Packraft: the beginner’s guide
Human ingenuity seems to know no bounds when it comes to devising ways to float without swimming.
Over the past two years, so many people have gotten into the water in different ways.
It wasn’t long ago that a stand-up paddle board was a rarity; now they are ubiquitous, as are the guides that accompany them.
Many cruising sailors choose to take a smaller vessel with them in addition to their dinghy.
Perhaps for the sheer pleasure of playing around the yacht at anchor, perhaps because many family-sized inflatables are designed for use with speedboats and therefore are not environmentally friendly or easy to row .
Stand-up paddleboards or inflatable kayaks provide the opportunity for leisurely, individual adventures without worrying about water depth or disturbing wildlife.
A packraft might have similar appeal, although its premium quality, light weight, and portability might be less essential for anything above a sailboat trailer.
Backpack rafts resemble the smallest rubber dinghy, although they are designed to be paddled, not rowed.
Chris Scott clearly differentiates them from pool toys or what he calls “slackrafts”.
It outlines the optimal materials – primarily TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) which is significantly lighter than PVC and much more durable than vinyl – and essential design features such as one-way valves and lightweight, inexpensive pumps.
Because packrafts were developed with backpackers in mind in particular, weight is almost always the key criterion. The other is ergonomics.
Scott is very clear about the importance of good posture, perhaps requiring an inflatable seat cushion, but having the right paddle length is definitely important.
With a view to multi-day trips, a lot of ingenuity has gone into the storage solutions.
The tent, sleeping bag, change of clothes, food must be carried on the raft as well as the bag attached when walking.
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Packrafts do not glide like a kayak, so they are not fast but are inherently more stable.
Contributor Rob Estivill describes techniques for carrying a bike on board. As well as the solitary swamp expeditions I had begun to imagine, they can be used for whitewater excitement and access to shallow rivers, canals and lochs.
Here the author reminds us that there is a minimal public right of access to English and Welsh non-tidal waterways, unlike Scotland and most other countries.
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 21st century-old version of a Bronze Age coracle, but they proved to be durable.
Chris Scott’s very thorough descriptions and explanations of the gadgets convinced me that this system would work if one wanted to roam the moor and explore freshwater lakes and rivers.
Whether it replaces an inflatable kayak, a SUP or a foldable dinghy to enhance a summer cruise, I’m not so sure.
One for the nature explorer rather than the cruising sailor.
Buy Packraft: A Beginner’s Guide on Amazon (UK)
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