Eskimo Roll in a packraft -- For Real!

Tim Johnson. Today. Bird Creek. See for yourself.

Wow, fantastic! We are entering a new era! The taboo is broken. Congrats.

And the straps are the key! I tried many times without in summer lakes, no chance, then I glued on tie downs, made it almost, but they came off under stress (glue problem) :frowning: I recently bought a Yak and had Sheri customed 4 bomp proof strap plates to apply straps. The Yak has not seen any water yet, but is up for pool practice over the winter (in Germany). The ability to roll will indeed change everything.

Infact, as with Kayaks too, the ability to roll is most usefull to prevent it. It gives a lot of control in almost flips.

How did Tim place the straps? Wondering of any difference to the way I have. Pictures would be much appreciated. Sven

However, we should not forget what Paddling Regression said in the thigh strap thread:

Although vastly appreciating the benefits of it, I agree, the addition of this feature will distract from the simplicity, the core idea of packrafting.

Just seen Tim’s video showing where he put his straps:

Exactly the place I put mine initially - and where they got off. This was apperently a glueing problem, but I noticed the force at the rear end attachment points (all the momentum is distributed to a single upper rear end point while rolling). With a prober hip bend (like Tim’s) the force is minimized and short, but there remains a quite stroke in initiating the back flip - just remember how hard it is to capsize a packraft in flat water.

Wondering about the stress resitance of the fabric (question to the designer).

I disagree with Regression and Esben.

If you care to read why:

This is at least as revolutionary as spray decks. Could be the beginning of actual popularity for these boats. If the kayaker population realizes what can be accomplished with packrafts… Thank you for having the vision!
Any tips for making the roll work? Same technique as kayaking?



Tim made that look E-Z.

He said at the time, but you can’t hear it the videos, that it was much easier than he thought it would be, contrary to the naysayers.

Many congrats to Tim Johnson. This is a great development!

Indeed, well done! The development of a good technique once again turns the “impossible” into the evolutionary :smiley:

In the midst of trying move some behind-the-scenes mountains (hence its quietness on the forums, etc. for much of this year), Alpacka has been keenly watching whitewater techniqued developments in the community. This is a big one. In my “official” capacity, I’ll post as Alpacka Raft LLC about some ideas we have, a little later.

FYI for now, I don’t know if anything will come of it, but I recently asked Astral PFDs about the possibility of modifying one of their designs to create a packrafting PFD that would work better with the Alpacka spraydeck. If they would like to do something like that, it would potentially pave the way towards a drier deck and a recommended PFD.

So, where to start…

First off, you guys shouldn’t look up to me or put me on a pedastal at all, I simply made a modification that should absolutely be an option in the first place for these little rafts. Even in flat water, the thigh straps give you back support and help stabilize your body & make paddling much more efficient. As a whitewater kayaker, I felt naked not having any connections with my pack raft, almost as though I was sitting in a bathtub.

A general rule of thumb for kayaking is the better you are attached to/one with your boat, the more control, efficiency, and power you have, period. I’ve paddled nearly every craft imaginable extensively on whitewater: class IV/V in solo & tandem whitewater canoes, raft guided the big boats, inflatable kayaked things that shouldn’t be inflatable kayaked, squirt boated (underwater realms never even imagined by surface boats or even normal plastic kayaks), river boarded on boogie boards w/ fins, walmart 1-man rafts, innertubes, sea kayaked all over PWS & Resurrection Bay, strided (stand-up kayaking on I.K.'s), slalom kayaked through courses, and of course the classic kayak hard shell which includes creek boating, play boating, big water runs, and general river running.

Now I’ve added a new era of craft, the pack raft, to my paddling experience. I saw thigh straps as an absolute necessity for what I planned on using the pack raft for (which is HIKING into wilderness class IV runs). I’m sure I’ll boat plenty of class V in what I though was once a “pool toy,” but by no means will this little raft every replace a hardshell kayak. There is just so much more control, finesse, agility, power, and preciseness in a kayak. Whenever I can walk it into a river a reasonable distance, fly-in via plane or helicopter, or put-in on the side of the road, you’ll probably find me in a kayak. But the niche in these little bugers IS remote access via hiking… and I know of dozens of first class runs that are prime suspect for the Alpackas potential.

