paying out of pocket puts a damper on any river trip, so use Faye Insurance since they cover things like trip cancelation and make reimbursements easy through their mobile app.

    Travel Insurance

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  • 8. Packing Cubes

    The hotel on a float trip can look like multiple suitcases exploded REAL quick! Use these packing cubes to stay organized since every family member can have their own color and label each cube (swimsuits, pajamas, essentials, etc.) so you’re not having to tear the room apart every time you need something. Each set even comes with laundry bags so you can separate dirty laundry and shoes from your clean items.

    Packing Cubes

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  • 9. Flotation Strap

    This strap is a brilliant solution to protect your phone, camera, or keys! Simply attach the strap and you can rest easy knowing that your item will float. The neon color means you can easily spot it in case it lands in the water. I’ve watched my phone sink to the bottom of a lake where we couldn’t find it once… You might want to buy a few of these!

    Flotation Strap

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  • 10. Cooler

    You want a lightweight, simple cooler that can hold all the necessities for your group. This one fits in the cooler tube and is big enough for all the picnic supplies and drinks you could want! The price can’t be beaten, and since it’s Coleman. it will last you for many river floats to come!


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  • 11. Neck Wallet

    Making sure you have a safe place to keep your valuables is important, especially when you’re on the river! This neck wallet is so good for travel, and since it hangs securely around your neck it is the perfect solution for your float trip. The rugged nylon fabric is another bonus when you’re on the water. It’s useful for travels through the airport too when you want to conceal your passport, credit cards, phone, cash, and more.

    neck wallet

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  • 12. Motion Sickness Patches

    For those of us that are prone to seasickness or motion sickness, don’t let the river rapids get the best of you! Enjoy the ride with motion sickness patches that will keep your equilibrium intact. These are the most effective brand we’ve come across, and my wife doesn’t travel without them.

    Motion Sickness Patches

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  • 13. Water shoes: Women’s & Men’s

    Don’t be the person that loses a flip-flop halfway through the float trip! I’ve even had my feet torn apart by underwater rocks not wearing shoes, so I will never make that mistake again. These water shoes will fit securely on your feet which means there’s no possibility of losing them, but they are breathable, quick-drying, and comfortable enough with traction for some light hiking. Not to mention pretty stylish and affordable.

    Water shoes: Women’s & Men’s

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  • 14. Cooling Towel

    This towel is a genius way to stay cool, even on the most blistering of days! Simply soak it, wring it out, and put it around your neck to enjoy the cooling effects. The microfiber material means it’s reusable and chemical-free, which will definitely come in handy on all your summer trips.

    cooling towel

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  • 15. Filtered Water Bottle

    It’s wise to maintain autonomy over your water supply on float trips. This Brita option filters your water and makes it taste noticeably better. I like that you can just add the water and drink like normal, staying hydrated while you might be drinking alcohol (which can make you feel exhausted faster in the hot summer sun).

    Filtered Water Bottle

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  • 16. Sanitizing Wipes

    You never know when you might need hand sanitizer, so make sure to throw a bottle in with your supplies. These travel-sized wipes are perfect to stash wherever you need them since they’re individually wrapped. Put a few in your neck wallet, dry bag, or pockets and you’ll be prepared to clean up before your picnic lunch on the river!

    Sanitizing Wipes

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  • 17. Affordable Underwater Camera

    This underwater camera is highly rated, but is much more affordable than other brands. It comes with a case that makes it waterproof for up to 98 feet underwater, and with its 4k video resolution, you are bound to record some great memories to enjoy for years to come!

    underwater camera

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  • 18. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    I never travel without this fantastic hanging toiletries bag. It can hold our entire family’s liquid bottles (toothpaste, shampoos, my wife’s makeup, face wash rags, etc.), and we haven’t had a suitcase eruption since using it. With 4 giant pockets, it hangs on any door or hook, so you have a built-in shelf (which means you don’t have products all over the countertop or nowhere to put things if you only have a sink).

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

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  • 19. Luggage Locks

    If you’re flying anywhere, bring TSA-approved luggage locks. These are also smart to have for lockers by the lake, lockers at theme parks, or your backpack in crowded areas that draw pickpockets. You can never be too careful!

    luggage locks

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  • 20. Insect-Repellent Wristbands

    Insect-repellant wristbands are ideal for a river float when you’ll likely be in and out of the water. Simply wear these on your wrists and ankles, and you won’t have to constantly reapply repellent spray! This deet-free option means they’re non-toxic and safe for kids. And since they’re reusable and waterproof, they will give you up to 5 full days of protection.

    mosquito repellent wristbands

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  • 21. Oars/Paddles

    Make sure to bring some sort of paddle for when you get to slow sections of the river or need to navigate around a rock or tree. These oars are fabulous if you are riding in a raft. They are small and compact but can help you paddle and direct your tube a bit when you find yourself on a lazy river.


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  • 22. Tube Repair Kit

    Of course, no one plans to get a flat tube, but you want to be prepared if you scrape a rock or find out your tube didn’t survive the year in your attic as well as you thought. This is a professional floating packers essential – bring this small repair kit along just in case, and you’ll be ready for anything.

    Tube Repair Kit

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  • 23. Long-Sleeved Swim Rash Guard

    If you’re prone to burning – this is a must. These rash guard wet suit tops are amazing for a day in the sun! You can protect your skin from a nasty burn, while also making sure you don’t get any uncomfortable chafing against the tube. If you hit a shady spot in the river, you’ll be grateful for the extra layer of warmth too. It prevents me from looking like a tomato or having a weird tan line from sitting belly-up all day.

    Swimsuit Protection

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  • 24. Kids’ Life Jacket

    It may be easy to find rentals for adult sizes, but it can be trickier to find the right fit for your little ones. Bring your own life jacket if you can, this one is unisex and will ensure them full confidence in the water! Or the ability to float if they get too far away from you or fall off their tube.

