Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: paddling

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. For the Europeans wanting to try the Gnu it’s again available for rent from Packrafting Store!

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 and backrest so it’s actually quite light. The beefy Aire thigh straps (also widely used as a DIY modification in Alpackarafts) add about 0,5kg. 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.

– – –

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! 🙂

Edit: Post edited on 2.10. as I got new infromation: Alpackraft Gnu is again available for rentals from Packrafting-Store and the weight of the Aire Hybrid SBF BAKraft doesn’t include the thigh straps.

Highly Recommended Watch: Packrafting 101 Videos!

You really want to take a look at this! (At least if you have any interest in packrafting or boating rivers in general.)

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Whitewater packrafting at Kymijoki in October 2012.

I spotted the Packrafting 101 video series by Media Feliz from Dave C’s excellent blog but in my opinion they are so good they deserve a post of their on – and few comments.

As packrafting is gaining popularity there has been a screaming need for a simple introductory video series on. Roman Dial’s book Packrafting! is a great resource and worth getting but for teaching boating technique a video is way better format than text. Although personal teaching from a guide or experienced boater is the best way to go, the high quality video series is very helpful – and even completely free!

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Packrafting in Reisadalen in September 2012. I’ll be returning there in a week!

The first video is about getting ready for the river: how to inflate your raft, get into the boat and into the water. It’s showing the new Alpackaraft Whitewater Spray Deck but with the Cuiser Spray Deck things are actually even simpler. Personally I prefer inflating the seat and backrest before inflating the boat itself but I guess this is a matter of personal preference.

The second video is about the basic strokes, eddy turns and ferrying. Very good stuff, though I consider the eddy turns in the video to be beyond basic skills as packrafts are very stable and unless you turn into very strong current not much special maneuvering is needed. But of course, it doesn’t hurt to do the things in the proper way from the beginning. Ferrying is an important skill and I’d like to highlight also the usefulness of back ferrying (i.e. back paddling to slow you down and at the same time reposition yourself in the current to navigate obstacles or to get to the line you want to run).

The third (and final?) video is about river navigation which is maybe the most important skill for any river boater. In my opinion the video could start from even more basic things (like the “Vs” in the water, etc.) but it’s still very good stuff. Pay attention to dangerous obstacles, swimming in current and self-rescue with a packraft, which is surprisingly easy and useful technique! And remember, it’s never wrong to portage!

“Packraftafari!” 😉

PS. There’s also the Kickstarter funded Learn to Packraft! project by Ryan Jordan. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to back the project at the time so I don’t know what’s the situation of it but I’m expecting veru helpful super high quality outcome. And good news is that the 3-hour introductory level part will be available for free via American Packrafting Association.

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Update, 2.9.2013:

In case you are into more advanced stuff and found the contents of the Packrafting 101 familiar, Luc Mehl has added a good Class IV Packrafting introduction on his great website. Good stuff and I think a lot of it is usefull in class 2 and 3 white water as well. And I agree with Luc, I highly recommend taking a course and going out with more experienced boaters. To my knowledge, beer works for kaykers all over the planet, not just in Alaska. 😉

Luc’s article also lead me to NSR’s Youtube channel which has a video series on Safety and Rescue. Worth taking a look if you’re interested in more serious whitewater packrafting as the safety perspectives are basically the same in packrafting and hardshell boating. I guess one of the few differences between hard shell boating and packrafting is in the self-rescue: Wet re-entry self-rescue with a packraft is quite easy and very usefull and naturally not mentioned in hardshell boating videos so you want to keep that in mind as well. Again these videos are something more for inspiration and ideas than actually learning skills. Skill are learned in the field so take a course and/or get out with experienced people.

(The above video is the first of 12 episodes, a good way to spend you lunch break today…)

– – –

And a little unpaid advertisement:

– In Finland and interested to try packrafting? Rent one from Mark at Backpacking North!
– Would you like to learn packrafting in safe and efficient way or go for an epic packrafting tour in the Northern wilderness? Hire me as a guide!
– Living in Europe and wanting to buy a packraft (or cool accessories)? Packrafting-store.de is what you are looking for!

