Packrafting: what it is and how to do it

Packrafting: what it is and how to do it

You might have heard the word ‘packrafting’ banded about your circle of friends. Or even read about it in a recent article. Packrafting is not exactly the new kid on the block, but it is making a big impact on the adventure and outdoor travel world at the moment. And for good reason!

According to various sources, the first packraft was created in 1952 in Mexico, where it transported adventurer Dick Griffith along the Urique River in Chihuahua. It’s come a long way from its humble beginnings, and you can now see packrafts taking front and centre stage in many adventure blogs and magazines, with people like Al Humphreys and Laura Bingham all taking on expeditions in these handy little crafts.

But what actually is packrafting? And how can you give it a go? Let’s take a look…

What is packrafting?

You’d be forgiven for mistaking a packraft for an inflatable kayak as they are very similar. However, there are a few fundamental differences. Firstly, a packraft looks more like a mini raft than a kayak. They tend to have a large volume of buoyancy and plenty of space to store your ‘stuff.’ They are inflatable ‘mini rafts’ which can be inflated by the side of the body of water you’re about to paddle. And they roll right down into a large backpack, making them excellent for walking/paddling adventures.

Who can go packrafting?

Well, anyone! You’ll need an actual packraft of course. But apart from that and your normal kayaking equipment, that’s really all you’ll need. The rafts are super stable and forgiving, making them excellent for people who want to trundle along on an adventure, but perhaps not so great for people wanting some speed.

Where can I go packrafting?

The beauty of these packrafts is that they can be transported easily in a large backpack. Making the world your oyster! You can paddle them in the UK or plan adventures overseas. The possibilities you gain are pretty endless. If you’re new to paddling, take a look at our tips on how to get started with the planning of an adventure.

When’s the best time to go packrafting?

You can go packrafting at any time of year really. But if you’re new to paddling, spring and summer might be your best option. At this time, the river levels are lower and the flora and fauna along the river, canals and lakes are beautiful. Plus if you did happen to take a dip, the water and air temperature is a little warmer for you!

Why should I go packrafting?

Why not!? But seriously, if you are looking to get into paddling but want to combine it with other outdoor activities, packrafting might be the thing for you…

Top tips for your Packrafting adventures

  1. Travel light. Bare in mind you will be carrying your raft, paddle, safety equipment, clothes, food… everything you need to go paddling and walking in one day. So with that in mind, it’s best to travel light. Pack the essentials and leave the ‘nice to do’s’ at home.
  2. Plan ahead. Planning is key to any successful adventure. Use tools like Paddlepoints to plan the paddling part of your adventure, and OS Maps for the walking trails.
  3. Familiarise yourself with our safety tips. Really important, especially if you’re new to paddling. Better safe that sorry!
  4. Start gentle! Until you get confident in your packraft, start with sheltered water environments. These include slow flow rivers, canals and lakes (paddling close to shore). As you build your skills and confidence you can start to paddle more moving water and other environments, but don’t run before you can walk.
  5. Get a licence before you head out. Paddle UK ‘on the water’ membership includes a licence for you to paddle on around 5,000km of waterways in England and it’s very affordable. It also includes civil liability insurance too.

So what are you waiting for? If you like getting active outdoors and going on adventures in the UK and abroad, packrafting should be right up your street (or river!)