Why packrafting, why not X, Y or Z?
“Packraft…but why?” It’s a legitimate question that gets asked quite often when packrafting comes up with people new to the sport. It’s a legitimate question; packraft is a bit of a jack of all trades but can legitimately be characterised as master of none. Whitewater kayakas are probably the best waterbourne vehicles if whitewater sports is your main thing. Any of a number of boats are better for fishing and arguably canoes and kayaks beat packrafts in many applications.
Where packrafts start holding their own is when you start throwing add-on questions to the mix. Ok, whitewater kayak beats a packraft for surfing the local whitewater holes and wave-trains, but what else can they do? Do they double as travel canoes? Can you carry them tens of kilometers before you set out? Can they carry your backpack as well? Obviously no.
A canoe will allow several people to enjoy a paddle down a river, but whatabout a several kilometer portage? Can you transport your canoe using public transport? Bike with it? Obviously no.
In my view, packrafting is all about celebrating that multitude of uses. If I can use the same raft for whitewater fun, long travels and leisure paddles on a lake with my daughter, then that piece of equipment is a lot more valuable to me than if I had to buy two different kayaks and a canoe. As you find new uses for your packraft, the price quickly starts to feel more tolerable as well.
Some excellent reasons for packrafting
So this is the second article in a series of packrafting articles, providing a list of reasons you would want to packraft. I’m throwing ideas as I go and will continue to update the article as I come up with new ideas. Check also the first article in this series: the ultimate guide to packrafting gear and the third article: Learning packrafting: the essential skills
I’ll start with bikerafting, which means combined packrafting and bicycling (duh). When you are riding your mountain bike, fatbike or whatever, you carry the packraft in your backpack. And when you are rafting, you carry the bike on the front of your packraft. People have been combining bikes and packrafts for long tours of Alaska, Iceland and other remote places, but I guess biking to a suitable spot for setting out to river, paddling down and then biking back home could be considered bikerafting as well.
As the only form of bike I ride is a road bike (well, a tri bike), I haven’t tried this personally. But since it is quite easy to make a packraft carry you and your bike, only your imagination is a limit here.
Packsailing is the art of sailing using your packraft. The sails can give you quite a speed boost if you are covering flat water and the wind direction is favorable. Or you can just enjoy the sailing experience on your packraft.
Yes you can fish from a packraft. Maybe supplement your diet on a hike or just enjoy fishing from a boat instead of from the shore for a change. A packraft will allow you to do this on lakes and ponds where you have no possibility of transporting a bigger boat.
4. Go into places you couldn’t otherwise get into
A raft you can carry with you at all times is excellent for getting into places you could otherwise only cast wishful glances at. For example, there are a lot of stone age rock paintings in Finland in rocks overhanging a lake or river. These have been holy places to the ancient people and often found on confluences of stone age travel and trading routes. Often the only option to get into these is by a boat or skis during winter time.
Or you could use a packraft for something as simple as building your camp on a small island instead of on the lake shore. When you have a light enough vessel, you have almost unlimited options on your journeys.
5. Whitewater rafting
I am firmly of the opinion that whitewater packrafting is just about the most fun you could possibly have. And I’m a complete beginner when it comes to the sport. It is technical, challenging and also great exercise.
6. Use it as a pulka
Use it like the kids use sledges: to slide downhill
Or as we grownups tend to use our pulkas: to haul gear
7. For packrafting expeditions
I guess this is what many consider the “proper” way to use a packraft: hike upriver, then float down, hopefully combining scenic flatwater with exciting whitewater.
8. Travel 4000 miles along the Alaskan coast
The 4000 mile journey along the coast of Alaska by Hig and Erin was really what really got me into the idea of packrafting, although I did not know it at the time. I listened an audio version of the book first and did not have an accurate picture in my mind about what kind of boat they were using.
A long while after listening to the book, I found packrafting and was intrigued. But only when I connected the dots and figured it was packrafting that Erin and Hig were doing, did I really get hooked into the sport. I highly recommend both the movie and the book they produced detailing their journey.
9. Get wrecked by the tide
An then of course you can get wrecked by an incoming tide
These have been just a few reasons you might want to consider packrafting. I will keep updating the list as I come up with new items.
Be sure to also check the first article on this series on packrafting: Getting started on Packrafting – The Ultimate Guide to Packrafting Gear and the second article: Learning packrafting – The essential skills as well as the compilation of packrafting resources: The ultimate packrafting resource list
Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management Alaska