Korpijaakko

- my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

New Packrafts on the Market!

Since writing the post about New packrafting toys  two years ago a lot has happened on the packrafting market. And on the other hand, not so much has happened: it’s still the same interesting growing niche sport.

But, there are new boats worth a mention!

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New packrafts

Alpackraft Gnu with Vectran fabric and sraydeck. Photo stolen from Packrafting-Store website.

Alpackraft Gnu with Vectran fabric and sraydeck. Photo stolen from Packrafting-Store website.

Two years ago I wrote about the Alpackraft Explorer 42. Since then Alpackraft released the Gnu: a two-person white water capable packraft with a spray deck and somewhat resembling a miniature two-person canoe.  Moro photos and detailed specs on the Packrafting-Store website.

Now that I’ve tried the Explorer 42 I’m finding the Gnu to be very interesting option. Sharing a raft (with enough room for both to paddle…) is refreshing and great fun and feels especially well suited for lakes and easy rivers which are plentiful here in Southern Finland. The Gnu would offer more hull speed and more floatation than th EX42 which would be welcome. And of course there’s the option to use the spraydeck. Spraydeck might be very welcome in some situations even though I wouldn’t see myself using the Gnu for any serious white water (difficult class II or above).

Alpackaraft white water packraft. Photo stolen from the promotional website.

Alpackaraft white water packraft. Photo stolen from the promotional website.

Gnu is already old news for most but the latest thing from Alpackraft is pretty new: The yet-to-be-named Alpackaraft white water specific packraft. It’s a turn-key white water package with no need for glueing attachments for thigh straps or other DIY modifications.

It’s still clearly a packraft but quite a different boat: the hull is longer and narrower than the Denali Llama, the bow is more pointy and there’s more rocker. It comes with a refurnished cockpit, white water spraydeck, knee braces, Cargo Fly, etc. The price is that it’s pretty heavy at 4,5kg, nearly one kilo heavier than a Denali Llama with white water spray deck and Cargo Fly. And it also costs 1900 USD. But if you compare the weight and price to similarly equipped raft and take into account all the DIY work required and the added performance it’s not actually that bad.

The big questions is: do you need that extra performance? Personally I’d love to try the new raft but I don’t think I’ll need the added performance anytime soon so I’ll opt saving my money and carrying little less for now.

Typical for Alpacka Raft company, there’s not much information about the raft available yet but you can see prototypes in use for example on Mike C‘s video from Veracruz:

In addition to Alpackarafts (and the Feathercraft‘s offerings) there is an increasing amount of options for more serious packrafting:

Kokopelli Hornet. Photo stolen from Kokopelli website.

Kokopelli Hornet. Photo stolen from Kokopelli website.

The crowd-funded Kokopelli Raft company is now selling and shipping their packrafts. For me it seems that all the models are based on the same symmetrical hull design and the difference is whether it comes equipped with or without a spray deck and/or Cargo Fly type inner storage option. It seems the design and solutions are pretty similar to those of Alpackrafts but there are also some differences.

The rafts are heavier than Alpackarafts but also use burlier materials (floor: 840den vs 210den and tubes: 210den vs 75den, though the coating is the key here…) and are roughly the size of Alpackraft Explorer. The hull is made of two symmetrical sections with separate valves and eight attachment points. The Kokopellis don’t come with a seat or backrest but with a detachable inflatable floor (by NSR?). Some may appreciate the sturdier fabrics and most will probably welcome the cheaper prices: the basic Kokopelli Hornet sells for 599 USD (compared to 945 USD for the Alpackaraft Unrigged Explorer).

Again something I might like to try but probably not going to buy as I don’t see it offering any advantages over my current packraft. But a lower cost option is always welcome and will likely help making packrafting more popular. The Kokopellis also seem like a great option for bikerafting or for people sharing a raft on easy waters or rafting with a canine companion.

The Aire BAKraft. Photo stolen from Forrest McCarthy's blog.

The Aire BAKraft on a test run. Photo stolen from Forrest McCarthy’s blog.

