How to raft warm, for cold people

It may seem odd to think about warm clothing for whitewater rafting in the middle of a summer heat wave, but by the time Gauley Season begins Sept. 9, summer will have long since broken. If you’re an experienced Gauley River rafter, you know this. If 2016 is your inaugural run, it may not be obvious. Upper Gauley 10

This is for those folks. Our advice assumes that:

  • You tend to run cold
  • It’s more fun to raft if you don’t actually feel cold
  • Even if we get an 85-degree day in Gauley Season, which is not unheard of, it’s always easier to cool down on the river than it is to warm up.

Here’s what you want, you poor shivering kitten, you:

  1. A wetsuit. Your rafting company will undoubtedly rent farmer-john wetsuits, which cover your torso and your legs, but leave your arms bare. If you think you need more coverage than that, you could buy a full-suit before you leave home, which will also cover your arms. But before you buy a wetsuit...
  2. A splash jacket. Most rafting companies also rent these, which help keep you warm and— bonus— cover your arms. A wetsuit/splash-jacket combo keeps most people toasty warm on most days.
  3. But we’re assuming you run cold, remember? You can’t go wrong with a layer of non-cotton, long underwear to put between you and the wetsuit. If you already have some, great. Bring them. If not, pick some up at most clothing stores. Or, check with your rafting company to see if they sell long underwear there.
  4. Booties. No, no, not the twerking kind— the neoprene kind you wear on your feet. Check with your rafting company to see if they sell them, if not, try your local sporting goods store.
  5. Thick, non-cotton socks to wear between your feet and the booties. Everybody has those.
  6. A non-cotton hat. Studies have shown that we lose most of our body heat through our heads. Later studies showed, duh, that’s because our heads are least covered by warm clothing. Correct the problem with a synthetic or wool beanie, but shun bulk, because it has to fit under your rafting helmet.
  7. Neoprene gloves. Wow, you do run cold, don’t you? Try a sporting goods store.


Okay, let’s say you run abnormally cold; like, Reynaud’s Disease cold. Here are a few additional pro tips that can help.

  1. Wear a fleece vest between your wetsuit and splash jacket.
  2. Pack a small thermos of your favorite hot (non-alcoholic) beverage, and ask your guide to stash it in his or her dry bag, just in case.
  3. Stay hydrated—and its corollary, don’t party too hard the night before.
  4. If you’re on an Adventures on the Gorge Gauley rafting trip, grin and bear it until you get to the lunch camp alongside the river, where all manner of tasty hot food and drink await.


Now you know what you need to stay cozy. All that’s left’s to book a trip.

Browse rafting trips >