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How long do packrafts last?
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Jeff Gerke

Locale: Utah
How long do packrafts last? on 08/24/2013 14:33:29 MDT Print View

Still thinking about getting a packraft. Actually if I got one I would have to buy one for my son as well since he would be the one I would packraft with. Buying two packrafts seems a little daunting. I'm pretty sure I would get two Yukon Yak's since we would be doing some whitewater. About how long could I expect a Yukon Yak to last given proper care? If they would last a few years maybe it would be worth biting the bullet and purchasing them. If they only last a couple years then maybe not.

How necessary is it to buy dry suits? If I had to buy two dry suits that might put the price too high for me to do. Could we use the rain gear that we backpack with anyway?

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: How long do packrafts last? on 08/24/2013 17:09:16 MDT Print View

>"How necessary is it to buy dry suits? . . . .Could we use the rain gear that we backpack with anyway?"

That all depends on the weather and the water temperatures.

Raingear works fine until you dump into the water. Dumping into the water isn't an issue if it is warmish water, or if you can get to shore and warm up quickly.

And yet, full drysuits are so sweaty and hard to regulate your temperature, even in Alaska, I've never used them while kayaking or boating, just a dry-suit top in bad weather.

Consider another approach - wool, polypro, and nylon layers will keep you warmer than nothing while immersed and provide warmth once out of the water.

In cold waters, I ALWAYS wear my life jacket. And my PLB, knife, and fire-starting kit are always in the life jacket pockets. I knew from the accident statistics that it was important. Now I know it from personal experience having been on a boat that sunk 100 miles from home, 7 miles past the last Native settlement into cold seawater this May. Being on a beach, warm, and able to summon help beats the alternative. By a lot.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
packraft durability on 08/24/2013 22:09:34 MDT Print View

The Alpackas will last a long time under anything other than truly abusive use. My 2010 Yak is still going strong. I've had to repair one cut (sharp rock), patch a crack around the mouth valve (bad design Alpacka), patch two holes in the seat (gravel in the boat), and put some prophylactic aquaseal in a few wear spots on the floor. I also spray it down with UV guard twice a year. My boat has gotten a lot of use in this time. I don't beat on it on purpose, but I don't baby it. I don't see any reason I won't still be using it in a decade, unless I buy something else and sell the Yak.

Short answer; if you're not sure if you'll need a drysuit, you shouldn't be getting into water where you might need a drysuit.

Long answer; there are some occasions when a drysuit is needed for safety. I wear mine running whitewater late September through June. I've used it on perhaps 10 packrafting trips total. As David alludes to, they are not fun to wear.

More often, a drysuit enhances warmth a lot, and adds a safety margin (which you may or may not feel is necessary). In these cases I always go with raingear, maybe an extra vest, and a more conservative boating strategy. I have a fairly high tolerance for getting darn cold, something others do not choose to tolerate.

So the drysuit question has to do with what trips you intend to do, when you intend to do them, your personal safety requirements, and your personal tolerance for suffering.

It should also be said that while it's not as warm, a wetsuit is a much cheaper alternative which is quite serviceable, and even preferable to a drysuit on many trips. I use a 3/5mm farmer john on a few trips every year. It's bulky for overnights, but does make a decent sleeping pad.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: packraft durability on 08/24/2013 23:31:51 MDT Print View

If you are careful, take good care of them, and don't constantly run them in abusive conditions (constant sharp rocks and downed trees) I see no reason an Alpacka won't last decades.

Even under Chenault-style use, you're gonna get a darn long life out of them. I use a UV protectant like David, and be sure to clean and dry them well after each trip.

I'll often get hung up on a rock or gravel bed and scoot/shove/drag myself free. Often I'll be expecting huge gouges in the bottom of the boat, but its tough as nails.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
grounding out on 08/25/2013 08:27:26 MDT Print View

I'm still at the point where my heart stops when gravel crunches under my butt, but I'm slowly getting over it.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: How long do packrafts last? on 08/25/2013 16:58:07 MDT Print View

" if you're not sure if you'll need a drysuit, you shouldn't be getting into water where you might need a drysuit. "

ohh .. so completely true.

you can dumb float (like i do) mindlessly down rivers for an extremely long time and have a bally hoo time doing it. no need for more than parka and hot coffee. it's eff'n Great !
the raft can last many years. every little scrape on the bottom is not a death sentence, but you will rightfully live in terror of hitting rocks.
service life is not a short term issue, and even as it ages, that just means it's not ready for Alaskan duty, but still good for fun and floats.

point of note. that trick of towing them on the ice, as shown in Hig's videos, is not really that hot an idea. it eats the floor out in a few days only. perhaps the odd thousand meters or so, no cause for concern, but at $800 vs $200, a raft makes a very expensive sled.

may i relate one magical daybeak. i awoke quite early to reap the day's calm before the winds, and was on the waters of Anderson River as the sun's rays first hit the floating mist. floating as one with the river, i could almost hear as stray dust landed on it's mirrored surface. a wave of the paddle sent eddies not only across the water, but thru the mist.
it was about as nice as life can get. (and no drysuit either)


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
packraft durability on 08/27/2013 00:44:37 MDT Print View

1: Rafts are cool.

2: Live in fear of hitting sharp rocks. I've bounced down more just-too-shallow cobbled riffles than I can recall. So long as starfishing up on the tubes and paddling gets you through, all is good. When you're tempted to two-hand your paddle like a pole, it's time to get out. Sharp rocks, like you occasionally find along banks where erosive forces aren't so strong, are worth worrying about.

3: Rafts as sleds is a bad idea. I saw all the tyvek tape on the bottom of Luc Mehl's boat after his Logan trip.