Floating with the bear; what we’ve learned

Our Double Duck has been one of the essential kid purchases.  That one boat can fit all of us, gear for 4+ days, and be under six pounds is remarkable (it’s lighter and packs smaller than the modern Yukon Yak).  That said, it has acute limitations which heavier, bigger volume multi-person boats would not; namely that with ~200 pounds of people and cargo in the front handling gets sluggish.  You can still move it around in semi-technical water, but bigger and pushier rivers are more problematic.  Additionally, cargo space quickly becomes an issue, with the big kid carrier pack on the bow limiting space for an adult sitting in the bow.  When LB was 9 months we all fit, a year and a half later it is doable, but no longer really comfortable.

The solution, which we spent four days this past week testing out, is two boats.  One adult in either of our single person rigs, the other along with LB in the Duck.  The biggest factor which now makes this workable is him having the physical and mental capacity needed to keep himself in the boat, especially during times when the adult paddler cannot spare him a hand.  At the roundup this past week we got in four straight days of boating with only toddler and one adult in the big boat, and LB behaved very well when it mattered, with only one exception.  What I thought would have been the toughest test, his and my duo run of Pacific Creek while M was taking a swiftwater rescue class, was in many ways the easiest of the four.  It was the smallest waterway and the most consistently fast, which kept his attention locked in and his butt planted in his seat, something true class I fails at woefully.

Mamma was also not present in another boat as a temptation, which makes things like snacking and napping simpler.  The last day, featured in the above video, went smoothly until he was nearly falling asleep on his own in the bow, saw M in the distance, and proceeded to have a fit.  We didn’t solve his problem for him nearly fast enough, and my stubborness got him to a point where he was trying to climb out of my lap and swim to safety in M’s nearby boat.  Which was not good.

The final key piece of the toddler boating puzzle has been his own paddle.  Touching the big person paddle is forbidden, and without his own ability to “contribute” to forward motion LB just cannot help himself.  The current solution is a 13 dollar, telescoping canoe paddle sold as an emergency solution for power boats.  It isn’t as light as it could be, but is both usefully long and respectably compact, as well as cheap enough that when he lets it float away recovery won’t be too urgent.

Packrafting seems set to become an even bigger part of our family life in the years to come.  LB loves being outside, loves camping, and really loves water and boating.  Floating is way less work than carrying him, something I increasingly appreciate, even though or in spite of the fact that road-shuttled runs only feel half like packrafting.  The weight savings of the Double Duck is always appreciated in the pack, and the swiftwater performance good enough when lightly loaded that we’ve never yet regretted our choice.  Though the new Forager does look very sweet.

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2 thoughts on “Floating with the bear; what we’ve learned

  1. “That one boat can fit all of us, gear for 4+ days, and be under six pounds is remarkable.” That’s an understatement.

    Great idea in the telescoping paddle. Jack’s first paddling trip is coming up and I hadn’t even thought of that.

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