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Podcast: Packrafting Safety Tips from the Experts Part 3

Seven packrafters with a total of over thirty-five years of experience under their bums share the safety gear they won't be without, skills that have kept them coming back for more, common - and dangerous - mistakes, and real life rescue stories.

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by Carol Crooker | 2009-03-24 00:05:00-06

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Podcast: Packrafting Safety Tips from the Experts - 1
Andrew Mattox on the Snake River. As packrafters run whitewater more routinely, safety gear and techniques are ever more important.

To learn more about packrafting at Backpacking Light, visit, or take a wilderness course in packrafting at


Part 1 - Packrafting Safety

Part 2 - Packrafting Safety

Part 3 - Packrafting Safety: Common and dangerous mistakes.

A packraft is an inflatable raft that is light and small enough to carry in a backpack. It is most often used by backpackers as a tool to help them cross terrain that includes rivers. The two types of lightweight packrafts available today are the Sevylor Trail Boat and the Alpacka packraft. The Trail Boat is lighter and much cheaper than Alpacka packrafts, but also significantly less sturdy.

Packrafting in some form or another has been around for decades, with backpackers using rafts to cross and float less technical (usually class II and below) rivers to complete loops and traverses. As the sport has grown, backpackers have set their sights on routes that include more whitewater. In some cases river running is as much or more the focus of the trip as backpacking. Sheri Tingey, Alpacka designer, has responded to the sports' direction by refining boat design over the past seven years so that Alpacka rafts are now capable whitewater craft.

Packrafters usually have a background in backpacking or climbing, with little river running experience and often without a true understanding of the power of moving water. In the past, they have rarely carried safety gear and lacked river rescue skills. That needs to change both for the survival of packrafters and the emergence of the sport as a respected option in the boating community. The necessity of carrying safety gear and having the skills to go along is now coming sharply into focus. In 2007, veteran packrafter Roman Dial worked with Rescue 3 International instructor, Scott Solle to bring an internationally recognized course in whitewater safety to packrafters in Alaska. Another expert packrafter, Forrest McCarthy, brought Scott to Jackson, Wyoming to teach the first packraft safety course in the lower forty-eight.

A dozen packrafters gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in April 2008 for a Whitewater Rescue Technician class. They came from Alaska, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Washington, Colorado and Idaho. Seven were experts with over five years of packrafting under their belts while the remaining five were relative newcomers, with two of these never having packrafted at all.

I attended the course and took advantage of the packrafting experience represented there to compile tips on safety, gear, rescue stories, and a list of the most common mistakes.

Part 1 - Packrafting Safety:

  1. Exercise good judgment
  2. Know your group
  3. Know the river
  4. Carry the proper equipment.

Part 2 - Packrafting Safety: Have mad skills.

Part 3 - Packrafting Safety: Common and dangerous mistakes.


"Podcast: Packrafting Safety Tips from the Experts Part 3," by Carol Crooker. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-03-24 00:05:00-06.


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Podcast: Packrafting Safety Tips from the Experts Part 3
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Podcast: Packrafting Safety Tips from the Experts Part 3 on 03/24/2009 14:26:17 MDT Print View

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Podcast: Packrafting Safety Tips from the Experts Part 3