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My most recent outdoors gear acquisition is the Klymit LiteWater Dinghy ultralight packraft. Packrafts are rafts that are small enough to fit into your backpack, yet durable enough to withstand rapids and buoyant enough to carry people and gear into the backcountry and in river and lake crossings.
The Klymit LiteWater Dinghy is decidedly in the lighter end of the packrafting spectrum. It will carry a person and a backpack but even the looks (as well as the name) reveal that it is not a serious whitewater raft. As this video attests, it hasn’t prevented people from riding rapids with it, however.
Instead, the Klymit LiteWater Dinghy excels in small size and weight. At below 1kg it packs into a small enough space that I can throw it in the front pouch of my Osprey Talon 33l and not notice it. That way, I always have water crossing capability with me without seriously increasing weight of my ultralight setup.
It is also one of the more affordable (if not THE most affordable) ways of getting into packrafting. At $133, it is not too expensive to buy as an entry and then retain as an ultralight option if you decide to go for the more heavy duty rafts later.
At least that would be true if we consider the weight of the raft alone. If you don’t go for carbon, the paddle easily adds almost another kilogram (2 pounds). So I got to thinking, I already carry my trekking poles with me since my tent requires them for pitching. What if they could double as a paddle?
I started coming up with ideas to use as the blades of the paddle. I had a pair of 1.5l soda bottles at hand, so they came my prototyping tool. I first cut one open from another side. I could easily get my pole through the mouth of the bottle but how would it attach? I noticed I can add rigidity to the flexible bottle by pushing the pole all the way through and making a hole at the bottom of the pole for the pole tip.
After that, a simple releasable zip tie through the basket of the pole attached the blade quite snuggly. With two of these separate poles, I now needed to find a way to tie them together at the middle to form a kayak style paddle.
I experimented with zip ties again, but they were not tight enough to prevent the poles from rotating when paddled. A more experienced canoer friend suggested a cargo line. Using the total length of the cargo line made the paddle sturdy enough but was a hassle to tie, so in the video I have only half of the length and it did not tie the paddle together reliably enough. I will go back to full length of the cargo line.
The weight of each blade is 62g and I suspect the cargo line is in the hundred(s) of grams range. Still way below cheap 1kg paddles, a lot smaller and proven to work well enough for crossings at least in the 500m-700m range.
I will make a more thorough postings of the paddle once I’m satisfied with the design and also about the Klymit LiteWater Dinghy.