No, unfortunately I don’t have any new packrafting toys for myself but there have been few very cool new products hitting the market this summer. And even though I’ve tweeted about every one of the new toys they are also worth a blog post as I have readers who don’t follow me on Twitter. (For those readers: It’s an option worth considering just go here and click “Follow”.) A lot of this information is originally from packrafting.de, a great blog worth following!
To get you started here a few pics from the recent trips near Kilpisjärvi, both including a bit of packrafting. Both trips were possible thanks to the packraft rental service by Backpacking North.
My mate Tuomas packrafting the Kummaeno river. A lot of walking followed by easy river with low water level: a trip where a light but sturdy packraft would have excelled.
N floating down the gorgeous Reisadalen after a lot of walking. Again a lighter packraft, or a raft for two, would’ve done the trick here.
Dry suits, designed solely for packrafting!
Dry suit just makes packrafting a lot more comfortable if it’s cold, the water is cold or you’re doing hard stuff in white water. For most use you don’t really need one but might occasionally still want one. We didn’t have dry suits on the aforementioned trips but I did miss mine on the Kummaeno. I have been using an Ursuit AWS 4-tex suit made by a Finnish company Ursuk. They make great dry suits, especially for demanding professional use, and the AWS 4-tex is also a very good dry suit for the use it was designed for. But it has socks and they tend to wear out and start to leak in packrafting use (which includes walking with the suit, often sand, sticks and squirrels in your shoes). And for the trips where you have to carry your rafting kit over long distances, a lighter option would be nicer…
Tuomas on Lätäseno back in 2011. One of those moments when you really appreciate a quality dry suit.
And da-daa! Now there are two dry suits designed solely for packrafting.
They are both very simple and light weight and instead of socks (or fixed boots) they have gussets in the ankles. The long-awaited dry suit from Alpacka, the Stowaway, hit the shelves this summer and a bit later the European Packrafting-Store launched their own Anfibio line including a dry suit called the Packsuit. I have to say that on the screen the Alpacka Stowaway is more appealing thanks to the zipper on waist (for the need that naturally occur during a long day of packrafting) and a neoprene neck closure (suits better for my skin). But the Packsuit’s zipper seems better for ventilating while on waters (Yes, it’s dangerous so practise at your own risk!) and the price point is really good.
As the Ursuk dry suits are though bastards I don’t see myself investing on a new dry suit any time soon… But if you are looking for a dry suit mostly for packrafting, I’d choose between the two dry suits really designed for packrafting.
As the waters in Finland are already getting colder it’s timely to remind also of the cheaper option for a dry suit: neoprene wetsuit. These are not as comfortable (especially when wet the next day and crispy in the freezing morning air) nor are they as light but they are cheap alternative for stretching the packrafting season towards the winter. For packrafting I’ve used one of the cheapest a sub 40 euro model available from Motonet-stores in Finland. It’s designed for surfing and probably doesn’t excel even for that but it’s cheap and gets the job done. A real bargain.
I’ve been mostly using an Alpacka Denali Llama which is a great packraft for my needs but occasionally either too small (as me and N found out last summer when trying to packraft with two people and two rucksacks on board) or too big and heavy. The big and heavy part usually leads to leaving it at home if it’s not really needed for the trip but a light raft would be nice for occasional river or lake crossing and generally as a tool to provide more freedom of choise in the backcountry. And now there are options to tackle both of the problems!
The Alpacka Explorer 42. Picture stolen from Packrafting Store website.
For the need of a two-person packraft there is now the Explorer 42:Nearly canoe-like two-person packraft by Alpacka Raft available on Packrafting Store. It’s 32 cm longer from the inside than my Llama and the inner doesn’t taper towards the front which means there should be really enough room for two people and two big packs. Just add few tie-downs to the stern as the big butt easily supports a rucksack or two. It weights only 2650 g (without seats) i.e. 1325 g per person. That’s not bad as the classic solo packrafts from Alpacka weight about 1 kg more! Add a pair of Trekking Pole Blades (140 g) to your trekking poles for canoe style paddling, use your sleeping pads as seats and you have a sub 3 kg packrafting package for two! (Just don’t take it on white water… Though some nice class I might go…)
The Alpacka CuriYak. Picture stolen from Alpacka website.
For the need of a sturdy but light tool for backcountry travel there has always been the Alpacka Scout. But with an inner length of 104 cm and limited buoyancy it’s not really meant for people of my size (186 cm tall). Roman Dial has been using a longer spray-decked special version “the Super Scout” but the design is not available for the public. Instead there is now the all new Alpacka CuriYak! It’s very interesting design with pointy bow and big stern with the standard 12 inch tubes but the tubes in the middle are only 10 inch in diameter. It’s sized like the standard Yak (i.e. has 10 cm more inner length than the Scout) but weights only 1,87 kg (versus 2,25 kg for the Yak). Unfortunately there is no spray-deck available for this one but a MYOS spray-deck is always a possibility… Anyhow, very interesting boat and if I could afford, I would definitely buy this one to accompany my Llama. (Then I could upgrade the Llama with the new spray-deck and skirt, add thigh-straps and so on. To pimp your packraft take a look at Luck Mehl’s great tutotial.)
And there is also a lot lighter option for this category from Klymit (the company making the weird sleeping pads) the “Light Water Dingy”. As the name suggest it’s really meant for easy water and seems a bit dubious in my opinion but would probably do great job on easy crossings and would double as a very comfortable sleeping pad. Only problem is the 200 pound weight limit as I’m way over that, even without any gear! But for some this is probably an interesting option to the FlytePacker packraft (or for inflatable beach mattresses typically used on Finnish multisport competitions). Oh, it weights only about 650 grams and should cost around 250 euros. Not too bad.
Feel free to comment the post and the topic, especially if you have any first hand experience about the products mentioned here or links to user reports!