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Spring skirafting case study/gear dissection
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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Spring skirafting case study/gear dissection on 04/09/2012 11:13:15 MDT Print View

This past weekend I completed an overnight ski and packrafting trip that's been on my radar for quite some time. I skied twenty miles (half snowmachine packed road, half untracked trail) in to the Middle Fork of the Flathead, then packrafted a comparable distance back out (rapids to easy class III, with an extended portage around a class IV section). Conditions came together perfectly: a warm spell a week ago flushed out any worry about ice jams, while cool temps this past week firmed up the snowpack and brought the river down to a calm level. The following is a discussion of my gear, what worked, and what didn't.

-Light soft shell pants w/ instep loops, cap 2 long johns
-Cap 2 shirt, Boreas hoody, R3 vest, Xenon jacket, Ozo anorak
-Swix beanie, OR Endeavor mitt, OR Omni gloves
-Kokatat drysuit

Overall this worked well. Bringing the Ozo and drysuit is redundant, but there was a chance of snow/rain the first day so it seemed prudent. The drysuit is heavy and takes up a ton of space, but given how cold it was the safety margin was welcome and prudent. I still got plenty cold, and on the second morning (when spray was freezing on my pack) was wearing everything under it. The Omni/Endeavor combo worked well to keep my hands warm and mostly dry while paddling. One thing about drysuits, you can't use jacket hoods, so I needed an additonal warm hat. The Swix is an acrylic/wool blend that is quite warm, covers my ears totally, and stays put.

In retrospect I wouldn't change anything.

-Rossignol BCX11 boots
-Injinji lightweight crew, sealskins

This was a tricky one, as the Rossis are mostly waterproof and I knew I'd get at least a bit of water in the boots entering and exiting the raft. The boots and socks got fairly wet on both days, but the only time my toes were cold was on the second morning before dancing around camp warmed them up. Far from an ideal packrafting rig, but it got the job done.

Skiing wise, the Rossis are a great boot for rugged nordic. They stride great and have enough beef for survival snowplows, stems turns and side-slipping. I'm interested to see if they'll be more waterproof when I seal all the external seams.

-Fischer Outbound Crown (169cm, from a few years ago), Voile Mountaineer
-MYOG 138cm poles

I really like these Fischer skis. They have a full sintered base with the pattern routered in. Full metal edges, and quite stiff overall. They have good glide and skate pretty well, and the short for me length is easy to maneuver and pack on the boat. Full edges were mandatory given the icey crust found in many places once I got off the road. Poles are a pair of old alu skate poles I bought for 5 bucks at a ski swap. I cut them to length, replaced the tip with a Leki tip and powder baskets, glued on a cork grip (old BPL stock, from the Stix series) and added a second lower grip via bike bar tape. They're a bit short for striding ideally, but good enough. The second grip is at my ideal turning level. I don't use straps, so I can switch positions on the fly. They're stiff and weigh just a hair over 8 oz each, and the price was right.

-2010 Yukon Yak with deck, custom ski attachments, and thigh straps
-210 Werner Shuna
-Stolquist PFD

Not much to say here, the Yak and Shuna are tried and true favorites. The ski rigs worked well, and my first outing with thigh straps (I just used 3/4" webbing, I don't have plans to roll) was positive. The PFD is pretty generic, save that I moved the back padding up (double layer on the upper half, none on the lower) so it wouldn't push the deck down and cause water to pool.

-2012 Golite Jam 50L
-MYOG synthetic quilt
-MYOG bivvy
-Golite Poncho-tarp
-cutdown ridgerest with 1/8" thinlight glued to top

The Jam was fully maxed out on this outing, right at the edge of its abilities w/r/t to both size and weight. A bigger, beefier pack would have been better. The night was clear, so I slept under the stars. It got colder than I thought it would, so a warmer bag and pad would have been welcome. Stars and full moon were amazing.

-cat can alc stove, BPL 900 pot

I never learn: bring a cartridge stove for packrafting! The speed with which you can get hot drinks is always worth it.

The only other crucial misc stuff was a good firestarter to get the warming fire roaring Saturday night, and a small tube of UV cure Aquaseal to fix the leak that spring in my main elbow valve Sunday morning. The latter is weird stuff. I don't like it for at-home repairs, but given how fast it cures (if you have direct sun) it's hard to argue against it for field use.

Any questions, fire away.

joe newton

Locale: Bergen, Norway
Spring skirafting case study/gear dissection on 04/09/2012 12:02:21 MDT Print View

Do you carry sleep socks Dave on such a trip or only on longer ones?

Would boater pants and a semi-dry top offer enough protection to leave the drysuit and Ozo at home? Kokatat do a nice Gore-Tex pullover with neoprene neck and wrist gaskets. Has a hood too.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Spring skirafting case study/gear dissection on 04/09/2012 12:54:59 MDT Print View

Excellent. Thanks for the gear focused report. I had fun reading about the adventure, and I'm happy to read a gear focused description.

I am very curious about the boots. I have recently tried some plastic boots for Randonee skiing, and haven't liked it so far. I really like leather boots, and their ability to mold to your foot. A leather boot will get more comfortable over time, while a plastic boot won't. Anyway, I assume these are real leather, with some obvious plastic support. Is that the case?

Did you get a chance to hike in these? If so, how do like them for that?

Have you tried those boots with bigger, curvier skis? I was thinking of using those boots with some of the newer fish scaled hourglass skis, like the Fischer S-Bound 112 (

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: drysuits and boots on 04/09/2012 13:30:36 MDT Print View

Boaters pants and the Ozo would have been warm enough, I just wanted to know that if I swam I wouldn't have to stop everything and build a fire. My sense is that nothing short of latex gaskets would provide enough security against flushing.

The BCX11s are plastic leather, with a plastic cuff and some sort of foam insulation padding inside. They're a bit odd, in that the cuff provides decent lateral stability, but the fore/aft range of motion is really tremendous (much more than the Fischer 675s I had earlier this year). The sole is pretty flexible, so they hike very well. The flip of that is that, again compared to the 675s, they don't have the sole rigidity I want for driving fatter skis. I wouldn't want to ski my Guides with them in anything but ideal powder. They felt perfectly matched to the Outbounds (70/60/65, with a stiff camber and a half). Something like the S-Bound 98 would be as big a ski as I'd care to pair with them.

And I always carry sleep socks.

Edited by DaveC on 04/09/2012 13:31:15 MDT.

joe newton

Locale: Bergen, Norway
Warming fire on 04/09/2012 23:39:20 MDT Print View

Talking of stopping to build a fire, wasn't the skills and techniques required to start a warming fire in sh*tty conditions one of the articles you were going to write (either for your blog or here) in the future? :)

I know I would find such an article interesting and useful, especially when contemplating trying to replicate trips similar in scope to this one.

Roman Vazhnov
(joarr) - MLife

Locale: Russia
Boots on 04/11/2012 13:24:04 MDT Print View

Boots like Rossignol BC X5 75mm - are they not strong enough for that kind of activity?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: ski boots on 04/11/2012 17:53:39 MDT Print View

I've not used the X5, so I really can't say. There seems to be pretty substantial, and unpredictable, variation amongst BC nordic boots with respect to both sole stiffness and upper stiffness. How much a person needs of each depends on skis used, terrain, and personal preference/skill.

Floppy boots would have been fine for the road section, though having a stiffer sole and upper made skating possible in a few sections. I much prefer the added beef skiing in the woods, and thus for the trail section I'd imagine I'd find the X5 lacking. Being able to stem turn and snowplow easier is something I find comforting. Other, better skiers might have a different opinion.