The Packraft Roll?


First post. Great to find a forum for packrafts/alpackas; I paddle an “Alpaca” and also have a folding kayak. Both mainly used on flatwater (I know it brands me as a wuss!) and a little surf.

I’ve just noticed on another thread on a course for whitewater techniques (by RomanDial) along with all the techniques covered in the course, the words: “the packraft roll”. I thought it was impossible to roll an Alpacka? I’ve had mine for 18 months, have never intentionally flipped so have never even tried or thought of rolling. Is a roll possible? I would be very interested to hear this if it is?

Unfortunately, the whitewater course is too far for me travel. I’m on the other side of the Atlantic.


People have succeeded in rolling an Alpacka (with a spay deck) in pool practice. I have heard rumors of a successful battle-role in Alaska last summer. I would be interested in the details about this anyone knows them. To the best of my knowledge these were all done without a pack. Performing a kayak style Eskimo role with a pack would be very difficult.

I believe the “Alpacka Role” Roman is referring to is really a wet-reentry after a flip. Meaning you flipped, ejected, and then reentered your boat, all mid river, lake, or ocean. This has been practiced with and with/out packs. The results are good. With a little practice one can flip and perform a wet entry without assistance or going to shore, relatively quickly (don’t let go of your paddle!). The interesting thing is that you boat is completely dry after having it flipped. We have discussed the possibility of performing the “Alpacka Role” intentionally as a means of emptying the raft of water. Not sure anyone has intentionally flipped for this purpose yet.

Whether you intentionally flip to rid the raft of water or unintentionally flipped in whitewater knowing the “Alpacka Role” is an important packrafting skill.

I have tried rolling my Yak with and without a pack and every attempt looked like a “soup sandwich”. I would love to learn this skill. :smiley:

I am a big user of the flip-to-bail technique. I just slide over onto one tube, and gently “rotate” the raft up and past 90 degrees, at which point it capsizes and I go in the drink. When my game is really on, I get the boat almost up to vertical, spilling almost all the water, and flop back down - having emptied most of the water without putting anything but my leg in the river!

I’m also an advocate of the climb-back-in-midstream trick. Practice is the key. I’d suggest getting out on warm day, and swimming a bit out of your raft. If you get in and out in deep water a dozen times or so in one day, you’ll really figure out the basics and start refining your technique. 90% of it is just psychological familiarity: getting used to dumping out, developing good instincts.

Thanks everyone for the interesting replies.

People have succeeded in rolling an Alpacka (with a spay deck) in pool practice. I have heard rumors of a successful battle-role in Alaska last summer. I would be interested in the details about this anyone knows them. To the best of my knowledge these were all done without a pack. Performing a kayak style Eskimo role with a pack would be very difficult.

I assumed it would be done without a pack and with the spray deck but I’m wondering what sort of Eskimo roll was practised? It would be interesting to find out.

I would love to learn this skill. > :smiley:

Me, too. :slight_smile:


The standard kayak role is often referred to as an Eskimo role since Eskimos are who developed both kayaks and the skill of rolling back over after having flipped.

I have attempted and seen Eskimo roles attempted in Alpackas, mostly resulting in failure. I have never succeeded. I have seen at least one expert kayaker, after several failures, succeed. Welded on spray decks help but the Velcro normally fails when pressing your knees against the deck in an effort to flip the boat. Having a snug fitting boat seems to help. I have heard of experiments with knee straps.

I have heard of experiments with knee straps.

Thanks, Forrest. This is very interesting. I’ve been thinking of experimenting with knee straps/thigh braces and may give it more serious thought.


I’ve once rolled the boat intentionally in order to bail it… in the warm waters off Sumatra, not in Alaska.

Erin and I reworked our pack-anchoring system after experimenting with wet-reentry. If you have a heavy pack, say 50 lbs. for a 2 week leg, the boat is most stable upside down. It can be an interesting challenge to launch into deep water since as soon as you set the raft in the water it wants to capsize. So we went to a very simple strap system that can be released by feel when the boat is upside down. Then you can flip the boat upright, get in, and deal with the pack later.

Specifically, we put a string through the front two tie points, and a second through the other pair of tie points. We then put a clip that fastens between these two loops over the pack. By using a 1" clip, it seems like it’s easy enough to release by feel, though it could be a problem if your hands were numb. I know Shaggy has been experimenting with an improved clip for a similar system. It’s super fast to put the pack on and take it off, though it’s a little looser than you’d want in serious whitewater or hard chop.

A small point, but instead of using a simple point-to-point tie for the string, we’ve gone to a loop so that there is not a focused wear point on the string where the strap is. Also for the fixed end of the clip I’ve used a similar thing by stitching ribbon into a continuous loop.

And for deckless boats, it’s possible to just wedge a small pack between your knees. Then it is well anchored, has a low center of mass, and automatically ejects if you do. On the other hand, it can be uncomfortable, especially if there’s an ice axe in there someplace.

Picking up on what Hig was saying above, the current “Packtach” system Alpacka makes was heavily influenced by what Hig & Erin have come up with, and also by looking at the shockle settups of Brad, Forrest, & I want to say Roman (Roman… I forget what you were using when we paddled Eagle creeking summer 07, but I think it was shockles…?).

Something I’ve been finding lately is that an integral part of the self-rescue is - in rougher water - getting the packraft out of the hole before it flushes you, sans raft. This is where I could actually see a pack on the bow as an asset, because it gives the raft a bit of a sea-anchor to hang down and grab water in a flushing hole that might otherwise surf it. That said, I haven’t gone out yet w/ a throw bag, a raft, a pack, and big hole and played “hole fishing.”

This last Sunday, though, a couple of us were on a run and found a well-developed instinct to grab the raft immediately when dumped in a hole is really valuable. To paraphrase my friend Ben:

"I said to myself, 'if [Shaggy] doesn’t flip in that hole I’ll eat my hat.
"Then you hit it, and flipped, and boat went up into it, and I thought 'uh-oh, that’s gonna be there forever.
“Then this arm emerged from underwater, grabbed the boat, and dragged it out!”

I didn’t even think of it - I just grabbed the boat, w/ out being able to see anything. “Hey, I know I’ll need that!” :smiley:

I’ve been tinkering w/ the idea of adding a specific “grab handled” at one hip, so I can snatch it in situations like this. The full-rail rig, like Roman prefers, has an obvious merit here too, but I do enough brushy runs that right now I’m trying having a really “clean” boat. In any case, I notice my biggest challenge is often getting ‘traction’ on the boat w/ strong hydraulic forces present… which brings up again the “clean boat vs. rigged boat” debate :wink:

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but this makes me think of our joking instructions for new ocean packrafters:

“If you’re in the boat, stay in the boat.
If you’re not in the boat, get back in the boat.”

What length shockles do you use? I just ordered a set of 18 inch shockles and hope that’s about right.