A BEHIND-THE-SCENES GUIDE FROM AN ESTHETICIAN/RIVER-RAT
I’ve been deep down in the most Majestic Ditch six times now, and have spent many nights of my life camped along rivers throughout the world.
Spiritually and physically, these have been some of the most sacred experiences of my life. Socially, they can be the most delightful or as awkward as the worst parts of high school. Some people know exactly how the system goes, while others are scrambling through each second. And there is a jagged juxtaposition between self-care/vanity necessary to feel your-self and minimize damage and the eye-roll you will receive from people who think it’s lame that you care while they deal with cracked skin and sunburns.
You can hide it sometimes, share it sometimes and say f*c it a lot of times while enjoying the comfort and glow. It is way less complicated than it seems and after a few days, everyone will want to borrow your stuff, so have plenty.
These tips are from personal experience. I have yet to deal with a serious sunburn or cracked-skin. And after a couple decades and hundreds of river miles and nights sleeping in my car, I kinda think my skin has held up alright....
First and foremost:
What’s the layout?
Where you are sleeping. Boat, Tent, Sand, Back of Car? What’s the food deal? What kind of bag are you carrying? What is your role? Do you know how to close a dry-bag?
Get these deets. Once you know where you will be sleeping/eating, keep it simple, efficient and save some room for treats. You need way less than you think and will enjoy each item you choose to bring way more.
I like thinking of my bags as "kitchen", "closet", "bathroom/bedroom", "library + art studio" and "daily-purse".
Make sure you have the basics including refillable hot/cold cups, water bottle, basic utensil-set and hot sauce. You should have hot sauce in your swag-bag. (Lil' Beyonce shout-out.) But I like hot sauce so I bring my own. I also bring small bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar for digestion. Bring your own snacks, avoid lower-quality sandwich meat, sugary treats and too much artificial stuff. Your body will have enough to deal with without an excess of bad snacks. Of course you'll have a few pringles, but it is easier to not have many if you have a substitute.
I bring a can of anchovies per day (I love them, they are good for your skin), good-quality beef jerky, a bag of carrots (keep in your dry-bag, they lasts forever and provide internal sun-protection), powdered hummus, and my own gluten-free tortillas. I also stash plenty of good chocolate bars and one good bottle of scotch. Pull these out at the perfect times. You'll know when.
On most river trips, the main meals are fantastic. Snacks and lunches are good as long as you avoid the mass-meat/dairy fillings. I don’t love the heaviness of the food that most river-goers like because then I feel sluggish, especially breakfast. But, that is personal. Think ahead, know what you like and bring easy items. Avoid over-eating.
Do whatever you need to do so that you can fully enjoy sleeping on the river or in your car, because this is some of the most beautiful sleep you will ever have.
SILK PILLOWCASE + COTTON SHEETS: Stuff your clothes in pillowcase and sleep in comfort. I recommend silk pillowcases. They weight nothing, dry quickly, hold a lot of stuff, help keep your hair from matting up so you don’t need conditioner or have to deal with unintentional dreadlocks, and they help prevent breakouts. Some people use t-shirts as pillowcases, but I found they cause serious hair-knots and you wake up full of sleep-lines on your face that take awhile to go away. Each night, put items you will wear the next day in your pillowcase.
I also bring a real sheets and cotton blanket instead of sleeping bag because I can't stand the feeling of sweating in a sleeping bag. But this is for warm weather and the luxury of a large raft. You may not get that much space.
The "BATHROOM" list is a bit complicated if this is your first time taking a trip with my tips + tricks. I promise this will way beat so many commercial options and that it has been tested by dozens of ladies and gentlemen on far-fetched trips.
Avoid any small plastic things you don't need, ingredients that have no place in the water, and minimize ugly labels that "clash" with the gorgeous world you are in while adding to your care, skin-health and the magic of experience.
-Pre-Moistened Cotton Pads: Take a large ziploc and add 4 or so cotton pads per day you will be out, and some to share. Add enough witch hazel and unfiltered sake to fully moisten (1:1). It's fine if you add too much. You'll use it. You can add a few drops of Geranium essential oil (this is the only essential oil I am ok with in strong sun environments). This becomes your PM cleanse + AM refresh. Pre-moistened towels don't biodegrade, and the ingredients are usually crap. Witch Hazel and Sake will keep your skin balanced and help prevent hyper-pigmentation and are a fraction of the cost.
-4oz Spray Bottle with 1 part Sake, 1 Part Witch-Hazel: Used as underarm spray, skin rashes, extra cleansing.
- Tooth-Brush/Paste: One good quality brush and a tiny travel. Keep one in Bathroom bag, one in daybag.
-Biodegradable Soap: Dr. Bronners is a go-to, though I think it is way too alkaline for skin. It works for washing clothes, scrubbing feet, cuts/scrapes, etc. Tiny bottle should last just fine.
-Skin and Sky AM/PM Travel Set + Refill Pouches: Seriously. This is so much of what these products were created for. Keep the small bottle in your daybag, and the refill pouches in bathroom bag. Bring enough to share. Use haed-to-toe to protect, regenerate, calm, hydrate.
- Tinted Zinc-Based Sunscreen + Lip-Balm: I like Vapour Beauty with a powder sunscreen over the top for face, and KettleCare Organics Environmental Defense for lips. Yes, I apply a light dusting of "make-up". I feel better and prefer this to most sunscreen.
-Emu Oil: I understand if this is weird to you, but, it is one of the most versatile and conscientious oils available. I use it daily, and on river-trips I bring a larger bottle. Check your sourcing. Laid in Montana is my favorite. It is a perfect all-around spot moisturizer, wound-healer, barrier, etc.