Gear for the upcoming packrafting trips

At this time next week I will be walking into my first serious packrafting trip, the FPE2011. Starting with a 45km walk in followed by likely the most remote and wild rivers in Finland: Valtijoki, Poroeno and Lätäseno totalling over 140km of packrafting. The Valtijoki sounds quite intimidating with its big drops, class IV rapids and stuff but, well, man has to do what man has to do. Because of mundane concerns we had to squeeze the trip into eight days meaning that we will likely skip the Halti fell and Govddajohka…

"Last minute" trip planning and trying to get a better understanding about the various challenges of the Valtijoki.

This post deals about my gear choises for the trip with a quick look on the menu and little information about another packrafting trip following immediately after this one…

The gear

First, here (FPE2011_gear) is a detailed pdf gearlist for you to inspect and criticize. The weights followed with question mark are estimates as I haven’t yet weighted that stuff. There will be an updated list later with exact weights.

As usual, the list comes in a little late for me to do any major changes to it, but all feedback is very welcome, so please leave a comment if something comes into your mind.

There is some new stuff in the clothing section. Instead of my normal synthetic long sleeve I’ll be hiking in a buttoned Haglöfs shirt as it seems like a perfect hiking shirt: cool, quick drying, wind resistant and mosquito proof! The other major change is that inspired by Joe’s Death to Rainpants I decided to take only Montane Featherlight pants (new to me but seem good). So I’ll leave my usual hiking pants (very old Haglöfs Mid Fjell) and shell pants home. This saves me a lot of weight and has relatively low impact as I’ll spent six days out of eight paddling in a dry suit instead of hiking. There’s quite a lot of warm clothing as the night time temperatures have been occasionally around +4C and freezing temps are not especially rare even though it’s July. In July 2009 we had temps near 0C, accompanied by some snow and freezing winds from the Arctic Sea. That’s the summer in the North. But it might as well be +25C with sun and horrible hordes of mosquitoes…

The forecast makes me reconcider the rainpants... At least there should be enough water in the rivers.

For footwear I’ll be taking my trusworthy La Sportiva Wild Cats with Inov8 socks (very nice socks but not too durable) and Inov8 debris gaiters. And as the primary mean of travel we will naturally have packrafts. I’ll be riding my new 2011 model Alpacka Denali Llama and Tuomas will be having an older model Alpacka Yokun Yak. Both of the boats have spray decks. As a paddle I have 215cm long 2-piece aluminum one from Finnish Welhonpesä. It’s a bit on the heavy side but it’s sturdy and cheap.

Unrelated picture of my Llama at the near by island this weekend.

As we will be rafting for about 75% of the time and the river is very challenging to us, we wanted to have good boating kit. We decided to go for full dry suits, the Finnish made Ursuit AWS 4-Tex suit. Jörgen is using a lighter Ursuit MPS for his trip to Nahanni, but we wanted a bit beefier suits to suite also other uses because a drysuit is quite an investment. In addition we’ll be having helmets, foam PFDs, throw lines and the whole usual white water kit. This weight while hiking in might save our asses later when boating, so for us the it is very acceptable.

Carrying and packing stuff is quite the usual: Golite Pinnacle and Ortlieb Aqua-Zoom for my EOS 550D. But I decided to take a bit heavier 100% waterproof Ortlieb PS 17 dry sack to line my rucksack with as the light ones from Tatonka that I would normally use do leak a bit under pressure. The Ortlieb should keep my gear dry even if capsizing.

In camp we will share a light propane stove and 1,4 liter pot in addition to Golite Shangri La 3 tent with MYOG inner tent to protect us from bugs. We will use a paddle as a center pole to save some weight.

Quite horrible picture of my Golite Shangri La 3 with the MYOG inner. Pic from last summer's trip to Käsivarsi where I drowned my camera on the first day.

I had plans about making all the kind of cool new stuff for this trip but the reality is that I haven’t found any time to spent with the sewing machine so instead of a new cool Pertex Endurance & Primaloft quilt I’ll be taking my old and weary summer sleeping bag. I might even take my girlfriends Haglöfs Zensor bag which is a bit heavier but a lot warmer as the forecast show night-time lows around +5 Celcius.

We will take an Iridium sat phone for extra safety. This is something that I don’t usually carry with me but now it feels appropriate. It also helps communicating with a group of Tuomas’ friends who we plan to meet along the way. They will be rafting down the river in a big white water raft (flown in to the beginning of Poroeno).

As for camera gear, I decided to take only one lens for my EOS 550D and that is naturally the magnificent EF 24-105 4 L IS. And as we will spent a lot of time in the water I’ll take waterproof Olympus Though 3000 point&shoot and a Gorillapod to attach the camera to the packraft or to myself.

