Seven tips from the Happy

Gordy Vernon, Thai Verzone, and Brad Meiklejohn are all creative thinkers and active packrafters who like wild, moving water, preferably whitewater.

On our recent trip down the Happy River we shared and discovered the following among ourselves:

  1. A folded packraft (i.e. not rolled – folded so that it has a flat surface, not a round one) can be strapped to the back of a foam PFD and so worn backpack style for hiking on trail and bushwacking. Two of us left packs behind to save weight on this trip and so this is how we carried our rafts: strapped to the PFD’s back

  2. One of us left his valve plug (and doesn’t like tieing it on the boat – if you tie it on your boat you might still read this as others don’t tie), so used the inflation bag as a valve cap by screwing a ziplock bag in to the valve to seal it. Ran Class IV this way. Use strap or p-cord to tidy up the rolled inflation bag and keep it from dragging.

  3. If your boat’s too long and you want something to push against, put a lightly loaded dry bag at your feet under your spray deck and push on that. Tie it to a tie down… but beware of getting tangled if you flip.

  4. Catch eddies and surf waves ( on a river trip as it’s good, playful learning for ducking into and holding little eddies on steep creeks (or unknown runs with wood and other hazards) and developing good braces and balance on chaotic whitewater.

  5. A few feet of duct tape on a paddle (i.e., not tyvek tape or patch and go, but good ole silver tape that you can find most everywhere in the world) can be sufficient for patching cuts in the fabric that is dried by hand.

  6. Using a little stove like the MSR Pocket Rocket ( to start a fire (just light it and hold under kindling), obviates the need for other fire starter. It’s like doing a barbeque with gas vs. one with charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid. This can be good for Alaska packrafting where fires are very nice.

  7. Packrafts are truly “first descent machines” – there are many, many side streams that feed bigger rivers that make for excellent side trips.

As an addition to #3 -
My boat was too long for a performance fit, so I added two tie-down patches to the back tubes between the seat and backrest. Now I tie in a small dry bag there - essentially a “lumbar support.” This has the added advantage of pushing my body weight, ie. center of gravity, forward a few inches.

The Happy looks sweet. It’s on the list.

As a beginner, I would concur with #4. My partner is an experienced boater and strongly recommends practicing this. Eddying-out and surfing small holes are greatly increasing my comfort level in moving water. I feel more in control of where I go, knowing that I can slow progress downstream or get out of the current when necessary. These will be good skills to have, especially in more difficult water.

All the tips are really excellent. These tips had really helped me a lot learning the Boating. I am beginer in boat and I had learned many things from this forum.

Hey first I would like to appreciate this fantastic work which done and given here.I am sure that it is going to be good guidance for those who are still learning the boating.I also learnt lot many thing after reading this tips and it’s really helped me a lot to learn the Boating.

Firstly I thanks for your tips. Alaska packrafting , its very nice one.