Back to the thigh straps… if you want to improve your skill, technique, and boat manipulation dramatically, then I would absolutely invest in putting them into your boat. My advice for them:

  1. DO NOT use tiny, thin straps to save weight.
  2. Be careful where you place them. Stay away from seams & don’t mount them too far apart, as you will lose stability and power.
  3. PRACTICE getting out of the boat from within your straps in a safe environment. THESE WILL hold you in your pack raft when you flip, so familarize yourself with getting out of them.
  4. Go to the pool, borrow a whitewater kayak, and teach yourself how to roll. It is much easier to learn in a whitewater kayak… because they flip easier, so of course you can roll them back up easier. It takes a great deal of well-practiced technique to up-right a packraft with a smooth, consistent combat roll.
  5. HAVE FUN with your newfound oneness with your boat! This brings a pack raft one HUGE step further to how you should feel in your whitewater craft… attached & as one!!!

As far as spray skirts, I don’t necessarily feel that a new life jacket should be made, because most people already have life jackets/PFD’s and it would make much more sense to make a new skirt design that is more adjustable. I have a few pretty sweet ideas that I’ll be toying with over the winter and possibly on the New Zealand trip this winter if I get motivated enough in time…

To paraphrase Timmy J’s post:

Look, I’m just a regular guy, although, true, I have have paddled nearly every craft in the known universe extensively on sick whitewater bro, and now packrafts, which are squirrely, slow, and clunky, but good for remote access via hiking, and only good for that, never mind anything else you suckers use them for–because the only the only really worthy packraft activity is running the sickest gnar bro, and only hard shell men and kayaks can really do that. Now here are a few tips that you babies can follow if you don’t want to be a sucka with no skillz. And remember–this is how you should feel in your whitewater craft, because, yes, I even know how you should feel–I am on no mere pedestal–I am a God, and you shall worship me, mortal packrafters!

Timmy, don’t take this too personally–I think the roll option you broke to the public is great; I’m looking forward to my own rolling (attempts), and I too have a massive, often uncontrollable ego (proof in this pudding). It just bothers me that so many kayakers don’t even seem to realize when they are thumping their chests and snubbing their noses, and it comes off as insulting and rubs me wrong. I’m tired of kayakers I meet whose sole purpose in life is to run the gnarliest gnar, document their badassness, post their artistically lacking trophy 1st D videos, write their trip reports and guidebooks, and think the world of themselves for doing it. Is packrafter attitude next? Is the sport getting too “cool”?

I don’t want to be taken seriously as a packrafter–I am a joke on the water, doing everything in my own fucked up way, often dangerously and inefficiently–and that happens to be just how I like it. It is one reason I love the packraft–there is no status quo and no rules, and it has been a joy exploring both the sport and the wilderness without these restrictions. Packrafting getting serious is just what I don’t want to see.

No offense, but I don’t think you’ve ever met me or you wouldn’t have responded like you did. I wasn’t pounding my chest. My soul purpose in life isn’t running the gnarliest whitewater, though it is a passion. I document the stuff we do because it’s fun to have footage to look at all winter long when there’s not much else going on in the paddling realm & I’m not trying to be artistic about it, I’m just doing what I do and filming for some entertainment later. I’d love to see more people film their adventures, it’s fun to watch! And I definitely don’t think the world of myself, I’m a paddler just like everyone else here. I didn’t do the guidebook for status, I spent all that time (and believe me a lot of the process was a bitch!) putting that together for the community, because it was needed and wasn’t being done. Part of the reason I got into pack rafting was to help diffuse the negativity between kayakers & pack rafters. I never understood it and have seen things said from both sides. And doing what we’re doing in pack rafting doesn’t mean it’s getting serious, it just means people are seeing yet another new realm of use for these Alpackas, and since I’m already into creeking in remote places than these things make it that much easier to get in to, which is what I bought it for. There still is no status quo & no rules… well, the only rules are the rules the river makes, and those are rules to be respected. But hey, I’m a redneck at heart so I hear where you’re coming from. ps: think I’m boatin’ six mile this weekend… just can’t stop:^)

I have boated with both or you, AkCreeker and Shoutdiggity, and think both of you are not just great packrafters but also authentically honorable men. Neither of you ever displays a real shred of arrogance in your demeaners, and honestly when you two do meet, my hunch is you’ll get along jus’ fine.

Shoutdiggity’s vids are the best butt-boating ones out there and Timmy J’s book is, to quote a blurb from the back of it, “a much needed resource for kayakers and pack rafters (sic) alike.” Honestly Timmy J loves water and likes to share it with all people.

Indeed, I look forward to next summer when I can go out with the two of you together, two who have inspired not just my boating but others as well.

I propose a packrafting battle royale: each of you going off bigger waterfalls until a winner is declared.
Just make sure to put it on youtube.

shoutdiggitty wrote:
I am a joke on the water, doing everything in my own fucked up way, often dangerously and inefficiently

To those of us overseas, where even flatwater can sometimes possess challenges (okay, this might just be me :blush: ) you are no joke on the water, shoutdiggitty. Even the music choice of your videos inspires…

Three of us who can not roll kayaks rolled packrafts tonight – each of us three times in fact:

We did it in our own f-ed up way, since we couldn’t do it kayak style.

