Photos and text by Florent Conti:
Avid paddlers who like to travel light know the dilemma: taking as little gear as possible sometimes comes at the expense of having fun and being happy explorers.
Having been on the road full-time for the last three years with my campervan, I still had to find a way to carry around a proper boat without adding weight and restriction to my minimalist lifestyle. I’ve had canoes, kayaks, and SUPs. Even in their portable, foldable, or inflatable versions, these items always end up super bulky, very tedious and time-consuming to assemble AND disassemble (the instruction will often say 10 minutes but these 10 minutes always end up becoming more like 30…), eventually taking the joy out of simply exploring the outdoors. ‘Why can’t someone make something for the minimalist traveler who likes to paddle, portage, hike, bike but also likes to be free of the hassle of owning a full-size canoe?’, was basically my eternal plea to the paddling industry.
One day, a friend of mine mentioned something about a raft, which few paddlers ‘in the know’ used, and which may serve the exact conundrum I so longed to solve. Discovering the existence of these ‘adventure enhancers’ felt as if my prayers had all been answered in one compact heavy-duty and durable boat: THE PACKRAFT. And even more so now, with Kokopelli’s Rogue series, packrafting got to a whole other level, so we thought we’d give you 5 good reasons why you need to start packrafting, or if you wish to put it another way: 5 reasons why packrafting simply rocks.
1. It’s Made for EVERYONE
Whether you’re an experienced paddler or a casual one, the reason why I love the idea of packrafts is that it literally fits every type of outdoors enthusiast from every level, age, profile, paddling habits, sense of adventure. It only takes one session out on the water to really get the hang of it (and get hooked), same for learning how to inflate it (check out this video to learn how to inflate a packraft).
2. The Joy of Paddling WITHOUT the Hassle
Forgot about the bulky kayak that takes so much space in your garage (when you’re lucky to have one), 15 minutes to strap on the roof of your car, and often takes two people to carry until you can finally launch it on the water. That's not mentioning how stressful it can be to be on the highway with a boat on your roof. With their weight and size, packrafts literally are a personal boat you can bring anywhere, even if you’re not sure you’ll be paddling (believe me you will be). Once you get used to inflating it and setting it up in no time (it took me 8 minutes the first time, now it only takes me 3 or so), you’ll be filled with an immense joy every time you stumble upon a nice lake or scenic river that looks like a paddler’s paradise.
3. A Unique Point-of-View
How many times have I been on hikes or trips in general where I said to myself, ‘If only I had brought my kayak or canoe!’? This is where packrafts come in. With this unique type of boat, you’ll be King or Queen of the outdoors in the sense that now EVERY SINGLE spot you go explore, which includes rivers, lakes, water crossings, etc, will be somewhere you can paddle on or through. There is nothing quite like being able to experience a scenic spot from the middle of a lake or going down a river while everyone else is just hanging out on the main trails.
4. New Adventures
There are so many ways to use a packraft. Getting into this sport will widen your sense of adventure. Have you ever heard of bikepacking (basically a mix of packrafting and mountain biking)? Grab your packraft, take a foldable bike, and go. This is next level exploration! Some even go up glaciers to find the perfect backcountry skiing spots.
Fishing not possible from the ground? Let’s just take the packraft out then, see what the middle of the lake has to offer! Adventures that may have seemed impossible to achieve will now happen every weekend.
5. Outdoor BFFs
It may be an inflatable boat, but with its Kevlar-reinforced floor, V-tape construction base, and double layer seam tape, the Kokopelli Rogue is as rugged as it gets. Hiking and paddling are my single two favorite ways of getting outside. Without a doubt, I can say that my packraft has become the best companion ever, simply because it took my portaging projects to another level by making me able to access spots I never would have considered in the past. Plus, whenever strangers come to me and ask about it, I see that spark in their eye. It's the same spark that lit me up when I discovered their existence. And I discover packrafts have one last advantage: they’re a very social tool as well because I can easily make these curious strangers my new packrafting buddies!
So, next time you’re out there without your packraft, think about all that. And you’ll realize one thing is missing.