Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cesar's First Packrafting Kit: Overview and First Impressions

Very Important Disclaimer:

This post deals with an outdoor activity that is inherently more dangerous, which is doing anything for an extended period in water while outdoors.  In the USA drowning is the number one leading cause of death in national parks.  You can read more about that and other dangers here.  Always swim, paddle, and do anything else involving bodies of water with caution and with the proper amount of preparation.  Know your skill level and the conditions you plan on encountering for a given body of water.

I have been regularly swimming for roughly three decades in a wide variety of conditions, and continue to swim throughout the year.  I love to swim.  I have also been an outdoors enthusiast/backpacker for over two decades, and am well aware of, and have even received professional training in regards to, things like hypothermia and first aid in general.

Before attempting to do things like packrafting, you ought to be aware of the dangers and have the skills and preparation necessary to deal with and/or avoid these dangers.  

This hobby can literally be a matter of life and death if not done safely and/or without sufficient training/research/experience.  You've been warned, and I will repeat part of the disclaimer I have for this blog in the "About" section (see: above): I am not responsible for any damages (personal harm, financial loss, or otherwise) that might be suffered as a result of any information found on this blog.

Okay, now on to my take on packrafting:

In the above picture, there I am in my raft under the bridge.  We took only a few pictures due to the difficulties involved with photography while there is water splashing around all around.

Three friends and I began what would be my first trip with my recently completed packraft kit in BorĂ¥s, a small city in south-west Sweden.  It was a bit of a strange place, perhaps, to start a outdoorsy-type adventure--in the middle of a city center, with lots of people outside, walking along the river and also enjoying the nice, sunny, spring weather.  We got plenty of people asking us where we were going, if we were having fun, and a few people even took out their phones and took pictures of us.  The answer to those questions, of course, is that we were going to paddle down the river Viskan as far as we could in a day, and yes we had a blast!

I had spent years dreaming of adding a packraft to my backpacking arsenal, but many packrafts (e.g. Alpacka) are quite expensive, as are many of the accessories, like paddles.  So my plans were put on the back burner for a while, until a few years ago I noticed that there was a new packraft on the market that was not only much cheaper than most rafts, but also lighter without sacrificing too much durability.  So I kept my eyes peeled on used gear forums for months until I finally found my very own Klymit LWD.

But my quest to put together my complete packrafting kit was far from over.  I did quite a bit of research on all the odds and ends that go along with paddling.  I'd need paddles, a flotation device, more drybags, etc.  Until finally just a week ago, I put the finishing touches on my kit, organized a trip with some friends, packed up, and finally we were happily floating down a river.  This trip would be a long day trip of paddling, but I packed my backpack as though I were going on a long section hike that I have planned for this summer, which I also plan on including some paddling along with hiking.  Here is what it ended up looking like the day before I set out:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

April Off Trail Trip Report

I had just about given up.  I had been through my basket of maps several times, and my restlessness had not subsided.  The basket had originally been for picking wild mushrooms, but I've found that a satchel lined with a small paper bag works better for me, so I re-purposed the basket to hold all my wilderness backpacking maps.  I've collected quite a few over the years.

But of course I would not waste my set aside 24 hours for an overnight trip in what happened to be gorgeous spring weather.  I always have a few back up plans of spots both on and off trail that are my go-to places to haunt.  Some of these patches of woods I've slept in several dozen times or so.  Hence the restlessness.  I craved something new, and also something challenging.