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Packraft vs canoe on river trip
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Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Packraft vs canoe on river trip on 01/02/2012 17:05:41 MST Print View

The benefits of a packraft where hiking will be mixed in with water travel are clear to me.

But what about a trip where most, if not all of the travel will be on the river? Packrafts aren't as fast as canoes, so does it make much sense to take a packraft instead of a canoe? Either will do the job, but I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Packraft vs canoe on river trip on 01/02/2012 17:09:03 MST Print View

For me it would depend on the river. If we're talking mostly flat water, I'd take a canoe hands down, especially with no portages. For something where you're running Class 3+ I'd probably take my packraft. They're incredibly forgiving.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Namekagon/St. Croix Riverways on 01/02/2012 17:21:04 MST Print View

I should have stated where I am thinking of going in the OP. The Namekagon/St. Croix Riverways in Wisconsin.

According to the government website, there are some class I and II rapids and a few small portages.

The one thing I like about packrafts is independence. My wife and I can explore different parts of the waterway at the same time since we own our own packrafts. They're also easier to transport to and from the waterway.


Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Namekagon/St. Croix Riverways on 01/02/2012 17:30:02 MST Print View

At that point (for me anyway), it'd come down to the trip goals. If having fresh food, libations, etc. are part of the plan I'd go canoe....maybe even carry a cooler. If not, I'd just take whichever makes the trip more enjoyable.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Namekagon/St. Croix Riverways on 01/02/2012 20:38:58 MST Print View

I think I would suggest a canoe if you and your wife are going. A good two man canoe is as light or lighter than two ul boats. Even a UL 16' boat will weigh about 35-40lbs. I am assuming a week or there abouts for duration(?), though with heavier loads it could still be done fairly easily.

I have done many trips of that length and much longer around the ADK's. Going from Old Forge across the Northern Forest Caone Trail to Plattsburg with a meander through Fish Creek Ponds/St Regis in about 3 weeks solo (carrying the canoe and gear on all portages.) About 10 days from Inlet up the Oswathachie to Low's Lake (Bog River) and back. Another across the Saranac Lakes to Fish Creek ponds and back in 5 days. Another across Indian Lake, to West Canada lakes via Moose River Plains. Well, I really like my small 12'6" stripper. At 21 pounds, it is realtivly easy to portage but real good on the water. Across Lake Champlain it was a surprisingly stable little boat. It has well over 1700 miles on it. A days paddle means about 40mi once you get in shape for paddling. 20mi is a practice run, getting in shape on flat water.

I pack fairly light. Pack weight was ~40 pounds at the heaviest for three weeks unsupported. I lost about 10 pounds of body fat...I could afford it, easily, ha ha.
No cooler, I picked up a couple beers at some gas stations here and there when the going was easy. I used a two man tarp and screen tent, due to the bugs. And the old SVEA for wet weather. Wood fire for good weather when there was a fire pit. My daughter and I did the Oswagathcie trip with ~23lb each for ten days and a 18' kevlar boat we portaged 7mi into Low's Lake. We also brought the stevensons 2rw, an 11x9 tarp, the SVEA, and 2-12oz fuel bottles included in that weight. Neither of us lost more than 2lbs on that trip. We ran out of food *just* at the last lunch before the car. Feul was down to about 2oz. Nearly a perfectly planned trip.

When I was younger, my brother and I carried 24-28 pounds of small pack rafts into some "fishing holes" I won't mention. They are still good fishing holes. After a few uses they ALWAYS needed repairs and patches. 'Corse, neither of us had the money to buy good ones. At the end of three seasons, they were dead. Soo, I am partial to canoes. The ones I make are just as light, and hold up to class I and class II rapids fine, dispite being UL cedar. I documented my techniques at At least two or three years old, now. The canoe got a re-skin after the NFCT and works fine, even today. Damm good boats.

Mostly, they let you carry a weeks food with UL gear AND the boat, spraydeck, lifevest, and paddle for around a week at 45-48lb. Light enough to carry for 12 miles and still be able to paddle for another 15mi, set up camp, cut firewood, make supper and have a beer watching the sunset.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Namekagon/St. Croix Riverways on 01/03/2012 05:07:45 MST Print View

Hi Travis,

I've canoed all the Namekagon downstream of Hayward except the couple miles thru the reservoir at Trego and the St. Croix from it's confluence with the Namekagon to just upstream of Stillwater (except the reservoir of the Taylors Falls dam).

I have no packraft experience but based on trip reports I've read I'd expect them to be slow going over most of what I've canoed with a few exceptions. I bet headwinds would make it very very tough going.

But if you already own the packrafts, why not give it a try? Both are wonderful rivers. Namekagon Trail Landing to Riverside Landing (about 9 miles) has quite a few easy rapids and many camping opportunities. The stretch from Hayward Landing to North Springbrook Landing has a lot of muscle and camping opportunities too. The St. Croix from Nelson's Landing to Soderbeck Landing is another possibly good stretch.

There are also good stretches on parts of the Kettle and Snake Rivers in MN but you have to catch them when the water levels are high enough.

If paddling independence is a big draw for you then solo canoes would be a great choice that'll perform well on the entire river. There used to be a common refrain ... "Paddle tandem, sleep solo. Paddle solo, sleep tandem;-) On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for the fun and intimacy of a well coordinated pair taking a canoe through tight spots. On the other-other (third?) hand, a poorly coordinated pair can find the experience to be nothing but relationship stress (Go right .... go right .... GO RIGHT ... thud, scrape, stop ... I SAID GO RIGHT! .... we did go right .... oh)

Edited by jcolten on 01/03/2012 05:10:29 MST.

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Re: Namekagon/St. Croix Riverways on 01/03/2012 06:30:20 MST Print View

I have packrafted the st croix from hayward south, it was painfully slow except for the rapids which were only class I. I slept on an island which was really nice. I have also canoed the namekagon into the st croix, the main thing would be how long your trip is. I personally would prefer a canoe, but the reason i packrafted is that i was biking back to my car so it was a self contained adventure.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Packraft vs canoe on river trip on 01/03/2012 10:35:47 MST Print View

Sometimes there might be a specific reason(s) to choose one or the other, and the answer is clear. But as a rule of thumb when it's a river trip where standard boats are commonly used, that's probably going to make more sense.

I've spent a lot of time on the St. Croix. I'd definitely take the canoe.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Packraft vs canoe on river trip on 01/03/2012 10:42:43 MST Print View

Thanks everyone. Seems to be a unanimous choice.