Then there is a big bunsh of small stuff pushing the total skin out baseweight to 16,7 kilo! It’s not especially nice but there is a big pile of boating equipment in that weight. Top that with consumables and the full skin out weight will be around 23 kilos meaning a heavy rucksack in the beginning. It might be a bit uncomfortable with the Pinnacle… When we start packrafting at the source of Valtijoki my pack atatched to the bow of my Alpack should weight around 14 kilo which should be tolerable bow load for white water. We will likely portage a lot of the harder stuff (there are some class IV and V rapids on the river) but might occasionally try to run a harder rapid or drop without the extra load if we think it’s safe enough. Most of the class II and III should be doable with the planned load. Or at least we really hope so!

Any ideas or criticism? Feel free to drop a comment!

The food

I didn’t bother to pay too much attention on the food for this trip, i.e. I didn’t too a comprehensive spreadsheet. I think I have enough experience with one-week-long summer trips and on trip this short the nutritional aspects are not as important as on very long trips. But I hate to be hungry so I ended up to about 850 grams of food per day meaning maybe 3500-4000kcal per day. Less would have been likely sufficient but I decided to play it safe. I could have also gone with only two different dinner options but my mate Tuomas wanted a bit more variation so now we have four different types of dinners. The weight/day figures are somewhat questimated average figures.

I did some shopping this week. The stuff just needs to be re-packed.

The menu includes the following:

– breakfast: oat meal with sweet blueberry soup OR muesli with powdered whole milk (total 150g/day)
– lunch: tortillas with chocolate spread and home-dried bananas OR flapjack bar and mini salami (total 150g/day)
– dinner: a delicious home-dried cook-in-one-pot candle light dinner (175g/day)
– snacks: M&Ms, a small chocolate bar per day, beef jerky, chilli nuts and some chocolate chip cookies (200g/day)
– drinks: one cup of tea, coffee and hot chocolate for each day and some sports drink stuff if it gets really warm (50g/day)
– and in addition: butter, oil, hard rye bread and some more salami (around 125g/day, mostly fats)

Oh, and a bottle of Scoths for the evenings… It’s worth it, especially if it’s rainy and cold. 😉

The follow-up trip to Sweden

After ending the FPE2011 trip to Markkina on Saturday, Tuomas will head to South with his friends and I will take a bus back to Kilpisjärvi where I will meet my girlfriend. I’ll spent the Saturday at Kilpisjärvi resupplying, washing clothes, etc. and on Sunday morning we’ll be heading for a 6-7 days long hike to the Swedish side of the lake Kilpisjärvi.

Skiing the Kummaeno in April 2010. Now we plan to packraft it down to the Finnish border.

We will take a boat ride (a boat named Malla makes threertrips a day in the summertime) to Koltaluokta on the western side of lake Kilpisjärvi. Instead we could follow a 15km trail thru the Malla National Park North of Kilpisjärvi but we will save little time when taking the boat. From Koltaluokta we will walk West to the Pältsan and Moskugaisi fells. If the weather is nice we might climb to admire the views from the top but the main idea is to traverse the fells via the Isldalen valley. The travers will take us near Pältsastugan hut and the upper part of Kummaeno river which floats all the way to the Finnish border to the Southern end of Kilpisjärvi. The plan is to float down the river in one packraft. We have tried it on a lake and despite being very cramped, it works. With the new 2011 model Llama both rucksacks go on top of the new big butt and we sit on our sleeping pads in the “honeymooner position” recommended in the Roman Dials book Packrafting! The river is very easy with only couple of harder white water sections that I might ride down alone with Nina walking past them. The trip should end to the road side at Keinovuopio some 10km South from the Kilpisjärvi. After that we’ll try our luck in hitch hiking or take a little run along the road with out the gear. I’ve done it earlier. A nice way to stretch you legs…

For the second trip I’ll do some changes in the gear: I’ll ditch most of the white water kit and instead take rain pants and neoprene socks (neoprene shorts would be cool but I didn’t come up with the idea early enough). I will also strip the Llama down by removing the spray deck, seat and backrest to save some weight. I will probably also leave the satphone behind as unnecessary weight.

PS. Does anyone of you know a good online map service for Sweden? If I’d find one, I could put the planned route online.