White-water packraft; state of the art?

Hello from Tassie,

I’m planning to upgrade from my mid 2000’s Yukon Yak (the one with the small butt), as seen most recently in service here:

I’ve read everything I can find on the topic of rollable white-water boats, including various tantalising mentions of the yet-to-be-released Diva. I don’t have the time or the inclination for much DIY work, but am willing to do some limited DIY to obtain a boat that matches the current best practice. I am considering the following:

A new big-butt Yukon Yak, set-up as follows:

• Cargo Fly
• Alternative Deck Placement 4" forward Spray Deck
• Seat forward 4" re-laced as per Luc’s pimp guide
• Seat possibly double height as per Luc’s guide as well
• Thigh strap set-up includes:
• 2 x Alpacka Grab loops at feet
• 2 NRS D rings at hips
• Aire thigh straps http://www.aire.com/aire/products/accessories.aspx?cat=12&id=14 for trips when weight is not an issue, interchangeable with home-made minimalist 1” webbing thigh straps for backcountry.
• Back strap home-made as per Kirkinbend’s design: http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/57909144/Kirk/IMGP3583.JPG

Although I’m keen to take advantage of the better handling and rolling potential of thigh straps, forward seat and cargo fly etc., my river trips usually involve many days of difficult portaging, so keeping weight down is important.

I will be extremely grateful if those of you with an experienced eye would please consider my proposed set-up and feel welcome to make any suggestions or comments on this plan. Is there anything I could improve upon or have overlooked?



Hi John,

I reckon that is almost everything you need. Some other things worth considering adding or changing (in my opinion):

Three point thigh straps look awesome (I have not tried them yet but they look great). These ones are expensive and I reckon they would be quite easily made: http://www.packrafting-store.de/Extras/Anfibio-Thigh-straps-set::414.html. You can also make them out of lightweight foam with a tyvek or cuben skin for longer trips.

Modding the spray skirt to not explode so easily (also on kirkinbends page)

Potentially use a shorter white water paddle than the ones most rafters use (more agile)

If you are going to roll a lot, you will need something more hardy than the NRS D Rings (http://adventuresandtinkerings.blogspot.no/2012/08/busted-nrs-patch.html). Try using 2 patches at the rear. The 3 point straps may alleviate this problem though?

If you need glue, there is also a great supplier in Melbourne (more links can be found in the Australian section of this site)

On another note, I am currently running a bunch of high water grade 3 and 4 in Norway and dream about that new boat almost daily!

Finally, I thought I would add, that although rolling is great it is still much harder to roll a raft in white water than a kayak (for some reason rafts are even harder to roll in rapids vs pools than kayaks?). By far the biggest advantage of decking out your boat would be for boat control (bracing, boofing etc), which are hugely improved.

Thanks very much for your input Jeremy. You’ve given me some very useful ideas, and helped to confirm my plan. I hope you are enjoying some fantastic paddling in Norway!

Cheers from Tassie,

John Mc.

Jeremy (and John)

Have you had experience rolling a boat with both sides of a cargo fly loaded with gear, I am intrested to know if it is doable and what impact the loaded cargo fly has? What do you do for portages when you load up the cargo fly and turn the boat into a cumbersome 30 +kilo matress without a grab/carry system (I am talking longer trips such as Johns here)? I can really see the advantages of the cargo fly on some levels but I am not convinced on others such as rolling and portages.


Hi Steve,
unfortunately no experience rolling or portaging an internally loaded boat, it has pretty much been all sport boating here for me.

I have heard it makes them quite a bit easier to roll, but as you said portaging them could be pretty terrible, especially through Tas scrub!

Yes, for scrubby Tassie rivers I think I will still use my old Yak with forward mounted rucsac, because of the portaging issue, but for this new boat I have a few other little adventures in mind. With gear inside, it should still be okay for some short portages.

My new 2013 Yak with cargo fly and forward cockpit arrived this week. Alpacka’s service was superb and delivery was ridiculously fast. I ordered the 3 point thigh straps from packraftingstore.de and they haven’t arrived yet, and I also still need to make the home-made back strap. I’d rather buy a back strap from off the shelf, but it doesn’t seem that there is anything available to suit my lightweight desires, so I will have to do a bit of DIY. If all goes to plan, that will be done within the next couple of weeks, and I will then roll-test the new set-up in the comfort of my local swimming pool. My local canoe club books the nearby pool every Wednesday evening from autumn until spring for our winter canoe polo series, and we also get a spare 25m pool available for rolling practice; very handy! By the time I’m done with the set-up, it should be somewhat similar to the way the Alaskans have been rigging their boats lately. If you are still curious Steve, I’ll let you know how it goes for rolling and stability in a couple of weeks. Cheers, John

Nice!! Let us know how the 3 point straps go. Also, regarding the roll, the big difference between a kayak back deck roll and a and PR is to start the arm motion before the hip flick (opposite of kayak) and then flick like hell, ha.

Have fun!

still be okay for some short portages.
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