Rolling an Alpacka brings up issues...

Hey guys,

I’m stoked to see that lots of folks are throwing in thigh straps & rolling their Alpackas in a pool. AWESOME!!! Once you get your roll down solid in the pool, practice as much as you can in strong moving current & swirly eddy lines… a “combat roll” (flipping unexpectedly & rolling back up) is completely different than a roll in the pool. It generally takes a bit of time to develop a solid combat roll that will bring you up 100% of the time in whitewater, so keep your patience & it will come with time & practice!

Since rolling a packraft is an entirely new element of packrafting, it has brought along an entirely new line of safety concerns. You are now, essentially, locked into you packraft while upside down, exposing you entire upper body, arms, & head to rocks & debris underwater, probably hanging about 2.5-3 ft. underwater with your head. Here are the 2 concerns that must be addressed:

  1. Helmets: helmets should now be whitewater helmets only. A bike helmet or climbing helmet is not made for repeated impact under water. I highly suggest investing in a composite whitewater helmet.
  2. Elbow pads: highly underrated, a good set of elbow pads will help protect your arms, chest, shoulders, and face upon contact with underwater rocks or when running tight slots/pinches/boulder gardens. Elbow pads with foam also will float your arms slightly, therefor making it easier to combat roll.

Owners of Susitna Sled & Kayak, Debra Prichard & James Castro, have these items & much more for sale at their shop up on Willow Creek, AK. It would be very wise to invest for next season to keep yourself save & healthy. Just thought I’d spread the word. Happy boatin’ folks,

Thanks for bringing up the whitewater helmet subject, alaskacreeker.

Sheri & us other Alpacksters have had a lot of conversations over the years about the implications of helmet choice, what to show on the company website, etc. I think Sheri’s always brought up a very good point: for a non-rolling packrafter, you wet exit immediately underwater, so you’re not spending much time upside down in the river… more like a rafter than a kayaker, in that respect.

The advent of rolling packrafts is broadening packrafting… I suspect the great majority of packrafters will be doing lateral things like floats and fishing, but for those with the yen for whitewater, rolling opens up new possibilities. With that roll and attachment system comes more time spent upside down, near the rocks. So it occurs to me…

:arrow_right: For Non-Rolling Packrafters, the same principles still apply.
:arrow_right: Rolling Packrafters will surely want to consider a full whitewater helmet as a part of the “rolling kit.” Having bonked my own head underwater (actually in a kayak), I can attest to my happiness at wearing one.

Alaskacreeker, plug for your friends’ op duly noted… if the community has no objection, Alpacka is fine with it. If they’re good folks and a valuable resource for the community, we’re happy to have people know about them.

I am going to continue to push for the development of a titanium helmet with a removable liner. Such a helmet, designed properly, could double as a cookpot. I would think that climbers would be all over this, as well. Seriously, if WW I soldiers could cook in their helmets why can’t we? Calling all innovators…

I thought that the titanium bonce cap/billy was, and is a fantastic idea, and have been sorely tempted to try to beat my old Sigg billy into a different shape as an experiment, but managed to get distracted making a new deck for my raft.

There was a lovely episode of “Top Gear” (the English motoring program for all those who don’t know) on here a couple of weeks ago where they rode the length of the Vietnamese Coast on motor bikes (…where is this going, you may ask…?), and one of the cast wore a helmet made from a collander, which reminded me then that I needed to go and find that Sigg billy and beat the crap out of it!

If successful, I’ll post some piccies!

Andrew A

Its already been done.

Titanium Helmet TL01.
2.5mm thick.

Hein. Ulbricht’s Witwe GmbH
Kaufing 34
4690 Schwanenstadt
Tel.: 004376732781-60
Fax.: 004376735327

At 1700g, it looks perfect for places like Ship Ck…where you might get shot at.

In fact, that’s perhaps why they don’t want you guys in there…they heard that someone was looking for titanium helmets, and planning to raid the gear store on their way through in rafts!

I’ll go back to beating up my Sigg Billy - it’s a lot lighter!


I d absolutly love to see a pot/helmet double use, but to my humble imagination this will never work helmets in water eniviroment neet drainage and pots quite the opposit.

Anyways, the helmet issue is still ongoing. What do you think of this one at 235g?<>prd_id=845524442618608&FOLDER<>folder_id=2534374302691055&bmUID=1261041645117


The Helmet looks great…but do you reckon you could heat up a meal in it over a stove!!!

I also wonder about the helmet and drainage issue. Surely, if it is on your head, even a solid helmet will drain as a consequence of gravity (unless, of course, you are upside down…and I accept that this whole conversation has come about BECAUSE rafters are going to be upside down, but that is going to happen underwater, where drainage shouldn’t be such an issue.

If it stops raining, I’ll go outside and beat up my Sigg billy as promised.


Andrew, I think drainage is a issue being underwater, be it while rolling or swimming. Pull a bucket through the water, the force on the handle will be your neck. Put holes in the bucket and this will less be the case.

Am I overconcerned?

