Tuolumne Equipment List and Packing Guide

What to wear on the river:

During the summer, it is usually warm and sunny on the Tuolumne so you wont need much. You will be getting wet and the water is cold (60 degrees) so things that dry quickly work best. Proper footwear is critical and a water bottle is handy. We will have a small, communal drybag available for odds and ends. This is what you should wear:


  • Sandals with heel strap (Chaco, Teva, Astral, etc.) or old running shoes. NO FLIP FLOPS OR SLIP-ONS! (Add wool or fleece socks if your feet get cold easily).
  • Swimsuit or shorts. Nylon quick-drying shorts are best – women will want to wear shorts over their swimsuits.
  • Lightweight cotton or dry-tech style synthetic shirt. Long-sleeved if you want extra sun protection; a T-shirt is fine. If you get cold easily, a lightweight fleece top is handy (we’ll pack it in the communal dry bag).
  • Hat for under helmet, (baseball style or visor works best).
  • 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)

During the spring high water period, (as late as July 1st), the Tuolumne 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 to the above items, you should bring:


  • Required: Polypropylene pile or synthetic fleece pullover or jacket (polartec, polarfleece, etc. NOT COTTON)
  • Second pair of shorts for over wetsuit.
  • Fleece cap, gloves, and socks, wetsuit booties (optional).


‘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).

What to bring on overnight trips:

When you arrive at La Casa Loma, we will give you a waterproof bag for your overnight gear. The bags are 17″ in diameter and 22″ tall – small, but ample if you pack wisely; (think appropriate gear, not more gear – one fleece jacket that will keep you warm when wet is much better than two cotton sweatshirts that will be worthless when wet). We will also have a communal “tent bag” for tents and sleeping pads that are more than 22″ long. In addition to the clothes you will be wearing on the river (above), each person should bring:


In addition to the stuff you will wear on the river, you will need these items for camp. 

  • *Compact sleeping bag, (down or synthetic, rated to 35 degrees) (available to rent – see below)
  • *Closed-cell foam or self-inflating sleeping pad, (Thermarest, or air mattress) (available to rent – see below)
  • *Compact, lightweight tent, (free-standing preferred, no wall tents please) or small tarp or ground cloth. (available to rent – see below)
  • Your favorite (small) pillow
  • Camp clothes. One complete change of clothing (versatile pants and shirt, cotton is fine – something exciting for dinner is welcome!)
  • Camp shoes. Our guides wear flip-flops or lightweight trail-running shoes.
  • Warm jacket, thick fleece is great – will work on-river as well
  • Fleece pants or polypropylene long underwear bottoms
  • Rain gear, especially a durable rain shell
  • Small towel, soap and shampoo (Campsuds and Dr. Bronner’s seem to be the most environmentally-friendly).
  • Personal hygiene items, including medicine, insect repellent, dry-skin lotion, etc. Please bring double the amount needed of any essential medicine.
  • Small flashlight with extra batteries, (headlamps are great)


  • Sleeping bag liner or flat bed-sheet (perfect for hot nights and will add warmth on cold nights)
  • Beer, wine, liquor, or soda in unbreakable containers, (cans or plastic bottles).
  • Fishing gear, (compact, lightweight, minimalist)
  • Book, sketch pad, journal, etc.
  • Bandana
  • Sarong

Underlined items are the choice of our professional river guides.
WE WILL PROVIDE: chairs, cups, plates, and eating utensils.
PLEASE DO NOT BRING: Valuable jewelry, bluetooth speakers, guns or irreplaceable items.


These items are available to rent from ARTA:

> Sleep Kit (35 degree sleeping bag, liner, self-inflating pad, & ground cloth) = $25 per trip.
> Tent (free-standing, two-person) = $25 per trip.
Please reserve rental gear when you complete the on-line registration for your trip.


How to dress:

ON HOT DAYS you will want clothing that dries quickly (nylon shorts and bathing suits) and something to shield you from the sun, (a high-tech SPF long-sleeved shirt or an old lightweight cotton dress shirt and maybe even lightweight long pants or capris). Also, a brimmed hat and a bandana are helpful for staying cool.

ON COOL DAYS you will want a thick, synthetic fleece top, (pullovers are best) and a sturdy, fully waterproof rainshell. Don’t bring a cotton sweatshirt and a windbreaker; cotton is worthless when wet and won’t work for on-river insulation and you need something waterproof over your fleece.

ON YOUR FEET you will want shoes that stay on if you go for a swim and are comfortable for hiking. Sport sandals with heel straps (Tevas, Chacos, Astral, etc.) work well, (buckles are better than velcro). Old running shoes work well and are easy to find. Neoprene, wool or fleece socks will add a bit of insulation under shoes or sandals. Wetsuit booties work but can be a bit clammy after a full day. Aqua Shoes are great for the water park but are not so good for walking on rocks.

IN CAMP you will want comfortable walking/hiking shoes, (flip flops, lightweight boots or tennis shoes), and versatile clothing, (T-shirts, warm shirts, cotton shorts, jeans or sweats, extra fleece, etc). Cotton is fine 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.

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

How to pack:

CAMP ITEMS will go in the watertight dry bag we will provide (one per person). These are not accessible during the day. Because of the difficulty of the Tuolumne, please try to limit all of your gear to less than 25 pounds. Although we will show you how to close the drybag 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 communal drybag that we will provide. For cell phones and expensive cameras we recommend a Pelican Box, which can be found at most 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.


If you still have questions, please feel free to call us (209-962-7873) or e-mail us (arta@arta.org). We have been on many trips, have tested a lot of gear, and enjoy talking about what has and hasn't worked.