Packrafting Question
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Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Packrafting Question on 03/22/2014 13:06:37 MDT Print View

I've decided to spend this summer learning to packraft. A bit about my background I've done a lot of canoeing and have done mild whitewater in a canoe. I've also been on commercial rafting trips and one very tricky Class 3 kayak with friends (it was a bit outside my comfort zone). I'm not an expert by any means but I have a good idea what my limits are and what I can and cannot navigate in a boat.

I'm interested in being able to do trips in places like the Bob and Teton Wilderness and eventually Alaska. So I want to be able to do Class III in a couple years but this summer I'll probably stop at easy Class II, at least on wilderness trips. Class III is as far as I'll ever go, I'm going to be a hiker with a boat not a technical whitewater guy.

Couple Questions

1. First I need to pick a boat. I'm leaning toward a Yak. Based on Alpacka's recommendations I'm a bit on the tall side for an Alpacka (5ft 8in). The Scout is tempting but even on milder rivers I figure I'll appreciate bigger tubes.

2. I need to decide if I want a spray deck. From Roman Dials book it looks like I either have to choose between not swamping the boat and a quicker exit if I flip. Any thoughts? I definitely will not be doing Eskimo Rolls or installing thigh straps for the time being. For this summer I was thinking I might stick with an open boat for most of my paddling.

3. I'm interested in trip ideas. I'm going to the PR Roundup but was hoping to do some beginner friendly runs before that. I was thinking I'd try some of the easier stuff in the Jackson Hole area. I'll be visiting friends in New Mexico on the way up so I might try a trip there.

4. I also could use some REALLY safe trip ideas. I personally want to push my boundaries a bit but I might also rent an extra raft and take my 16 year old brother out just for the experience. For that I'd be looking at flatwater to Class I. He hasn't done much paddling. I was thinking of something like paddling along Jenny Lake and then hiking or something like that.

5. A lot of the big rivers in places like the Teton Wilderness are outside my comfort zone at higher water. Any idea what they would be like in late July early August?

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F - M

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Packrafting Question on 03/22/2014 13:24:16 MDT Print View

I'm interested to hear responses as I'm in a similar position. Though, I'm probably a year or two out from being able to save up for a raft.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Packrafting Question on 03/22/2014 13:29:28 MDT Print View

Clayton you should rent and we could join forces in your backyard somewhere. If you survive you can write a killer article for BPL to cover the cost of your packraft rental, something like "How I almost won the Darwinian Award with an Idiot from Texas"

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F - M

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re Re Packrafting Question on 03/22/2014 16:54:40 MDT Print View

Luke, I've thought about. Once I know more what summer's looking like, let's keep thinking.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Packrafting tips on 03/22/2014 17:05:12 MDT Print View

Luke,

Please accept this free advice from a packrafting novice who began when he lived in Texas. These are numbered in accordance with your questions.

1. Go bigger rather than smaller, and don't get a Scout if your goal includes the West's big rivers. The Scout is more of a stillwater (lake) boat or river tender. Your extended legs are part of the boat's frame, and if you're going to be paddling all day you want to be reasonably comfortable, not scrunched up.

2. Get a spray deck if any river running is on your agenda. Keeping water out of the boat reduces the number of times you'll have to eddy out to dump the water.

3 and 4. Lakes are a good place to start, but if you select a mountain lake don't go too far from shore as high winds can make things daunting. Very true of Jenny Lake. An easy and very scenic trip is the Lewis Channel to Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. If you select this don't forget to register your raft and obtain the necessary camping permits. If you can backpack in with your raft, consider also the lakes on the Lake Plateau in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana, another scenic wonder.

5.This summer the Northern Rockies will likely have high water into mid-August at least. Very high snowfall this winter.

One other suggestion - take one of BPL's packrafting courses. You'll learn a lot and have a great time.

Richard

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Thanks on 03/22/2014 17:35:39 MDT Print View

Thanks Richard I'll probably look for a Yak then. Good to know about snow levels up there. In New Mexico it was a bit low last I checked. Maybe I'll try to run a few things there on the way up.

Clayton definitely keep in touch, love to have some company.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Lake Chain Packrafting on 03/22/2014 21:12:59 MDT Print View

Just looked at a map of the Beartooth Plateua. There are some very interesting looking routes up there. Normally I wouldn't bother putting a raft in a small mountain lake, too much effort for a very short paddle and I don't fish. However up in the Beartooths there are a lot of lakes linked by short sections of river. I don't know how much of these rivers are floatable but even if they aren't you could do a respectable trip just paddling the lakes and portaging the rivers.

