Transitions are an easy way to loose time while packrafting. Having a predictable system whose way of doing things is as similar as possible from trip type to trip type not only makes you faster, but makes it less likely you’ll pack your rain gear at the bottom of the main packbag, or leave something important at the takeout.
I always put my boat at the bottom of my pack. I try to avoid strapping anything outside ever, and when I do I like to strap light and durable things, like a foam sleeping mat or PFD. Having the boat in the bottom makes sense, as anytime I’m getting my boat out the whole pack will be exploded and rearranged anyway. A cargo fly makes them obsolete in many circumstances, but 7 foot long, 1 inch polypro webbing straps have become my preferred lash strap. Polypro is lighter and absorbs less water than nylon, and 7 feet works well for big packs and complex bike parts alike. 3/4 inch straps have less surface area which means less frictional hold, and 1/2 inch fastex buckles can be broken fairly easily in this application.
I still use the Dial technique for folding my raft, though it has evolved and gotten more exact with the new, long-tail boat. Practice will tell you how long to make the initial folds; longer folds will result in a slimmer, taller package, and ideally the raft will be not quite as fat as your pack is deep. The new boats have more material and pack bigger, especially with a cargo zipper and thigh straps. It’s crucial to make the folds such that the mouth valve isn’t on a fold line, and to start the final roll/folds on the non-main valve side, so that all air can escape.
When it isn’t raining out, and especially during a multiday trip, I schedule a snack and map break before packing the boat, so it can air dry as much as possible. A little sun can save a lot of weight. Similarly, dry out your spray skirt and PFD, and pour the water out of your paddle shafts before packing. Do everything in the same order when you get out of the water, and pack stuff as close to the same way as circumstance allows. Soon enough your float to hike transition time will be well under 10 minutes.
Lastly, take Alpacka’s directions about keeping the cargo fly zipper clean seriously. Early in my rafting career I several times mistook silt hissing against the boat for a pinhole leak, and have had several others report the same. Yesterday my boat actually did have a pinhole leak, one I could hear distinctly during quieter sections, and it was coming from the head of the cargo zipper. A bit of grit, which I’ve since cleaned out, was I’m sure causing it, but that only partially calms my misgivings about the design. Yes it is very convenient, but failures have already been reported, and I wouldn’t relish the prospect of taping and gluing the thing closed under duress.
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