Safety First: How To Choose The Best Rafting Company For Your Whitewater Adventure


You’ve done it all. You’ve seen some of the 20 highest U.S. peaks in Alaska and you’ve hiked every trail in your local park. Now, it’s time to try something new. Whitewater rafting is the ultimate thrill; as liberating and exciting as it can be, it is fraught with danger and risk. If you’re taking to the experience for the first time, it’s extremely important that you ease your way into it; by choosing the right rafting company, you can do your best to make sure your experience is a positive one. Let’s take a look at a few of the qualifications your rafting company should possess.

Safety Above All Else

Whitewater rafting is no joke; with six different levels of difficulty (six being the most extreme), you need to know what you’re getting into well ahead of time. Take the example given by the deadly Kern River: in 2017, the 164 mile waterway claimed 15 lives. Sergeant Zack Bittle of the Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team highlights the importance of experience and good judgment.

“It feels like a broken record trying to get the message out there that we want people to enjoy the river, but by doing it safely,” he said. “Make your best judgment, use the appropriate flotation device — not a pool toy — and don’t drink.”

This means that your number one concern when choosing a whitewater rafting company is safety; this applies not only to the equipment, but also to the type of training and instructions they provide. Let’s look a little closer.

  • Equipment: Life vests are mandatory, but there’s far more the business could offer. Ask what other options are available for safety; helmets are one of the most important pieces of additional equipment, although some companies may also provide neoprene clothing to help combat the cold.
  • Experience: Unsurprisingly, the river itself plays a major role in safety. Your rafting guide should consider your experience with the sport, as well as the volatility of the area’s most popular rivers; because weather can impact how fast the water is moving, your guide should be able to take all of these factors into effect when deciding your route.
  • History: The company’s own experience comes into play as well. Look into how long they’ve been in business, and check for any additional accolades or awards; of course, you should be wary of any major accidents as this can reveal a lot about their ability to judge river routes. Don’t be afraid to check up on your guide as a final check.

You may be pulled in by a flashy sign, especially if you live in the area (after all, consumers see a business sign roughly 50 to 60 times per month if they live within a five-mile radius of its location). However, your life is worth more than the excitement a business sign inspires within you; as long as you take your time and do your research, your trip on whitewater rapids will be fun, enjoyable, and — most importantly — safe.

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