Exploring the World of Packrafting

In the realm of outdoor adventures, a packraft emerges as a versatile and unique tool, offering explorers an exceptional opportunity to navigate waterways with ease. These compact, lightweight inflatable boats have gained popularity among outdoor enthusiasts for their portability and versatility, enabling individuals to venture into remote landscapes that were once difficult to access. Let’s delve into the benefits of using a packraft and essential care tips to ensure a safe and enduring journey.

Benefits of Packrafting:

Access to Remote Locations: Packrafts open up a world of exploration by providing access to places otherwise unreachable by traditional means. With the ability to paddle through rivers, lakes, and even calm ocean waters, packrafters can discover hidden gems in nature that are off the beaten path.

Portability: Weighing as little as five pounds, packrafts are designed to be carried in a backpack. This compactness is a game-changer for outdoor enthusiasts, allowing them to seamlessly transition from hiking to water travel without the need for extensive equipment or transportation logistics.

Versatility: Packrafts are well-suited for a range of water conditions, from serene flatwater to mild whitewater. This adaptability makes them a fantastic choice for beginners and experts alike, catering to various skill levels and preferences.

Low Environmental Impact: These inflatable vessels are gentle on the environment, minimizing the ecological impact of exploration. Packrafters can float down waterways without disturbing fragile ecosystems, leaving no trace behind.

Calm water and white water packrafts  –  what’s the diff?

A calm water packraft and a white water packraft are two distinct types of inflatable watercraft designed for different types of water environments and activities. The key differences between the two:

Calm Water Packraft: A calm water packraft is designed for use on calm and flat water surfaces such as lakes, slow-moving rivers, and gentle streams. It is typically constructed with lightweight materials and a streamlined design, making it easy to paddle and maneuver in calm conditions. These packrafts usually lack the reinforced features and specialized components required for handling the challenges of rough water environments. Calm water packrafts are ideal for recreational paddling, fishing, photography, and relaxed exploration of tranquil waterways.

White Water Packraft: A white water packraft, on the other hand, is specifically built to tackle more challenging water conditions, such as turbulent rivers, rapids, and even waterfalls of varying degrees of difficulty. These packrafts are constructed with stronger and more durable materials to withstand the stress of navigating through rough water and potential collisions with rocks and obstacles. White water packrafts often have reinforced bottoms, multiple air chambers for added safety, and a higher degree of buoyancy. They also feature more robust and secure attachment points for gear and safety equipment, as well as enhanced paddle attachments for better control in turbulent waters.

In summary, the main differences between a calm water packraft and a white water packraft lie in their design, construction, and intended use:

Intended Environment: Calm water packrafts are designed for gentle and flat water, while white water packrafts are built to handle the challenges of fast-flowing rivers and rapids.

Materials and Construction: White water packrafts are made from more robust and durable materials to withstand the rigors of rough water conditions, whereas calm water packrafts prioritize lightweight materials for ease of use on calm waters.

Features: White water packrafts come equipped with reinforced components, extra air chambers, enhanced attachment points, and paddle attachments designed to provide better control and safety in turbulent waters.

Paddling Difficulty: Calm water packrafts are easier to paddle and maneuver due to their streamlined design, while white water packrafts require a higher level of paddling skill and technique to navigate challenging water features safely.

Intended Activities: Calm water packrafts are suitable for leisurely activities like relaxing paddling and fishing, while white water packrafts are designed for adrenaline-pumping activities like white water rafting and extreme paddling.

When choosing between these two types of packrafts, it’s important to consider your skill level, the type of water environments you plan to explore, and the activities you intend to engage in.


Whitewater packraft shape:

  • Whitewater packrafts typically have a more rounded and shorter shape. They often feature a more pronounced rocker, which means the bottom of the boat curves upward from the front (bow) to the back (stern).
  • The rocker design helps whitewater packrafts maneuver effectively in turbulent water and navigate around obstacles like rocks and rapids. These packrafts may have a narrower profile to allow for agile and quick movements in fast-flowing water.

Calmwater Packraft Shape:

  • Calm water packrafts tend to have a flatter bottom and a longer, more elongated shape.They may have less pronounced rocker or even a nearly flat hull, which provides better tracking and stability in calm or slow-moving waters like lakes and gentle rivers.
  • The flatter shape allows calm water packrafts to glide smoothly over calm surfaces, making them suitable for relaxed paddling and exploration.These packrafts may have a wider profile to increase stability in calm conditions, which is especially important for activities like fishing or leisurely paddling.

In summary, the primary difference in shape between whitewater and calm water packrafts is that whitewater packrafts tend to be shorter, with more pronounced rocker for maneuverability and handling turbulence, while calm water packrafts are longer and flatter for improved stability and tracking on calm water surfaces. The shape of a packraft plays a significant role in its performance in different water conditions.

Caring for Your Packraft:

  1. Inspect Before Every Trip: Prior to each adventure, carefully examine your packraft for any signs of damage or wear. Check the seams, valves, and overall structure to ensure there are no punctures or leaks.
  2. Proper Inflation: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for inflating your packraft correctly. Over-inflation can stress the seams, while under-inflation may compromise performance. Maintain the recommended air pressure for optimal stability and maneuverability.
  3. Avoid Sharp Objects: Prevent accidental punctures by keeping sharp objects like knives and keys away from your packraft. When on land, choose a clear and debris-free area to set up and deflate your raft.
  4. Clean After Use: Rinse your packraft with freshwater after each use, especially if it has been exposed to saltwater or other contaminants. Gently scrub away any dirt or debris using a soft brush or sponge. Ensure it’s completely dry before storing.
  5. Storage: Store your packraft in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Prolonged sun exposure can degrade the materials and weaken the raft. Consider using a storage bag or cover to protect it from dust and UV rays.
  6. Patch Kits: Carry a patch kit in your gear to address minor tears or leaks that may occur during your adventures. Familiarize yourself with the repair process before heading out.

In conclusion, packrafting offers a thrilling and unique way to experience the great outdoors. Its accessibility, versatility, and minimal environmental impact make it an attractive choice for adventurers seeking new horizons. By practicing proper care and maintenance, you can ensure your packraft remains a reliable companion on your journey to uncover the wonders of nature’s waterways.

A few links to check out:

NZ packrafting trips https://www.packraftingtrips.nz/

Cairns Adventure group https://www.cairnsadventuregroup.com.au/tour/cairns-packrafting-tours