Choosing The Best Packraft
What about combining your two favorite outdoor activities—backpacking and kayaking—if that's something you like doing? In this piece, Mark Waring walks you through all that you require in terms of knowledge and gear to get started packrafting.
The lifting of the government shutdown has increased the number of people searching for novel approaches to enjoying the great outdoors. The activity of packrafting captures both the imagination and the eye. Although packrafting may seem ludicrous at first glance, the dangers of using these brightly colored inflatable boats are pretty accurate. The image of a fully grown human sitting in one of these gadgets, which resemble a souped-up inflatable pool, is ludicrous. Nevertheless, the places they can take you and the things you can force them to perform are astonishing. Paddling has become lightweight and quick, opening up a world of unexplored seas inaccessible to canoes and kayaks. People are now running Class V rivers in them, which means they are experiencing substantial white water. Additionally, people are pioneering first descents and gaining access to new wild river systems that were previously landlocked.
Although the idea of lightweight water travel has been around for a long, packrafting is a sport very new in a concise amount of time. In the 1950s, Dick Griffith utilized a tiny inflatable ship to travel across the untamed waterways of Colorado, which led to the idea's conception. Known as the creator of the concept, he is credited with inventing it. The sport was birthed in the Alaskan wilderness by hardened individuals over several decades. It was influenced by the adventures of the explorer Roman Dial and fostered by the inventiveness of the Tingey family. After that, Tingey's established Alpacka, the company that is now the industry standard and the first commercial packraft. These days, a vast number of firms manufacture packrafts, each offering their own unique models at a range of pricing. Different types of rafts are built for specific types of water, such as whitewater or flatwater, while some are meant to be extremely lightweight and used only seldom. Boats usually can carry one individual in addition to a filled knapsack while at the same time being able to fold down into a small bundle that can be taken when hiking or bicycling.
It's a tonne of fun to do as a sport, and it can completely transform how you access and move around in natural areas. You now have access to a whole new playing field because water is no longer a constraint but an opportunity for you. Packrafting can also be a hazardous activity; a significant amount of training is involved to ensure that it is both entertaining and risk-free.
Picking Out Your Packraft
Beginning packrafting is a simple process. It's much simpler than it seems. The boats have an impressive level of stability, making them easy to paddle and fun to play with on calm water. This is where the danger resides; keeping an eye on your safety is of the utmost importance, particularly when contemplating going out onto rivers. More equipment is needed than just a boat and a paddle; you must know how this gear works together to keep you safe. Learning how to operate a packraft securely is just as crucial as purchasing the boat. Everything's possible to do in a lifetime, but you must remain modest while doing it on flowing water.
The packraft is the essential piece of gear that you will need. The price for a respectable one will run from quite costly to highly pricey. However, there are more options available in the UK. You will want to keep an eye out for some essential characteristics that unlock the full potential of these boats. In the end, paddling through them should be an enjoyable and risk-free experience for you and your backpacking gear. In addition, they need to be easily packable and portable without requiring excessive effort, which will allow you to trek to remote water sources and plan adventures that will uncover wild areas and beyond. Moreover, they must be durable since they will be scraped and scratched constantly; the last thing anyone wants is a raft that suddenly stops working in the middle of a trip.
A packraft must be straightforward to construct and speedy to disassemble and stow away. It's an introductory statement, but in my experience, it's one of the most critical factors in ensuring that traveling in the environment goes smoothly. There are usually sections of a river unsuitable for paddling, and getting past the obstruction requires a "portage" or a "carry." This might include lifting or deflating the boat so that you can carry it. It might be more challenging to assemble the ship if you decide to get off the water and pack it. The repercussion of this might be shooting rapids that are beyond your control.
When utilizing the equipment that comes with the packraft, it should not take long to inflate a packraft. In most cases, this consists of little more than an inflated bag that screws into the valve. After that, you take in air and force it into the hull using pressure. It shouldn't take more than three minutes to blow up a boat; there's a bit of a learning curve involved in filling and sealing the inflation bag, but once you do it a few times, you'll get the hang of it. In the same vein, you will want it to be easy to pack away and stow in your pack while also taking up as little space as possible.
Consideration should also be given to the means of storage available aboard a packraft. The main point of the activity is to switch from one means of transportation to another (whether backpacking or hiking) and load up your raft with any gear you won't need while you're on the water (be it a rucksack or a bike). Storage won't be much of an issue if your paddling will be limited to the surrounding alpine lakes. Most raft designs have attachments and "D-rings" that enable you to lash your belongings "on deck" either in front of or behind you. If you don't need to read the water rapidly, carrying a backpack won't be an issue; nevertheless, if you're paddling through rapids, you'll have trouble if your eyesight is obstructed. Two of the models presented here are of the sort of raft with a watertight and airtight zipper that allows you to store items within the actual boat itself. This way, the raft can be utilized to its full potential (often referred to as TiZIP). As long as your stuff is contained inside the inner tubes, it will remain dry on the inside. It is a significant advantage to carry a lot of hiking stuff while still seeing what's coming up on the river.
Thigh straps are an additional desirable feature. In many cases, thigh straps consist of webbing bands with openings big enough for your knees in the middle. This allows you to enhance your control and roll your boat (if done skilfully). Seats are a standard amenity on ships. However, the quality of specific seats is far higher than that of others. Splash decks are another option since they offer protection from the waves and prevent the boat from becoming submerged in water when used with a spray skirt.
