An Ultralighter Paddles on the Dark Side: Packrafting a Remote Canyon "Heavy" Style
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Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Locale: www.jolly-green-giant.blogspot.com
Packrafting vs. Biking on 06/26/2008 07:44:58 MDT Print View

To fan the flames only because I like the entertainment factor of the debates on this website, are "bikes" also considered a piece of backpacking equipment? I'm not a packrafter or a biker, but I can definitely make the mental leap to see how packrafting can be part of the backpacking culture and personally I'd like to give it a shot one day as it just another way to explore the wild in a non-impact style. I cannot, however, support the cause of bikes in the wilderness which tear-up the ground, cause noise and disturb wildlife, and genuinely threaten the safety of hikers who are passed at some pretty dangerous speeds. I guess my assessment as to whether something should be in backpacking circles is in regards to the impact it has on everything else.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Bikes on 06/26/2008 08:20:38 MDT Print View

I'm both a mountain biker and backpacker and I disagree somewhat. Responsible bikers don't tear up trails because we don't ride on wet ground or skid out in turns. Horses have far more impact even on dry ground. I also slow down when approaching those on foot even though most of the trails I ride are designed for bikes.

Derek Goffin
(Derekoak)

Locale: North of England
packrafting and bikes on 06/26/2008 11:10:54 MDT Print View

Packrafting needs back packing because packrafts dont go uphill. As a touring cyclist as well as backpacker I cant see the point of carrying the weight of a bike in a backpack, If you have it why not ride it? (I suppose I would make an exception if I wanted to cycle up a climbers mountain so I could say I had rode around at the top)
Packrafting and cycling would go together well if the bike would fit in the packraft.

Brett Tucker
(blister-free) - F

Locale: Puertecito ruins
Re: Packrafting vs. Biking on 06/26/2008 12:19:49 MDT Print View

The issue of what qualifies as backpacking equipment is somewhat nebulous, I'll concede. Bikes would be a hard sell, snowshoes less so than skis. But I think this sort of debate also misses the point, which is that packrafting represents a new dimension to the wilderness experience that is easily embraced by backpackers, and is easily - indeed, is designed to be - incorporated into backpacking trips. Most packrafters seems to be the proverbial backpackers in a boat, having gravitated to packrafting out of a love of wilderness exploration and a desire to experience more of wilderness than perhaps can be accomplished solely on foot. Packrafting is uniquely beckoning to backpackers, and is I would venture to say a generally well received topic of discussion around the evening campfire.

Chris Wood
(crwood)

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Insight on Packrafting as it pertains to Lightweight Backpacking on 06/26/2008 13:06:31 MDT Print View

I posted this a few minutes ago under "members only" but pasted it here as well.

I would like to add my opinion on packrafting content to this website which may or may not answer a few questions regarding why it is included and seems to be increasing it's presence on this website.

Packrafts in some shape or form have been an integral part of remote expeditions in Alaska for over two decades. They have been an integral part of fast, lightweight adventurers' kits for means of crossing major rivers, and to access country that is for the most part pristine and untouched by those not equipped to cross such major rivers. This has evolved into fast/lightweight combination backpacking/packrafting adventures that open up a large part of our state to those with a wandering and adventurous spirit. In the last decade, this style of lightweight adventuring seems to be catching on to a much larger audience and also down there in the lower 48 states.

In summary, the packraft and packrafting can and is a critical component in lightweight remote expedition backpacking up here in Alaska and seems to be on the rise in popularity up here and down there as well.

I say, bring it ON! Kind of like hammocks. Not for everyone either, I suppose.

Perhaps Roman can weigh in on this as well.

Just my own .02 opinion. But I have lived a very sheltered life up here in Alaska.

Cheers

René Enguehard
(ahugenerd) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland
A couple things on 06/26/2008 19:21:21 MDT Print View

This is in response to a couple of points that have been made.

Firstly, dropping 1500$ to get into packrafting is not that much more than some people spend on good backpacking equipment. A nice sleeping back will cost you a couple hundred or more, so will a tent, so will your 'technical' ultralight clothing, so will your cooking set, etc... It's really a matter of perspective. I really don't think packrafting is that different from backpacking in that respect.

Secondly, bikes are a very different issue. You can't (realistically) carry a bike in or on your pack. Nor would you want to actually. While a packraft provides an mode of locomotion on an alternate type of terrain, a bike provides an alternate means of locomotion on the same terrain. Two different issues. Moreover, I don't know of anyone that would do a 1+ week expedition in the wilderness with his bike.

Also of note is the idea that 'bikers tear up the trail'. I've done a lot of biking and hiking in my day and I can attest to the fact that two walking poles and a set of deep lugged vibram soles will do as much or more damage than a carefully used bike.

The point made by Chris is also very valid. Rafts, in their various forms, have always been an integral part of the backpacking experience. Hell, Canada was basically made by rafting and hiking (fur trade, etc...). There are even people that the canoe should replace the maple leaf as the national emblem. So yes, my point of view is that packrafting does have a place in a backpacking magazine. A lesser place than 'pure' backpacking, but still an important one.

