Wild Sky Adventure Guides

Visitors Guide: Part 2: Necessary Equipment For Canyoneering In Washington State.


When planning a canyoning trip in Washington State, one of the most important things to consider is what equipment you’ll need. This post will walk you through the essential gear you’ll need for a safe and enjoyable canyoning trip.

If you’re unfamiliar with canyoning, it combines hiking, climbing, and swimming through narrow canyons. It’s a great way to explore the outdoors and exercise simultaneously.

To make the most of your canyoning trip, there are a few essential items you’ll need to bring. This post is part of a series on choosing appropriate canyoneering equipment. 

The Seattle Canyon Challenge is a coming of age adventure for Seattle youth.


Rope is one of the most important pieces of equipment on a canyoneering adventure. Canyoneering rope can be broken into two categories; static and semi-static.

Static  Ropes have a stretch of around  1% at  200 lbs. People prefer them because  they have  very little stretch, so while  rappelling down the rope you  tend to bounce less. American Canyoneers prefer to canyoneer with the most static rope possible. 

Semi-Static Ropes have a stretch of about 3-4% at 200lbs. Some people prefer these ropes because  while  rappelling down waterfalls the force of the water hitting the rappeler is absorbed by the stretch in the rope. The small amount  of bounce  makes  rappelling easier on the body of the rappeller but  puts more  wear and  tear on the rope. European Canyoneers  tend  to prefer semi-static  ropes. 

Guide Preference: Because of the often sharp and abrasive rock found in Washington State Canyons static rope shines as the obvious choice. The Glacier Black Cascade Trident or Newt are 8.5mm diameter ropes that set the standard for modern canyoning ropes. They are lightweight, durable, and float! 

Canyoneering Wetsuit

Wetsuits are the most important piece of safety equipment in Washington State canyons. Canyoneers use a special canyoneering wetsuit that is very durable with protected rub points. It is possible to use diving wetsuits, but they will be more restrictive as you move through the canyons. 

The gold standard in canyoneering wetsuits is the Spanish company SELAND. Their wetsuits are affordable and of premium quality. 

Canyoneering wetsuits are typically two pieces with a farmer john overall and then a jacket that buckles between your legs. 

Steamers are 1 piece wetsuits. They offer  less neoprene, but a better seal to keep your wetsuit  from flushing. 

Don’t make the mistake of going into a frigid PNW canyon with a lightweight wetsuit!

Canyoneering Backpack

In whitewater canyoneering your backpack becomes an extension of yourself. It securely holds your rope, all your safety equipment, your food and water, and your dry bucket. The backpack is a key tool that has many surprise uses. 

Any canyoneering backpack should be made out of heavy duty PVC. Look for a bag with lots of drainage. The canyon bag should quickly fill and drain of water so that you don’t have to carry around additional water weight. 

It is a fools errand to try to use a drybag as a canyoning bag. The canyon environment  is very abrasive and you will eventually wear a hole into the bag, once water gets in the drybag is now a water bag. 

The local PNW company NORHEX makes a canyoneering bag that has a very high build quality. 

Wild Sky uses bags made by RODCLE. Rodcle makes several high quality backpacks that are ergonomical, functional, and practical. 

Canyoneering Shoes

Canyoneers have several different types of specialized canyoneering shoes to choose from. Here are things you should look for when choosing a Canyoneering Shoe.

Washington State’s canyons are slippery and full of running water. You should wear canyoning shoes with sticky rubber soles to prevent slipping in on algae or moss covered rocks.

You should buy shoes a half size too large to accommodate neoprene socks. You should prioritize shoes with good insulation and drainage so that they don’t become waterlogged. Gore Tex shoes and large mountaineering boots are not recommended because they will become waterlogged and weigh you down.

You should buy shoes with a high ankle that will provide support and protect you from rolled ankles should your foot become entrapped in the river. The high ankle may very well save your ankles!

We recommend the Adidas Hydrolace because they are lightweight, have stealth rubber soles, high ankle support, insulation, and great drainage! They are automatically sized bigger because they have a neoprene sock, so you don’t need  to size up!


Canyoneers use a typical rock climbing helmet. Canyon environments are by definition unstable environments. One of the objective hazards is rockfall so canyoneers wear helmets.

Helmets aren’t just for protecting your brain. They can do double duty by securely holding your  headlamps and emergency whistle!

Pro-tip: A light blue helmet is the most photographic color in desert canyoneering. A red or yellow helmet takes the best pictures in whitewater canyons.


Coming to Washington State to go canyoneering is a great idea! However, canyoneering material can be difficult to get at short notice. Therefore it is important to plan ahead and prepare. This series seeks to help answer questions about what equipment you need to go canyoneering and what questions to about the equipment  before making any purchases. 

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