Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day 1 with our $12 Packrafts

Jen floats her $12 Intex Explorer 200 next to Stewarts 30 year old life raft. 

I've been eyeing the stretch of the Bitterroot in near or our house for months. I run through Hamilton's river park many mornings before the heat of the day and dream of floating through the gravel bars and riffles.

Evidence of past attempts at rafting on the cheep?

With our friend and climbing partner Stewart coming into town and forecasts in the high 90's we decided that our need for a river sport had reached a head. Stewart has an old aviation life raft he uses for packrafting but my packraft project has stalled out trying to find suitable materials.

We decided we needed to put together a couple of river worthy kits on the choice. We acquired:
The fact that we spent about 5 times as much on PFDs, repair supplies and dry bags as on the rafts should indicate our confidence in these pool toys going into this endeavor. On the plus side they weigh under 5 pounds and pack small enough to fit in a day pack.

Raft, Paddle and Life Jacket in daypacks.

We actually brought a heavy pump on our first trip but Stewart soon convinced us that an inflator rigged from a garbage bag and a bit of tube was the better option. It is important to make sure that the tube protrudes into the bag a bit and is tapped or rubber banded on the inside. I found that the tube from a ball point pen was perfect and could be inserted far enough into the valve to move the one way flap aside and allow quicker inflation.

Stewarts garbage bag pump. Mine used a much shorter tube (the outside of a ballpoint pen).

We set out from our back door and hiked and waded for a couple of miles up river. The flow levels were quite low so we could walk on gravel bars and easily waded the river a couple of times.

We found a shady spot to inflate and set off.

The rafts did quite well and were still holding air at the end of the day despite dragging over numerous gravel bars and river rocks. They have large stable tubes and are quite balanced if you sit with your back to the large bulbous bow.

We were impressed enough with the rafts to decide to try a couple of more ambitious trips in the next couple of days ... stay tuned for the next trip report.

Up Next we try the Intex's in Whitewater 


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