Increasingly popular, packrafting allows easy access to the water due to the portability of the dinghy and the fact that it can be folded to fit in a backpack. Julia Jones takes a look at this beginner’s guide
Packrafting: a beginner’s guide
Human ingenuity seems to know no bounds when it comes to finding ways without swimming.
So many people have gotten into the water in so many different ways over the past two years.
It doesn’t seem long ago that a stand up paddleboard was a rarity; now they are ubiquitous, as are the accompanying guidebooks.
Many cruise sailors take a smaller ship with them in addition to their dinghy.
Perhaps for simple fun playing around the yacht at anchor, perhaps because so many family-sized inflatable boats are designed for use with outboards and are therefore not environmentally sensitive or easy to row.
Paddleboards or inflatable kayaks offer the opportunity for quiet, individual adventures without worrying about water depth or disturbing wildlife.
A packraft might have a similar appeal, although its premium quality, light weight and portability may be less important for anything beyond a sail trailer.
Pack rafts look like the smallest inflatable boat, although they are designed for paddling, not rowing.
Chris Scott clearly distinguishes them from pool toys, or what he calls “slackrafts”.
He describes optimal materials – mainly TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), which is significantly lighter than PVC and far more durable than vinyl – and key design features such as one-way valves and inexpensive, lightweight pumps.
Since packrafts were specially developed for backpackers, the weight is almost always the decisive criterion. The other is the ergonomics.
Scott is very aware of the importance of good posture, which may require an inflatable seat cushion but definitely makes the right length of paddle important.
With multi-day trips in mind, a lot of ingenuity has gone into storage solutions.
Tents, sleeping bags, a change of clothes and provisions must be carried on the raft and the rucksack strapped on when walking.
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Packrafts don’t slide like a kayak, so aren’t fast, but are inherently more stable.
Contributor Rob Estivill describes techniques for transporting a bike on board. Just like the solitary marshland expeditions I envisioned, they can be used for whitewater excitement and access to shallow rivers, canals and lochs.
Here the author reminds us that unlike Scotland and most other countries, there is minimal public right of access to English and Welsh non-tidal waterways.
A British Canoeing Waterways license helps, but access remains a contentious issue.
I found this beginner’s guide interesting and informative.
Yes the packraft is a 21stSt Century version of a Bronze Age coracle, but they have proven to be durable.
Chris Scott’s very thorough descriptions and explanations of the equipment convinced me that this system would work if one wanted to roam the moorland as well as explore freshwater lakes and rivers.
Whether it would replace an inflatable kayak, SUP or collapsing dinghy to upgrade a summer cruise I’m not sure.
One more for the wilderness explorer than the cruiser.
Buy Packrafting: A Beginner’s Guide at Amazon (UK)
Buy Packrafting: A Beginner’s Guide at Amazon (US)
Buy Packrafting: A Beginner’s Guide at Waterstones (UK)
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