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Packraft Trip Planning
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Paul Mountford
(Sparticus) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic Canada
Packraft Trip Planning on 08/21/2012 03:01:57 MDT Print View

Two part question, one general and one more specific for anyone who knows the River Spey.

1. What type of speeds do any of you use when planning a multi day packrafting trip?

Obviously there will be a difference if paddling flat water, a slow flowing river, a fast flowing river or tidal waters, but is there a rough guide that some have used that has proved accurate?

I'm planning a trip from Loch Spey down the river Spey to near Keith at the beginning of October. I only have a limited window from getting off the train at Roy Bridge and getting back on the train in Keith so I have planned for 35 km per day.

2. For anyone who know rivers Spey, is that too optimistic? Any idea on flow rates?

I have a backup plan if I do not make the distance planned. I will mountain bike in from Roy Bridge to Loch Spey. If I do not make good time along the river, I can jump ahead on the bike to make up the time. I would still be interested on people's opinions on questions 1 & 2.

Overall goal of trip is to test out all my gear associated with a bike raft trip on a relatively tame river in Scotland before I move back to Canada and do some more ambitious trips with my son.

Edited by Sparticus on 08/30/2012 01:37:35 MDT.

Chris Bailey
(ChrisNZ) - MLife
Packrafting velocities on 07/24/2013 16:10:21 MDT Print View

I seem to range between 3 and 6 km/hr as a general rule on the Class II and III rivers I float here in NZ. I would not plan on 35 km in a day if the river was pool and drop, as the pools slow you down significantly (to 3km/hr and lower) and of course scouting, fishing, eating slows you down too. Speeds are higher for braided rivers where you are continuously moving, even though these are usually lower gradient than pool and drop.

Guide books/websites can be useful for planning speeds. But I'd count on being a bit slower than rafts, and much slower than kayaks since they have so much more forward speed that packrafts, especially in slower water.

I realise you have probably bneen on your trip by now but thought I would chime in anyway!


Paul Mountford
(Sparticus) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic Canada
Re: Packrafting velocities on 08/28/2013 09:24:08 MDT Print View

35 Km turned out to be a little optimistic! Despite all the rain that the UK received last year, that part of Scotland (according to some locals) had one of the driest Octobers that they had seen in a long time. As a result the water levels were very low, and I spent a lot more time walking the River Spey vice paddling it! Despite my cold, wet feet over the 4 days, I had a great time. Mountain bike came in handy making up some of the distance.

I don’t know how many times that I grounded my Alpacka on gravel bars. I was expecting a shredded bottom to the boat by the time I got back to London, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the bottom undamaged by the end of my trip. It taught me a lot about the quality of those boats.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Speed on 08/28/2013 09:35:40 MDT Print View

I plan on averaging 2.5 mph on flat water, and add that to the anticipated speed of moving water.

A few weeks ago my wife and I did 33 miles in a day on the Little Missouri. That was with bathroom breaks, lunch stop, and 3 portages of electric fences that spanned the river. I estimate the river was moving between 3-6mph.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
river speed on 08/28/2013 09:52:44 MDT Print View

It's really hard to create general rules for river speed. A given flow as a percentage of flood stage and base flow can help, as can gradient, but there are always exceptions. On one local river the lower section is 1 mph faster than the upper stretch, just because the channel becomes straighter and more constrained.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: river speed on 08/28/2013 13:47:11 MDT Print View

i have gps'd the speed of rivers, and it seems to me that a full 3mph is moving along just fine (i'm mostly just a floater). a 3mph landing is moving pretty good too.

the cool thing about flat rivers is that even at 2mph, you can raft all day and into the night with sore feet, and worry about nothing more than afterdrop when you stop for a pee break. river days are almost rest days. and you get to keep moving ! is very cool .. like having somebody else drive on the way to work.

the way that winds come up in the afternoon seems to have a large effect on how many days it takes to make distance on the water.