Before I start, I feel like I need to give you a disclaimer. There are three main components of a river trip: 1. Load. 2. Have a lot of fun. 3. Unload. And repeat. In other words, it’s a heavy workload with a high reward. So be prepared for the packing, shopping, heavy lifting, and sweating (that we all know goes into any extended outdoor adventure), but also be prepared for the adrenaline-pumping whitewater, mud fights, drinking games, and relaxation. Still interested? Great, then great ready to plan one of the best trips of your life.

So now that I’ve totally convinced you that river trips are the best things in the world, I’m sure you’re thinking something along the lines of, “Okay, Audrey, cool, but how the heck do we get one of these life-changing trips going?” Don’t worry, I got you. Here’s all the tips and tricks from, excuse my modesty, the best boatwoman on the river.

1. Go on a day trip.

Before you commit to a week on the river, make sure you actually like the river. It disgusts me even saying this, but maybe you won’t think it’s as fun as I do. Don’t tell me if you feel this way, but you’re entitled to your opinion, I guess. Take a quick half-day commercial trip so you don’t break the bank but still get the feel for whitewater, or try to make some friends who own a boat and get out on the water with them. This is also a great time to start sucking up to anyone you meet on the river who has a trip permit so maybe you can get on a coveted river with your new bestest friend.

2. Get advice from someone who really knows what they’re talking about.

Look, you’re already killing the second step by reading this! The first place you should go is a riversport shop. They can outfit you with the copious amounts of gear you’ll need, whether it’s renting or you’re going full-send and buying a $5000 raft. (Protip to help you out here: instead of buying a boat and all the gear at crazy full price, you can get wholesale pricing on on a raft or other watersports necessities as part of a collegiate outdoors program on College Outside). A riversport shop can also teach you how to properly and safely use the gear, which, all sarcasm aside, is the most important thing when you’re out in the middle of nowhere floating down a river. A commercial boating company can also happily help you out. A commercial trip could be a good option to start, especially because it takes away all the work: they do the unloading and loading and you get all the fun. But if you want to do it the good ol’ fashion way by rowing yourself down the river, a commercial company still has a ton of knowledge on the way trips run. While you’re there, make sure you talk to some guides who are also river-gods and can give you great advice for actually navigating the boat down the river, which believe it or not is a pretty important component in all of this.

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