Nothing is better than getting a good thrill ride out in the middle of nature. Flowing currents and fast turns are exciting, while calm river journeys are equally as enjoyable. Regardless of your preference, naturalists and hobbyists sometimes find themselves curious about new activities to partake in. If you fall into either category or are looking for something new to try out in the water, it's a good idea to become familiar with the difference between rafting and whitewater rafting before diving in.

Safety Differences

While both rafting and whitewater rafting are similar activities, there are varying levels that require different safety tactics to know. The main difference between these two types of rafting is the level of difficulty for the waters. It's good to know a few things to prepare for, just in case you think you want to try them in the future. Normal rafting requires a balance of communication and trust in a guide when starting. Luckily, since regular rafting is classified from class 1 to class 3 rivers, they are relatively slow and give you plenty of time to make corrections or adjust how you operate the raft. However, class 3 begins to delve into intermediate waters that are best done with a guide or prior experience.

Whitewater rafting is almost a different game entirely when compared to regular rafting. Waters that are class 3 and above are where white water rafting begins and get more difficult the higher you go up. Whitewater rafting relies on diligence and experience if something goes wrong. At higher levels, the danger of certain rapids makes rescues difficult and emphasizes the rafter's expertise for the trip. These rapids are normally long and rough, so mastering the basics and having a strategy for emergencies are both essential steps to making it through one safely and confidently.

Necessary Skills

Regular rafting can be done with large groups of people with rafts that hold them all together. These groups go anywhere from 2 to 8 paddlers. In large group settings on low-class rivers, it is crucial to practice communication and listening skills. Having everyone on the same page and paddling in unison is the best way to find success in an efficient and reliable manner. Groups that make noise and focus on the fun are likely to find themselves in class 1 or 2 rivers, but the goal is to stay in the boat and avoid falling into the water regardless of the water's class.

White water rafting can be done alone, and certain rafts stop functioning properly the more narrow and more intense the rapids are. Unlike low-class rafting, which gives you ample time to get back into your raft, whitewater rapids are extreme and put you against the clock to get back in. It is already fairly difficult to get into an inflatable whitewater raft, and mastering that skill with the utmost efficiency is almost as important as being able to swim and maneuver in high-class rivers. The higher the classification of the river, the more value you get from the skill of your techniques. Endurance, paddling, swimming, and navigating all land on your shoulders when going down a river alone.

Types of Gear

The rafts needed for large group rafting activities are often large and invite collaboration in their delivery to the body of water that they are meant for. Depending on the kind of raft, certain variants are able to be carried in a compact way. However, the larger the raft, the more importance there is on fairly delegating work if the path to the water is long. Regular rafting requires basic safety equipment that does not hinder your ability to swim, such as life vests and tight clothes.

As most would expect, the amount of gear you bring for whitewater rafting depends on the level of difficulty you are aiming to experience. At that level, it is best to prepare for the worst-case scenarios to elevate your chances of making it out okay. Along with the basic safety gear for normal rafts, belt knives are a useful tool in case you fall out and get tangled in the strings of your raft. Protein bars help you recover your strength when you are able to take a break, and a working GPS is crucial when you are traversing experimental rapids that go on for miles.

Best Ways To Prepare

Doing mild exercises and stretches before going into the raft is universal, and it is ideal for keeping yourself limber and prepared for some hard work. Rafting is fun, but the group depends on each member to pull their weight while paddling down the river. Specifically, with more casual rafting ventures, it's important to bring plenty of sunscreen and water, as it is a surprisingly draining sport for beginners who are not familiar with it. Additionally, if you plan on bringing any technology, it is best to ensure it is waterproof, or at least that it’s kept in a waterproof bag.

Whitewater rafters need a lot of stamina and preferably knowledge of the river they are riding. Before going out in any risky waters, it is highly recommended to let others know where you are in case you get lost and are not able to contact anyone. Whitewater rafters also benefit greatly from first aid kits that are kept in waterproof containers. For the most part, whitewater rafting is all about avoidance and ensuring that you are prepared in case something goes awry for you.

Rafting is a fun and exciting watersport that is best explored with the intent to enjoy your surroundings. Whether or not you have friends to come along, different places offer varying experiences that include others who are looking to learn. After getting the basics down for the solo types, it becomes a matter of mastering what you learn to keep you safe in the future. There are subtle distinctions between the two activities that some people are unaware of. However, by considering the difference between rafting and whitewater rafting, you are better able to decide which one is right for you. Go out and explore without worry, as the next trip is sure to be a good one for all looking to try out a new watersport.

The Difference Between Rafting and Whitewater Rafting
November 14, 2022 — Adrian Landia