The very latest boat on the waters is the BAKraft by Aire named Hybrid SBF. Forrest McCarthy blogged about this self-bailing vessel that seems like a hybrid between an inflatable kayak (Aire’s main business) and a classic packraft.

The outcome is very interesting and also different to the classic packraft designs: it looks like a short IK, comes with a self-bailing floor and Aire thigh straps and the hull is constructed of urethane bladder covered with separate layer of Dyneema for high-strength protection. Size-wise its shorter and wider than Alpackraft Alpacka but as the design is very different the comparison on this level doesn’t probably make much sense. It weights under 3 kg with the self-bailing floor, thigh straps and backrest so it’s actually quite light. There’s some room to stove gear in the stern but apparently Cargo FLy type solution for stowing gear inside the tubes is in the making. The Hybrid SBF will be available in 2015 for RRP of 1200 USD. In addition there is a cheaper (and likely lighter) non-selfbailing version, the Hybrid Lite, coming too.

In my opinion this is very interesting design as it actually offers something new. Again I’d love to test it but don’t know if I’d buy it due the lack of a spraydeck. For serious white water use the selfbailing floor is probably as good or even better option than spray deck. And if you’ll need to bring a drysuit anyway or paddle in warm waters is makes a lot of sense. But for easier floats in colder climates the spray deck offers extra warmth and protection… Though I think a MYOG spraydeck would be rather easy project here…

The little ultralight packrafts

Supai Flatwater Canyon II on the right, Anfibio Buoy Boy inflatable vest in the middle, simple foam PFD on the left and 1L Nalgene for scale.

From right: simple oam PFD, Anfibio Buoy Boy inflatable vest and Supai Flatwater Canyon II packraft . A Nalgene for scale.

In addition to the full-sized and super capable packrafts there’s the sub-segment of superlight one-person rafts suitable for crossing lakes and rivers on hiking oriented trips, fishing on remote lakes, etc.

- The traditional boat and sort of benchmark in this category is Alpackraft Scout (1660g) being the most robust boat in the group.
Supai Adventure Gear Flatwater Canyon II  is the lightest boat in the group at 680 g with good design but small size and light materials.
– Klymit has the LiteWater Dinghy (LWD). The weight is reasonable 990g as is the price but based on what I’ve seen I’m not convinced by the design.
– Ruta Locura sells an ultralight version of the LWD called LWD-UL made of thinner fabric and thus being lighter (790g).
– FlyweightDesigns has updated the Flytepacker and it’s now called CrossFlyte and has an inner part (740g) and detachable skin (850g) for added robustness (total 1590g).
Advances Elements Packlite Kayak is more like an ultralight “pool-toyed” IK but at 1800g and with reasonable price it fits the segment well.

Packsailing

A client packsailing upstream the Kymijoki on my packrafting course in August.

In addition to the new rafts there are also new accessories which open up new ways of using the pakcrafts with packraft sailing being the latest thing. Packrafting-Store sells a kayak sails sized for packrafts and Joni and Marko have been pioneering the packsailing in Finland and Joery is also pushing the limits of packsailing by sailing the Belgian coast line (67km) in one day!

Being able to cover over 60km of flat water in a packraft in one day is pretty impressive! Packsailing is of course highly weather dependant (as is packrafting on flat water in general) but with the sail weighting only around 400g it makes sense to carry one just in case if the route includes long sections of flat water.

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That’s it for now I think.

I wish I would next see a sub-2kg packraft capable of handling class III white water and preferably equipped with a spray deck. Something like a white water version of the Alpackaraft CuriYak. In the end that would be the ultimate boat for majority of packrafters and I could have done 95% of my packrafting with such a boat and it would’ve been a lot lighter in my pack than my current boat. So, if the great people at Alpacka Raft company are reading this, feel free to start working on the idea! :)

Reminder: The First (Finnish) Packraft Gathering

Just to remind you all: ALL PACKRAFTERS IN FINLAND UNITE!

// Information in Finnish on Relaa.com and Timo Anttalainen’s blog. //

//Ja tietoa suomeksi Relaa.comissa ja Timo Anttalaisen blogissa. //

Packrafting at Ahvionkosket in August 2014.

