Do I Really Need A Camera?

When you’re going on a “once in a lifetime” trip, it makes sense that you want to take pictures to commemorate the event! But what type of camera should you bring?! There are several options with pros and cons to each choice. Here are some general things to keep in mind.

Water, fine sand and sun are everywhere and whatever camera you bring, you’ll need to actively protect it from these damaging elements. If you drop it into the river, there’s no retrieving it so consider insuring it. Many travel insurance policies include personal gear in their package. Always listen to your guide! Many rapids can pack a punch and when the guide tells you to hang on with two hands, they mean hang onto the raft and not your camera! On motorized rafting trips, you can charge your battery. Pack your charger (USB and standard 110V wall plugs work) and your guides will be able to charge your battery at least once during the trip. Spare batteries are still recommended when possible. Save battery life by waiting to review your pictures and videos until you’re back home.

Before we begin, it is important to note that drones are prohibited in all national parks including Grand Canyon National Park. Please do not bring them, even if you’re a licensed drone pilot.

looking at cell phone over Colorado River

Cell Phones


  • Small and accessible
  • Waterproof cases are readily available
  •  You probably already own one!


  • Don’t forget to backup all your contacts, photos, etc. Your phone is much more than a camera
  • Limited ability to zoom in if you see bighorn sheep on a far away slope, for example
  •  Some types are more prone to shatter and the heat can be hard on your device.

How to Protect: Options are numerous. Waterproof pouches with lanyards are nice so you can keep your phone readily available and attached to your person. Recent guests have recommended MPOW waterproof phone pouches. Be sure to put your phone in airplane mode and turn of wifi. There is no service in the canyon and your battery will drain rapidly if it’s searching.

Point and Shoot Cameras


  • Small and accessible
  • Waterproof cases are readily available or you can simply buy a waterproof camera.
  • Typically more settings than cell phones (better zoom, panorama, etc.)


  • You might not own one already or the one you have isn’t waterproof. Consider that it might be time for an upgrade. You’ll use your camera for other vacations too.
  • Lower resolution than some other options.

How to Protect: Soft-sided and hard-sided cases are available. I prefer a hard-sided case (like Pelican) because I trust the protection more. Others prefer a soft-sided case with a window to take photos through. Regardless of which case you choose, I like to use a carabiner and clip it to the raft instead of putting it in my dry bag. This simple solution keeps your camera nearby.




  • Great for recording the action through the rapids. Be sure to get a strap for your camera so you can hang on to the raft and still get great whitewater footage.
  • Waterproof cases often come with the camera package. They’re pretty much made for this kind of activity.
  • Typically high resolution


  • No “viewfinder”. Hard to know what you are filming.
  • It’s tempting to film every rapid and every hike, but battery life can be an issue. Try to be selective and do short, frequent shots.

How to Protect: You’ll want a waterproof case and a strap for sure!




  • High resolution
  • Ability to take some specialty shots if you’re used to using your camera all the time


  • These cameras tend to be even more sensitive to water and sand. Protecting your camera will be a full time job in the canyon.
  • When protected well, they can be bulky to deal with and, therefore, less accessible.

How to Protect: Again, I prefer hard-sided cases, but you’ll be adding considerable bulk with this size of camera. You’ll need to bring a strap and some extra carabiners to secure it to the raft. People are often crawling around the raft during the day, so a soft-sided case won’t protect your camera from getting smashed, but it does keep it more accessible. 

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when deciding how to document your epic adventure. At the end of the day, it’s your decision to make because your gear is your responsibility. Our best advice – don’t leave home without a camera! Even a single-use, waterproof camera is better than nothing. As always, if you have additional questions, feel free to contact our office. We’re here to help!