Packrafts and Packrafting
Yes, I am an unpaid Brand Ambassador for Neris Packrafts and their folding hybrid kayak range.
I help them with their pack raft design ideas, photography, marketing and yes I do get prototype pack rafts to test for free.....
But, I'm not all Neris Neris Neris. I know what I like, I know what’s out there in the open market place, I know what’s good and what’s bad, I know what works, I know what to avoid and I know what newbies and experienced paddlers alike need as their first packraft or upgraded packrafts.
I’m very happy to advise in a n open minded unbiased way on any questions that you may have.
So, which brand’s are the best?
(In my experience)
Alpacka (for the USA and made in the USA, has a very limited stock holding here in the UK)
Neris – (Joint Ukrainain/British designed pack rafts, made to a very high quality in the Ukraine with UK stock holding on PVC and soon TPU pack rafts)
Both of the above offer custom builds too
Also to note (at the time of writing)
Kokopelli – (from the USA, made in the Far East but great quality, unfortunately don’t have any packrafting specific retailers here in the UK stocking them)
Anfibio – (German designed Chinese made with a UK distributer but who has no UK stock holding, so there will be a 3 week wait from Germany)
MRS – (Good quality from China, has a new start up UK distributer, but say (on their website) MRS packrafts are made to order and as such have a delivery time of around 3-4 weeks
Then there are a few “also ran’s” new start up companies where you pay your money and you take your chances, they buy cheap from strongly marketed mass produced Chinese companies and they then fade away quickly when they realise they can’t make a quick buck or a wage from their hobby.
Over the last few years I’ve owned (and sold on the ones that didn’t suit me) packrafts from all of the above companies.
I love my Alpacka Caribou for Bike Packrafting as this is the only packraft specifically designed for carrying loads such at bikes and even hunted Caribou too.
I love my Neris LotaFun White Water packraft, with it’s built in spray deck and short length makes for such a fun packraft for white water paddling.
Then there’s the material that the packraft is made of.
Most Packrafts are made of
TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)
Advantage – Small pack size, weighs less, easy to carry over longer distances or on bikes and easy to inflate.
Disadvantage – Easier to puncture and snag than PVC boats, so light it could be be blown away (we’ve lost one out to sea in a storm in Scotland overnight once) and they are more expensive, The larger Alpacka packrafts can cost almost to £1,900 each, whereas the new Neris LotaFun TPU Basic models will start from £450
Other pack rafts are made of PVC
Advantage – Very tough, can handle rocks and scrapes much better than TPU, they are family and rocky river friendly, better on white water as they can bounce of rocks without the worry that you have in a TPU packraft, they get blown up to higher pressures to make them much more rigid and boat like plus they are much more affordable starting at just £370
Disadvantage – Heavy, don’t pack down small, need a foot pump to inflate to higher pressures. They are not built for overland adventures because of their weight and size they are intended more for car paddling with shorter walks to and from the waters edge and White Water rental places.
Or there is even a mix of materials, with TPU tubes and a PVC base/hull
Advantage – Perfect for families, taking dogs out on the water and great for shallow rocky rivers where they is a lot of scraping.
Disadvantage – Not as quite as light as a full TPU packraft and don’t fold down quite as small either.
Things to look out for
Buy from UK stock (all of those mentioned above are supplied here in the UK) as Brexit has put on a lot of hidden costs (tax, handing, duties) that may/will hit you when what you thought was a cheap boat arrives from anywhere else around the world, making it possibly a very expensive but low quality boat. Some companies to save costs, weight and reliability now by using single sided TPU material in their packrafts so be aware of this when looking at the specifications details.
Always buy from knowledgeable stores with a range of accessories that can supply you with the correct packrafting PFD (Personal Flotation Divise) and paddles that can be split down in to 3 or 4 pieces to help you carry them.
Then what type of Packraft?
Basic – Is a simple open pack raft with a seat to sit on and hopefully a good back raft for comfort but not much else
White Water – These are similar to the above Basic packraft, but with a spray deck to stop water getting into the packraft.
These spray decks can be either removable or fully fixed in to place and you will also need to wear a spray skirt too, this can be a real worry for inexperienced paddlers.
I’ve seen some with zipped up spray decks and worry about the inexperienced paddler not being able to get out of this packraft should it overturn? And Packrafts are notoriously difficult to roll. Entrapment and death is unfortunately not uncommon so I would always suggest profession pack raft training from the likes of Tirio or Backcountry Scotland
Self Bailers – these are like Basic open pack rafts but with around 8 or 10 small drain holes in the bottom hull with a higher seat position, this is to keep you out of the inch or two of water that is always in the bottom of the self bailer, for me I felt that I was sitting far too high in my self bailer and was more of a passenger than a pilot when the white water got tricky.
I fell out much more than I do in my white water packraft with the built in spray deck.
Longer thinner pack rafts that are better off shore in calmer waters, faster to paddle, but not as much fun in white water and they don’t pack down as small or as light weight either
TiZip’s – These are air tight zips in the hull so you can store luggage in side the boat, but as I’m lazy I can’t be bothered with all of the maintenance and care that is always needed to keep it water tight.
Tandem packrafts – Larger pack rafts for 2 people
I could go on but if you’ve read this far congratulations. And thank you for humouring me in doing so.
Until next time