Winter is just around the corner but there’s still time for a little paddling adventure…

The first ever Finnish packraft gathering will take place in less than a week, starting at Ahvionkoski at Kymijoki on Friday October 3th. The Finnish packraft gathering is not only Finnish but instead we will have a nice international attendance. Which is even better! Everyone interested is welcome to join but to be able to participate on the overnight trip starting on Saturday you’ll need some sort of boat or device for traveling 9km down stream on easy river. To my knowledge there is at least one packraft (Alpackaraft Denali Llama with spraydeck) available for the Saturday-Sunday overnighter. If you’re interested in renting/borrowing it, contact me and I’ll forward the inquiry.

There are also people coming with their own cars from here and there so shared rides are available for those in need. Feel free to ask, share and suggest!

The forecast shows typical autumn weather: cloudy, maybe rain and temps between +1C and +15C. The water level and flow are and will probably be below seasonal average but this isn’t a problem, there’s plenty of water at Kymjoki anyway. The water temperature is forecasted to be around +11C so not freezing cold, but not warm either…

Winter is not a reason not to continue the packrafting! Breaking the ice in Oulanka National Park in 2013.

IN A NUTSHELL

- Informal and free for all gathering of packrafters
– At Kymijoki on 3.-5.10.2014
– Starting from Kuovinkallio shelter at Ahvionkosket and traveling to Moronvuori day trip hut at Valkmusa National Park (see above for more information).
– Bring your own boat, camping gear and food!
Please fill in the Doodle questionnaire if you’re coming!
– Discussion in the Doodle or on my original blog post.

One Raft, Two Bikes and an Ancient Campsite

The last weekend N and I had a rare overlapping weekend without other projects and an overnighter was soon planned…

I wanted to do some more packrafting and found the Ruokolahden melontareitti, a 110km paddling route with some shelters and fireplaces along the way. As is the case in South-East Finland the route is mostly on the waters of lake Saimaa. But there was also a short river section, Lieviskänjoki, which was of interest for me as a packrafter.

The plan was simple: drop bikes to a shelter at Hiekkaniemi cape, drive to Pieni Jukajärvi lake and paddle 18km along the river and lakes to the shelter, spend the night at the shelter and cycle back to the car on Sunday.

We started the Saturday by dropping the bikes near the shelter and happened to meet some amateur archaeologists who had been searching the area as people have lived and traveled there also on the ancient times some 6000 years ago as the ice sheet had given up the area. The waterways were the natural routes before the time of roads that nowadays, sadly, reach almost every corner of Southern Finland. It was nice to think that we were about to follow an ancient waterway and sleep next to ancient campsite or settlement. There would be also some rock paintings on the way and we planned to take a look, but things don’t always go as planned.

After some more driving we were at the Pieni-Jukajärvi lake and found a good put in to start paddling. Thanks to sleeping in and spending some time chatting with the archaeology enthusiasts we were about two hours behind the planned schedule. But it was only 18 kilometers and we had nearly six hours before sunset and good possibility for a back-wind on the lake so we were confident…

To keep things interesting we had chosen to share an Alpackraft Explorer 42 instead of having separate boats. We hadn’t tried that ever before but it seemed possible. With the two of us and the gear we were probably close to the recommended maximum load of 200 kg and despite being quite big people we did fit in surprisingly comfortably. (We’ve also paddled sections of rivers in a single Alpackraft Llama with plenty of gear but that was far from comfortable…)

The river started as a small ditch but had enough room for the packraft and even a little flow to help us. We passed the first lean-to on our route, populated by a friendly group of men spending quality time in the woods with plenty of booze and car camping equipment. As we were on tight schedule we soon continued on the river taking breaks one at a time while the other was using the paddle as a two-bladed kayak paddle instead of two canoe paddles.

The flow was low and the river was quite densely vegetated, especially under the surface, which slowed us down and instead of the planned 4km/h our speed was around 2km/h and thus the 6 kilometer river took us some three hours leaving less than three to the sunset. As the wind had died we had no hope for packsailing across the lakes so it seemed we’d have to paddle in the dark… It was sort of “all in” situation as the waterway was the shortest route available because of the broken shoreline that was protected and thus without summer houses and roads. And to be honest, a long walk on the gravel wasn’t very inspiring idea either.

