Have you ever hiked out to a lake or river and wished you had a way to get on the water? Do you want to get on water that is inaccessible to most? Enjoy the privacy of a pristine isolated stretch. Then the idea of packrafting is for you. With Packrafting all of the blue on your hiking map is turned into possibility of adventure, exploration, and good times.
So What is Packrafting?
Basically, as the name implies, packrafting is a combination of backpacking and rafting, whether walking or using a mountain bike. This is a sport that uses small, individual-sized inflatable boats (a packraft) that are tough, light, and compact. Designed to fit in your backpack so they can be carried where ever needed to reach rivers and lakes. You can go almost anywhere with a packraft. Packrafting is a great way to connect to different trails and rivers or even enjoy an isolated spot on the water that is inaccessible to everyone else.
What type of Gear would you need
A raft, pump, paddle and PFD-personal flotation device- are the basics. Really the amount of gear and clothing you need or want for a packrafting trip depends on the length of your trip. Obviously your gear is also based on how much you can or want to carry. If you’re doing a multi-day trip that requires much more gear than an afternoon of hiking and floating.
Packraft: Packrafts are lightweight, tough, durable and easy to inflate. Most rafts are tough enough to handle everything from a lake to whitewater, class 3 rapids.
Dry Bags: Make sure you have plenty waterproof dry bags for your gear. Most packrafts will have storage and or lash down points to stow your stuff. So some straps, rope, or bungees are also a good idea.
Pump: Packrafts come with a lightweight inflation bag that you use to inflate the raft. You attach the bag to a valve on the raft and then scoop air with the bag and squeeze the air into the raft. Or you can by a small, lightwieght, rechargeable pump.Repair kit: Most packrafts come with a repair kit so you can patch a hole if one develops.
Paddle: A lightweight kayak paddle, made from fiberglass and/or carbon will be your lightest option. One that breaks down into four pieces is best. Make sure your paddle is suitable for your river choice.
PFD (Personal Flotation Device): One of your most essential pieces. Safety gear needs to be worn any time you’re on the water, one that fits snug, comfortably, doesn’t interfere with paddling.
Clothing: Dress and pack appropriately for your trip. Hiking and boating clothes, find something possible suitable for both to reduce pack weight. Sun protection is always a good idea and make sure to check the weather before heading out.
A Bit of Packrafting advice
Use the buddy system: On the water, for safety, it’s always a good idea to go in pairs.
Start easy: For your first time out, head to a local pond or lake so you can get used to paddling a packraft without the added challenge of a current. Practice launching and landing your boat and get a feel for maneuvering it. You can even intentionally fall out (make sure you won’t hit anything) and practice getting back into the boat.
Choose the right water: Be careful, don’t jump on a river you’re not ready for. Never done whitewater, don’t go alone and don’t hit class 3-4 rapids your first day out. Like any other sport, build your skills.