Prepare yourself for cool weather rafting this spring. We suggest that if you are a serious whitewater paddler, then as an enthusiast, you should consider purchasing a wetsuit for active water sports. A dive suit is not appropriate since the thickness of the neoprene will chafe and irritate your skin while you are vigorously paddling whitewater rapids. A good whitewater wetsuit is approximately 3 - 5 mm (3/16th inch for very cold weather) thick. Also, don't buy a wetsuit with arms. Again, you need the arms to be free enough for vigorous paddling. Ask for a "farmer john wetsuit." Yee, haw! It's a wetsuit that looks like a denim overall except it is very fitted (no arms and one piece).
Under your wetsuit, you should wear a synthetic fabric such as Capilene or even an old polyester sweater. And in very cold water conditions, you might even layer an additional synthetic fleece (thicker fabric) over the Capilene t-shirt. Most rafting outfitters provide the wetsuit, but we suggest that you add the additional layers. Besides, cold neoprene feels kind of clammy! Several resources are available for these items. Your local sportswear stores will carry these items in various price ranges. At REI, you can get high tech fabrics that will help insulate you for a great price. Online, visit Patagonia for more pricey items, though the price is worth it. I still have my original Patagonia fleece jacket from the 80's and it still looks good.
Additionally, over all those layers, we'll put on the splash jacket (waterproof pullover) and add the lifejacket. For your feet, a pair of tennis shoes with wool/synthetic or neoprene socks will help keep those toes warm. Most rafting companies now use self-bailing rafts so your feet are not swimming in water all day. But remember, in Class 4 or higher, you'll be wet most of the time! (Pun intended...)
W.E.T. Rafting Consultants