Packrafting is incredible fun and also an amazing way to start paddling. Packrafts are stable, forgiving and easy to learn in, and being so versatile they can be used in various water environments. They can take much of the initial technicality out of being able to get on the water as opposed to crafts like kayaks. This is both a positive and a negative.
With the increase in the number of people travelling on and seeking recreation in water environments, it’s important to be aware of our experience, limits, capabilities and knowledge of the environment we are spending time in.
Being able to assess your ability to deal with the specific type of water you are planning on entering is imperative, and so is your ability to look after yourself (and ideally others too) if something goes wrong.
We firmly believe that anyone looking to spend time paddling, should invest in some basic training. There are some fantastic options to consider, such as our Introduction to Packrafting, and Introduction to Whitewater Packrafting courses.
There are other excellent options such as general Swiftwater Safety courses that run over 1 or 2 days. These courses run by the Rescue Training Group, Swiftwater Safety Institute and others, are fun, informative and allow you to grow your knowledge of hazards, experience being immersed in a moving water environment in a controlled manner, and build your self-rescue skills and ability to respond to assist others.
The lifesaving Bronze Medallion training is another example of worthwhile non-packraft specific training. This type of training, and the experience it brings can literally save your life, or that of someone else.
There are also other beginner and advanced packraft training courses offered by private organisations and paddling representative and governing bodies (such as Canoe Tasmania), which give you access to extremely experienced and certified instructors with insight and knowledge of packrafts, and how best to safely paddle and handle them.
So do yourself, and your paddling family and friends a favour and get yourself skilled up. It will boost your confidence, expand your paddling opportunities, and potentially save a life.
Below you will find a list of recommendations to use as a starting point to keeping yourself and your friends and family safe on the water.
We strongly recommend customers seriously consider the following safety recommendations:
· Always wear an approved PFD (Personal Floatation Device) or lifejacket when in a Packraft or on the water.
· We recommend using a helmet also, particularly in whitewater.
· Never paddle alone.
· Never paddle any type of water or conditions you are not comfortable swimming in.
· Consider taking a paddling course, or safety/rescue course relevant to your chosen paddling environment.
· Understand and be aware of the water and weather conditions you intend to paddle in.
· Be aware! Serious damage to the Packraft can cause immediate deflation and immersion in the water.
· Be aware of this, and prepared to self-rescue and carry appropriate rescue and repair equipment.
· Packrafts are lightweight and can be affected by wind. Do not venture too far from shore.
· Let others know where you intend to paddle and when you expect to return.
· Have some first aid training, including CPR, and always carry a stocked first aid kit.
· Have an understanding of basic universal paddling hand and whistle signals. Make sure others also know them.
· Gain prior knowledge of the environment you intend paddling in.
· This includes paddling/river notes, water levels, entry/exit points (including emergency exit points), and maps.
· Carry an emergency repair kit for your packraft, and know how to use it.
· Scout unfamiliar rapids or sections prior to paddling them.
· Know your own capabilities and limits, and those of the people you paddle with.
· Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the environment and weather conditions.
· Carry communications and a basic emergency kit including food, shelter and fire starting kit.
· Know the limits of your own capability, experience and knowledge, and your packraft.
· Never become complacent on the water. Enjoy yourself but stay aware.
This list is not an exhaustive one, but please consider it a starting point to increase your own knowledge of paddling safety.
Have fun out there, and safe paddling!