Frontier Class IV Packrafting

As packrafting continues to evolve and gain popularity, we need to put more effort into safety, technique, and rescue skills. Like most packrafters, I jumped into the water without any prior paddling experience. Packrafts are so stable that they allow us to navigate technical water without the appropriate skill set to manage the hazards, and it is amazing that there haven’t been more accidents.

Class IV

Boat Rigging: (Primp your packraft)Thigh straps, seat forward, EVA backrest, extra tie-down loops on stern, grab cord through bow and stern loops, tail. No non-locking carabiners! No random loose straps/cord floating around (other than the tail)! You want the rigging to be very tight, to have to struggle to squeeze into your boat. I have never had any issue exiting from my boat, and the bigger hydraulics have sucked me out instantly. I think this is a good thing.

Life Jacket: It is necessary to choose a suitable life jacket.

Throw Rope: Keep the throw bag on your body, not clipped to the boat.

Shorter paddle: 197 cm is popular, 205 cm feels like the upper limit (the popular Aquabound 220s are too long).

Dry suit: Time to retire the rain gear. Latex gaskets are a must, tighter is better, and attached booties are a really good idea.

Helmet: Get a whitewater helmet, preferably with a short bill. The bill protects your face from rocks and can create an air pocket.

Swimming: Hold on to your boat. The floatation is a huge asset when going through rapids. If you have to choose between boat and paddle, keep the boat. For re-entry, flip the boat upright however is easiest. If you have a pack on the bow, use the pack to flip the boat. You will want the pack to be very securely attached to the boat- not just to keep it attached, but so that flipping the pack will cause the boat to overturn.

Rolling: I think rolling is more of a party trick than anything else.

Waterfalls: Unlike kayaks, packrafts can’t plunge the nose under the water to absorb shock. Therefore waterfall landings need to be flat, which requires a big boof stroke at the waterfall lip. There is a huge difference between greenwater (dense, low air content) and frothy (high air content) flat landings. Based on limited experience, a 20 ft drop to greenwater is about as jarring as a 30 foot drop on froth.

Post time: Mar-07-2019


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