Let the revolution continue…

Several more people have rolled the packraft in the pool. Total’s up to like seven now, of the twelve that I have seen try. Of the twelve, four are people who are “kayakers”, i.e., started with hardshells and still paddle hardshells. Half of these hardshellers failed to roll, the other half did it on their first or third try. The other eight are packrafters, most of whom, I am pretty sure, had never rolled anything before. Each packrafter required about an hour of trying to finally get it.

Thigh straps placed as Timmy J has done (low on tube in front and just above the hip valve in the back see pull the boater more centrally in the boat, right off the seat in fact, which I have now cut free of its stock location. The stock seat location is too far back and leads to bandersnatching and places the paddler right over the widest part of the boat necessitating a longer paddle.

Most boats have seats attached at two forward and two rearward tabs on the boat and seat. I now sit with the rear tab of the seat located at the front tab on the boat, because I cut it free.

Thigh straps located as most of us are placing them pull the paddler forward such that even a backrest is not as important because you are levering off of the straps. Instead of getting a short boat that you cram yourself into, pushing off the back and the front (or shoving something into the front that pushes you back) you are now connected at the side tubes.

This is a qualitatively different arrangement that makes the boating much more secure, positive, and connected. It does add more than a pound to the boat, however, but again they are easily removed if you don’t want them for one trip or another.

Now a short paddle is easier to use because you can reach farther forward over the narrow part of the boat. Strokes are more forward and boat paddles straighter.

This will substantially change how the boats are paddled. Previously it’s like we’ve been wearing loafers to climb rocks. Now we have laced up our shoes and, boy, the rocks are easier to climb.

It sure would be nice to have an adjustable seat: then when I take my straps out I can kick back and relax in my loafers and when I want to paddle the good stuff I can put the straps in and slide the seat forward.

PS – thigh strap packing

Now that the seat is pulled forward, I am able to strap gear behind my back and use that as a backrest. My new inflatable backrest is removable so that if camping I can use gear and if sport boating I can use the inflatable backrest (an old seat from the early days of Alpacka, before they were toilet-seat shaped and sewn in). I can put my tent or sleeping bag in a 15 L dry bag and attach it to a “strap plate” ( on the center stern seam to hold it in behind my back.

Because my legs are not extended to hold myself into the boat, and instead knees are bent and pressed against the tubes, I have room between my legs and on the deck beneath my bent knees for another 15 L WxTex dry bag also strapped to the boat with the “strap plates”.

So the idea is now to distribute weight in the boat, instead of just in a big pack lined with a 65 L dry bag on the bow. Because the paddler’s weight is now centrally located, loading up the bow for balance is not so important for people who want some bow inertia. You can still put stuff on the bow if you want but there’s also room under the deck behind you and under your knees.

Wow - glad that verbal intercourse settled!

From way down south …by the by, can you guys in Alaska hear me? observations are that packrafting is an evolving pursuit, and that any positive addition that anyone may have to our mutual enjoyment of the pursuit is most welcome.

Tim obviously has a huge experience in floating “things”, and I think it is perfectly reasonable for him to try to qualify his experience, as it gives him some basis for making comments about rolling packrafts (if I tried to do similarly, my experience is zilch, minus 100). On the other hand, I do also see how Shoutdiggy may have misinterpreted the post, and this is a problem with communication via the net. We don’t get to see the facial expressions, etc of those posting, so we may (and regularly do) miss the nuances.

This forum is about packrafting, and not about how packrafts compare with kayaks, UFOs or vacuum cleaners (other than just occasionally doing such comparisons). Let’s learn from each other, and take the positive spin on whatever is posted. This forum is great, as it combines a whole series of experiences, for everyone’s benefit.

My primary aim this summer (remember, I’m way down south) is to learn how to roll my sea-kayak, not packraft. I’ve been paddling for several years, but not needed this skill to date. Whilst I’ve pushed the packrafting well beyond my skill base, over the last few years, I am still way more comfortable without a spray deck, so I can just “fall out” when needed. Hats off to those who are prepared to spend time upside down in a packraft, whilst trying to get it back upright. Once I’m over, I want to be out of it.

And, Roman, I really enjoyed your comment some time back that you had never successfully rolled a kayak - it gave me hope!

How is the likelihood we’ll meet on the Karamea on 23rd Jan? It’d be a real hoot, if possible…!

By the by, I misquoted you on the chopper ride into the western edge of the wilderness zone - they quoted me NZ $900 return, but only NZ$500 one way.


Congrats to Tim Johnson. This is a great development forever.