A Guide to Whitewater Rafting in Squamish, Canada

Paddle Forward! Forward! Forward! Now hold on!!! 

I could hear our guide’s voice behind me encouraging us to paddle faster as we approached the upcoming rapid and I couldn’t tell if I was shaking because I was terrified, elated, cold, exhilarated, or a bit of all of that. After looking at all of the pictures I was definitely a mixture of all of those emotions, which equated to one of my all-time-favorite tours. Hopefully, this post will prove that if you are ever in Squamish, Canada (or Vancouver/Whistler) you should 100% book a whitewater rafting tour with Canadian Outback Rafting — trust me, you will not regret it! 

What’s in this post?

  1. The ins and outs of whitewater rafting
  2. Why whitewater rafting should be on everyone’s travel bucket-list
  3. Why Canadian Outback Rafting?
  4. Boots not Roots Tried and True Tips

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

The ins and outs of whitewater rafting

If you are an experienced rafter this section likely won’t be helpful for you. If you have never been rafting before — read on! I learned a lot on this tour and I’m here to prep you on the different things to know before you go on your first whitewater rafting trip!

Whitewater rafting classifications

Most commercial whitewater rafting companies will offer trips on rivers rated from Class I-IV.  Class I-II rafting trips are perfect for kids. You’ll be splashed and have a few bumps along the road, but overall this is a smooth ride. Class III rapids are exciting rapids with water gushing into the side of the raft. Class IV rapids are guaranteed to get you very wet and get your heart pumping. 

Are first-timers allowed? 

Yes! With Canadian Outback Rafting beginners are allowed on all of their trips — even their trip with Class III-IV rapids! I went on the family-friendly trip and there was a 7-year-old on our raft. He had an absolute blast! 

What to wear

Wear your bathing suit to wear underneath your wetsuit. If you get chilled easily you can also wear a layer of polypropylene long underwear! Whatever you don’t wear cotton underneath your wetsuit. Cotton retains cold against your body and will not keep you warm!

Is whitewater rafting safe?

I can’t speak for all rafting companies, but I can attest to how safe I felt on my trip with Canadian Outback Rafting. The guides were well-prepared and taught us everything we might need to know in case of an emergency. I never felt even slightly unsafe on our trip. 

Why whitewater rafting should be on everyone’s travel bucket-list

I’ll be honest — I didn’t know what to expect for my first whitewater rafting trip. I knew it was supposed to be rainy and cold and that I would be going solo (the hubby got sick right before the trip), but otherwise, I had no expectations. My low (non-existent) expectations were blown out of the water (no pun intended). 🙂 Below I’ve detailed three reasons why I think everyone should add whitewater rafting to their travel bucket list.  

Camaraderie – Maybe it’s because we were all a little afraid of the worst happening, but despite only knowing each other for about 10 minutes everyone within our boat quickly bonded. We talked about where we were from, our experiences traveling the world, and truly enjoyed each other’s company. It’s hard to explain in words, but I’ve never been on a tour before where 6 strangers suddenly felt like close family within a few short minutes. 

Scenery otherwise unseen – Have you ever seen a salmon get plucked out of the water by a bear? How about a bird soaring over the foggy trees? What about towering mountains without a person in sight (other than those on your boat)? All of these things and more are possibilities whitewater rafting in Squamish. If you’re a long-time reader you know we like to find off-the-beaten track places and explore a bit of the unknown and until I went whitewater rafting I don’t think I ever truly found this “off-the-grid” experience. **Caveat: I did not get to see the bear (I likely would have fainted), but it was seen on a tour a few weeks prior to mine.**

Step out of your comfort zone – The hubby and I have hiked and kayaked around the world, but we never thought we would go whitewater rafting. I was terrified. And I seriously thought about backing out. The 7 year old on my boat encouraged me to hop on and enjoy the ride – “These aren’t even real rapids!!” he screeched over and over again on the trip. Midway through the trip I got over my fear and started to really enjoy every second. I was so proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something that got my heart racing a bit and was FUN. I always remind myself that taking risks helps us grow and this trip was a prime example of this fact. 

Why Canadian Outback Rafting?

Canadian Outback Rafting has been operating with excellence since 1992. A team of experienced guides from around the world and an obvious passion for rafting and the outdoors, I felt that the guides are likely some of the best in the industry. We started our afternoon getting dressed into our wetsuits, booties, raincoats, lifejackets, and helmets and the guides checked each and every one of us to make sure we were good to go. On our way to the rafting site on the bus we all introduced ourselves and told our favorite ice cream flavor. The guides allowed us to quickly bond with each other before getting started on our adventure. 

After arriving at our launch site, the guides started to walk through all of the safety considerations for our trip. They taught us how to pull someone back into the boat if they fell out (see above), how to sit properly in the raft, how to “hold on” during rapids, and a number of other safety tips to make sure we all knew how to handle pretty much every situation that might be thrown at us. There were even a few people who didn’t know how to swim on our trip and the guides explained to them how to best stay afloat if they did happen to fall overboard. Despite being a bit terrified (I’m a scaredy-cat) I never once felt unsafe. 

Once we learned all of our safety skills we hopped in our boats with our paddle and we were off! The first part of the trip was very easy water that allowed us to learn all of the proper ways to paddle and to practice all of our safety moves. We spent about 10 minutes practicing all of our skills and then started chatting with our guide about where she was from and learned more about each other. Like I said earlier, our boat quickly became like a little family. Our guide told us about her life traveling the world to guide rafting trips in Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and beyond. She literally follows the summer around the world to guide her trips. How cool would that job be?!? 

At the very beginning of our trip the 7-year-old in our boat said “Wouldn’t it be so cool if we had hot chocolate and granola bars on our boat?!” Our guide, Maddie, laughed and said yes that would be so cool! After we were done with all of our rapids and were settling towards the end of our trip, Maddie pulled out a waterproof bag and said “Remember when you said it would be cool to have hot chocolate and granola bars?!” The little boy’s eyes lit up and he smiled from ear to ear as Maddie pulled out a thermos of hot chocolate and kid’s Cliff bars. We enjoyed hot chocolate together as we reminisced about our awesome trip. I loved everything about rafting with Canadian Outback Rafting and would recommend them to everyone. 

Boots not Roots Tried and True Tips

  • Don’t be afraid of “bad weather” – Rain in the forecast? Don’t fret! You’re going to get wet anyways and Canadian Outback Rafting provides you with all of the gear you need. 
  • Don’t let your fear get the best of you – I was seriously terrified before we got going. But, I put my big girl pants on (well not literally since I was in a wetsuit) and decided to get on the boat despite my fear. I am SO grateful I did. I absolutely loved this tour and would recommend it to everyone (even people not into “adventure” sports). 
  • Have so much fun! – I’m not joking when I tell you that this whitewater rafting trip was my all-time-favorite tour. I had so much fun and you will too! Book your trip to beautiful British Columbia and make sure to spend some time with Canadian Outback Rafting! 

Huge thanks to Canadian Outback Rating for hosting me on this amazing trip and for all of the pictures in this post. While I edited the photos (hence the watermark), I did not take these wonderful photos! Despite receiving this trip for free all of the opinions in this post are 100% mine. 

Happy Trekking! 

Boots not Roots

Suitcases and Sandcastles