Merced River Equipment List

What to wear on the river:

During the spring high water period, (as late as July 1st), the Merced is quite cold and we will provide you with a 3mm farmer-john style wetsuit (sleeveless) and a waterproof splash jacket (non-insulated). You are welcome to bring your own if you prefer. In addition, you should bring:


  • Sandals with heel strap (Chaco, Teva, Astral, etc.) or tennis shoes & fleece or wool socks. NO FLIP FLOPS OR SLIP-ONS!
  • Swimsuit or shorts. Nylon quick-drying shorts are best.
  • Second pair of shorts for over wetsuit.
  • Thick synthetic fleece pullover (polartec, polarfleece, etc. NOT COTTON) REQUIRED!
  • Lightweight polypropylene, synthetic layer (long underwear top) for next to skin.
  • Hat for under helmet, (baseball style or visor works best, fleece beanie if you get cold easily).
  • Sunglasses with strap, (maybe not your best pair).
  • Water bottle, (an empty Gatorade bottle is fine).
  • Waterproof camera, (if you want to bring your cell phone to use as a camera, we strongly recommend getting a sturdy case such as an Otter Box or EscapeCapsule)

WE WILL PROVIDE: a wetsuit, splash jacket, lifejacket, and helmet.
PLEASE DO NOT BRING: Valuable jewelry or irreplaceable items.


‘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. During the high water period our guides usually wear BOTH (a polypro layer under a fleece layer).


Proper footwear will make your day much more enjoyable. You should wear shoes or sandals that won’t come off if you go swimming. Old running shoes are fine; outdoor sandals with a heel strap (Chacos, Tevas, Keens, etc) also work well; wearing wool, fleece or neoprene socks (not cotton) under them will help keep your feet warm. Wetsuit booties keep your feet the warmest, but can get a bit clammy after a full day on the river. Aqua shoes are great for the water park, not so good for walking on rocks.

During the late season, (after July 1st), it gets a bit warmer on the Merced, but the water is often still very cold. If we don’t require wetsuits, you won’t need much on the river: shorts, a quick-drying shirt, a hat and water bottle. You will be getting wet so things that dry quickly work best. Proper footwear is critical; no flip-flops or slip-ons. We will have a small, communal drybag available for odds and ends that you want to take on the river.


You will be wearing a helmet that doesn’t have a visor, so a baseball cap (without the button on top) or a visor is nice (and will work better than a big floppy sunhat).

How to Dress:

When we meet you in Midpines, you should be in your river shoes, shorts and lightweight layer. You can wear warmer, cotton clothes over these if you want and then take them off and leave them in the van when you put on your wetsuit at the launch site. An effective way to dress for the river is to have a tight-fitting, quick-drying layer next to your skin (polypropylene long underwear) with a thick, warm fleece layer to put on over it. The wetsuit and splash jacket will go over all of that. Cotton does not work for insulation; make sure your thick top is a synthetic like Polarfleece.

On your feet you will want shoes that stay on if you go for a swim. Sport sandals with heel straps (Tevas, Chacos, Astral, etc.) work well, (buckles are better than velcro). Neoprene or fleece socks will add a bit of insulation. Wetsuit booties work but can be a bit clammy after a full day. Tennis or running shoes with fleece socks work well, are inexpensive and easy to find.


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.

Where to find it:

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:

Columbia Sportswear
L.L. Bean
Northwest River Supplies
Cascade Outfitters


Thrift Store


Please feel free to call our office at 209-962-7873 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.