Packrafting’s zeroth law

We didn’t make it to the Packrafting Roundup this year, something I’ve regretted ever since, but babies get sick a lot.  Thankfully Moe Witschard took a video of Luc Mehl’s presentation of packrafting safety, so all of us who were not there can hear it.

I could not agree with Luc more.

Canyoneering is comparable to packrafting in that it’s a sport which doesn’t demand skill to get into serious situations.  Canyoneering has grown faster, I’d assume, due to the relevant terrain being so close to big population centers, and because the cost of entry is considerably less.  There have been quite a few canyoneering fatalities in the last decade or more, most of which have been preventable and/or in retrospect stupid.  If folks don’t do what Luc suggests, namely slow down and learn at a sustainable pace, more packrafters will almost certainly die.  This is especially relevant with packrafts becoming less expensive and more widely available.

In a wilderness context swimming is often an unacceptable risk.  Just like with backcountry skiing, I’d like to see the dominant narrative transform from how do we do ___ with as little chance of dying as possible, to how do we maintain an almost nonexistent possibility of dying, and still do ___ ?  I’ve only had two semi-close calls* packrafting, which I attribute to being very afraid of moving water, and very unafraid to admit it and act accordingly.  The later is easy, or easier, solo or in a very small group, which is almost the only way I’ve ever packrafted.  It can be tough to, for example, univite someone with bad judgment from a wilderness trip, but sometimes that needs to happen.  This example is a digression from Luc’s central point, but is a complimentary example of the tough topics packrafting needs to talke about with itself.

Thanks Luc.

*First was a hasty log portage on Rattlesnake Creek in the first month I had a boat, second was Spencer’s (excellent) swim on the South Fork in 2014.

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One thought on “Packrafting’s zeroth law

  1. His presentation was awesome … and timely. More awareness. So glad to see you posted your thoughts on it. Sorry we couldn’t see you at the round up — but it sounds like we’ll get to see more of you, more often, very soon. Very, very happy about that. xxoo.

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