Steve O
(HechoEnDetroit) - F

Locale: South Kak
Re: a couple of things (packrafting content) on 06/26/2008 20:53:17 MDT Print View

"Firstly, dropping 1500$ to get into packrafting is not that much more than some people spend on good backpacking equipment."
---I see what you are saying but you don't have to spend that much on backpacking, but you do have to for packrafting. People have backpacked all over the world with minimal investment.

I am interested in the articles, as I have been paddling for a few years now but, IMO, others feel it is a bit of a stretch, and rightly so. There have been 4 "members only" packrafting articles this year, and the BPL crew puts out 4-6 of those every month. So up to a month of "members only" content has been devoted to packrafting, depending on how you look at it.

Edited by HechoEnDetroit on 06/26/2008 22:57:33 MDT.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Packrafting, biking, etc. on 06/27/2008 08:56:53 MDT Print View

I have really appreciated the articles on packrafting and Doug's article on mountain biking was awesome. I'm now considering mountain biking a variation on the Colorado Trail. I now look at the local water ways in a new light. Keep the alternative articles coming! On balance there should be more straight up backpacking content and you know what, there is. You can't please everyone all the time and that's okay. When the product is ideas and opinion you can't buy 100% satisfaction. The membership fee is only $25 per year. And why does every thing need to be spelled out like a contract. What's wrong with a good surprise every once in a while. Ultralight concepts have spread into the rest of my life. My last business trip was an ultralight tour de force :). Articles on packrafting and biking and even general travel seem appropriate to me in measured doses and I'm nowhere near overdosing.

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: Packrafting & BPL on 06/29/2008 11:04:10 MDT Print View

Tad-

the gold standard for packrafts is Alpacka (alpackaraft.com)
they may not be cheap but perform extremely well. packrafts by this company have been featured in all of BPL's packrafting articles.

Stephen Morse
(scmorse1) - MLife

Locale: Bay area
Re: Packrafting & BPL on 06/29/2008 22:24:19 MDT Print View

"I will concede that Carol's article didn't hit our mission squarely on, but that had nothing to do with her being in a packraft, it had to do with the wine, the easy chairs, and the support ;)"

That's my issue with the article. What's the point of paddling a packraft if you need a barge to haul your gear?

BTW, my wife & I did a canoe trip down the Green River from Mineral Bottom to Spanish Bottom from 5/11/08 - 05/18/08. It was a great trip. We probably had 250lbs of water + chairs + table + outfitter tarp + tent + who knows what. Would have really needed to lighten up to do it in packrafts ;-)

Brett Tucker
(blister-free) - F

Locale: Puertecito ruins
Re: Packrafting & BPL on 06/29/2008 22:48:08 MDT Print View

I reckon the "barge support" may have had more to do with finding willing, able partners for such a trip given a river running community with lots of barges and relatively few packrafts.

Perhaps it's sort of like the early days of ultralight backpacking, when we were the few odd ducks to our friends the geese. Pardon the mixed metaphor.

George Ruth
(gbruth) - F
Re: Re: Packrafting & BPL on 07/01/2008 13:53:14 MDT Print View

I also agree with Christo. This is a slippery slope that Backpackinglight is going down, and we all know what happens when a company loses its focus and tries to be all things to all people. I like to hunt and there are lightweight guns out there but I do not expect to see a review on them here. A photographer could carry their gear also in a backpack but I do not want to read about photography here either. My main issue is this: when you go to the homepage the main pictures and prime website real estate focuses on packrafting not backpacking. I pay for a backpackinglight membership and I am happy with what I get in return but I would prefer less emphasis on packrafting. Could there just be a link somewhere at the top of the page for packrafters so it is not the main focus of the website? I am not against packrafting and I do not believe that there is a conspiracy to turn us all into packrafters but lets keep the focus and the homepage devoted to Backpackinglight.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
packraftinglight.com on 07/01/2008 17:36:58 MDT Print View

i think i agree that packrafting is taking on a pretty big role in the last couple months. not that there are too many packrafting articles, but that there are seemingly precious few NON-packrafting articles. it's gotten so slow on the BPL content side that i almost never pay attention to it any more, other than the odd review of gear a coupla times a month. i like a packrafting article or a ul bike-packing article as a change, but it seems like there just isn't much backpacking content coming out of BPL and the rest of the content is focused on what people at BPL are into these days: packrafting. but since there is a dirth of member content and the forum's are the 98% of the content and info transfer, i will definitely let my membership lapse and just use the forums, unless things change alot to the contrary. i don't think that'll happen, and that's fine - it's just a decision that BPL is going with.

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: packraftinglight.com on 07/01/2008 17:46:46 MDT Print View

Dave:

I completely agree. Its not that the number of packrafting articles are overwhelming or that I hate packrafting, but the overall member content just seems to be extremely low lately. I really miss those old BPL gear comparision articles where they reviewed a whole genre of equipment. Those broad-scale articles are so much more helpful and apply to more people than individual gear reviews.

