Glossary of River Rafting and Kayaking Terms

General Terms:
Bow: front of the boat
Eddy: place on the river where the water is moving upstream. Formed by features such as shoreline or rocks blocking the general flow/ current of the river.
Rapids: More turbulent place on the river. Rated Class I – IV. If you didn’t already know this, please sign up for a trip with a commercial outfitter
Stern: back of the boat
General Gear:
Cam Straps: Like webbing, but with a cam buckle on the end. Cinches down tightly and doesn’t require any knots.
Drysuit: similar to a drytop, but it’s attached to pants. Keeps you completely dry.
Drytop: rubber neck and wrist gaskets keep water out. The best ones are usually made of Gore-Tex or a waterproof breathable material. There are also semi-dry top options if rubber gaskets irritate your skin.
Float bags: go in the back of your kayak and displace water, so that if you are out of your boat, and it is upside down, it doesn’t sink.
Helmet: Protects your head from hitting rocks or getting smacked by a teammate’s paddle. A plastic shell will not suffice. Look into kevlar helmets or whitewater-specific helmets. This is your brain we’re talking about – don’t be cheap.
PFD (Personal Floatation Device): Makes it easier to float if you swim out of your boat
PolyPro or fleece: synthetic layer to wear on the water when it’s cold. Basically anything but cotton is fine – wool, synthetic, silk.
River shoes: Stay on your feet, allow for water drainage, usually a sandal or open running shoe.
Webbing: Used to tie down gear in the rafts and on the cars. Also used in rescue situations
Throw rope: Small bag with rope in it. Used in rescue situations or as a clothesline in camp.
Rafting Specific Gear:
D-ring: rings on the outside of the raft used to tie down gear and frames
Frame: Goes on a raft and has attachments for oars. Is used to tie gear down, carry coolers, and turns a raft into a useful gear boat.
Oar: long 8-12 foot shaft with long blade at one end. Used with an oar frame to row a raft.
Oar Lock: a bracket that the oar sits in and attaches it to the frame. Oar locks allow for the oars to be feathered and adjusted as you row.
Pins and clips: Another way of attaching the oar to the frame. Oars cannot be adjusted as you row, but they are always vertical to the water with each stroke.
Raft Paddle: Plastic shaft with a blade at only one end. Used to maneuver and power paddle rafts.
Thwart: inflated tube that stretches across the raft to keep the outside tubes from collapsing in. They are usually removable and taken out when an oar frame is used.
Kayaking Specific Gear:
Breakdown paddle: Comes apart in the middle so you can store it as an extra in the back of your kayak.
Ducky: Inflatable kayak.
Double Ducky: Inflatable kayak for 2 paddlers.
Kayak paddle: Blades on both ends of one shaft.
Poagies: used for kayaking to keep your hands warm. They are made of neoprene and attach to the paddle, but allow your hands to come out easily.
River booties: made of neoprene, less of a sole, usually used for kayaking because they fit in the boat better than bulky tennis shoes.
Spray skirt (sometimes called a kayak deck): Used on a hardshell kayak to keep water out the paddler in.
5 Essentials for Hardshell Kayaking:

Random Necessary Items:
Headlamp: a flashlight that straps to your head and keeps your hands free
Nalgene: or any water bottle that has a strap on it so it can be clipped into the boat.
River Map: can usually be bought from the local river management agency or the local river store
Sunglasses and Chums: The sunglasses protect your eyes, the chums keep the glasses from floating down the river.
Sunscreen: don’t forget this!
Visor: keeps the sun off your face
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