Dress For The RiverWith a little planning you can ensure that your white water experience will be the best possible. The first rule of thumb is to prepare for the worst case scenario. A typical raft trip exposes guests to the elements most of the day – in the mountains, even with favorable forecasts, sometimes less-then-ideal weather conditions can occur without notice.
Summer Rafting (June through August)Typically, a swim suit (and shorts), t-shirt, baseball cap, sunglasses with a strap and tennis shoes will keep you comfortable most days. Sunburns are usually the real issue. Wear sunscreen! We recommend a high SPF or total block, waterproof sunscreen. It should be applied several times during a trip. Lip balm (SPF) is another good idea (read below). On overcast or rainy days we recommend a light rain jacket (paddling jackets are available for rent). Bulky ponchos are not recommended. If you are planning a summer Gauley trip – the water can get chilly at times so we recommend wetsuits and jackets – ask your guide.
Spring / Fall RaftingThese are the times of the year that the water and weather is usually a little cooler and you need to be prepared. It also means higher water levels and more splashes. Do not wear cotton! It stays wet and keeps you cold. We recommend synthetic materials or lightweight wool, neoprene wetsuits and paddling jackets. ACE offers “farmer john” (sleeveless) wetsuits, long-sleeve wetsuit jackets and neoprene booties for rent. All ACE wetsuits are sanitized after each use and stored in warm super-heated facility. Synthetic, wool or neoprene gloves are a good idea, as well as a ski cap (or swimmer cap). A little investment in comfort goes a long way to ensure a great experience. Guides do have dry bags to keep items dry, but space is limited. Pack smart – there is no room for towels or bulky clothes. Leave all jewelry and wallets in your car. Bring only waterproof, disposable cameras that you can secure. Water bottles that can be secured are a nice treat.
Be PreparedBring clothes that can be worn under or on top of others. Layering allows you to adjust quickly to changing weather by adding or subtracting layers. Loose, fast drying, durable clothing is best for rafting. We recommend the following materials because they are compact and made to keep you warm and comfortable through a range of temperatures and conditions.
Polypropylene (Polypro) or capilene are synthetic materials that wick the moisture away from the skin and dry fast – they are a real blessing on white water rafting trips. Wool has insulating properties even when wet, however, it doesn’t dry out as fast as synthetic fabrics. Synthetic underwear (shirt and pants) are essential as the first layer in cool or wet conditions.
Fleece is a synthetic material that is heavier than polypro. It makes an excellent mid-layer in cool or wet weather. Bring a jacket or sweater in these fabrics in cooler weather.
Cotton should NOT be worn during cool or wet weather since wet cotton holds water and lowers body temperature. Cotton is recommended for hot weather only! Light colors reflect the sun better than dark colors.
Rainwear: A rain jacket and pants form an outer shell to protect you and the under layers of clothing from the wind and spray from the rapids as well as from storms. Coated nylon or breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex are best. Ponchos are bulky and dangerous so they are not recommended.
Neoprene Wetsuits are bomber for rafting. When wet, they heat a thin layer of water between you and the suit, keeping you warm. Wearing a swim suit under them is recommended. The farmer john style is the most comfortable and should be worn with a paddling jacket or rain jacket. A long sleeved top of polypro or fleece add needed warmth.
Feet: Your feet will be wet all day. You will find guides and fellow guests in tennis shoes, wetsuit booties with soles, and river sandals. Closed shoes do offer the most foot protection while on the river and, if worn with synthetic, wool or neoprene wetsuit socks, they can help insulate your feet when the water is cold. Velcro sandals or flip-flops get sucked off your feet in the water and are not recommended.
Hands: Gloves in cooler temperatures are a good idea. Use synthetic, wool or neoprene (best) material. Leather work gloves don’t work well in the water.
Head: 45 percent of all heat lost is from your head! Anything you wear must fit comfortable under a helmet (required). Baseball caps are great in the summer. Synthetic or wool caps are best in cooler temperatures.
Sunglasses: During the summer months the sun can get intense on the river. Make sure your glasses are UV protected and have an adjustable strap (available at our outfitters’ store).
Sunburns: The sun and wind can take a toll on exposed areas. The water will magnify the sun's reflection. We have seen too many people enjoy a great experience on the river only to live in unnecessary pain that night with bad A sunburn! USE SUNSCREEN! We recommend a total block (45 SPF or greater) waterproof sunscreen. Apply it several times during the day. Read all medications you are taking – some will increase your chances of sunburn!
Valuables: Don’t take them on the river! We recommend that you not wear jewelry (earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces, etc.) and that you keep wallets and cameras in your car. Waterproof, diposable cameras that can be secured are ok. If you must take medication with you on the river, inform your guide so that they can properly secure them for you and know about your medical conditions. ACE provides a key basket so your car keys will be locked away while you’re on the river.
