February 04, 2022
Does an adventure that combines hiking and paddling sound appealing to you? Is there a portion of a river or stream you want to fish that is hike-in access only? Would you enjoy a nature hike along a river and then leisurely floating back to the trailhead? Do you like backpacking and rafting?
On a recent trip to Hotchkiss, Colorado, I fell in love with a new-to-me outdoor activity – packrafting. And if you answered “yes” to any of the questions above (especially the last one), packrafting might just be your newfound love too.
What’s packrafting and what exactly is a packraft?
Packrafting is an exciting sport that combines backpacking and rafting, allowing you to explore both land and water in one trip. It’s truly a revolutionary concept.
As the name suggests, a packraft is a raft that you can pack. A packraft is a super light individual-sized raft that can be packed up small enough to carry in a backpack. It’s much lighter, more compact, and more portable than a kayak, making it ideal for both short and long hiking trips where too much weight can be a burden. Depending on the model and size, a packraft can weigh as little as 3 pounds and roll up as small as an adult sweatshirt or small sleeping bag!
Packrafts open up a world of opportunities for adventurers, hunters, and anglers. You can use a packraft to cross a river, explore hard-to-reach bodies of water for prime fishing, pack in and out of remote places, raft into pristine hunting grounds, and more. With a packraft, the places you can hunt, fish, and explore are endless.
And, because packrafts are durable and lightweight, they are the perfect vessel to take along on short- and long-distance hikes. They are easy to carry and there is a packraft model available for every adventure.
Whether you are new to packrafting, like me, or a seasoned paddler, I encourage you to check out Alpacka Raft’s selection of premium packrafts. Alpacka Raft has an assortment of quality packrafts to choose from, and each one is handcrafted in Mancos, Colorado by a skilled team of individuals with a passion for adventure.
It doesn't matter what you plan to use your packraft for – whether it's for a leisure float back to the trailhead, paddling whitewater rivers in Alaska, or both – Alpacka Raft has a packraft specifically built for the challenge.
What's even more awesome is Alpacka Raft's commitment to environmental sustainability. The company is eco-friendly and committed to reducing its environmental impact. To lessen transportation and support American manufacturers, they source American-made raw materials wherever and whenever possible. To eliminate landfill wastes, Alapacka Raft even recycles leftover fabric scraps to make cool scrap tote bags and scrap wallets.
Alpacka Raft’s newest packrafts, the Scout (3.8 pounds), Ghost (2.25 pounds), and Refuge (5 pounds 8 ounces) are among some of the lightest packrafts available.
Scout – Best ultralight packraft when weight and space is at a premium
The new Scout weighs only 3.8 pounds, making it the perfect packraft to use when you are limited on weight on space. It’s comfortable and durable enough for everyday use on mountain lakes and rivers, and it has plenty of room for your fishing gear. With an ultralight packraft such as the Scout, you can easily carry for extended periods.
Ghost – The smallest and lightest packraft in Alpacka Raft’s Ultralight Series
You’ll barely notice the new Ghost packraft in your pack because it weighs a mere 2.25 pounds. Featuring the same new hull shape on the Scout, the Ghost is incredibly stable and tracks well for being such a small and light packraft. It is made from a 70-denier Ripstop Nylon and single-layer seams, making it the lightest functional Alpacka Raft available. The Ghost was designed for those looking to sacrifice durability for weight. It’s ideal for high mountain lakes, river crossings, canyoneering and flatwater ultra-running adventures.
Refuge – Ideal for old school, experienced packrafters
Weighing in at only 5.8 pounds, the Refuge is the ultimate landscape traverse packraft. It can handle more serious beatings than the lighter Ghost and is great for multiday to multiweek adventures with equal parts walking and floating. The Refuge also utilizes the same 10-inch hull as the new Scout but includes a standard Whitewater deck and cargo fly to hold enough gear for longer trips in the backcountry. Experienced paddlers should be fine paddling an ooccasional Class III rapid in the Refuge; however, whitewater and eddylines will be more difficult for novice paddlers. If you are an experienced wilderness packrafter that likes to travel light, the Refuge is for you.
Read more about Alpacka Raft’s new ultralight packrafts for 2022
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Series
Alpacka Raft even has a collection of rafts designed specifically for hunters and anglers; it's called the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Series. The series includes packraft models large enough to carry you and big animals like moose and elk, as well as light and compact models that are ideal for fishing high mountain lakes. With a packraft like the Ranger, Mule or Forager from the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Series, hunters can travel further into the backcountry to hunt and then simply float their harvest out. The Forager, one of Alpacka Raft’s largest and most robust packrafts offers two-person seating, making it a great option for those who want to fish from the same raft with a friend.
Essential Equipment and Gear Needed for Packrafting
What kind of gear is needed for packrafting? Ultimately the gear you need will depend on where you will be packrafting and for how long.
The basic equipment needed for packrafting includes a packraft, pump or inflation bag (to inflate the packraft), paddle, and a personal flotation device (PFD). All Alpacka Raft packrafts come with an inflation bag. Additional packrafting gear might include: navigational tools (map, compass, or GPS device), dry bag or backpack, spare paddle (a spare paddle may come in handy when paddling in remote areas), bug repellent, binoculars, snacks, water, sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, hat), and fly fishing gear.
Tip: Store paper maps in zip lock bags to prevent them from getting wet.
Packrafting Safety Tips
Packrafting, while fun and exciting, can be dangerous and physically challenging. As long as you understand the risk and take safety measures to ensure a safe float, you’ll reap the benefits of this exciting sport. Safety should always be your #1 priority.
Keep these safety tips in mind whenever you are planning an adventure that involves packrafting.
- Make sure the trip is within your capabilities. If you don’t have the skills or proper gear for the trip, don’t do it. Take into consideration the terrain you will be hiking on, any technical aspects of your journey, paddling portions, fishing/hunting techniques or experience that may be necessary to complete the trip in a safe manner.
- Create a float plan that clearly states when and where you are going, with whom, and when you expect to return. Share your float plan with someone responsible, such as a friend or family member. In the event of an emergency, a detailed float plan can help others find you.
- Create a contingency plan. Plan a course of action for any unexpected conditions, injuries, or lost gear scenarios that may occur during your trip.
- Make a gear checklist and take essential safety gear with you. A PFD is a must-have on any packrafting adventure and should be worn whenever you are on the water. Wear a helmet when appropriate. Thoroughly check your packraft and other gear for signs of wear or failure prior to your trip so you have enough time to address any concerns.
- Research local weather patterns and climate hazards. Don’t paddle in flood conditions. Know how to read water and determine if the water you will raft is at a safe level and flow. For example, a sudden rainstorm can cause an increase in rapids and result in faster-moving water.
- Dress appropriately for the weather conditions and be prepared to swim in the waters you are floating in. Not having the appropriate gear in cold water or cold weather can result in hyperthermia.
- Don’t packraft solo. While some adventurers prefer to venture into the outdoors alone, it is always safest to do so as a group. Packrafting alone is not recommended.
Think you might want to try packrafting? Visit Alpacka Raft’s website for more information on how to get started and to pick a packraft that’s right for you.