What is packrafting?

“Packrafting” is using a small, lightweight inflatable boat to do whatever you would do in a bigger boat. By “small” I mean generally one person. By “lightweight” I mean less than ten pounds — generally five pounds or less. By “whatever a bigger boat can do,” I mean cross and float rivers, streams and lakes, even run rapids or cross saltwater bays and fjords.

Packrafts come into their own during lightweight travel. A packraft fits in your rucksack, on your bicycle, in a duffle bag, even in a fanny pack, and yet it is a functional watercraft. Packrafts are not the traditional “duckies” or “inflatable kayaks” of the past.

Being lightweight doesn’t mean they aren’t tough, however. Certainly there are some inexpensive vinyl rafts that are small, lightweight, and inflatable, but they are really not suitable for doing “whatever a bigger boat can do.” Those rafts are simply too fragile. Over the last thirty years in the USA, there have been several packrafts that have been small and lightweight (less than ten pounds) and used to run up to Class III whitewater. One brand, Alpacka Raft, has even been used by experts to run rapids, big drops, and waterfalls rated Class V.

A packraft, easily carried while you walk, run, bike, hike, ski, drive, or even fly, encourages amphibious travel. Packrafts can be simple fun for little kids on local lakes or necessary tools for burly adventurers doing first descents on international epics. Packrafts can be used to get into and out of otherwise hard to reach hunting, fishing, and climbing areas, or they can be used for “sport-boating,” paddled alongside kayaks and other whitewater craft on rapid-filled runs. But mostly they are as much fun to paddle as mountain bikes are to ride. They put joy into boating.

My favorite use for packrafts is crossing wild landscapes where rivers run free and the only trails crossing the country are made by wild animals. It is there, when I grow tired of walking, that I can boat, and when I grow tired of boating, I fold up my raft and hike over the ranges to another river to paddle again. For me, the best trips mix mountain and water wilderness over many days to weeks, where I am accompanied by good friends and wildlife.
Excerpted from Packrafting! An Introduction and How-To Guide, by Roman Dial

Excerpted from Packrafting! An Introduction and How-To Guide, by Roman Dial

Contact Us

American Packrafting Association

PO Box 13
Wilson, WY 83014