River Rafting and Kayaking Gear Stores in California

Rafts and Kayaks:
There are numerous raft and kayak manufacturers out there. These are the boats we recommend. If you are investing in a big ticket item such as a raft, or even a kayak, it is important to know that it is well-made and durable. The manufacturers listed below cover a variety of price ranges. Keep in mind that most rafts designated as “outfitter” series are going to be the most durable since they are designed to be used day after day after day. However, if you are floating on the Yama River once a year, or doing a few day trips on your local Class III run, you might not need something so hefty. Also, the decision between plastic (PVC) and Hypalon rubber or neoprene rafts is that plastic boats tend to be stiffer because they can withstand more air pressure. They also slide over rocks better when wet. Hypalon, however, is extremely durable, can be dragged around, and takes “abuse” much better.
For local rafting and kayaking gear shops, please visit the river pages:
Tuolumne : Merced : American : Kaweah : Kern : Cal Salmon : Klamath : Smith :

AIRE – Made in Idaho, these PVC rafts are popular with private boaters and some commercial outfitters. They have an amazing 10 year warranty that covers the boat no matter who the owner is.

Alpacka Rafts – Extremely lightweight, packpable, wilderness rafts. Made for 1-2 people and usually weighing under 5 pounds. These are perfect for rafters looking to run remote stretches of river, but they are perfectly fun on a local, easily accessible run.

AVON Inflatables – Extremely durable handmade rafts made of Hypalon. More on the pricey end of things, but well worth the money if you plan to use your raft often.

Hyside – Reliable rafts made of Hypalon rubber.

Maravia – In business for 35 years, these PVC plastic boats are manufactured in Boise, Idaho and are made to last a lifetime.

NRS – Affordable, rafts made by a well-respected company. Great for private raft use. Made of urethane and Hypalon. NRS is also a dealer for most of the other raft manufacturers.

Sotar – Made in Oregon, out of Urethane coated nylon which can be inflated to very high pressures. They are one of the stiffest boats available. Affordable, lightweight, well-performing rafts.

Vanguard – Popular amongst outfitters as well as private boaters.

Wing – They don’t make a whitewater series anymore, but if you can find a used one, they are great boats.

Bliss-Stick – Made in New Zealand by some hard-core kayakers. Their kayaks have cool names like Rad, Scud, and Mystic.

Dagger – Owned by the larger company Confluence Watersports in South Carolina, Dagger’s line of whitewater kayaks include the Nomad, Mamba, RPM, Kingpin, Agent and RX.

Jackson Kayak – Made by world champion kayaker, Eric Jackson, and heralded as the only company making good kids kayaks these days, Jackson boats are well-designed and have simple outfitting. Their fleet includes the All-Star, Hero, Rocker, Fun, and Dynamic Duo.

Pyranha – Offering too many kayak options to list here, their more well-known ones are the Inazone, Burn, Habitat, Everest, and Rev. They are based out of North Carolina and England.

Wavesport – Owned by the same company as Dagger, (Confluence Watersports), they offer some alternatives to Dagger boats, but they have similar outfitting. Kayaks include the Habitat, Diesel, Fuse, ZG, and Project.

AT Paddles– Located in Hood River, Oregon, AT makes some of the most high-quality paddles on the market as well as some lower-priced items for the budget-buyers out there.
Werner – The other best and most well respected paddles on the market. Made in Washington.
Harmony – Owned by Confluence Watersports, these paddles are on the less-expensive end of the spectrum and are another good option.

Technical Gear – PFD’s, Sprayskirts, Drytops, Helmets, the Works:
The options here are seemingly endless. It’s really hard to know what gear to choose. Price is not necessarily indicative of what gear is best, but within each manufacturer’s lineup, you usually get what you pay for. The industry leaders are Kokatat, Immersion Research,
FNA Helmets – Wide variety of colors and styles, these 80% kevlar helmets can be ordered directly from the company or found at your local kayak shop.
Grateful Heads Helmets – Don’t let the colors, glitter, and glitz fool you. These are high-quality, well made helmets – with a bit of flare.

Immersion Research – Drytops, drysuits, fleece-lined board shorts, rash guards, and even sprayskirts…pretty much everything you need in terms of clothing and neoprene to go rafting or kayaking.

Kokatat – PFD’s, drytops, and top-of-the line drysuits are their specialties. Located in Arcata, CA.

Mountain Surf – Spray Skirt manufacturer based out of Ontario. You can often find their sprayskirts at the local river stores.
Shread Ready Helmets – Well-made kayaking and rafting helmets.
Snapdragon – Spray skirt manufacturer from Seattle, WA. They offer a wide range of skirts, including some highly reinforced whitewater decks.
Stohlquist – Drytops, pants, and drysuits, PFDs, sprayskirts. Based in both WA and CO, these guys have been making paddling gear for over 30 years.
Whitewater Research and Safety Institute (WRSI) – Inexpensive, well made helmets. Plastic based, with good protection coverage.
River Shoes:
Shoes that will stay on your feet are required on most commercial rafting trips and recommended to anyone braving whitewater rapids.
The obvious reason is that they protect your feet; additionally we prefer to keep our river canyons from being littered with runaway flip flops. An old pair of running shoes usually does the trick, however, if you want to get fancy, here are a few companies that can provide you with great water sandals.
Chaco: A favorite amongst river guides and outdoor enthusiasts, a Chaco foot tan has become a status symbol in the river community.
Keen: Protect your toes! Although their sandals are a bit goofy looking, they are quite comfortable and will keep your toes protected from rocks. They also make a very nice kayaking booty that will fit in your boat.
Teva: An old-time river shoe manufacturer, they have everything from water sandals to kayaking booties. Take your pick!
General Paddling Stores:
Be wary of online outdoor stores that sell paddling gear – it is often for sea kayaking, or kayak touring, and not for whitewater. A good comparison is imagining taking cross country ski gear to a ski resort or trying to run black diamond chutes. Yes, the pfd’s will still float you, but sea kayaking gear is designed for less turbulent waters. The five essentials: Kayak, paddles, sprayskirt, helmet, and pfd should be whitewater specific. However, water shoes, poly pro tops, float bags, throw ropes, and carabiners can be bought at the REI closest to you!
California Canoe and Kayak
: Lots of good deals, but it can be hit or miss. Make sure if you’re buying technical kayaking gear that it’s whitewater specific.
REI: Great for long underware layers, drytops and drypants, throw ropes, etc. The range of equipment seems to vary from store to store.
The River Store: The local kayak shop in Coloma has a wide variety of kayaking and rafting gear.
Sierra Outdoor Center: Located in Auburn, you can find just about everything new and used from rafts and kayaks to throw ropes and float bags.