Packraft or other boat
May 23, 2021 at 7:37 pm #3713923
I am considering a packraft and need some advice on stability for my application and advice on the best model.
I recently moved to a home on the banks of Wildcat Creek in Lafayette, IN, abut six miles upstream from the confluence with the Wabash River. At my house the creek is about 100 ft wide. Much of the year it is shallow enough to wade upstream for miles except for occasional deep pools. No rapids, but many places where the boat will be be pulled over gravel. With heavy rain the water can rise ten feet in a few hours. Large trees litter the creek.
I hope to float the creek. I am a serious photographer and occasional fly fisherman. This means I need to be able to carry gear, including expensive cameras and a large tripod.
Currently, I have two folding sea kayaks. A Klepper Aerius II and a Long Haul Ute. Both are wonderful boats but not suited to the creek.
I see people floating in canoes, kayaks, and pool toys. An old canoe would be an economical way to get on the water, but has several disadvantages. The homeowners association would never allow me to store it outside, and garage space is full. I also have a steep hill and a few hundred feed of dense flood plain between my home and the water. A canoe or kayak would force me to use public accesses to the river. With a packraft I could access at my home.
Finding paddling partners that will put up with a photographer is not easy. My son will go with me when he is available, but as a senior in college I can’t rely on him being available. Occasionally my wife may want to use the boat, and I may invite friends who do not have a boat. It would be nice to have boat space for two, but I may be going alone at times.
In addition to to the creek I can see the packraft being used for travel. Backpacking is a possibility but car trips are more likely. The folding sea kayaks take up enough room that they only come on dedicated paddling trips. A packraft should be small enough to fit in the car on a road trip where the boat is only needed for a day.
I was first attracted to the Kokepelli XPD. The claimed extra durability of the PVC material and low price are attractive. I would need two boats to bring friends or family. I am concerned that I will not be able to fit my camera equipment safely, and the weight may limit use options.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Alpacka Forager. This large boat has room for two (possibly) three people. It weighs less than the Kokepelli XPD. I will have more than enough room for my photo equipment. Will I find this too much boat for one person?
The price of the Alpacka Forager is similar to the price of two Kokepelli XPDs. If I went with the XPDs I would prefer green with the Tzip, but a red 2020 model without the Tzip is a good deal during REI’s sale.
Help me think through this please.May 24, 2021 at 2:52 am #3713931James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Yeah, I understand about those problems. I simply built my own canoe. A small 9′ stream canoe will suffice, if you decide you can sit on the bottom. This puts all your weight low, making the boat very stable, ie, high secondary stability. This is very helpful with photography and expensive cameras/lenses. A couple spray decks will keep you fairly dry…not as sry as a kayak but dryer than most canoes. You will always need some good water protection, like a ziplock bag… Anyway, these boats can be had for around 10-12 pounds including paddles. Check out the hornbecks at https://www.hornbeckboats.com/https://www.hornbeckboats.com/May 24, 2021 at 5:37 am #3713932Kevin BabioneBPL Member
I bought my daughter an inflatable Advanced Elements Island Voyage 2 kayak and she loves it. She lives in an apartment with not a lot of space and it folds down to the size of an aerobed. For her the best feature is that it comes with 2 seats but three seat positions. If there are two of them going out they use the front and rear positions, but if she’s solo she’ll just put one seat in the middle. It’s also only $399 which might make it easier to “catch & release”. I bought for her on Drop two years ago and paid $395 for the kayak, the pump, and two paddles and thought it was a good deal.
Since you’re not definitely planning on taking the boat on a backpacking trip this might be a good option for you. With the multiple seat positions and being easy to store it might be your best option.Jun 5, 2021 at 6:09 pm #3717318James TaylorBPL Member
If you’re not going on whitewater I would imagine a two person boat would be a good choice. But you can also fit quite a bit of gear on the bow of a one person boat, just tie it down. It would be a little easier to just throw it on the floor of a two person boat, though. Remember anything on the floor gets wet and muddy. Large items like skis can be attached down the side of the boat (check Alpacka’s custom boat pages for ski carry attachments), although most tripods should collapse and wouldn’t need that. You don’t need the extra durability of the XPD. Check here for good advice on two-person boats:Jun 6, 2021 at 1:54 pm #3717413
Since it is unlikely I can get any boat delivered this season the question I probably should be asking is how can I try these boats out?
It is interesting that two of the three replies to my question both suggest some sort of canoe. This has cause me to take a serious look at canoes.
Before looking at canoes and packrafts, it my be useful to review my kayaks. Both are folding boats with a wood frame and a hypalon and canvas skin. On the water these boats feel great. They are very good open water boats. Hannes Lindemann even managed to cross the Atlantic in a boat nearly identical to my double. On land they are a bear to move. The double is 88 lbs. and the single is 55 lbs. The ability to fold them up and put into bags is great for driving long distances. It is also nice to have the boats hidden inside the car when traveling through cities. Assembly of the boats takes about a half hour. It takes about forty five minutes to put one back in the bags after it is dried. Around home I leave them assembled and hang them from the celling of the garage. If I store them disassembled they almost never get used.
I am drawn to the pack canoes James recommends. Apparently, these small and light canoes are very popular now. The performance in the water should be good, and even a small canoe will have sufficient room for my gear. A boat in the 15 to 25 lb. rage is probably reasonable to move down the steep bank and through the woods between my home and the creek. The Hornbeck canoes James suggested are beautiful and light. Building a skin on frame pack canoe is another option that might be fun. Larger single canoes and possibly even doubles are worth considering as well. Virtually all canoes are lighter than the boats I have.
On the down side even a small canoe will be a storage challenge. I might have to pack up one of my folding kayaks to make room. Doubles canoes are normally not great for one person, and two singles would be both expensive and difficult to store. Realistically, I will probably be using the boat by myself most of the time, but it would be nice to be able take friends and family.
Kevin’s suggestion of an inflatable canoe is practical. All but the cheapest models should hold up well to river use and storage requirements are minimal. As I researched the various models available it is easy to be drawn in by the innovative ideas in this class of boat. It would be easy to let features creep up the weight and price.
Many of the inflatables claim to be for two but I am skeptical. My 17’ double kayak requires synchronized paddling to keep the paddles from colliding. The 12’ to 14’ inflatable will have the same problem. On flat water this is manageable but in a river it seems like a serious problem. Taking friends out in a boat that doesn’t really work for two won’t be much fun. It may be better to just get a single.
The weight of the inflatables also concerns me. Most are in the 40 to 60 lb. range. This is close to the weight of my kayaks that I already know are difficult to move on land. It would be very easy to get an inflatable that will be too heavy. At 31 lbs. the Island Voyage 2 recommended by Kevin is a more manageable weight, but the build quality seems questionable.
At first the inflatables seemed like a great idea, but the more I think about them the less enthused I get. They seem to have too many compromises to be great at anything.
This brings me back to the packraft. Packrafts are in a whole different class. They clearly win in portability and storage. The packrafts may work well in some sections of my local stream. In long flat sections a packraft will probably seem very slow. I would like to try a packrarft, but am not sure it is the best option for my local water.
I found this article on using packrafts in low or slow water. The pictures of the stream look very similar to the creeks near me.Jun 8, 2021 at 2:51 am #3717676Steve SBPL Member
I know you are uncertain about packrafts and are concerned about the timeliness of their availability, however currently an Alpacka Oryx is on Ebay at an attractive price — auction ending Wednesday — so a 2 person canoe-style packraft could be yours quickly.Jun 9, 2021 at 3:47 pm #3717959
Thanks for the tip. The Alpacka Oryx sold for nearly the cost of a new boat.
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