?Packraft attachments

Last year I used a packraft for the first time for the purpose of downstream travel in a NZ river after fly-fishing upstream all day, and it was great, however there were some major limitations.

Firstly, whenever we needed to portgage, it was a comparatively complicated exercise to untie the packs, which had been tied on with cord - I’m hoping that a simple 3/4 inch strap with fastex buckle from front to back tie on straps will solve this ?any suggestions as to how to make this easier

Secondly, when I was unfortunate enough to fall out of the raft, and lose both raft and paddle, I traniently wondered a bit about what we had done. We had initially decided that the risk of “entanglement in cord” was relatively high, if the raft and paddle were tied to the user, which we therefore didn’t do, … however, having fallen out, done a swim, and been unable to keep up with the raft which was going in one direction, and the paddle, which ended up in another, an afterthought was that it may not be that bad to be attached to the paddle and also the raft.

I’ve seen some amazing footage of rafting, and wonder what set up these users have in terms of cords and so forth.

My latest plan was to have a velcro releasable wrist loop attached to the paddle, and the paddle then attached to the rucksack or the raft, and then use 3/4 inch straps to attach the rucksack to the raft ? any alternatives?

Andrew Allan

I don’t like having any extra string attached to me or my boat. They create an additional hazard. You can learn a lot from our whitewater kayaking cousins who never attach a string to their paddle. Rule number one when you swim-don’t let go of your paddle. On longer more committing trips we carry and extra paddle.

As far as attaching you pack – I got sick of having an engineering project every time I had to portage and take my pack on and off. So I use two heavy duty bungies were one end is tied to a gear loop and the other a lightweight carabineer. With two quick clips my pack is free of the boat. It is nearly as easy to put it back on. On trips where I was constantly in and out of my boat I strapped my pack on with the shoulder straps out and would just slip my pack on with the boat still attached.

I presume you then use these attachments across the boat rather than along the axis of the boat - doesn’t the pack then sit on your legs? The system sounds sweet though, compared with rope, whichever way it is done.

I must say though that I did get rather anxious early in the year when I came out of the raft, watching it float off with X $1000 of equipment attached to it, and had to swim with “much briskness” to get it just before the next rapid - how far do people less craft generally go down a river - as a rule, do they get caught in eddies and sit there, or do they tend to go further (like never to be seen again).

Unrelated to this post, I note your comment about the stormy seas SV100 vest - any idea how much it weighs? Also, can you blow it up with the mouth tube, without the CO2 cylinder, so as to use it as a camp pillow/seat at night, or is it totally reliant on CO2 cylinders to inflate it?

Lastly - I enjoyed your NZ photos a lot - you certainly picked some good rivers to float. I’m off in Jan into one of the tributaries of the Karamea for a fly fishing trip, and looking forward to some rafting back downstream each day, but the pack attachment ritual really pissed me off earll this year - your suggestion is great.

Andrew Allan


I don’t think that runaway cords for your paddle are a very good idea because of the risk of entanglement. Even though I’ve lost one paddle in a bad swim, I still think spending $200 for a new one is preferable to thousands of bucks for a casket.

I concur with Forrest on the boat attachment straps. REI sells them as “Shockles” and they come in several different lengths. I like the 18" ones. For a big pack I run them straight across between the tie-downs and for a smaller pack I run them in an X pattern across the pack. Your pack should not rest on your legs but rather should lie on the tubes of the boat. Check out the photos in the various trip reports and you will see how most folks are doing it. By all means do not put your pack under the spray deck because of the risk of entangling your feet with the pack straps.

If you can’t locate bungy cords with carabiners I’ve used regular NRS (Northwest River Supply) straps with metal buckles. They are simple and quick to operate. I’ve found that a 6’ strap is about the right length for a larger pack.

Best boating,

Brad Meiklejohn

I use an X with the four gear loops on the bow.

On the Stormy Seas life jacket you can ditch the CO2 canister and fill it manually. If needed, extra air can be added manually while you are wearing it.

In the event of a swim boats don’t tend to go very far and they are much easier to find then a paddle.

I’m going to back Brad up on the tethers: I almost lost my life to one. I was running a little creek near Winthrop, WA with an experimental lanyard on my paddle when I hit a sweeper. The cord got entangled on me as I scrambled out onto the log, and I ended up half-on the log, river trying to suck the boat under it, with one hand hooked on a boat tube and the other holding onto a branch, lanyard looped around my leg. The forces were so strong I couldn’t even release the boat long enough to go for my knife. Fortunately, I’d been working a lot & doing extra weight-lifting for work that summer. I had to do the funky-chicken with my leg to get if free of the lanyard, then did probably the hardest curl I’ve over done to get the boat out of the water. NEVER AGAIN.

The one place I highly recommend a lanyard is on open water. Out in the big blue, even just a hundred feet offshore, you can spill out, the wind can grab your boat, and it’s gone forever - leaving you in the icy-cold drink. That’s where having it anchored to a paddle-in-hand is a lifesaver, just as much as it’s a life-taker in the river.

I actually experimented with this open-water settup a bit, getting 30-50 feet offshore in a big onshore wind. I’d roll out, and the boat would be GONE in a flash - until the lanyard caught it up short. Then I could hand-over-hand it back to be, and get back in without much drama.

Ahmen to the don’t-tie-paddle to boat in white water.

I wholeheartedly second this advice… and would like to add that if you’re going to rely on a lanyard in this manner, you want to make sure it’s attached to the raft in a very secure fashion (having almost drowned after losing my raft in the ocean after attaching my lanyard with a plastic clip).