Hygiene and Sanitation on Rafting Trips

Written by Ben Sack, 03.29.2023

There is no doubt that a rafting trip on the Arkansas River is the vacation of a lifetime. To ensure the best possible experience on your Colorado rafting trip, you should consider what it will take to remain comfortable and happy during your time on the river.

As seen with any camping trip, hygiene and sanitation are essential ingredients to a successful white water rafting adventure. While you will be roughing it during your time on the river, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take proper care of yourself.

When you book a rafting trip with Echo Canyon, especially a multi-day experience, you’ll see we focus not just on minimizing risk in the rapids, but also staying healthy during your time on and off the river. Learning more about proper rafting sanitation practices will help you be better prepared next time you are on the river.

Sanitation Tips for Day Trips and Overnight Excursions

Whether you book a day trip on Bighorn Sheep Canyon or an overnight trip in Browns Canyon and the Royal Gorge, you need to consider hygiene along the way. Not only will proper rafting sanitation practices protect your health, but they are also important for safeguarding the river ecosystem that you are visiting.

While you won’t have to worry about bathing on a day trip, you still need to consider basic hygiene. Not only should you understand how and where to go to the bathroom, but you should also know how to clean up afterward. In fact, little things like washing your hands before you eat can help you avoid getting sick while on vacation.

Since multi-day trips require more time in the backcountry, they also require better planning for hygiene. For example, going several days without cleaning your body could lead to chafing that could make your trip very uncomfortable. Knowing how to bathe without damaging the local watershed is also critical on multi-day rafting trips.

General Sanitation Tips

Whether on a day trip or a multi-day adventure, Echo Canyon always provides guests with ways to sanitize their hands prior to eating and after using the bathroom. Depending on the location and length of the rafting trip in question, your group will get either hand sanitizer or a handwash station.

On multi-day trips, Echo Cayon typically deploys a handwash station near the toilet. For added convenience with large groups, we typically set up a second handwash station near the kitchen area. Importantly, all staff and guests that are helping with meals are required to maintain clean hands. Echo Canyon guests are also instructed to wash their hands before eating.

For the sake of the river system and local aquatic life, biodegradable soap is always recommended for your rafting gear checklist.

Backcountry Bathing

Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you need to be dirty the whole time.

Since you are literally floating down the river, you have ample water at your disposal for getting clean. If it doesn’t break the rules, jumping in the water to rinse off is a great option for staying clean – especially on hot summer days! On a trip of a couple days or more, you may feel the need to bath in river water using soap, but if you do so it’s important to do no harm to the river ecosystem. You should always use biodegradable soap when bathing on a camping trip when the used water is returned to the source.

Sometimes people bring wet wipes and larger disposable body wipes on day trips and multi-day outings. If you decide to go this route, it’s essential that these wipes are properly disposed of in the trash. If a wet wipe or towellete isn’t approved for septic systems, then it should not be disposed of in a vault toilet, camp toilet system, and of course should never be buried or tossed in the river or on the ground.

Going to the Bathroom

Depending on your chosen trip, there are a few different approaches to going to the bathroom while white water rafting. 

Popular river corridors often have developed bathrooms along the route that you can stop at. Established bathrooms are always the best bet because they keep the river shoreline clean and pristine.

If you don’t have the option of using a developed bathroom, people are generally encouraged to pee directly into the river. However, you want to make sure to go into the flow of the river and not along the bank in the weeks. Dilution is the solution!

Pooping on a rafting trip takes a bit more effort. For starters, you should never poop in a river, since solid human waste is not handled well by river ecosystems. Echo Canyon and all outfitters on the Arkansas River are required to carry an on-river solid waste disposal system. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you have to poop! Dealing with such matters is simply part of the job for river guides.

Hygiene Products

Women should plan for any feminine hygiene needs that may arise while on the river. Especially on a multi-day trip, being prepared for surprises along the way can be extremely helpful in making your trip more fun and enjoyable. Since our bodies don’t always give us warning, it’s handy to have a couple disposable ziplock bags for hygiene products until a proper trash bin is available.

You also need to consider how to dispose of tampons and pads. That being said, hygiene products should never go in public vault toilets or on-river toilets. A good rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t flush it down your own toilet, don’t put it in a river toilet. Trash is always available at break spots and in camp so you can discretely dispose of a tampon or pad as needed.

Book a Colorado Rafting Adventure Today!

As one of the top outfitters in Colorado, Echo Canyon knows well what it takes to plan a hygienic rafting trip. Not only are Echo Canyon guides experts on the Arkansas River, but safety always comes first for our team.

Contact Us now to book a Colorado rafting adventure!

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About the Author

Ben Sack is the General Manager of Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Colorado's largest white water rafting outfitter. He's also a raft guide, a photographer, and he loves exploring Colorado and beyond with his wife and two boys.
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