So we kept on paddling. 2,7 kilometers across the Lieviskänjärvi lake followed by a short and late lunch break at the mandatory portage around the ruins of an old mill. Then 4 kilometers along the narrow Lieviskänlahti sound. We passed the site of rock paintings in the sunset not having time to stop to search for them and rushed to cross the 6 kilometers of open waters at Muikunselkä and Rajakivenselkä. “Rushed” at what seemed to be 3 km/h as we started to be little tired and uncomfortable in our tiny raft.

It got dark and we had to navigate by the close-by shorelines and the horizon lines against the darkening night sky where stars started to appear. I was cursing myself not checking the time of the moon rise as I had been counting on some moonlight to help us but there wasn’t any available yet. We followed a marked boating lane as it would lead us by the little sandy cape we were aiming for. We paddled without headlamps to preserve our nightvision and to better see the little of the surroundings visible in the distance.

I was getting cold and N wasn’t too keen on paddling on the open lake in the dark.

The latter wasn’t helped by a boat heading to the opposite direction on the lane. We hadn’t seen any boats earlier the day but now heard a boat from the distance and then saw its lights and paddled out from the way towards a nearby island. We continued again, until we heard a second boat approaching. This time we didn’t see any light but heard the boat closing in fast and hastily paddled again out from the way. The boat passed us from a safe distance with high-speed – and without any lights. We decided to take the headlamps at hand to signal our existence and location in case of more boats.

Luckily, there were no more boats and we soon saw the horizon line dropping against a more distant horizon line marking the cape and the end of our night-time paddling. Seven and half hours after the start we had covered the 18 kilometers and were happily ashore on our planned campsite. We wobbled out from the boat with numb toes and stiff feet. To be fair, it wasn’t too bad taking into concideration the time we’d spend paddling in the tiny boat.

We put on more clothes and changed the wet and cold neoprene socks to dry woollen socks and trail runners and started a fire to get warm. Proper packrafting stuff. I noticed I was actually more cold than I had thought while paddling. Something you don’t think too much while you’re concentrated on navigation and making progress… +5 C night-time temps were forecasted and I had been only wearing two thin layers and Anfibio Buoy Boy vest which is not as warm as a typical foam filled PFDs. No wonder I was cold.

About immediately after we got on the shore the moon rose behind our back lighting the scenery. Soup, toasted sandwiches and hot chocolate tasted very good. Actually, even better than the cold beer. I spend some time taking photos of the moonlit mist on the lake before retiring to the warmth of my sleeping bag, once again sleeping on the thickest airbed I’ve ever taken on a trip: the packraft.

I woke occasionally to admire the misty moonlit lake and later the sunrise over the waters but always fell asleep after a short glimpse at the scenery. No ghosts of ancient travelers or hunters bothered our sleep. After sleeping in late the day was started with porridge and local lingon berries, smores (we were too tired to eat them the previous evening) and grower’s cup coffee (Quick verdict: Good coffee but little pricey and the trash would be a problem on longer trips.)

I hadn’t spent much time planning on lashing the gear on my bike and thus ended up with just some gear on the beam rack and most of the odd but lightish kit in my trusty HMG Porter pack. After some iterations and re-lashing I was good to go for the 30+ kilometers back to the car. I had sketched the route roughly on map by following the smallest continuous roads back to the car. I hadn’t payed any attention on the contours and was surprised by the amount of hills on our route. There were plenty. It made good training but would’ve been more fun with less equipment on the back… No surprise there.

We took it easy admiring the forest, rocks and ponds on the way following small winding gravel and sand roads up and down towards East. After a lunch break and couple of hours of pedaling we were back at the car and soon on our way back home for pizzas and beverages. A weekend well spent, though not exactly in the way we I had planned.