However, choosing a packraft that is the appropriate size for you is of the utmost importance. Consider packrafts the same way you would a pair of shoes; if they don't fit properly, it doesn't matter how much money you spend on them. Both the body of water you intend to sail on and the amount of additional weight you are prepared to carry in your pack will play a role in determining the type of raft that will work best for you.
Packraft To Use
Even though a wide variety of options are available, purchasing a quality packraft will still need a substantial financial commitment. Here is a look at three different rafts sold in the UK with inexperienced paddlers.
The German company Out-Trade GmbH owns the Nortik label, although Russia's Triton is responsible for its construction. A seat, repair kit, inflated bag, and deck are all included with the purchase of a Trekraft for the comparatively affordable sum of £700. I've been using this boat for the past three years, and it's performed admirably in various environments that range from mild to severe. It is sturdy and reliable in its performance without being overly showy, and it can easily navigate rough rivers even when loaded with a lot of cargo. Negative aspects do exist, however. The Trekraft only comes in one size so tiny rafters could get lost, but it works fine for my purposes. Trekraft is an excellent option for the price, despite some of the features, such as the valves and inflating bag, feeling rudimentary. The boat travels effortlessly through the water, and due to its relatively small size, it is both sturdy and straightforward to operate. It is a sturdy and high-quality construction. There are thigh straps, a large storage room on the bow, and a spray deck that prevents water from entering the cockpit (with a "spray skirt" that is optional for use in white water). In addition, there is a prominent place on the bow to store your equipment.
This boat is a bit of a workhorse, but it has served me well on several significant journeys around Scandinavia. It is robust and trustworthy. Although it may not have all the high-end features that other rafts do, it is still a fantastic option for beginners.
Adélie is a newly established packrafting company with headquarters in the Highlands of Scotland. They have several different raft configurations available, all of which are based on their Voyager design. The website gives you a wide variety of alternatives, with pricing beginning at $390 so that you may customize the raft exactly how you want it. You can also add on personalized upgrades, which will offer you a completely "specced" raft that you can use to explore the great outdoors. In addition, you should install a full spraydeck (which protects both you and the cockpit from water intrusion) and select the appropriate weight for your textiles. There are currently no choices for TiZIP storage or thigh straps. However, it is anticipated that these will be available shortly.
I was impressed with the boat's weight and overall construction during the testing. The Voyager provides its users with a wide variety of high-quality options. The entry-level configuration features an open cockpit, but it nevertheless comes with a high-quality seat and backrest that are on par with those of more costly manufacturers. In addition, the inflated bag and valve mechanism are remarkable, and it is a step up from what you get with the Nortik Trekraft. The boat comes with a skeg or a fin, a valuable accessory that helps the ship "track" or navigates effectively on flat water.
There is a method to the Voyager range's extremely competitive pricing. The team at Adélie was motivated to provide dependable gear at reasonable rates after being impressed by the commercial philosophy of the well-known outdoor company Alpkit. Alpkit is recognized for producing high-quality equipment at affordable pricing. It's safe to say that the boats' designs aren't exactly ground-breaking. Still, the construction is tried and true, so most paddlers should have no problem using them in various water conditions, including some whitewater.
In general, the Adélie line offers a fantastic selection at a reasonable price, and the introduction of these products to the market in the UK is eagerly anticipated.
The pricing of the Kokopelli packraft reflects that it belongs in the top category of available packrafts. The Rogue is a very light and responsive craft packed with cutting-edge technologies.
The raft is more compact, making it ideal for smaller rafters looking for a decent ride on the rapids. The Rogue performs exceptionally well in rough seas when tested on the water. The boat is made more comfortable by having a seat that is both decent and adjustable, and its handling belies its price. The assembling and inflation of this product both take a considerable amount of time and need some degree of skill. Inflate the boat with the help of a significant amount of air from the little inflation bag. Adding the top to the boat requires a separate inflatable tube, which is easy to lose.
When considering the high cost of the yacht, there are a few additional nitpicky aspects to consider. However, you will receive an item capable of dealing quite effectively with technical water. This boat is full of features representing the absolute top of packrafting design.
Where To Go Packrafting
It may be best to start small and expand from there, keeping this adaptability in mind. Exploring websites devoted to canoeing, kayaking, and packrafting is an excellent method to jumpstart your creative process. However, Scotland is a popular destination for packrafters who are serious about their sport. Websites devoted to kayaking make available many fascinating itineraries that combine the lochs, coasts, and major rivers of the Highlands. Assynt is particularly stunning and home to some of the most authentic packrafting opportunities in the United Kingdom. The combination of the large lochs and the undulating hills, with Suilven as the pivot point, will give you a genuine feeling of the possibilities.
The Closing Statement
Keeping everyone safe is the ultimate goal while ensuring everyone has a good time. You need to have a solid understanding of yourself and the boat; what are the boundaries of your capabilities and the constraints imposed by your gear? There is no alternative to education provided by a qualified instructor. In the United Kingdom, packraft instruction is only offered by a select few service providers due to the high demand for the activity. Canoeing and kayaking teach skills that apply to other situations and will undoubtedly come in handy for your adventure.