The weather on the Illinois River is unpredictable; everyone should come prepared for cool, sunny days and cold, rainy days. Being prepared with the proper gear will make your trip much more enjoyable, so take the time to get the right stuff. Space is at a premium so bringing appropriate items, not more items, is the key; two fleece pullovers are much more compact and versatile than six cotton sweatshirts. The following list and packing advice are designed to help you decide on and find the right gear. Please follow it closely and call if you have any questions.
Underlined items are the choice of our professional river guides.
WE WILL PROVIDE: wetsuits, splash jackets, chairs, cups, plates and eating utensils.
PLEASE DO NOT BRING: Valuable jewelry, radios, guns or irreplaceable items.
*These items are available to rent from ARTA:
- Sleep Kits (polarguard bag, liner, self-inflating pad and tarp) are $40 per trip.
- Tents (free-standing, two-person) are $40 per trip.
Please reserve rental gear when you complete the on-line registration for your trip.
'Fleece' is a generic term for a spun, polyester fabric developed for outdoor use. It is thick and fluffy and does not absorb water, making it ideal insulation on a river trip. It is commonly called Polartec or Polarfleece. Polypropylene is a thinner, stretchier, woven variation used predominately for long underwear. Any polypropylene long underwear will work; heavyweight is the most versatile.
ON THE RIVER: Think layers. The key to being comfortable on the Illinois is being dry and adaptable; a thin synthetic layer (polypro) next to your skin with a thick synthetic layer (fleece) over it with a waterproof layer (wetsuit and splash jacket or drysuit) over that seems to work the best. Feet and hands get cold easily and we suggest wetsuit booties or neoprene socks under sturdy shoes and neoprene gloves or fleece and dishwashing gloves. Cotton is worthless when wet and should not be used for on-river insulation. Drysuits are great and can be rented from Pacific River Supply (510/223-3675) for about $100 for the week.
IN CAMP: Think dry. The Illinois River canyon is a wet place, even when it isn't raining. Staying dry in camp is important. You will want a sturdy waterproof rainshell and rainpants, (not a windbreaker) and good insulation; our guides bring gore-tex shells, puffy down jackets, fleece vests and cotton hoodies. Campsites often have wet grass and sand, so waterproof shoes (like LL Bean boots or irrigation boots) are pretty nice for keeping your socks dry and your feet warm. Cotton is o.k. for camp stuff, but because it is worthless for keeping you warm on the river, many people bring two sets of fleece - one for the river, one for camp - and have a backup in case one gets drenched.
Layering your clothing is an effective way to adjust to the daily weather changes that you will encounter. A light polypropylene layer under a heavy fleece top under a rainshell will get you going on the chilliest of mornings and allow you to shed layers as the day warms up.
Local outdoor or sporting goods stores should have everything you need and fleece garments are now available at most department and closeout stores. Great selections of river trip gear are also available on-line through:
CAMP ITEMS go in a watertight dunnage bag provided by ARTA, (one per person). These are not accessible during the day. Each bag is roughly 17 inches in diameter and about 24 inches tall, (the size of a large duffel bag). We ask that you limit all of your gear to 35 pounds. Although we will show you how to close the dunnage bag so that it stays watertight even if temporarily submerged, packing your sleeping bag in a garbage bag provides extra protection. Zip-lock bags and small stuff sacks are good for keeping track of small and/or wet things inside your bag.
RIVER ITEMS will go in a watertight dry-pack provided by ARTA, (one per person). These small packs are 9 inches in diameter and 12 inches tall, perfect for rain gear, fleece, sunblock, and other things you want to keep handy during the day. For expensive cameras we recommend a Pelican Box, which can be found at most surplus and outdoor stores.
Our dry-bags are great for keeping things dry but are somewhat awkward for packing and living out of, (they are tall and narrow with a small opening at the top). Compact sleeping bags are much more convenient, and small stuff sacks, pillow cases or zip-lock bags are helpful for dividing up your stuff inside the bag. Trying to put your entire duffel bag or luggage into the dry-bag never seems to work.
Our girl guides say that one of the handiest things to bring on a trip is a sarong. Versatile, comfortable and colorful, sarongs get used for quick clothing changes, beach throws, sun screens and dinner celebrations. Some of our boy guides bring them too and no one laughs (at least not out loud).
Please feel free to call our office 800/323-2782 or e-mail us if you have any questions. We have been on many trips, have tested a lot of gear, and we enjoy talking about what has and hasn't worked.