Cool titanium helmet… sadly, not a whitewater configuration. :cry:

That flaring back brim is great for soldiers worried about bullets and shrapnel, but can provide catch-points and leverage for slower-but-powerful physical forces. I can also be driven into the neck, shearing the cervical spine.

Hmmmm… we need a titanium hockey-style helmet, with that close contour and ear guards. The earguard holes could also be used as the wire-hangers for cookin’ ramen in it!

These seem to be what I see on a bunch of kayakers – do they have drain holes?

I like the “Shaggy” for obvious reasons.

BTW I got upside down and hit hard on the ear by a rock while wearing a whitewater helmet that covered the ears. I still got a bruise and scab on the ear but the Meteor looks like it might not have the good ear/lower head pro.

Good looking helmets - BUT - can you cook in them??!

You are actually safer wearing a helmet w/ no drain holes. Drain holes make it easy for a stick/sharp object to stab you when ducking under trees/underwater branches/ect. A properly fitted whitewater helmet fits around your head very snugly, should not move at all, and will not fill with water because it wraps around your head so well.

I highly recommend the Grateful Heads “Bird” helmet. They stay put, offer good protection, don’t move on your head, have a small brim to keep the sun out of your eyes, and it’s made of bullet-proof kevlar. Definitely taken some really big blows & really long scrapes with mine & have friends that have put theirs through the same.

Most whitewater helmets are designed so that the helmet strap breaks free under a certain amount of pressure so it can’t choke you if it were to snag.

On the titanium helmet, seems like the factors would be:

:arrow_right: Fabricator. Titanium is a mother to work with, apparently, so there are relatively few fabricators who work with it, and fabrication cost is relatively. W/ my limited experience, my guess is it would need to be a pre-existing, relatively high-end titanium fabricator, since you can’t just a mill a helmet, or even make it like you make a typical pot, and the machinery to work Ti like this is probably out of the reach of small companies.
:arrow_right: Price of Ti. Sounds like titanium is somewhat regulated, as trade good, + its rarer than a lot of other metals/plastics, and the wartime uses are surely sucking up a bunch. So… probably expensive?

Have you talked to any specific companies, Brad?

Aluminium should also work reasonably, shouldn’t it?

Accepting that it may dent, it’s better than your head denting, presuming adequate space underneath is provided.

My Sigg billy was unfortunately not the right size to be usefully bent/modified, but I can’t imagine that it would be that hard to cut aluminium sheet to make a 2 piece aluminium bonce cap (with seam from front to back), and rivet the pieces together. The difficult bit would be to make a watertight seam for cooking! Perhaps one could modify an aluminium cooking/mixing bowl…(and do a basin cut hairdo at the same time).


Esben, I expect that punching holes in your cookpot would do little to protect your neck from being broken by strong currents…

I’m assuming the situation here is that your head is in the helmet, unlike the situation you described with the bucket. Your head + helmet has a little more surface area than your head by itself, but the only way around that is to not wear any helmet. If you put holes in the helmet, your head would plug them, so it wouldn’t reduce the drag.

Or perhaps I’m missing something…

Guys, I wouldn’t be that uptight about fracturing your neck whilst wearing a kayaking style helmet…

Your cervical spine has 7 vertebrae, which flex and extend happily (and rotate as well) - ie there’s a lot of potential movement there. Kayak helmets only come down to the junction between the occiput (base of skull) and the vertebrae, so there is still a lot of movement below this. The ones who break their neck wearing a helmet are the motorcyclists, as their helmet comes down to about the 6th cervical vertebrae, so there is f… all flexion/extension below this. This is one of the quirky aspects of medicine…whilst mandatory motorcycle helmets reduce head injuries, they actually increase the risk of para/quadraplegia in users.

From a medical point of view, I also think that the drainage/non-drainage issue probably doesn’t make a lot of difference in the whole scheme of things, other than the ability to cook something useful in your helmet.

May I put out a challenge to all of you to be the first to post a photo on this forum of you wearing a home made helmet that you could cook in (it seems that commercially this is not “available” within our requirements…and then we can debate the design issues …(sans legal liability…remember, I’m writing from Oz, where we don’t spend so much time covering our arses).

AND, Roman, if I can’t come up with something unusual before we meet, I’ll be the one wearing a second hand colander on my head in the Karamea…!!


As long as your helmet fits snug, you don’t need drain holes. Look at most of the top band whitewater helmets and see how many offer drain holes. A properly sized helmet doesn’t allow water to go between your head and the helmet. Drain holes are for generic helmets in the rental world that get suspended above your head allowing water to “sea anchor” your head putting undue stress on your cervical spine. If you’re going to run whitewater, get a real whitewater helmet. This isn’t a poor mans sport as evident by the boat. If you can spend 1000 for a boat, spend 100 for something to protect your head that was intended for whitewater. I would like to add my own experience in helmet selection. I used to sport the cheap ProTec Ace model. I sustained a concussion and severe lump on my head as well as a ripping headache in campground rapids on Eagle River, AK. I now sport something more expensive, but feel it is more suited for running whitewater and have taken a significant hit that cracked my helmet. It didn’t hurt and I didn’t know it was cracked until the end of the day. I have had to replace it, but I feel fine.