July 15, 2012
Whenever I've gone on a bike tour I always end up fantasizing about boating. In particular I dream about combining biking and boating. Say if the day is windy, if I'm riding downwind along a coast I think that I could be just sailing along. ...What if I had my 25-lb kevlar C1 canoe and used it as a trailer to pull behind a 25-lb folding bike. ...Which I then put into the canoe when on the water. Dream on... (Actually, I figured out how to do this. Post here elsewhere. I've posted on this theme a few different ways over the years.)
Well, the ultralight backpacking and mtbike camping crew have solved the problem in their own way. They've developed a compact 4.5-lb inflatable raft called a Packraft that they pack along then use to cross some body of water that it would be helpful if they did. Like, if there's a fjord where the shore suddenly detours around some inland bay for 30 rocky miles -- where you can see the other side of the bay a half mile away. Or if there's a trail that meets a river and there's no bridge and wading won't work. Packrafts are the cool popular new thing. And they seem to be impacting the trips. They're not just a tool to help out the original trip. They're changing the game. Cool!
It also seems like they're being used as part of Adventure Races. And I guess you can fit a bike into one.
Combined modality is where it's at, baby.
Google it and you'll see what I mean.
http://www.aktrekking.com/Packrafts/: "Packrafts have changed my life. At least, they've changed my wilderness trekking life."
But, whoa, so far it looks like the popular rafts are $500 and $800! I see also that the AK Trekking people used Sevylor rafts at first. I have one of their big kayaks and I do like it but it's bulky. I've noticed that Sevylor makes small boats, too. Probably available at West Marine and the like for $50. Seems more like it, to me. But what do I know. Hmmm, it looks like their tiny Trail Boat was really popular among packers -- but it's just discontinued. You'd think NOS would show up. I see they go cheap on Craigslist from time to time.
The classic Sevylor Trail raft is no longer available but it looks like other Sevylor models will do the trick. The 2-Person Caravelle ($35), Coleman Sevylor Specialist ($18!), and Coleman Navigator ($35) all seem viable for the simple, budget, entry-level side of this fun. Maybe the Intex Seahawk 2 is best of all ($50) -- bigger and a bit heavier, but it might be a tougher unit -- who knows. Compare and contrast. You can go even cheaper if you want via balloon-thin pool toys, but c'mon... Anyway, one doesn't have to start out at the $1K end with official packrafts.
Obviously, there are some intense outdoor action gear-freak bloggers on the scene. They cover packrafting both fancy and simple to no end, along with amazing wilderness adventures, competitions, gear reviews and astonishing modifications ("skinning" and customizing packrafts). It's boggling blogging. Check out: http://apaddleinmypack.wordpress.com and http://bedrockandparadox.com.
The BedrockandParadox dude is hardcore. He has amazing fire-starting info. He also discusses blogging credentials and reliability: how to know who to trust? Fascinating...
Packed size of packraft from Flyweightdesigns.com.
Adventurer Alastair Humphreys doing his packraft thing.