Boating with an Outfitter

ArticleJune 09, 2011

The number and type of outfitters doing on-the-water trips has really grown. Whether you’re looking for whitewater rafting, inland touring, sea kayaking or canoeing, there’s an outfitted trip that’s right for you. You can find ones featuring wildlife viewing, gourmet meals, family and youth group orientation, area history, geology, etc.

So, do your homework and go for the gusto! Here are a few hints to help you along the way.

Reasons to Choose an Outfitter

The reasons for taking an on-the-water trip with an outfitter are many and varied. Here are a few:

  • Outfitters know how to run the rapids.You don’t have to invest in the major equipment—boats, paddles, oars, etc. Even if you’re thinking about getting into the sport, going with an outfitter helps you decide if it’s right for you and lets you gain valuable experience before you make that equipment investment.
  • The logistics—meals, shuttle, planning—are taken care of for you.
  • People with varying physical abilities can be accommodated.
  • On bodies of water that require a permit for access, the outfitter already has that taken care of.
  • You can choose a trip with the “pamper factor” that meets your needs. Some outfitters do things like setting up your tent and doing all the meal preparation, while others give you a more hands-on experience.
  • If you’re a beginner, you can still tackle a challenging trip.
  • If you already have experience, you can explore a new area and/or learn new skills. For example, a touring boater with inland water experience can go on a guided open ocean trip and learn navigation skills.

How to Choose an Outfitter

Choosing the right outfitter and type of trip is very important. Here are some tips for making the best outfitter choice:

  • Outfitters can organize and plan flat water trips.Determine what you want for your trip—one-day, overnight, multiday, high pamper factor or more basic, side hikes, degree of difficulty, wilderness or more accessible, etc. This will help you narrow your choice.
  • Do your research. Use the Internet, contact chambers of commerce and tourist bureaus. Check ads in boating magazines.
  • Always go with an accredited outfitter. Most states and provinces have an agency or governing board that licenses and monitors outfitters. They may have a website that gives contact information for accredited outfitters.
  • Word of mouth is always good. Check with friends and coworkers for recommendations. A local paddle shop can be a good source for suggestions.
  • Things to look at when considering an outfitter include length of time they’ve been in business and experience level of guides. How heavily they’re booked can be an indicator of popularity.
  • Be sure to get a complete list of what equipment/supplies you need to provide. For example, some outfitters provide tents and others don’t.
  • If you have dietary restrictions or health concerns, check ahead to make sure they can be accommodated.

Have fun! See you on the water.