Beginnner question on losing raft + gear

I’m just working my way through Roman’s excellent book, and working out whether to get the Scout or Alpaca (I’m 5’7").

One question I have is about the risk of losing your pack when it’s lashed to the raft. I’m usually out hiking solo, and the thought of watching my raft and pack float down the river to get stuck in a gorge that I can’t even see into worries me. Losing the raft would be upsetting, but losing my shelter + sleeping bag would be a serious matter for me 2+ days walk from anywhere in bad weather. My gear is light, but not so light I can fit it all into my pockets :slight_smile:

So my question would be, just how easy is it to lose a raft? I don’t plan on tackling difficult bits of water for some time (I haven’t got any previous experience on the water), but I’ve got no doubt that there will be falling out as I learn.

The book fairly clearly advocates sitting and lashing a pack to the front of the boat: what are the disadvantages of kneeling and wearing a pack instead? I can use a foam pad to give my knees a little bit of protection.

Thanks for any advice!

They’re not that easy to all out of in the first place - I’m constantly amazed at how stable the rafts are. I did come out on an early trip in Fiordland, but the raft and paddle eddied out in the pool below me.

I tend to use a paddle leash, and this means that if you come out, and are holding onto your paddle, you also have the boat, or if you let go of both, they at least are likely to stay together. I realise that a paddle leash raises the issue of entanglement, but I’m prepared to take that risk, as it is quite short, and does have a fastex buckle release if needed.

I don’t think you could practically paddle kneeling in a raft.

Buy the Alpacka - you’ll have a lot more fun in a boat designed for running rivers, and I think you’d find the scout too limiting. You have some perfect rivers around you, so will have a heap of fun, and quickly become competent.

Andrew Allan

How long is your lanyard, Andrew? And where do you put the release buckle?

Hig & Erin & I have been exploring various lanyard configurations for open water situations, and looking at some things like wrist loops & shock absorbers, which became relevant for them during their trip. They tend to use lanyards, because they predominantly do very low-class water, but with high wind exposure and long reaches to shore.

I’m looking to collate a lot of the community wisdom on lanyards, and maybe put together a better Techniques essay on it - and maybe ultimately for Alpacka to have out a basic accessory, with a thorough guide to pros, cons, uses & hazards, etc.


My paddle lanyard is only long enough to go from my rucksack to where I hold it.

It is made from 4mm cord The cord has a loop at the boat end, which I loop around the 3/4 webbing straps with fastex buckles that I use to attach my pack to the raft. At the other end of this cord, I have attached a short length of 3/4" webbing, which has 2 release points near the paddle- firstly it attaches to the paddle via a velcro strip, which wraps forwards and backwards from a square “D” ring (like a strap used to hold skis together) , so that if you pull hard enough, this detaches, but there is also a secondary release with a fastex buckle, which I have positioned just next to the paddle.

Having read this, it is probably difficult to conjure up the appropriate images. If anyone is particularly interested, I am happy to go and take a photo and attach it.

I use the same set up on my sea-kayak.


I’d be interested to see a picture.

One thing I’d like to do is figure out a reliable breakaway point in a cord… Something that’d break under 50 lbs pressure or so. Maybe the fast-tack release is a better way to go though.

One reason I like having a lanyard even in (moderate?) whitewater, is that it makes exit from the boat easier. I like Adrian’s thinking (it’s much like my own.) Sure I’ll ditch my boat and gear to save my life, but loosing my gear (including the raft) is more than an inconvenience in many situations. But by making it easier to exit the boat in awkward places, the lanyard encourages me to do more scouting. And that might save my life.

Our lanyard goes from the paddle, through a loop on the pack, to the boat. There’s an optional wrist loop. The wrist loop is only for open water, where separation from the boat could be lethal if there’s some wind. We also keep it fairly short, though maybe a tad longer than Andrew Allen. We have a quick release on the pack, so that it can be dropped off the boat when the boat is upside down. It then runs along the lanyard, but can’t escape because of the paddle. The paddle and pack act as a sea-anchor while we re-enter.

Ok after a few months rafting, I thought I’d put down my experiences, for those who might wonder the same thing.

I found when starting I was unnecessarily worried about losing the boat while simply getting in and out - you quickly get over this and realise it’s dead easy to keep a hold of the boat, even when getting in/out on moving water.

As Andrew says, the boats are very stable, in mild water they just won’t flip unless you really make them - even when you’ve never been on the water before, in any boat. It becomes quite obvious when you get into water where flipping is a possibility (drops, fast water), so in cases where losing the boat would be serious you can just avoid these. However, I’ve found so far it’s actually quite rare that you’re rafting into a totally remote and deserted catchment - most rivers tend to head out to civilization. A PLB in your jacket pocket is reassuring.

After a few swims down even mild rapids it becomes absolutely clear you really don’t want to risk any sort of entanglement, even if it means letting your raft go downstream (often they move more slowly than you though). Loose line is bad enough, a line between things is worse. Definitely if you have a leash you’d want to have something that would pull free under force, at both ends. But to be honest I prefer to go without, it’s just too easy to imagine it wrapping itself around something in the hectic moments when you’re trying to find the surface, keep hold of your paddle and regaining your boat, all while going downstream.

So… in short, unless I’m on open water (lakes) I’ve been happy without any sort of leash. On easy water you’re very unlikely to fall out, even with no experience. And if you do fall out you really want to avoid any entanglement: swimming down rapids, even easy ones, is when you want every advantage you can get IMO.

I too would be interested in a pic