The right boat for the job
Kayaks and canoes are fantastic tools for paddling adventures, whether along rivers, across lakes or at sea. But what they’re not good for is packing away and carrying once the water runs out – or even for the journey to the water in the first place. Yes, there are inflatable canoes and kayaks but even the best of these will leave you little room or weight capacity on your back for any clothes or camping kit. Which is where the packraft comes in…
What is it?
At first glance, a pack raft is not dissimilar to those rubber dingies you messed about in at the beach as a kid. The difference is that modern packrafts are light and compact enough to roll up and carry in your back pack or strap to your mountain bike. Built with one or two air chambers protected by polyurethane-coated nylon that’s tough enough to deter rocks, and branches, they are also strong and stable enough to carry you and your back pack – and even bike – on water.
The sacrifice for such a lightweight and compact size when packed up – some packrafts weigh in at little over 2 kg and roll down to the size of a 2 litre water bottle – is paddling efficiency – which is something that a long, narrow canoe or kayak will always do better. One advantage the one-man pack raft does have is stability, as sitting on the bottom of the boat, your weight is as low down as possible.
With a very shallow draft, packrafts can navigate shallow rivers and streams, and are blissfully at home on lakes. What’s more, with their upturned bows and spray decks, packrafts can also handle white water, and in the hands of an expert paddler they can even take on big, powerful rapids up to Class IV.
A collapsible twin-bladed paddle that can break down into several pieces. An inflation bag that you roll up to ‘squeeze’ air into your raft can also double as a dry bag. Quick-drying, light waterproofs – face it, you’re going to get wet! A spray deck to cover the front of the raft in rough water or rain. Rubber booties for paddling, and a dry bag for your kit. A handful of karabiners will prove invaluable for clipping bits to the boat, and a foam buoyancy aid is a must.
For more information on packrafting see packrafting.org