If you've been paying attention you already know that i'm pretty biased when it comes to packrafting. It truly did change the way i approached adventuring in general and even here in North Dakota i've found my boats to be indispensable tools for really getting out there.
|2005 and the trip that started my obsession|
I also know, however, that including pack-rafting as a discipline in our adventure races requires folks to dig up a new piece of gear in an already gear intensive sport. I struggle with this, particularly when it comes to the spring race, which is designed to be as accessible as possible and a great introduction to AR. With this in mind, we've made the pack-raft section of the spring course optional - that is to say that there will be no mandatory checkpoints on this section. So if you're a new team just looking to see what it's all about you can still come out and race and have a great experience (even without the pack-rafting leg the course is still going to be awesome!).
|Adventure racing before pack-rafts|
That being said however, i've just spent some time scouting the river section that we'll be using this last weekend and am remembering all over how much fun pack-rafting is - so i do highly encourage racers to consider tracking down some boats and plan on including this section. You're not going to be running rapids - it won't be scary - but it will be damn fun, and full of adventure. Any type of 'boat' will do, from a $30 seyvlor boat (or similar), an inner tube to a full fledged top of the line packraft (from Alpacka of course - who sending one of their boats to give away!). Some options might be drier or sturdier than others, of course, and a more fragile boat might require some care in use (don't run headlong into a pointy stick with your vinyl boat unless you're trying to save time deflating it) - but just about anything that is designed to float someone will probably work. You will be carrying your water-craft about three quarters of a mile to access the river on good trail/road. The river section itself will be a bit more than 1.5 miles long, and should take between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the speed of the current on race day as well as the speed of the team.
|And after pack-rafts
(OK, we'll still have some 'before' for good measure)
As for paddles - many boats will come with a break apart paddle or oars which are fine - hand paddles. Hand-paddles can be nice, particularly for shorter paddles, and you can make your own out of a five gallon bucket with a hacksaw and a drill in 15 minutes or less. Not sure how to do this? Bring your materials and tools (charged batteries for the drill) packraft clinic on April 30th and we'll give you a hand.
We want to keep having races up here in the Red River valley, and keep making you packraft. And we hope folks will start to see the value of these craft - they are way more forgiving than canoes for beginners, can be taken anywhere with ease, are great for any sort of downstream travel, can be used in the smallest of creeks (canoeing turtle river is hard at best, impossible all other times; Pack-rafting is almost always fun and exciting) and calm water alike. Get one. Use it. We think you'll have fun.