Cold Water Rafting Tips

The New River Gorge is a great rafting destination for the whitewater enthusiast. Spring, summer, and fall each offer unique perspectives into nature and the whitewater. However, at the beginning and the end of the seasons, rafters might find the waters a bit cooler and the winds a bit stronger. While this makes for an exciting whitewater adventure, it definitely makes things a bit more complicated.

In honor (or annoyance) of the spring and fall cold waters, we have compiled a list of some of our favorite cold water white water rafting tips!


1. Be waterproof! If you can keep from getting wet, you can keep from getting too cold. Dry suits are helpful for this.

2. To go with #1, moisture-wicking fabric is key. Companies such as Under Armor and The North Face offer a variety of different clothing options that will remove the moisture from your skin from sweat.

3. Layers. The ability to add and remove clothing cannot be understated. For example, have your moisture removal layer on skin. Followed by a layer designed to insulate above this, and finally a windproof and waterproof shell on top.

4. Wear a wetsuit. This is in lieu of the moisture-wicking layer. Wetsuits work only if they fit very snugly. These come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit a huge range of sizes and needs.

5. Wear a drysuit. These are designed to keep the water out and the heat in! Be careful if you are wearing a drysuit that you don’t put on too many layers – leading to overheating.

6. Keep your extremities warm! That means making sure that your fingers and toes are dry! There are few things less pleasant than being stuck on the water with cold feet.

7. Eat well and stay hydrated. A rumbling stomach definitely makes for the cold days feeling a little colder.

8. Be aware of the signs of hypothermia and other temperature-related ailments. For more information about cold water safety, visit the American Canoe Association’s page on Coldwater Survival.

9. Wear a hat. Even though the old saying that 90% of heat is lost through the top of one’s head has been debunked, keeping your head and ears warm can make a huge difference the comfort and quality of your trip. Don’t forget to select a hat that can be worn under your helmet!

10. Bring extras! You never know when you or someone in your group might need them.

Whitewater rafting can be extra exciting in the cooler months – especially if you are properly prepared for the trip! Do you have any tips about staying warm on the water in the Spring and Fall? Leave a comment below!