Hell Hike and Raft: Camp Life

Now that you’ve read about the hiking (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and rafting of the Hell Hike and Raft, I thought it would be fun to share what camp life was like. As much fun as the hiking and rafting were, camp life was equally entertaining and a big portion of what made this adventure so wonderful.

So here’s some insight into what it’s like to head into the backcountry with America’s Rafting Company.


Camp locations varied widely from cozy spots where our tents and sleeping bags were nestled closely together to wide open places where the crew spread out. From our first night next to Shelf Lake to the babbling creek at Hibbs Cow Camp to the beaches and cliffs along the Snake, all of our sites had us perched near the soothing sounds of water. In spite of that common thread, each night’s camp was vastly different, giving us a new taste of Idaho with each stop.

hell hike and raft - val in real life
Camp at Shelf Lake.

Our time in the Seven Devils was on the chilly side so I opted for tent camping those nights. That didn’t entirely keep this southern girl from freezing but it helped. The glorious Idaho weather did get the best of me, however, and made cowboy camping very appealing while at lower elevations along the river.

Unlike the deep south that I call home, there weren’t really any critters to contend with (aside from a close encounter with a skunk at dinner one evening that didn’t end well for Scout the River Dog…) so falling asleep under the stars was nothing short of magical. And with the aid of rafts, we had the 3-inch thick sleeping pads provided by ARC to rest our weary bodies on. That’s the backcountry version of a down-pillow mattress and they were glorious in comparison to my puny backpacking pad.

In terms of a guided trip, other than tending to our own sleeping arrangements, we didn’t have many other responsibilities. We did help help where we could, particularly with hauling gear on and off the rafts, but it felt odd, especially for the parents in the group, to be catered to instead of having to so the care-taking. By the end of the trip we’d gotten all to used to that treatment. I certainly didn’t want it to end.

Now you may be wondering about the bathroom situation. For the hiking portion, we employed standard backpacking procedures which means every man and woman for his or herself in digging cat-holes. But for the rafting part of the trip, having a gigantic boat to carry gear means we had a portable setup to use that was tucked on the outskirts of camp with a paddle as a bathroom door to let others know if it was in use or not. Let’s just say no matter where you are on the Snake, it’s the most scenic rest stop you’ll ever have.

hell hike and raft  - val in real life
My crewmates quickly figured out that coffee delivered to my “doorstep” prevented my morning grumpies. Well, mostly.
hell hike and raft - val in real life
A long-lost watch at camp met it’s demise for the unexpected interruption.
americas rafting company
The fetchinest dog ever and fun addition to camp… Tubbs.
hell hike and raft - val in real life
The most epic pit stop ever.
hell hike and raft - val in real life
The extra-thick sleeping pads were luxurious compared to our backpacking mats.


The Hell Hike and Raft crew came for the adventure of the expedition… the hiking, rafting, exploring the back-country of Idaho, and bonding with fellow outdoor-blogger-types. What we didn’t really count on was eating like royalty. America’s Rafting Company provided fabulous grub, so much so that we started to wonder what the next meal would be, even while still in the midst of one.

Even for the backpacking days, food brought in by horses meant not having to resort to less-than-gourmet backcountry staples. Fajitas, omelets, and Fishpeople Seafood were among the choice fare in the Seven Devils. For the rafting section, we even had tables, chairs, and beer to go with our mouth-watering appetizers and hearty ARC meals… all while dining on the banks of the Snake.

And being that cooking was the domain of our hosts, the fact that all of the fabulous food was served up without have to prepare it may have been one of the most epic aspects of this adventure for me. I wasn’t kidding when I called this a dirtbag cruise.

hell hike and raft - val in real life
Seriously… bacon, french toast, eggs, fresh fruit. While on a beach of the Snake River.
hell hike and raft - val in real life
Seriously y’all, the food…
hell hike and raft - val in real life
Five-star dining, America’s Rafting Company style.
hell hike and raft - fishpeople seafood
The crew enjoying their Fishpeople Seafood.
hell hike and raft - val in real life
Marshall and Rick prepping our first night’s dinner. We had no idea this was the tip of the food iceberg.
hell hike and raft - val in real life
The flagship beverage of the rafting portion of the trip.

It comes down to people…

The truth is that for all of the amazing experiences hiking, rafting, and let’s be honest… eating, having the opportunity to hang out with great people is really where the sweet spot lies.

hell hike and raft - val in real life
The heart and soul of America’s Rafting Company. I want Parker and Becky to adopt me. They’re awesome.

And throw a bunch of outdoors-people from different walks of life into the Idaho backcountry with ages spanning three decades and you’re bound to get the makings of a comedy. Indeed no one held back being their true selves. Our crew now has so many inside jokes, we’ll carry the bonds of this trip with us forever. Plus, after spending 6 days in the backcountry and having to deal with the realities of backcountry hygiene, we’re all just one big family now.

Aside from my wonderfully quirky, fabulous crew mates, we had the benefit of charismatic, energetic guides. We Hell Hike and Rafters are a colorful bunch but the America’s Rafting Company team gave us a run for our money. Full of energy and local knowledge, they kept us entertained and helped us understand their stomping ground. For the engaged travelers that we adventurer-types tend to be, that’s what connects us to the journey and place. Parker and Becky are nothing short of delightful and I’d join them for another adventure again in a heartbeat.

hell hike and raft - val in real life
Campfire bonding.
hell hike and raft - val in real life
Marshall regaling us with stories about the Seven Devils.
hell hike and raft - val in real life
In between laughter and crew antics, there was time to be amazed at the beauty of Hell’s Canyon.

Coming up…

That’s about it for the journey of the Hell Hike and Raft. More reviews of gear to come.

In the meantime, enjoy this little compilation slideshow of camp life and don’t forget you can find all of my Hell Hike and Raft images on Flickr.

And now for your moment of green…

hell hike and raft - val in real life
Water is life but it is also delight. The crystal clear, cold streams of Idaho were a constant companion on the Hell Hike and Raft.

Hell Hike and Raft


  1. Ah, the camp life is what it’s all about! looks like good times. Makes me want to go and camp in my backyard night now…

    1. Camp life is so much of the adventure!

      There are still some spots available for this year’s trip… Just sayin’, Dave. 😉

Comments are closed.