    Kids’ Life Jacket

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  • 25. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    For rain and shade on hot river days, use this travel-sized umbrella. It’s thoughtful to pack an umbrella for any destination so sudden showers don’t slow you down. This one weighs about 1 pound and comes with a nice carrying case. I hide under it if the sun gets to be too much.

    Windproof Travel Umbrella

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What to wear on a Float Trip

Of course it’s a no-brainer to wear your swimsuit on a float trip! But make sure you also look at the weather and bring layers as needed either to stay warm or to protect from the sun. A swimsuit cover up or rash guard with sun protection can double for either of those purposes.

And accessories are almost as important as your clothing! A sun hat is a must to shade your face on the river, while water shoes will help protect your feet and stay on much better than flip flops. If you have to walk across a rocky riverbed, you’ll be grateful for something on your feet! Below you’ll find a full clothing list for both men and women to make sure you stay comfortable on your float trip.

what WOMEN should wear on a Float Trip – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Beyond just the basic swimsuit, here are the things you’ll want to make sure to wear on your float trip as well as what you want to have in your car to change into when you’re done. Simple and comfortable layers are key!

what MEN should wear on a Float Trip – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

While you’re on the river be sure you have a shirt or rash guard to protect against sun burn. And pack dry clothes and a jacket to change into once you get back to your car!

Packing for the Seasons in Float Trip

SPRING on a float trip – March, April, May

If you’re going on a spring float trip, you may need a wetsuit, depending on where you live. If you’re in a warmer climate where you don’t need a wetsuit, still make sure to bring plenty of layers!

SUMMER on float trip – June, July, August

Summer is the ideal time to float the river in most places! Refer to the detailed what to wear list above, but make sure you bring your swimsuit, sun-protective layers, and a dry change of clothes.

FALL on float trip – September, October, and November

Depending on where you live, you may be able to get in a trip down the river in the fall! You’ll want quick-dry shorts, and definitely some warm layering clothes.

WINTER on float trip – December, January, February

Lucky you if you’re in a place where you can still float the river in the winter! But even in the warmer climates it can still get chilly on the river, so you may want to look into bringing a
to stay warm.

What NOT to bring on a Float Trip

  • 1.Books:

    No matter how helpful that guidebook is, it’s better off at home! If you absolutely need the information, take a picture of the page or bring a copy.

  • 2.Heavy clothing:

    You want to think light and quick-dry clothing! Don’t wear heavy shoes or thick cotton sweatshirts. They will just get wet and weigh you down.

  • 3.Electronic:

    ater and electronics just don’t mix well! If you need a phone in case of emergency, consider designating one person in your group as the phone person, and make sure to get the floatable waterproof case. For photos, bring along a good underwater camera, and you won’t have to worry about it getting wet! Beyond that, leave the electronics at home.

  • 4.Expensive sunglasses:

    I’ve seen too many expensive sunglasses disappear in the river, and it certainly puts a damper on the fun of the trip! Make sure you have a good floatable strap, but even so, leave your designer glasses at home!

  • 5.Valuables:

    Whether it has monetary or sentimental value, if you would be upset if it hit the bottom of the river, you shouldn’t bring it. That includes rings, jewelry, and cash.

  • 6.Unnecessary items:

    You’ll find that you probably need less than you think on your float trip! So pack light, make sure you really can’t go a few hours without something before you bring it on the tube, and coordinate with your floating buddies so you don’t all bring cans of sunscreen but no insect repellent.

What NOT to Wear on a Float Trip – (Click to expand)
While you definitely want foot protection, make sure you choose the right kind! You don’t want to wear tennis shoes, because they will get heavy and water-logged, and flip flops are another one to avoid because they are way too easy to lose. Also on the what not to wear list: a swimsuit that is uncomfortable in any way! If you’re going to be worried about constantly adjusting your swimsuit or if it chafes or rubs at all, go with a different one. Finally, it may sound obvious, but don’t wear anything that can’t get wet! That goes for both jewelry and clothing.

FAQs about Float Trip travel

  • 1. Should I choose a guided float trip or go on my own?

    A guided trip will be a great fit for you if you aren’t familiar with the river and don’t have any tubes or gear. You won’t have to worry about pick-up and drop-off, and you can have a stress-free time! But if you or a friend have a little familiarity with the river, and you already have what you need to float (or you know you’ll want to go again next year), going on your own would be a great option for you and worth the initial investment. You’ll be able to take the float at your own pace, be more independent with your adventure, and go again next year with minimal expense!

  • 2. Where should I float?

    Find a river near you that has an appropriate water level and flow rate to make sure you don’t end up on white water rapids when you were only prepared for a slow river float. Here is a great list to get you started of some popular rivers across the US.

  • 3. What time of year is best?

    Typically summer is the best time for a floating adventure! Spring can mean high waters, and fall and winter can get cold. Make sure to choose a warm day and you are set.

  • 4. Do I need to be able to swim?

    You don’t need to be Michael Phelps, but you should have basic swimming skills and plan to wear a life jacket no matter what.

  • 5. How do I know how long the float trip will take?

    It depends on the speed of the river you’re on! 5-7 miles will take most of your day, while a 3-mile float will average 3 hours or so.

  • 6. What is the best way to bring a cooler?

    You can buy this nifty cooler tube or you can go with a makeshift version: choose a lightweight cooler to strap onto its own tube. You’ll be grateful for that cold drink a few hours into the float!

  • 7. What are good snacks to take on a float trip?

    Energy bars, chips, beef jerky, cookies, fruit…anything that is light and easy to pack will be your best bet! Throw them in the cooler on top of your drinks, and they’ll be easily accessible whenever you get hungry.