Gear Information

We do not sell any equipment or gear. This page is provided to help guide the decision-making process for purchasing or renting gear from another source. We've listed some ideas and direction here. By no means is it comprehensive. Additionally, just because a company or piece of gear isn't listed on this page doesn't mean it isn't good. If you have suggestions as to how we can improve this page or where we can add more items please let us know. 


There are many makes and models out there to choose from. Helmets designed specifically for whitewater conditions are best. Features worth considering include comfort, secure fit, ear coverage, sun protection, and style. The two shown below are both made by Shred Ready. We've also been very impressed with Sweet Protection helmets. 

Rivers are active avalanches. Running rivers requires avalanche gear. Type V Rescue PFDs are avalanche gear and should be a primary consideration for anyone working or playing in, on, and around rivers. The next step is to receive qualified training in how to use one appropriately and not put yourself at further risk than is necessary. We cover all this in our river rescue trainings and often have a few extra Type V PFDs on course for people to try. Ideally everyone has one to wear throughout the entire course but this isn't always possible. Type III PFDs are also acceptable for our courses. These two shown below are made by Astral (the Green Jacket on the left and the YTV on the right). Other companies work consideration include Kokatat and Stohlquist.

River Shoes
A good house has a solid foundation. A solid rescuer has a foundation that they can rely on. That means reliable and secure footwear. The time is now to confront your peers and tell them it is inappropriate to run rivers without dependable protection on their feet. Neoprene socks and slippers are ok for park n play paddling but when heading downstream we must be rescue ready. Consider shoes with great edging, sticky rubber, and low profile ankle protection. I own two pair. My summer pair when I just go bare foot inside and then an oversized cold weather pair that I wear with my drysuit, heavy socks, and goretex booties. Open-toed sandals are good for camp but add unnecessary risk when running whitewater. Smashed toes, ankle sprains, leg fractures, foot entrapment, and trauma from tripping can all happen much more easily when wearing open toed sandals. THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED IN OUR RIVER RESCUE TRAININGS. You need to have closed-toed shoes for river rescue training. Both Five Ten and Astral make excellent river specific shoes that offer tremendous support and increase confidence on slick rocks significantly. A less expensive option is to just use a good pair of secure sneakers. Keen makes a nice hybrid shoe/sandal with toe protection. Some of their versions are designed specifically for river running. If they have bunji laces then they often will get ripped off on the first whitewater swim. Consider replacing the bunji laces with no-stretch laces. 

Skull Cap & Gloves
It’s very common to have people on these courses that have all great new gear but no good skull cap or gloves and as a result, they are quite uncomfortable. Even on warm-weather courses gloves can be extremely beneficial for minimizing rope burns during throw bag and tethered rescue swims. Consider even fingerless gloves as a great consideration and part of your personal protection.

River Knives
Consider having one knife secured to your PFD and a second, back-up, collapsible in your PFD pocket. Redundancy of this tool just makes sense. So does having the ability to quickly and easily release your knife with either hand and that hand alone. In other words, if you can't quickly get at your knife with one hand it could come back to haunt you. There is the potential for rope and fishing line being stuck underwater in all our rivers. These are not mandatory for our courses but they are a very good consideration to have. Companies to consider include CRKT and NRS. There are also a variety of dive knives out there. There are also some excellent knife designs in the SCUBA industry. We have really loved the AQUA LUNG DEEP SEA SQUEEZE LOCK KNIFE. Consider knives that cut well and have a built-in retention device that will hold up under rigorous swimming activity.


Fox 40 makes the best whistle out there. Consider attaching it to PFD with coil lanyard so you can easily put it in your mouth and still turn your head side to side. The coil lanyards will break easily under tension making it a perhaps safer option than securing it with rescue-strength string.

Wetsuits and Drysuits
This is critical protection against thermal challenges and rock encounters. We swim on our courses much more than many people are used to. Anticipate prolonged exposure to water. Dress for water temperature, not air temperature. The more comfortable you are the more effective our training will be. Don’t make the common mistake of showing up ill-equipped. Rent Drysuit here or Rent wetsuit here. Layer insulation under the drysuit such as polypro, wool and fleece. Features to look for in drysuits include relief zippers and sewn on waterproof booties for warm feet. Shop for drysuits by Kokatat, Immersion Research, Ocean Rodeo, Level Six, or Stohlquist. For Wetsuit purchases take a look at NRS.

This book received the National Outdoor Book Award for Best Instruction. Several contributing authors earned this award; Les Bechdel, Kent Ford, Charlie Walbridge, Brian Ward, Jim Coffey, KT Smith, Geoff Kooy, Phil DeReimer, John Connelly, Marty McDonnell, Sean & Kristin Bierle. You can purchase your own copy here.  

Released 2016

"NOLS RIVER RESCUE GUIDE educates the reader in an orderly progression with great use of acronyms, graphs, photographs and stories.  
If you don't have Nate Ostis along on your trip, be sure to pack his book in your ammo can."  
~ Les Bechdel, co-author, RIVER RESCUE

"This fresh approach to river rescue reads less like a textbook and more like a passionate author wanting to share his experience as well as the collaborative knowledge of his peers. 
It appeals to to individuals with a desire to study rescue as well as professionals who want to better themselves teaching it. 
River runners are story tellers by nature and this book tells the story of river rescue which we all need to hear."  
Mike Mather, American Canoe Association Swiftwater Rescue Instructor Trainer