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 PACKRAFT BASICS 

New to packrafting or paddling? That's ok, let's get you up to speed...

There are a few different types of packrafts available. Which one you choose will depend on how and where you intend to use it. To jump straight to a packraft model comparison, click here.

Firstly you need to decide if you need a lightweight packraft or a heavy duty mini-raft.

 

Packrafts are made from a durable lightweight material and can fold down quite small for carrying in a backpack. They can be used combined with hiking, bike touring or other methods of transport.

 

Mini-rafts are made from heavy duty material so are not quite so light and do not pack down quite as small as packrafts. They are excellent 'hard boat' replacements for canoes or kayaks, and perfect where you expect to drive to the water, or where weight and size of a hard boat is undesirable.

There are three basic design types of packraft.

 

The first type is the Standard or Open design. This is generally the lightest model, as it doesn't have any extra attachments or accessories like the following types below. The Standard design will generally come with a basic seat and backrest. It is easy to get in and out of, and will pack down smaller and generally weigh less than the other types below.  The Standard design can be used for general recreation, flat water like lakes, touring, and easy moving or low grade whitewater.

The second type is the Spraydeck design. This is a very popular design as the spraydeck provides some protection from the elements, and in moving or whitewater it can help to prevent water washing over and into the packraft. The spraydeck can be a removable or touring/cruiser version, which is very common, or there are models that are specific to whitewater with a fixed spraydeck, which you then fit an extra 'skirt' to in order to keep the inside of the packraft water free just like in a kayak. These weigh a little more due to the extra weight of the spraydeck. Because the spraydeck is fitted around you, it takes a little longer to enter and exit the packraft. They are great all-rounder boats and can be used to tour in, on whitewater (depending on the packraft and experience of the paddler), and the spraydeck or skirt can be removed for general recreation. 

The third type is the Self-Bailing design (or self bailer). These packrafts are designed for moving and whitewater environments. They are an open design and allow most water that washes into the packraft to eventually exit through holes in the floor of the packraft when moving.  They generally have an inflatable floor or insert. They are more exposed than a spraydeck design, so are more suited to warmer climate environments or where the paddler wears protective outerwear such as a drysuit. They are quick to enter and exit, and make scouting rapids or portages faster and easier because of this.

Each type of packraft above has its own pros and cons, and performs better in different situations, so selecting the right packraft for you and your intended use is important. For any questions about which packraft is right for you, please don't hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to help.

To view a comparison of the different models of packrafts, see this chart.

See the current packraft range here

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