Preparing a boat to carry -- fold or roll?

Curious about the fastest, most compact method people have to pack a boat. I have trouble getting the raft back into any of the Alpacka roll bags (9" by 24") and do not like to pack a long cylinder in or out of my pack. I like the boat folded into a small, compact, flat package.

One method to fold is as follows:

Start at the end away from the valve. Open the deflated boat up, tubes up, as if you were going to just roll it, but don’t roll it. Fold it toward the valve in folds the width of which you want to pack – mine are 14". When you get to the valve you’ll have a folded boat that is as long as the boat’s width with deflated tubes and that is as wide as your first fold (mine is 14"). Now fold this folded boat “length-wise” into fourths, squeezing air out of a loosely capped valve. This makes the boat flat – round does not pack as well as flat as we all have flat backs and box like packs. I leave the valve plug off until the last bit of folding at the end, so as to squeeze all the air out.

I do not bother with doing any careful folding down the middle or into thirds or anything else. For me this is among the quickest ways to collapse and pack the boat into the smallest package possible.

Next to me rests my Yak with skirt. It is 4" X 11" x 14" = 616 cubic inches folded. It has a bow line and a grab line that encircles the boat on 8 tie-downs.

The big, double custom boat I am really taken with now and without a skirt (4" inner length more than a dory) is 6" x 9" x 14" = 756 cubic inches folded. It has a two patch hand line in front, a grab line on four tie-downs on back, and two tie downs on the bottom for securing the bow person’s boat as a seat. All of that adds volume.

I am a big fan of friction straps and use one (2 to 5 feet long) to keep the boat folded.

That’s a really interesting technique, I’ll have to try it. The art of rolling (or folding) is definitely something that takes some practice.

I roll boats in a way that is similar to how Sheri does it. First fold down the length bottom-to-bottom. Then fold the end of the boat away from the valve over about a foot and roll from there to the valve. One thing that is critical to getting a tight roll is the very start of the roll. Typically I set the roll in a couple spots, then kneel on those spots and tighten the roll elsewhere. When I’ve rolled about 1/5 of the way or so, I fold the loose part of the boat (the tops of the tubes) to shorten the resulting cylinder and make it more uniform in diameter. Like Roman I force air out and then seal it out with the valve to keep the roll tight. I use a lanyard, so at the end of rolling I wrap the roll with the lanyard and tuck a knot near the end of the lanyard under the wrap. This is nice when unrolling, because you can grab the end of the lanyard and yank and the whole boat unrolls.

The cylinder works well in my pack because it matches 3 other cylinders… two very narrow dry-bags, and a food bag. I put all four parallel in my frameless pack making for a sort of boxy shape, and then insert the paddle parts last.

It’s nearly 3 am and I should go to sleep, but I think instead I’ll try Roman’s whacky folding technique…

First fold down the length bottom-to-bottom.

This is a hassle and for a stiff old man like me it requires getting down on my knees and finding a flat place on the ground.

My method works standing up and needs no flat ground – use your thighs, until the very end, then you kneel briefly.

One thing that is critical to getting a tight roll is the very start of the roll.

This stand-up-and-fold method I am describing makes nothing really critical. It’s like paddling regression says about packrafts in general:“idiot proof”

Think when the waters finally ice over I’ll switch to making how-to vids so my technique doesn’t sound so


BTW it works fine to let the bowline if long enough hang out till the end and die the folded boat closed that way, too.

A bit late but not never…

Absolutely amazing! I tried this technique with my Explorer and I made one more fold after the above description. This folded the whole flat pack in half thus returning it to a fairly round bundle. The amazing part is that I ended up with a smaller, tighter, package than I get when I roll the boat as per Alpacka’s instructions. I have been using a Thermarest bag for the Explorer and it has been a struggle to get the rolled boat into it. With this folding technique it slid right into the bag with no trouble.

Another thing I like about his folding technique is that the floor of the boat is on the outside of the bundle thereby providing more protection. When I look at the finished bundle I just see black.


Thanks for the video, Roman! I recently purchased a Yak and used your technique to fold it on a trip this weekend. It fit perfectly in my backpack, which I prefer to carrying on the outside in the cylinder-shaped bag that came with it. Hope to see more videos (especially on the paddling techniques that you mention in your book).