Douglas Johnson
(Sponge) - M

Locale: PNW
Packraftinglight.com on 07/01/2008 21:15:31 MDT Print View

It seems to me that the core individuals associated with the site have taken a strong liking to Packrafting, and in turn have started churning out articles related to the craft. I don't mind either, but I have to be honest here...when I visit the homepage and see ANOTHER article devoted to Packrafting, I roll my eyes and let out a big sigh.

I hop around from hobby to hobby as much as anyone. My interest to UL backpacking sways from fanatic to non-existent over the course of a year. I jump around to climbing, cycling, modifying my Honda Ruckus scooter, etc...

The point is, I don't run a site dedicated to BACKPACKING LIGHT. There have been a lot of promises made by the staff that in '08 the content would pick up. I just never thought it would be content that I see as fringe material for the core audience of this site. There are new products released almost DAILY, new trips to plan, new ideas to bring to fruition. I believe that if the site were re-focused on BACKPACKING, people would get excited again, the forums would pick up, and it would be a much more interesting and satisfying user experience.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Packrafting on 07/01/2008 22:03:17 MDT Print View

Another vote for staying true to the original ideal.

That said, reality demands that we all need to recognize that BPL is now no longer purely a Ryan Jordan operation; significant outside investors have been added. Those investors/partial owners have a right to make directional changes (at their own peril) in accordance with their own interests since it's now their companty. Witness the massive expansion of the items now offered for purchase in the SHOP. Obviously, the goal is to make BPL a money-making business, one way or another.

Regretably, those of us who don't care for the new direction have choices to make regarding renewing our memberships, being content merely with Forums, or even continuing to visit the site altogether.

Life is not fair, and smart businesspeople recognize this and plan accordingly to maximize their advantages.


Wandering Bob

John Smith
(jcar3305) - F

Locale: East of Cascades
Packrafting on 07/02/2008 07:43:03 MDT Print View

Folks,

There have been many times that I have hiked in the backcountry boondogging it the whole way only to end up having to turn around because the river ford spot was too heavy to cross. I have at times used an inflatable pad to try and safely cross rivers only to have to turn back and end a planned through hike. I would have given my eye-teeth for a pack raft on those HIKING trips. I remember one occasion where my shoe got wedged into some rocks with water at close to chest level and I had to pull my foot free and the shoe stayed where it was. I never recovered the shoe and had to hike almost 16 miles with no shoe on one foot and almost all of that through alders and thick brush. I wrapped my foot in two pairs of socks but it was still a bloody mess by the time I got done. A packraft would have saved my trip, my foot and my attitude that day.

So I consider packrafts at times a critical piece of equipment that allow me to hike into areas I want to go more safely than would otherwise be possible. To me they are more essential than a stove is or a tent.

I consider this article and others on packrafting to be well worth the content price associated with it.

Thank you BPL staff,

john the xcar

John Smith
(jcar3305) - F

Locale: East of Cascades
Packrafting article for pay!!!! Great Work BPL on 07/02/2008 07:43:51 MDT Print View

Folks,

There have been many times that I have hiked in the backcountry boondogging it the whole way only to end up having to turn around because the river ford spot was too heavy to cross. I have at times used an inflatable pad to try and safely cross rivers only to have to turn back and end a planned through hike. I would have given my eye-teeth for a pack raft on those HIKING trips. I remember one occasion where my shoe got wedged into some rocks with water at close to chest level and I had to pull my foot free and the shoe stayed where it was. I never recovered the shoe and had to hike almost 16 miles with no shoe on one foot and almost all of that through alders and thick brush. I wrapped my foot in two pairs of socks but it was still a bloody mess by the time I got done. A packraft would have saved my trip, my foot and my attitude that day.

So I consider packrafts at times a critical piece of equipment that allow me to hike into areas I want to go more safely than would otherwise be possible. To me they are more essential than a stove is or a tent.

I consider this article and others on packrafting to be well worth the content price associated with it.

Thank you BPL staff,

john the xcar

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Packrafting is getting old on 07/02/2008 08:46:10 MDT Print View

Perhaps I'm handicapped in that I've done as much backcountry travel by canoe as by foot but when my eyes see "Backpacking Light" my brain sees "Backcountry Light".

I have no beef with the rafting articles, nor with "trail running light" articles, nor "JMT supported/unsupported speed record light" articles nor "buying gear light" articles, few of which pique my interest and to different degrees are "noise" rather than "signal" for me ... but that's MY hike speaking, not everyone else's.

In the end, we each have to make our own evaluation of the signal to noise ratio of all our info sources and choose accordingly.

Having said all that, I will be disappointed if there is a long term trend of reduced backpacking content.

Edited by jcolten on 07/02/2008 08:47:02 MDT.

Jason Smith
(JasonS) - MLife

Locale: Northeast
Alternative Articles on 07/02/2008 10:28:17 MDT Print View

I appreciated the articles on bike packing and packrafting. I have had acl surgery on both my knees in the past and due to some recent problem, I have had to cut down n my distance from 16-18 miles on most hikes to 6 - 8, and reconsider some interests. I have more time now to train and I am hoping this fixes the problems. But I the article on bikepacking gave me hope that if this does not work I can visit the wilderness in alternative ways which I hope may be easier on my knees.