Where It All Began...

I just came across this book which seems to be the history, development and usage of what we’ve come to know (and love) as the Packraft!

Book Description
The One-Man Pneumatic Life Raft – was the unheralded and almost unknown savior of uncounted downed airmen of World War II and the early Korean War. This is the story of its history, development, and usage as little raft survival kits. Coverage includes issued raft kits of U.S. Army Air Forces, U.S. Navy, British RAF and Commonwealth, German Luftwaffe, and Imperial Japan. Details include many original issue specifications and accessories along with over 320 photographs. This is the most complete work on the subject ever published.

Book Details
ISBN: 0764324357
Size: 81/2&quotx11"
Illustrations: over 320 color and b/w photographs
Pages: 144
Availability: Now Available
Binding: Soft Cover

Interesting, great picture.

I don’t know, I think the Halkett boat has em beat by about 70-100 years, plus it doubles as a cloak and uses an umbrella sail with walking stick/paddle attachment? Inspiring!

That’s an awesome post on Wikipedia – also it made the featured page there. It needs an edit, however, to make a reference to the modern packraft.

Fascinating stuff, especially about the Halkett boat. The wiki page says the only surviving one is the one used by John Rae, an Arctic/Canada explorer and is in the museum in Stromness, Orkney. I saw his grave/monument in the cathedral in Kirkwall last year but gave the museum a miss as it cost a few quid to get in. If only I’d known what treasure it held; a genuine antique packraft. I feel a return trip coming on soon!

Cheers Guys,

Superb! I’ve been looking to find out what that boat was for years. Somebody told Sheri about it a long time ago, but we couldn’t remember what the museum was.

Rough chronology, as far as I know now (feel free to correct):

  • Halkett Boat
    WWII Aviator Boats, Japanese Scout Boats
    American Safety (?)

Does anyone know of Pre-Current-Era packrafts missing in that list? There must be more.

I 'd like to add a model from the eithies behind the iron curtain.

A close Friend of mine discovered a 22 year old small inflatable made in GDR in his cellar. Looking a lot like Alpacka :wink:
Still full function speaks for its robustness. Weight? Respectable 8 pounds. Surely not intended as a packraft by the state directed economy to the time, but hey it is the idea, the use, the amphibious operation what makes a packraft a packraft, right?

I am still in search of reports, but very sure it had been used in the sense of packrafting given other restrictions to the time. Peoples resourcefulness and urge to pursue freedom in other ways sure led to travels in that way.



That’s the design I need. Tubes getting bigger in the rear, where I sit, to float my 230 pounds. I might have been able to get all of the way down the low water Escalante in that boat :slight_smile: Bump and grind 37 miles in my Fiord Explorer before giving up and hiking out Fence Canyon.

Frank Colver

So, finally had the time to collect the information :slight_smile: This article is meant to be the first complete historical coverage. We will give reference, summerize and make connections: http://www.packrafting.de/p/history.html


Good work Sven!

Just spotted a spelling mistake, you may want to correct:

desaster - > disaster

Many thanks Chris, much appreciated. You know, it is not my native language, so any feedback (also expression wise) is welcome. However, the message seemed to come across, thanks again for reviewing it,


Hey Sven, you are welcome!

I am Nik, not Chris by the way…

How come I mix you up by the time? Sorry for that!
And thanks again,

No problem mate!

I am happy, packrafting is not an ancient invention, this series would become a full time job :wink:
Or maybe it is ancient, we only dont have the documentation

As promised, Part II : http://www.packrafting.de/2012/01/history-part-ii.html

Good reading!

Final Part III on History: http://www.packrafting.de/2012/07/recent-history.html