The small river provided an interesting adventure and the scenery on the lakes was good with plenty of rocky shores without summer houses or forestry roads, thanks to the conservation areas. The paddling route is worth another visit but next time I’ll take a kayak or canoe and paddle most or all of it. In my opinion packrafts just aren’t much fun on long lake crossings, though this time the darkness gave it a special twist keeping it interesting. But if I have to do extended lake paddling with a packraft the two person variant is a viable option: it’s little faster, you can take breaks in turns and easily socialize while paddling. I’d love to try the Alpackraft Gnu for trips like this. Maybe I’ll just have to buy one…

Special thanks for the Packrafting Store for the equipment I had in for testing!

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Footnote on photos: In addition to my trusted combination of Canon EOS 6D body and the EF 24-105 4 L IS lens I also took my old and nearly forgotten EF 50 1,8 lens and it was great fun to use it in the dark with a Gorillapod. I should keep in mind that DSLRs are systems as the name says and not get stucked using one lens only. It’s not good for inspiration. Now I found myself looking for reasonably priced high aperture lenses around the 24-35mm range. Any suggestions?

Packrafting at Kymijoki

A couple of weeks ago I was guiding a packrafting course at Kymijoki and had great time first alone and then with a nice group. Packrafting seems to be almost always great fun.

I went to the river a day ahead to check the water level and scout the rapids I’d been paddling only with considerably higher water level. I got at Kuovinkallio shelter, my starting point and shelter for the night, little late but was on the waters in 15 minutes after parking the car. I paddled around the area wondering the low water level and polishing plans for the days to come. Except for the roar of the water it was silent and even the roar was somehow soothing.

During the hasty start I had forgotten to take my headlamp and had decided I should stop after the sunset to have enough light for the short walk back to the shelter and to set the camp. Paddling alone in the maze of islands was so fun I ended up getting out an hour after the sunset and took an adventurous shortcut back to the shelter through the dark forest without my headlamp…

I met a local fishing supervisor and outdoors man at the shelter and had a great chat with him about the life by the river, local hunting and fishing and so on. After he left I started preparing late dinner and enjoyed the dark and silent surroundings under the stars. I fell asleep on my packraft thinking I should probably do solo trips more often…

The next morning I met the group on a breakfast at Aholan Lomalaidun and soon we were on the shore getting to know the tools for the weekend. The plan was to paddle to the nearby lake for starters but the headwind made our upstream paddling efforts useless. But as everybody had some previous paddling experience we changed the course and headed downstream for some swifter water. The day was spent learning basic techniques for moving water and at the end of the day we walked and paddled upstream back to Ahola for dinner and some self-rescue training with sauna as a reward.

The next day we paddled and floated again down the river, doing some training on the way towards bigger rapids. Despite the very low water level (it apparently hit the all time record low on Sunday) there was still plenty of waves and excitement on the Martinkoski rapids. There is sort of a “water guarantee” on Kymijoki, there’s always something for almost everyone, even enough to cause an involuntary swim…

On the way back we had the wind on our back and one of the group got a chance to try his Windpaddle Cruiser sail. Even with very light wind he was as fast as I was paddling an Explorer 42 as a solo boat with quite some effort. Sails do make sense and Packrafting-Store is now stocking them as well! After the hard paddle against the current it was time for good-byes.

It was a good course with a nice group. And at least one new packrafter was born on the currents of Kymijoki which makes me super happy. You can find Erkki’s blog post (in Finnish) here and some videos here and here. There will be more courses in 2015 for sure.

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As usual, some more photos in my gallery.

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PS. Remember the First Finnish Packraft Gathering!

It’s turning into an international event with participants coming also from abroad. It’s turning out to be quite popular event and if you have even slightest interest in packrafting I think it’ll be a blast! So, if you have the time on 3.-5.10.2014 and have or can get a raft, make sure to be there! With only one portage the route we’re planning is doable even with a PVC pool toy but for th best experience I’d recommend a real packraft. If you don’t have one, you can rent one from Backpacking North or Packrafting Store.

The First Finnish Packrafting Gathering

ALL PACKRAFTERS IN FINLAND – UNITE!

At the river in August 2014.

