First Packrafting Lessons

CampingLast weekend I made my first attempt at packrafting, taking a cheap and cheerful trip down Ullswater in the Lake District. I found the trip more difficult than expected, partly because of the weather and partly because it was a new adventure and I only 1/2 knew what I was doing! here are a few things I learned for next time.

  1. Spraydecks are useful – Like on a kayak spraydecks are covers that seal between your waist and the raft and prevent splashes and drips getting into the craft. Being in a £30 dinghy rather than a proper raft I did not have one and had to stop every hour or so to bail the inch or so of accumulated water out the boat.
  2. Gloves are good – Your hands will get wet from the paddles; I ended up with small blisters on both hand from the rubbing of wet skin, a pair of neoprene type gloves will not only prevent this but keep your hands warm too!
  3. Footwear is better- I paddled with a pair of approach shoes for the walking section stored self in a dry bag but did not think to bring anything to paddle in. Que. cold wet feet, and sharp pointy rocks. I had a pair of kayaking shoes at home and wished I had brought them
  4. Balance your boat- Spend some time setting up your raft get everything in balance and a comfortable sitting position paddling around the launch point before you set off, don’t get over excited to be away and then have to try and do this later when you get pins and needles in the middle of the lake.
  5. Protect your air valves – If like me you start with a basic dinghy the inflation valves may be simple and in a position where they can be easily knocked. I managed to accidentally dislodge the valve for the floor chamber shifting my rucksack in the boat. Fortunately this was the least crucial of the chambers and I was easily able to reach shore and re-inflate. At the end of the day removing my bag from the raft the inner ring chamber accidentally deflated, that would not have not have been good mid-lake. I can’t speck for the valves on expensive rafts but in future I will cover mine after inflation with some gaff tape to protect them from movement in the boat.
  6. Trying to film in a raft is a right faf – No solution yet, it just is!
  7. If its windy take the kayak – Although this limits the whole walking bit.

Alastair Humphreys has some further tips, I should have paid more attention when I read this the fist time.

I should also add.

  1. Its great fun
  2. A post paddle swim is mandatory!
  3. Research your rivers beforehand if possible, UKriversguidebook is good for this
  4. You need a buoyancy aid, yes you do.

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