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ESSENTIAL PACKRAFTING KIT GUIDE

5 bits of kit you won't want to be without

Written by Bryony Balen

There’s a good chance you’ll have noticed by now, we’re big fans of the packraft. Offering ultimate versatility, these humble little inflatable boats are the perfect tool for a river based adventure – particularly if you’ll be hiking sections or if parts of the river are unknown or indeed known to be especially challenging.

We’ve just launched our source to sea expedition, brand new for 2020, in which we’ll be following the river Tay west to east across Scotland. So to help you get your head around the kit you might need, Secret Compass Operations Director Bryony Balen has whipped together the following kit guide, essential for any packrafting expedition. We’ve chosen to leave out the specifics of the paddling hardwear here, instead we’re just looking at the personal kit you’ll want to be sure to pack on top. In no particular order, here are Bryony’s top 5 kit picks for packrafting.

1. Gloves

Hardened veteran or packraft newbie, gloves may just be your best friend on an extended trip.

You’ll want them to be close-fitting enough that your grip isn’t slipping on the paddle shaft but comfortable enough to wear all day, but before you splash out on a pair of paddling gloves, if you have cycle gloves available give them a try.

For colder climes, full finger neoprene gloves offer added warmth as well as blister protection or for closer paddle contact. If it’s super cold or you know you really feel the cold, pogies would be worth considering for additional protection against the cold.

2. Sun Protection

Oh the joy of sunny days on the water! As well as a trusty pair of sunglasses think about a baseball cap or sun visor for added sun protection. Sailing style options with a clip leash or chin strap will prevent a rogue gust – or an unexpected dip – from stealing your headwear but these are also easy to retrofit using cord.

For colder days, Lycra or neoprene skull caps – specially designed to fit under a helmet – help with heat retention and can also be useful to protect chilly heads in an evening’s wild camp.

You’ll also want to be sure to pack some suncream and lip balm. Full days on the water means a lot of UV radiation from the surface and an increased chance of sunburn.

3. Waterproof Jacket

Squally weather or the inevitable paddle splash, a waterproof top layer will make your life more comfortable for most paddling conditions.

While cags are designed specifically for paddling and come with a bunch of dedicated features, a normal waterproof may be better suited if you’ll be on and off the river during the adventure.

Closures or adjusters on the wrist will be useful for paddling to stop water running up your arm, while an elasticated hem will help your jacket form a good seal and shorten a longer jacket for more comfort sitting in a packraft.

4. Cord and Carabiners

These are adventure staples almost no matter what you’re up to, but you’ll find cord and carabiners super useful on a packrafting expedition.

From securing your rucksack to the packraft, ensuring your water bottle is accessible but not going to bounce or roll off the side, to strapping your paddling kit to your pack for walks in/out or portages, and, of course, rigging up a drying line for your gear post-paddle!

5 metres of 2 or 3mm cord should be plenty – keep it as one whole length for more versatility and don’t forget to seal the ends with a lighter if they haven’t been already.

5. Supportive Footwear

Perhaps the key attribute of the packraft is its flexibility and ease of portaging. This means no packrafting adventure is restricted to the course of the waterway and you’ll likely find yourself hiking at some point.

Flexible, comfortable footwear will make things easier. If your hike is a major part of the adventure, you could carry supportive walking boots and paddling shoes separately. Or for the best of both in warmer conditions, opt for trekking sandals or sacrifice an old pair of trainers for watersports. The key question here is the balance between necessary function and managing your pack weight?

For planned, longer treks, the weight of walking boots is well-worth the added support and durability – especially as your pack will be correspondingly heavier with the packraft and paddle. If you’re out for a shorter excursion or aiming to spend the majority of your time afloat, a good middle-ground could be well-draining, non-waterproof trekking shoes which will transition easily between shore and on the water. For added warmth in chilly waters and to help reduce the risk of blisters on an unexpected slog, try pairing with waterproof socks.

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