We’d like to invite you to the first ever gathering of packrafters in Finland. A well seasoned veteran, happy owner of a new boat or a complete beginner with a borrowed or rented boat – all are welcome! From Finland or from abroad, doesn’t matter.

This is an open invitation for anyone interested and having an access to a packraft.

Martinkoski rapids with record low water level in August 2014.

The meeting will take place at river Kymijoki in Southern Finland just North of Kotka from Friday October 3rd to Sunday October 5th.The schedule is flexible so you can join only for a part of the weekend or for the whole meeting depending on your schedule and preferences.

THE PLAN AND THE SCHEDULE

The Kuovinkallio shelter.

The gathering starts at Friday (3.10.) evening at Kuovinkallio shelter (WGS84 lat 60.64145° lon 26.75634°) at Ahvionkosket.

There’s a road access, parking space for a dozen cars or so, sheltered fire-place, woodshed and a toilet plus lots of decent places to pitch your shelter. Evening may be spent by the fire at the shelter and/or on the river. The beautiful section of island dotted Ahvionkosket rapids starts from the shelter and there’s easy two kilometer (2km) road or trail walk back to the shelter.

On Saturday (4.10.) we will leave from the Kuovinkallio shelter downstream starting at 12:00.

We will paddle down the river passing Martinkoski (class 1-2) and Kultaankoski (class 1 or less) which can also be easily portaged. We will continue on the Western fork of the river to reach the outskirts of Valkmusa National Park. This means about 9 kilometers of packrafting.

Finding our way to the Moronvuori hut along the small ditches with the high water of October 2012. This year it’ll be walking.

At some point we will change into hiking mode and walk about 2 kilometers to Moronvuori Day Trip Hut (WGS84 lat 60.56499° lon 26.75834°) in Valkmusa National Park. There is a hut, sheltered fireplace, a woodshed and a toilet. Evening will be spent at the area.

Exploring the Haukanvuori rock by the hut.

There is no planned program for Sunday (5.10.) and you are free to do as you wish. Options include for example:

- Hiking (4km) and/or paddling (2km hike + 3km paddling) from the hut back to the road 3562 in the West. A shuttle car back to Kuovinkallio may be arranged in advance.
– Paddling the Western fork (Hirvikoskenhaara) to Pyhtää or the Eastern fork to Kotka. Even all the way to the sea! Both require short hike back to the river.
– Playboating in Pernoonkosket rapids at the start of the Eastern fork. Require again short hike. A shuttle car back to Kuovinkallio may be arranged in advance.
– …or something completely different. It’s all up to you!

Surfing at Torminvirta in Pernoonkosket rapids in October 2012.

To get an idea of how many people are joining, when and what they’d like to do and to share rides, please fill in the Doodle questionnaire.

This is an informal and free gathering of like-minded outdoors people so in the end everybody is responsible for themselves. Bring the kit you need and remember to leave no trace!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

- The location of Kuovinkallio shelter
The Valkmusa National Park
The Moronvuori Day Trip hut
White water kayaking notes for Ahvionkoske, Pernoonkosket and Hirvikoski rapids (in Finnish)
– Photos from the Kymijoki river and the Valkmusa National Park in October 2012 (high water level)
- Photos from Ahvionkosket area in August 2014 (record low water level)
- Packrafting video from Torminvirta in Pernoonkosket during near-record-high water level in October 2012
– Packrafting videos (one and two) from Martinkoski during record low water level in August 2014

Not having a packraft? No problem! Rent one from BackpackingNorth!

IN A NUTSHELL

- Informal and free for all gathering of packrafters
– At Kymijoki on 3.-5.10.2014
– Starting from Kuovinkallio shelter at Ahvionkosket and traveling to Moronvuori day trip hut at Valkmusa National Park (see above for more information).
– Bring your own boat, camping gear and food!
Please fill in the Doodle questionnaire if you’re coming!

Martinkoski with the exceptionally high water level in October 2012.

DISCUSSION, PLANS, QUESTIONS, ETC. AT THE DOODLE OR HERE ON KORPIJAAKKO.COM BLOG!

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