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Whitewater Rafting for Beginners: Rigging Your Raft

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White water rafting is one of those sports that is hard to wrap your brain around until you actually do it. There is nothing quite like navigating the white water of a fast river in an inflatable raft. Sometimes you feel like you are just hanging on for dear life while the water does what it wants to do. Incidentally, that is where rigging your raft comes in.

Rigging a whitewater raft is the process of setting it up to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Needless to say, things get jostled around on your way down the river. Without proper rigging, you could lose a lot of the stuff you carry with you. That includes your passengers.

The 3 Principles of Rigging

While there are different ways to rig a whitewater raft, all rigging strategies are based on three common principles. Here they are:

1. Running a Perimeter Line

A perimeter line is some sort of line that runs around the entire perimeter of the raft’s interior, near the top. Common choices are rope and webbing straps. The makers of the Rollercam brand recommend cam straps due to their superior holding power and ease of deployment.

2. Securing Gear

The second principle is securing gear inside the raft. Some items are secured by tying them to the perimeter line. Other items can be secured with additional cam straps or cargo nets. The entire goal is to prevent losing things overboard.

3. Equipment Positioning

Finally, the equipment you will need access to during the journey needs to be positioned properly. Oars are locked into their holders, throw bags are placed where they can be easily accessed, and so forth.

One final note about the perimeter line before moving on: passengers new to whitewater rafting will often hold on to this line throughout the trip. It goes without saying that the line has to be absolutely secure because it will be under heavy stress.

Reasons to Not Be Haphazard

Rigging should not be approached lightly. Taking a haphazard approach could result in undesirable consequences. If you need a reason to be intentional and purposeful with your rigging, start with safety. It is priority number one for any whitewater rafting journey.

Remember that loose objects become safety hazards. A person could be seriously injured by anything that breaks loose and flies through the air.

There are two additional reasons for avoiding rigging:

  • Efficiency – Organized rigging creates an efficient workspace. You are not having to waste time searching for what you need in the chaos of the whitewater. You work more efficiently, which ultimately makes for a more enjoyable experience.
  • Performance – A properly rigged raft is also properly balanced. And when a raft is properly balanced, it performs a lot better. You get a smoother ride along with a much lower risk of flipping the raft over in especially rough water.

As long as you’re taking the time to be intentional about rigging, invest in high quality gear. For example, do not skimp on your webbing straps. Invest in a high-quality brand you know you can trust.

It All Starts With Rigging

The success of any whitewater journey starts with preparation. That means rigging the raft in preparation for your trip. Whether you rig on-site or in your garage, how you go about it will impact nearly every aspect of the trip.

Take your time, do it correctly, and use quality gear. That is the best way to ensure a safe, efficient, and high-performance journey that you and your passengers will truly enjoy. Get the rigging right and everything else follows.

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