Here is some of the rafting PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) I’ve found works best over the years. Please share your comments at the bottom of the page or send me a note with your thoughts or questions.

River Shoes

 – A good river shoe is probably the most important safety equipment next to a PFD when rafting. Astral Men’s Brewer 2.0 is a solid river shoe. The Astral shoes have the best traction currently found on river footwear. Along with being quick drying they are the river shoe of choice for most guides. The one problem is they don’t hold up well. This seems to be a problem with any shoes with soft rubber. Astral also has a women’s brewer as well as a nice high top version. Read more about rafting shoes.


 – Sweet Protection Wanderer Paddle Helmet. Good temple coverage and visible color. Sweet Helmets are currently the best helmets on the market. One disadvantage of this helmet is no ear protection.

Life Jackets (PFDs)

 – NRS Big Buoy. 22 lbs of flotation, minimal drag and long shoulder straps so flotation can be worn lower on the body. Currently the best high flotation non-rescue vest being sold. Learn more about PFD flotation.


 – Fox 40 Sonic Blast. The Sonic Blast is 120+ decibels which is 1.5 times as loud as the 115 decibel classic Fox 40 whistle everyone has been using for years.

River Knife


Gerber E-Z Out River Knife. Appears to be the best cutting river knife on the market. It is a folding knife so you need to have a pocket where it can be stored and easily accessed. Some vests don’t have a good pocket that is easily accessible. This is particularly true for high flotation PFD’s.

Gerber CrossRiver Knife is the replacement for the Gerber River Shorty. It doesn’t cut as well as the E-Z Out but one of the better cutting river knives. This knife comes with a sheath for those that prefer to wear their knives on the outside of their vest.

I’m a big fan of rigging my sheathed knife under my armpit on the tightening straps with the handle facing upwards.

Flip Line/Anchor

 – Bluewater Titan Anchor. Many people are starting to use these in place of the classic tubular webbing flip line.

Throw Bag

 – NRS Pro Waist Throw. The throw bag is low profile, easy to throw and the 55 feet of rope is fairly strong (rated to over 2500 lbs). I prefer the waist bag since you always have it on you. This version is nice because you don’t throw the buckle as you do with the Salamander Waist Bag. Read more about throw bag options and techniques.

Day Dry Bag

 – Watershed Chattooga Duffel Drybag. Best size, easiest to access gear and does the best job of keeping everything dry. Get the internal padded liner and use it for your camera.


NRS Men’s 3.0 Farmer John Wetsuit. Zips up and down. A well designed no frills wetsuit.

NRS Women’s 3.0 Farmer Jane Wetsuit. No frills 3 mm wetsuit.


Kokatat makes the best breathable drysuits with gore-tex. The gore-tex socks need gentle handling but keep you much warmer.

Women’s Kokatat Drysuit with dropseat and gore-tex socks.

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