What you need to know before you go rafting for the first time

Lt. John Fremont and Horace H. Day invented the first river raft in 1842 while exploring Colorado’s Platte River in the USA. But it wasn’t until 1860 that the white water river rafting transformed into a recreational activity for the masses. In the beginning, military rafts were used for this activity, and in time they transformed into inflatable rafts, as we know them today.

For all the adventurous people out there who read my blog, here’s what you need to know if you fancy a rafting trip and you are a beginner.

For sure, you have seen those awesome pictures of rafting boats in the middle of big waves and the joy on people’s faces while in the boat. You can almost feel that adrenaline rush going through your veins while you are thinking of also trying this adventure!

My first experience with rafting

Well, let me tell you how it was for me when I went rafting for the first time ever! It was on the Trishuli river in Nepal. The river section I experienced was a class 2-3 difficulty river, and boy, it had its intense moments!

Girl in front of entrance at the rafting camp in Nepal
In front of the entrance at the rafting camp in Nepal

The river had its calm and relaxing areas, where people jumped off the boat to swim. But there were also waves, small cascades, and rapid currents that needed everybody’s efforts to pass through. It was awesome! It is an experience that I highly recommend if you like trying new things and discovering nature from a different, more active perspective.

After the energetic rafting session (around 3-4 hours), I spent the evening and night at the rafting camp, laughing, telling stories at dinner with the rest of the people in my group. The sunset on the river shore was so beautiful to see and so inspiring. I loved how the light reflected in the calm water of this temperamental river that I had the chance to experience just a few hours earlier.

Tents at the rafting camp - Nepal
Tents at the rafting camp – Nepal

I spent the night sleeping in a tent on the shore. The next day, when I woke up, the sky was cloudy, and it started to rain. I have to tell you, I never enjoyed the rain as much as I did on that morning, getting out of my tent, happy that no insect invaded my territory during the night.

The small drops fell on the ground, and everything around me smelled so fresh and alive. I had my breakfast and headed towards my next adventure, but it was one of the rawest and incredible trips for sure.

When I think back, right now, I realize that I was not at all prepared for that. But it was so amazing! To be inside that boat and to paddle in sync created such an electrifying atmosphere! You listen to the guides’ signals, and you realize that the cooperation and harmonization of everybody’s efforts coordinate the boat and make it stay on top of the waves.

Rafting on the Trishuli river in Nepal
Rafting on the Trishuli river in Nepal

What’s the difficulty classification of rivers when it comes to rafting?

For you to have a beautiful first experience rafting, you must understand the rivers’ difficulty classification and check yours before booking that trip with a tour operator. Choosing the right challenge for your level will influence the quality of your experience. Your willingness to repeat it depends very much on this.

Class 1 rivers – those are the easiest rivers. They present no difficulties for beginners. Your rafting trip will be smooth and relaxed.

Class 2 rivers – these rivers are a bit more challenging, with stronger rapids, and paddling around small obstacles will be necessary.

Class 3 rivers – These are medium difficulty rivers. If you are a beginner, these are the strongest you want to start with to have a safe and fun experience.

Class 4 rivers – You will encounter fast currents on class 4 rivers. It will be challenging to navigate through. You’ll encounter objects along your way that you’ll have to go round. For a good experience in class 4 rivers, you must have prior river rafting experience.

Class 5 rivers –  There are very tough rivers, which require excellent experience with rafting. You should know the river very well and assess the risks before going in.  

Class 6 rivers – these are the most extreme rapids. It is not recommended to try and navigate these rivers, as you will put your life in danger.

What to wear on a white water rafting adventure?

You don’t need special clothing for rafting, but there are some general guidelines that you want to consider for your maximum comfort:

  • You can wear water shoes, old sneakers or river sandals
  • If you go rafting in the summertime, put on some shorts and a T-shirt and have your bathing suit underneath
  • In a colder season, like spring or autumn, you may want to have a fleece or even long johns.
  • If the water temperature is low, you might want to consider wearing a wetsuit to keep you warm. Usually, adventure travel tour operators that offer rafting trips have these wet suits for rent.
  • You should have a life jacket and safety helmet securely attached to you. The tour operator will offer you these. It is essential to check your life jacket to be securely attached because when you fall into the water, the guide will pull you out by the jacket!
  • You want to make sure you wear sunscreen because paddling all day in the sun can get you some serious sunburns.

These are the items you don’t want to wear on a rafting trip:

  • Flip flops – you need to have securely attached shoes on your feet.
  • Jeans – you need lightweight pants in which you can freely move. Jeans are not recommended.
  • Cotton T-shirts – cotton takes a long time to dry and will keep you cold and wet. It is advisable to avoid this material.

Are you mentally prepared for rafting?

Rafting is an extreme sport after all and you have to be mentally prepared for it. Stay calm, objectively assess your risk tolerance, and choose your experience accordingly. A river with low difficulty will be a great start for a beginner.

Before entering the boat, the guide will train you. Pay attention to the training to know what to do if you fall out of the boat. (most probably you will 🙂 )

Training session before rafting
Training session before rafting

Trust your guides. They are trained individuals who know very well the river. They will get you out of the water if you fall. It’s important not to panic when you fall off the boat not to ingest water.

If you ask yourself if it’s necessary to know how to swim, well, you might be surprised! It’s not. Besides offering you some mental comfort, knowing how to swim will not make a difference for white water rafting. You will use your life-vest securely attached to you.

Prepare mentally for one serious workout and some teamwork! You don’t need to be an athlete to go rafting. However, it is advisable to have a good physical condition because you will do some serious arm workout!

Rafting rivers in Romania

Romania has many locations where you can try rafting all around its territory. Here are the main rivers suitable for rafting in Romania:

  • Buzau river
  • Olt river
  • Jiu river
  • Cerna river
  • Crisul repede river
  • Bistrita river

Make sure you choose an adventure tour operator who has enough experience in this field to ensure your safety and uses high-quality equipment.

Spring has just started. Are you ready to start 2021 with a great adventure on rapid currents? Outdoor activities have a lot to offer, especially in the pandemic context. Social distance and spending time outside can complement each other very well. This might be the right activity for you to break the routine and keep yourself safe at the same time.


  • Eli Richardson

    In a few weeks, my sister and I want to go on a vacation trip together, and we love the outdoors, so we’re looking for fun activities for our trip. We’re glad you elaborated on what we’d wear to a white water rafting adventure. We’ll definitely follow your tips about using a life jacket and safety helmet for a safe river rafting experience.

  • Eve Mitchell

    Thanks for mentioning that class one rivers are the easiest ones. I’d like to go rafting this weekend with my kids, but I’ll need to find a local guide company. I’ll look online and make sure we’ve all signed waivers before going.

  • Daisy James

    It’s good to know that you should wear a bathing suit underneath your clothes. My brother was at my house last night for dinner, and he talked about how it would be a fun idea for all of our family to go on a river rafting trip together before the end of the month, so I wanted to learn some tips since I’ve never gone before. I’ll keep these tips in mind once we find a river rafting trip to go on.

  • Alice Carroll

    Thanks for the tip about how using a wetsuit can also be a good option when planning to go river rafting. I’m interested in looking for a guided family river rafting trip that I could book because I want to take my kids out of town one of these days. I think we need a bit of bonding soon because I haven’t had much time for them these past few months.

  • Mia Evans

    It’s interesting to know that there can be areas that are calm and relaxing as well when going on a white water rafting experience where people can jump in and swim. I thought that those types of experiences would be continuous and challenging from start to finish. So it’s great to know that there can be parts where we can move slow, especially to give us a breather.

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