Reasons to Wear a WetsuitWetsuits are the core layer in a layering system principle. A wetsuit keeps a thin layer of water trapped between it and your body that super heats to help keep you warm. The suit material, known as neoprene, is made up of millions of air pockets that provide insulation from the cold water. The "farmer john" style wetsuits (full body and sleeveless), the long-sleeved neoprene jackets, neoprene booties, and nylon splash jackets are available for rent at ACE.
Wetsuits, booties and splash jackets are strongly recommended for spring New River trips, Summer Gauley trips and all fall Gauley trips. Each wetsuit is sanitized after every use and heat-dried for your comfort.
- First, and most important, they keep your core WARM! We recommend wetsuits when you are on the Gauley River – either during Fall Gauley Season or Summer Gauley trips. The outflow water temperature from the Summersville Dam averages 50ºf. We recommend wetsuits in the Spring and Fall - weather is unpredictable with fluctuating air temperatures, and quickly changing weather conditions.
- Second, they provide extra flotation. Filled with millions of tiny insulating air pockets, wetsuits are naturally buoyant. In the event of a swim, they provide a little extra flotation to keep you closer to the water's surface.
- Third, they protect your body from rock abrasions. The extra layer of a wetsuit can be a great buffer between you and the river rocks, should you encounter them.
Wetsuit Package Rental Rates Per Person Per DayWetsuit, Nylon Splash Jacket, Booties...........$20
Wetsuit, Neoprene Jacket, Booties..............$22
Wetsuit, Nylon Splash Jacket.......................$17
Wetsuit, Neoprene Jacket..........................$20
A-la-Carte RentalsNeoprene Jacket......................................$7
How to Rent a Wetsuit
- Check in under the Big Top Tent.
- Wetsuits can only be rented after you have checked in for your trip.
- Decide on which items to rent. 4. Fill out the form you will be given at check-in.
- Decide how and where to pay for your rental.
- You may use cash or a credit card to pay for your wetsuit rental. (If you would like to use a reservation credit to pay for wetsuits, you must pay in our outfitters store.)
- During Fall Gauley Season, you may pay at the Wetsuit Rental Area, unless you are using a reservation credit to pay for your rental. All other times of year, you will pay in our outfitters store.
- Take the form to the Wetsuit Rental Area to obtain the items you are renting.
Returning your wetsuit:
- After your trip, please return your wetsuit and jacket inside-out.
- Wetsuits must be returned within 30 minutes after your bus returns to base or you will be charged for another day's rental.
Available Wetsuit OptionsFarmer John: Your wetsuit ensemble begins with this item. On those warm days on a cold river ( like September on the Fall Gauley), this item, along with a nylon windbreaker, will keep you comfortable. Plus, it will give you the additional flotation and protection from rocks that any smart rafter demands. It's sleeveless for ease of motion, so on colder days you'll need to rent a long-sleeved jacket.
Neoprene Long-Sleeved Jacket: On really cool days, or if you're 'cold-natured' person, this jacket makes the difference. It adds sleeves to your Farmer John wetsuit, plus an extra layer of thick, warm neoprene. Even with all this rubber, it's still a good idea to wear a set of synthetic long underwear next to your skin.
Nylon Splash Jacket: This jacket is perfect for those days that are not cold enough for the neoprene jacket. The Splash Jacket's long sleeves and tight neoprene collar and cuffs protect you from splashing water and wind. This jacket also serves well if it rains. You can always remove it if the day turns our warmer than expected. Remember that you are responsible for all rental items, so keep track of any clothing you take off.
Neoprene Booties: Cold feet make for a miserable day. Even if the air temperature is warm, don't forget that the Fall Gauley water is quite chilly. Even the small amount of water in the bottom of a slef-bailing raft can keep your feet soaked. Booties are a good idea any time you're rafting on cold water. Booties work best when combined with one or more pairs of wool or acrylic socks worn under the booties.
On cold days, you should wear additional clothing along with the wetsuit to stay comfortable. A good layering system:
- “Farmer John” wetsuit (available for rent at ACE)
- Synthetic long underwear or swimsuit under your wetsuit
- Synthetic/wool sweater for additional warmth
- Nylon windbreaker (splash jackets available for rent)
- Synthetic/wool socks under your booties (booties available for rent)
- Neoprene/wool gloves and a ski cap to keep your extremities warm
- Sunglasses with Glasses Strap
- Towel and Dry Set of Clothes (leave them in your vehicle at the trip departure area, so they'll be waiting for you when you return from the river.)
- Don't Wear Cotton! This material creates "evaporative heat loss." It wicks heat away from your body. It does not dry quickly.
- Don't panic if you forget something. Our outfitters’ store keeps the basics on hand to ensure your raft trip is the best ever.