Find An Outfitter
An “outfitter,” is a company that offers whitewater rafting expeditions.
Here’s a tip: Almost any river rafting outfitter that has been in existence for over a year and has nice brochures or website, is probably a safe bet.
When shopping around for an outfitter, keep the following in mind:
Typically, whitewater expedition rates run from $30 to $75 per person (for a 2 – 6 hour trip), depending on:
- Area: high-traffic popular areas often cost more.
- Season: spring and autumn are peak seasons, so that’s when prices are highest.
- The day of the week: weekends tend to be more expensive for obvious reasons.
- How many people you have in your group.
- What extra services the outfitter offers. For instance, most outfitters will provide some kind of lunch to their guests. Many also include tie-in activities such as biking, hiking, private canoe and kayak rentals for experts, camping, hotels or B&B’s, and skirmish (also known as paintball). These tie-in activities may make a long drive to the whitewater course more worthwhile, but will also necessitate lodging; so do be sure that they go hand in hand. If the outfitters themselves do not have guest lodging, check local directories for hotels, motels, campgrounds and B&B’s.
The most important service the outfitter provides to you as a novice is a guide. Here are some tips:
- Ask your outfitter what the standard ratio of guests to guide is. Fifteen to twenty guests per guide – or four or five rafts per guide – is standard. Fewer is fine, but more could mean that the guide has too many guests to handle.
- You may wish to ask the outfitter what sort of training they provide their guides. Typically, two to four weeks of training is necessary. Of course, to even qualify to receive this training, the guides already have to have certain qualifications. But you also want to make sure that the guide has received training on the specific course that he/she will be taking you on.
- Guides should provide guests with 15 to 30 minutes of training prior to embarking on the river. This training should include how to paddle and what to do if your raft capsizes or if you are thrown overboard.
Most rafting outfitters are equipped to accommodate customers with special needs, provided they are notified in advance. Do not assume that injuries or pre-existing medical conditions are inherently prohibitive. Good outfitters should be able to handle conditions ranging from relatively mild (stocking extra fruit or a candy bar for diabetics) to more severe (readying the raft for paraplegic customers). Just be sure to give as much notice as possible. Sometimes this’ll bump the cost up (extra time spent on one customer means that they won’t be able to fill the raft up with other customers), but it’s worth it.