Packrafting NOOB questions
I have never packrafted before - and done some limited rafting on the Deschutes in OR. But on 7/23 a couple buddies and I are planning on hiking up to Twin Falls or the crossing, then floating back to the bridge. One of us is a very experience packrafter, and he's a PJ in the Guard. He's casual about everything - I think he'd swim the ER rapids in his skivvies and come out with a grin.
This isn't a question about skill or safety or and whether or not we should do the rapids downstream from Echo Bend, but rather gear suggestions. I'm the first one to hike around something if I'm not comfortable.
What's a good idea for hiking gear that can get wet? Would gore-tex shorts, tee, and Keens work fine? Or do most folks use dry suits? What about floation and helmets? Outwear? If I wanted to hike with Lowas, and stow them for the float, what footware do you use for the float? Should I expect to sit in water and have a wet butt the whole float?
Do you plan expecting ALL your gear to get wet, or do you use a small seal bag/day pack combo?
Just trying to get a feel for "typical" gear for a day float.
expect to be wet. you will sit in a puddle in the boat, no two ways about it.
even the warmest of alaska's rivers are cold enough to zap you immediately if you take a swim, even if its a short one. dry suits are pretty much considered mandatory if there is a chance you will swim.
as for footwear, i like my chaco sandals for hiking, and do wear them in the boat, but i prefer neoprene river shoes of some sort. these are worn over the goretex booties that are integrated to my drysuit under which i wear wool, so im warm and dry no matter what. i know some people who do the wool socks/goretex booties/cheap tennis shoe route and it works fine for them as well.
Packrafts, even with pray skirts, are wet boats. You have to plan on being wet if there is any splash at all. In AK that generally means using a drysuit unless you are paddling a lake or slow river. Short trips across a river, etc. might be fine without one, but if you are floating a river, use a drysuit.
Thank you gentlemen. What about life preservers?
I always like using the best gear, but I'm notorious for shelling out and buying a bunch of gear for something I don't even love to do, or don't have the time to do. Obviously it sounds like a full dry suit, helmet, and a self bailing Baylee 1 would be the ticket. But I'm not going to spend $3K to float down ER once... haha.
Is there anywhere that rents drysuits?
I disagree with having to use a drysuit on lower class rivers (I and II), They are nice for floats but it is not necesscary. Use layering (Wool works best) and your rain gear and keep some dry clothes for changing into. I have had no problems staying warm and comfortable by doing this in outside air temps above 45 degrees. You will get a little wet but it's not bad. Pick up Roman Dials book on packrafting he explains clothing and such pretty well.
I don't use a drysuit when packrafting, but I thus far have stuck to low class (I-II) stuff. Like Russp17 mentioned, good clothing and layering will suffice in most cases. As for sitting in a puddle, with the inflatable seats it's not really all that bad. Yeah, I get a bit wet, but not soaked to the bone.
Thx Brian. No one has said whether or not they wear life jackets. Does that go without saying?
Yes, without a doubt. Life jackets are a must for me. I don't have anything special - just a standard life jacket - but I did look for one with a thin back to make the seating more comfortable.
Originally Posted by AlaskanSD
Hello fellow noob! Drysuit- I am on the same level. I can't afford one quite yet, and have been doing all the different class II sections of the ER in a mess of outfits while learning to packraft. I usually stick with long-johns (+ an extra layer of pants-rain,quickdry) w/ wool socks, a wool base and a few layers up top. I've been shooting for waterproof tops but it really doesn't make a difference if you wear rain pants or not down below, as you could be sitting in a bathtub full of glacial water after your first set of rapids. This last weekend I wore two rainjackets for the upper fork of ER, and my base layer was still a little dry by my shoulders when we got out at Echo Bend. Woo-hoo! Also-it gets windy. the hood on the rainjacket came in handy. ---However, like people have mentioned, had I swam, I think it'd be an entirely different story and after finding myself enveloped in water after the rapids by the ford sight, I was wishing for a drysuit! However, I keep thinking that I'm going to be hypothermic or some nonsense and I'm always fine- just walk it off and get your legs working again.
Originally Posted by Brian M
Make sure you have your PFD and I recommend a helmet I've worn both chacos and hiking boots with my wool socks. Expect to get wet! My first time, I tried not getting my feet too wet and I quickly learned that it would not matter one bit! I haven't needed gloves yet and only sometimes want them. Finally, put some snickers in your PFD for fuel to keep you a bit warm. Enjoy it, noob!