Thursday, August 22, 2013

Whitewater in our $12 "Packrafts"

Buoyed (heh) by the lack of instant deflation on our first trip down the Bitterroot in our $12 Intex "Packrafts", we decided to seek out some whitewater up the West Fork. The river was quite low but we found some stretches with lots of rocks and small waves (maybe rocky class II). We spent an afternoon up there yo-yo'ing a stretch of white water near one of the put-ins and a couple days later (after a few minor repairs) did a (car shuttled) 12+ mile day trip including lots of rocks, gravel bars and numerous snags.

Sitting backwards, the large "stern" helps to fight the wheelie effect.

It was an absolute blast and I'm sold on the sport of packrafting. I'll let the photos do most of the talking but the rafts performed admirably. They aren't the most durable things in the world but we are certainly getting our money out of them.

Jen found a nice chute between the rocks in this rapid also seen in the top photo of me. Stewart and I had to attempt it a couple of times before we could run it.

We sit backwards in the rafts. Sitting this way, the large tubes and duck-butt like stern made them stable.  They aren't fast in the water but are  fairly easy to maneuver with back ferrying as Roman Dial recommends in Packrafting! An Introduction and How-To Guide. The tubes could actually stand to be a bit smaller to allow for easier paddling and I'd consider buying the smaller Intex Explorer 100 next time.

Preparing to carry back to the top of the rapid, Stewart's yellow raft is an old life raft.

The rafts are admirably light and easy to carry thanks to the thin material. We were fully planing on ending up swimming but they kept us afloat with a few bits of Tyvek Tape.  Eventually, a few miles into the third day the floors of both of our rafts succumbed to the numerous rocks (and one mandatory log) we'd slid over. The handling of the raft certainly decreased with the floor deflated. For the next trip I plan on using a sleeping pad inside of the now non-inflatable floor.

A gash in Jen's floor. 
Tempering after repairs. The Tyvek tape held but the floor sprung more leaks.
Deflation is a pain but jamming a stick in the valve to hold it open helps.

Getting out on the river has renewed my interest in building a more durable cheap pack raft and I'm sure we'll get a few more trips out of them this summer.

The whole kit:

Carrying boats back up above a rapid in a permanent sunset provided by forest fire smoke. 


Richard Davies said...

Great article! Thanks for the info. It was fun to read about your adventure.

I've just started looking into packrafting and this presents a great way to try it out without a huge financial commitment.

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