Who did first use the TERM Packraft?

While doing some research for an article, I came across the question how the naming evolved.

Were the old Sherpas and Curtis Designs called Packrafts by there producers and users? Did Dick Griffith consider his 1952 trip in the copper canyon as ‘Packrafting’? Who knows?

On an academic level, question, specifically designed as a non self bailer, is an Alpacka technically still a Raft, as it floats by its hull design, too? As far as I know, the difference between a boat and a raft is the existence of a hull. The boat displaces water by its hull design, the raft only by its very self material.


I think the term “raft” is loosely applied to a vessel that uses buoyant parts, rather than hull displacement, as the primary means of flotation. “Bucket boats” are considered rafts, at least in the US, even though they aren’t self bailing. I’m not sure whether a zodiac-type rigid inflatable boat is more properly a “raft” or an “inflatable boat.” Given the amount of times I’ve either packed my Alpaca full of gear or gotten it full of water on the river, but continued to operate it, I’d vote for calling it a “raft.” Hull displacement seems to be the secondary means of flotation.

I’m not sure where the term was coined, but I think the old aviator survival boats were just called that, as they weren’t intended for backpacking.

I agree the hull displacement to be the secondary means of flotation. I am also very happy for the Floor keeping the water out while on the water :wink: Definition is of now meaning anyway, just wanted to have a relation to existing types.

The main question remains, when was the term Packraft(ing) first used? With Sherpas in the 80ies? Prior to that?

Anyone from the old ages in here?


I think that it started with Sherpa.

Wow, I can’t believe I was working for Sherpa in Chicago when the packraft began. I was only 16, but carried the title of “Assistant to the President” and that I did. We had just purchased the rights from the military. I actually came up with the color change from the typical army greens to brown and gold. I also designed the inside pocket for the patch, got the idea from a tea bag the VP was toying with. I also worked with architects on the packaging and brochures…where we used the term backpacker’s pack raft! That was one of our goals to market the boat as a pack raft, instead of inflatable boat. I came across some photos we took when we first produced the first boats in the new colors, which is why I started to google sherpa. Good times…and all this, for $3.75 an hour!

Here is a link of one of our promotional ads we put out…http://books.google.com/books?id=ktQDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA146&lpg=PA146&dq=sherpa+packraft+inflatable+boat&source=bl&ots=nRCGK_i1Jh&sig=1IuxKMWSmpb2pNedlMFejD5qpWY&hl=en&ei=4e_lTP7tNoOBlAfd7aW6Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CE0Q6AEwCDgK#v=onepage&q&f=false


Hi Maribel,

thanks for clarifying on that finally. Sounds like Sherpa invented the Term “Pack Raft” in the early 80ies.

This is an excellent post for tracking the history of Packrafting. What rights did you actually buy form the Army? Was there a patent? Or a trademark? I am also interessted in the material you used. Was it the same sort of urethan coated nylon nowadays being used? Do you know about the main reason the raft was discontinued?

Also, if you had more photos (manufacturing and customer wise) from the time would be most excellent to see what the community was like back then.

Stay in touch with the current packrafting community :slight_smile:


Thank you all for that wonderful information. Also the books you let us read I learn something new because of it.

Thank you so much guys.

Brian from Curtis Designs here.

I’m just checking in on this old thread to say that we never used the term packraft. I enjoyed seeing the old Sherpa spot.