Whitewater rafting on the Tuolumne River near Yosemite National Park with ARTA River Trips
ARTA River Trips - Image Art

Tuolumne River 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, Keen, 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 (well 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. Any polypropylene long underwear will work; heavyweight is the most versatile.


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:

  • *Compact sleeping bag, (down or synthetic, rated to 35 degrees)
  • *Closed-cell foam or self-inflating sleeping pad, (ensolite, Thermarest, or air mattress)
  • *Sleeping bag liner or flat bed-sheet (perfect for hot nights and will add warmth on cold nights)
  • *Compact, lightweight tent, (free-standing preferred, no wall tents please) or small tarp or ground cloth.
  • Your favorite (small) pillow
  • Camp clothes. 1 complete change of clothing (versatile pants and shirts, cotton is fine - something exciting for dinner is welcome!)
  • Camp shoes. Our guides wear flip-flops or lightweight trail-running shoes.
  • Small towel, soap and shampoo (Campsuds and Dr. Bronner's seem to be the most enviro-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)


  • 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


  • 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, radios, guns or irreplaceable items.

*These items are available to rent from ARTA:
- 'Sleep Kits' (35 degree Polarguard Bag, cotton liner, self-inflating pad and ground cloth) are $25 per trip.
- Free-standing, two-person tents are $25 per trip.

Please reserve rental gear when you complete the on-line registration for your trip.

Our 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.

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, (an old lightweight cotton dress shirt and surgeon's pants). Also, a brimmed hat and a bandana are helpful for staying cool.

ON COOL DAYS you will want a thick fleece top, (pullovers are better) and a sturdy, fully waterproof rainshell. You may also want fleece pants or polypropylene long underwear bottoms and rainpants, particularly before mid-June. Cotton is worthless when wet and should not be used for on-river insulation.

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, Keen, 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 and are inexpensive and easy to find.

IN CAMP you will want comfortable walking/hiking shoes, (flip flops or lightweight tennis shoes), and versatile clothing, (T-shirts, warm shirts, cotton shorts, jeans or sweats, etc). Cotton is o.k. for camp stuff, but because it is worthless for keeping you warm on the river, a lot of people bring fleece for their camp layer.

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 the right gear:

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 - 800/622-6953 or columbia.com
REI - 800/426-4840 or rei.com 
L.L. Bean - 800/341-4341 or llbean.com
Campmor - 800/525-4784 or campmor.com
Patagonia - 800/638-6464 or patagonia.com

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.


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.