Anybody done this? Looks like a fun idea to try.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Packrafting on 03/23/2014 15:50:10 MDT Print View

Go for the Yak over the Alpacka. I'm 5'11" and the Yak is barely big enough. If I was buying again I'd put some thought into a Denali Ilama. A few extra ounces is well spent for a non-cramped boat.

In terms of the Yak vs. the CuriYak, I'd think of this mostly as spraydeck or not debate. I wouldn't go with a no spray deck Yak unless you just can't afford one and plan to add it later. If you're going no spraydeck, then the CuriYak is appealing as you're saving a lot of money and weight, but shoulder season trips on rivers, or any class III is pretty much out. A spraydeck equipped Yak is a lot more versatile boat, but the weight adds up too. On a lot of trips my Yak isn't justifiable for fishing because it's a lot of weight/bulk if I don't really need it.

My opinion is that a spraydeck equipped Yak is a great versatile boat that you can't really go wrong with if you plan to paddle actual rivers. If you end up deciding you just want a boat for fishing or lake crossings, then I'd probably get a Klymit Water Dinghy or a Ruta Locura raft over a heavier and more expensive Scout/CuriYak.

Edited by dandydan on 03/23/2014 15:51:00 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Packrafting Question on 03/26/2014 11:48:34 MDT Print View

I'd say a Yak with a cruiser deck is the obvious choice. You could get away with an Alpaka and save some weight, but the added comfort and stability of a bigger boat is nice, and will be better for carrying a bike or really big pack if you ever decide to do so.

A trip in the Bob on the South Fork would be perfect for you, either before or after the roundup. I can't comment on the Tetons.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Flathead and another idea on 03/28/2014 18:06:14 MDT Print View

Thanks David, I've wanted to get into the Bob for a while anyway so that sounds like a good way to do it.

I'm thinking pretty seriously of a lake paddling trip in the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness as a practice run. If I hike up to Canyon Lake I could do a two or three day trip just following the lakes downstream and hiking along the creeks (probably not floatable for me). I figure I need to practice anyway I might as well do it in a scenic place. As a bonus I'll get practice packing in a raft etc. before I deal with a real river.

Edited by Cameron on 03/28/2014 18:09:46 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Flathead and another idea on 03/30/2014 09:31:01 MDT Print View

I've had my eye on a Beartooth lake packrafting trip ever since Ryan blogged about it. It would be very fun.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Packraft Gear on 04/09/2014 22:15:34 MDT Print View

Thanks for the help ya'll I now have a Yak. Now I need some other gear.

First I need a paddle. I need to be cheap for now, no $250 paddles no matter how awesome they are. I'm looking at the Aquabound paddles mostly. The aluminium shaft paddles are a bit heavier but cheaper. Is there a reason to use fiberglass other then weight? I know fiberglass is stiffer but I wonder about bashing it on a rock and cracking it. Any thoughts? And any other paddles I should consider?

Second I need a PFD. I'm not going to compromise here, I want to float and ideally I want something that will help me float on my back. I did a swim in a rapid with a very inadequate life jacket once and it was NOT fun. I'm also looking for relatively cheap, light and not too bulky. I might try using it as insulation as well so if anyone has tried that I'd be interested to see how it worked.

Brendan Swihart
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Packraft Gear on 04/09/2014 22:29:36 MDT Print View

Hey Luke,
My wife and I have Aquabound Manta Ray Hybrids (glass blades/carbon shaft) that are a pretty good compromise. Weigh about 32 oz each and were $125 shipped from Appomattix River Company. They don't have them on their site but just email them and they can custom order them. Really outstanding customer service.

For a real PFD I have a MTI Journey. Under a pound and cheap are the pros. Cons are the foam is pretty hard so you can't really use it as a pillow/part of sleep system (though under feet is fine) and bulky (though not any more so than other noninflatables).

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Packrafting Gear on 04/09/2014 22:38:14 MDT Print View

Thanks, I'll check those out.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Packraft Gear on 04/10/2014 05:57:30 MDT Print View

MTI Livery Sport and Aqua Bound Manta Ray (carbon shaft/fiberglass blade) are what I have. I don't mind using my pfd as a pillow.

Edited by jshann on 04/10/2014 05:59:55 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Packraft Gear on 04/10/2014 07:19:17 MDT Print View

What Brendan said. Aluminum shafts conduct cold.