|Navigating Lake Harmony at French Creek State Park in PA.|
"It took a few years of living [in Alaska] and hearing friends' stories before I finally got a chance to try it out. As soon as I did, I was hooked." Amy says. "[Packrafting] very much parallels the draw of long distance running in that it's this very lightweight, efficient mode of travel that can take you very long distances in the backcountry in a very short amount of time." The fact that she could look at maps in an entirely new way, linking waterways to explore new territory, was mind-blowing to her.
|Amy in a packraft on the Hoback River in Wyoming. |
A little more daring than our lake! (Forrest McCarthy)
I had the chance to try out a rental from JHP in July, and found the rental process to be a piece of cake. I scheduled my rental time period, signed a waiver and found two packrafts on my doorstep a week later. In addition to the rafts, the package included two lightweight paddles, some assembly required, a repair kit and instructions. With my lack of whitewater experience and safety gear, a friend and I opted to test the rafts on the calm waters of Lake Harmony in French Creek State Park.
|Assembling the paddles, which came |
in three pieces. Piece of cake! (The rafts
are rolled up in the foreground.)
Though the packrafts require quite a bit of air to inflate, JHP provides nylon bags to trap large volumes of air in to make the inflation process easier. With a dozen full bags of air "pumped" into the raft, I was good to go. It took a bit of finagling to disconnect the bag without losing half of the air I'd pumped in, but the rafts come with a separate tube you can blow more air through to get it fully inflated. Though we didn't have to backpack with the rafts, having a lightweight bag as a pump is ideal for helping minimize weight. The rafts come with a removable seat and seat back, which I opted to leave in for our leisurely lake paddle. We did remove the spraydecks, which I could see being helpful for keeping gear in the boat when you're running a real river.
|Lauren removing the spraydeck from her |
fully inflated packraft.
After we got home, I let the boats dry overnight before repacking them for shipment back to JHP. I'd suggest building in an extra day to any rental to make sure you have time to dry out the boats. It also took some work to get them packed back into the box they'd come in. (Amy, if I ever have to move again, you're helping me pack. The rafts were expertly fit into the box when they arrived.) I'd received a prepaid FedEx return label to make getting the boats back to JHP easy.
The bottom line: Packrafts are ideal for everything from paddling around a lake to running a serious river, and with JHP's easy rental process, there's no excuse not to try one out. There truly are so many uses for the crafts, and they're so easy to carry around with you! And if you do decide to rent a packraft, Amy has a mini-guide to trips around Jackson Hole on the JHP website There are also forums for trips around the country on http://www.packrafting.org. Happy rafting!
|Have you tried packrafting? Want to, but haven't yet? Leave a comment, and be sure to check out JHP!|