With the coronavirus raging in the United States, especially in the Southeast, we’ve been extremely hesitant to travel. Planes, trains and buses have seemed unthinkable. As passionate travelers this has been crushing, but we’ve finally broken out of the cycle and found a way to scratch our travel itch without having to endure mass transit.
That’s right, we’re determined to make 2020 the year of road trips.
We kicked off our new plan this past weekend with a daytrip to Asheville, NC to float down the French Broad River.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with lakes and rivers, a river float is a great way to relax and enjoy nature as if you were hiking, without the manpower of actually moving yourself. You start upriver and float with the current in an inflatable tube. The current gradually takes you downriver so there's little to no paddling involved. A continuous flow of picturesque scenery passes by as you leisurely float down the river. Floating also provides the massive advantage of allowing you to bring a much heavier pack than hiking. Several coolers and bags for snacks are no problem on the water.
With all of that in mind, it only made sense to overpack for the trip. We used a medium sized daypack to carry most of our essentials and as our snack bag. We were able to fit a ton of fruit, chips, crackers, poptarts of course and our waterproof pouch very easily.
Additionally, a single compression packing cube held a change of clothes for both me and my wife. We filled the cooler with a few drinks, threw on our Flashpacker hats, a pair of sunglasses and were off.
After battling through sporadic downpours on the 1+ hr drive up to the river we finally made it to our check-in. We checked in with the touring company, parked and grabbed our packs. We got our wristbands from the front office, and took a quick open air bus ride up the river to the entry point. Once we got there a couple workers picked out our floats for us and packed our coolers and bags into a spare float. They tied our floats together in a circle, pushed us out into the center of the river and we were off!
What usually takes 4 hrs, took us less than 2 due to the insane amount of rainfall the day of and the day before. The rain didn’t let off once we were on the river either. It rained off and on the whole time, but that didn’t deter our enjoyment and it provided for an amazing stress test for some of our gear.
If you’re headed out for your own float, keep in mind that you’ll be in the water and should plan for your gear to get wet, even if it doesn’t rain. We took the ChicoBag Packable Daypack as our main daypack on the river because it was big enough to handle all of our gear while being extremely lightweight and flexible. A heavy bag only gets heavier when it’s soaked, so bringing an extra lightweight bag meant the bag would stay relatively light even after all of the rainfall. We recommend using an ultra-lightweight daypack that will dry quickly.
The next important item to bring is a drybag or waterproof pouch. With so many items that need to stay dry it’s very important to have an inner bag or pouch that can withstand the rain, or occasional dip into the river. Within our daypack, we utilized the Aquapac Waterproof Pouch for phones, keys and our face masks while on the river. Several of our friends even opted to drop their valuables in the bag as they didn’t have a waterproof plan. Ultimately, we ended up with 3 phones, 3 sets of keys and 6 Covid facemasks in the bag. The fit was snug, but sealed comfortably. And it’s a good thing, because it poured on us several times down the river. Our Chicobag was soaked through, but all of our essentials were perfectly dry and it was nice not being stressed about them the whole time.
Lastly, don’t forget your refreshment! It’s pretty common to bring drinks and snacks on the river, just make sure you pack out what you brought in. We brought several coolers but really found that a soft, zip cooler was the most convenient on the river. We had a separate float just for our gear that allowed our daypack and coolers to float alongside us, and the soft cooler made for much easier access. Not to mention the hard shell cooler was a bit of a tipping hazard as it did not fit nicely into the bottom of the float. The soft cooler and flexible daypack slid right in and made comfort and access easy during the float.
Despite the rain, the river float was gorgeous and an amazing chance to get out and into nature again after mostly confining ourselves to our home for months. We didn’t get many pictures because of the rain, but we’ll definitely be heading back, or possibly to another river soon.
We booked our trip with a local guide company a week in advance. This made the trip a bit smoother with provided transportation from the bottom of the river up to our entry point. It also meant that we were able to pick up our floats at the river, rather than needing to bring our own. This greatly simplified the logistics as all we needed to do was make it to the parking lot with our gear and they would take care of the rest. These tours are pretty common in the Southeast of the US, but can fill up a week or so in advance.
After the river float, we dried off and switched into our change of clothes. We sat the ChicoBag out to dry as we changed and made a plan for an outdoor dinner. By the time we were packed up and ready to head off in search of food the bag was dry and ready to be packed with our items again. I was REALLY impressed by this as it was not particularly hot, not sunny and extremely humid out. But the ultra lightweight and breathable material dried quickly and we packed it right back up before finding a picnic area with outdoor seating for tacos!
Despite the rain, the Asheville trip left us with amazing views of the river and a great leisurely opportunity to connect with our closest friends and family. If you’re in an area offering river floats we would highly recommend them as an alternative way to travel and enjoy nature during coronavirus. You’ll be spending all of your time outside, socially distanced and with plenty of fresh air. 10 for 10 would recommend! A simple search for “river floats near me” on Google showed a handful of results and we’ll probably try out another river in the coming weeks. Covid sucks, but we’re still trying to experience more.
If you're heading out on a river float or figuring out a new way to travel during Covid, let us know by tagging us on social media @FlashpackerCo. We'd love to know how you're traveling during Covid, what gear you're bringing and any other tips and tricks you're learning from your experience. Best of luck!