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Discussion: Packrafting as Specific Discipline in AR

in: Adventure Racing; General

Dec 4, 2015 9:02 PM # 
Cali Cowboy:
Packrafting (which I have determined is one word) has popped up as a main discipline in a few races more recently (e.g. Alaska and Brazil). Worth the expense of the rafts and extra weight to travel with? Do you enjoy paddling them in a race? Any recommendations for organizers setting a course with this discipline?
Dec 4, 2015 9:20 PM # 
I don't think it should be a separate leg.i.e. paddling across a lake. I think they should be part of a trek . ( I don't have to carry all that weight) . I would like to see an option of being able to do the trek with out them, as in a longer way around.
Dec 5, 2015 1:18 AM # 
I loved the packrafting in Alaska and Untamed 2012 (didn't do Untamed 2014 so can't speak to the packrafting sections there) - in both cases, I thought the RDs used the discipline effectively (most of the time) to get us to waterways that couldn't have been otherwise accessed, and especially when we were on moving water, I had a ton of fun (less so for some of the flat water at Untamed, but that was relatively minimal in the overall scheme of the race).

We did find that there's a huge disparity in the boats, though, and it definitely becomes a bit of a pay-to-play, with the Alpackas beating out everything else on the market by a mile. So, that's definitely something to consider, and a reason why I'd rather not see it become a standard discipline in shorter races.
Dec 5, 2015 2:12 AM # 
We went without packrafts in RtNEx Atikokan (still mad at Lawrence F. for that ;-) ) and we lost so much time in the first two days that we could never climb back to the top spot :-(.

But it was our choice and ended up playing a significant role in the results and I wouldn't change that.

I don't have a problem with mandatory anything (except camel riding) but I also think making anything (packrafts, sails, ropes etc) optional to every team (on a well designed course) can be great!
Dec 5, 2015 5:02 PM # 
I like that they've become another discipline in AR but I don't think they've been incorporated as originally intended. They've become an easy option for RDs to minimize the logistics of moving canoes around instead of a tool for racers to incorporate into their route choice decisions. The first packraft leg in Brasil could easily have used the kayaks. There really wasn't any other route options enabled by the use of packafts for that leg. The second leg might have been a good use for them if their were additional CPs added in that kept racers going in the right direction and which created options to use the packrafts or to trek around.

The best leg I've seen which provided plenty of route choices/options was the Roach chain of Lakes leg in the 2014 Untamed New England race. There may have been as many routes used as there were teams. I think Benoit's team ran the entire thing. We opted out of a rough lake crossing only to watch DART take it and make up an half hour on us as we trekked around.

The first paddle leg at the 2012 USARAs in the Catskills would have been a great leg for packrafts.
Dec 6, 2015 3:53 PM # 
I'm with FB. I don't believe packrafting is a 'discipline'. It's an efficient mode of transportation in a trekking section where the surrounding terrain is such that a choice has to be strategically made - eg. Which is the fastest rate of travel? What is best for the team's feet at the time / etc? Or, getting race provided boats into an area is all but impossible so packrafts must be used in order to make forward progress through the racecourse.

Like FB, I was on a team who used packrafts in a Raid the North AR series event years ago where teams had to chose between a potentially brutal bushwhack or a longer run / packraft in a series of large waterways. It was a really exciting portion of the race where teams made their choice and hoped for the best. Thankfully, the team I was on went from 12th to 4th!

I subsequently did a race in Michigan which had a 'packrafting section' starting and finishing at proper boat launches (eg. this was NOT a remote area) and it was ridiculous. The official rule was that you couldn't run the road that ran alongside the lake from one end to the other (WTF?) and the lake itself was full of debris. The obvious question I had was if a packraft is punctured during the section, how is the team to move forward if the road is out-of-bounds? It was so contrived.

...and I was at the TA from trek to paddle at the race where FB's team came in after a full day (or more) of negotiating Atikokan's virgin forest of death. Funny, his team seemed to look OK, but FB...that's another story! But they did go on to get 2nd so it mustn't have been that bad...all for the cameras, right FB? Always the showman.
Dec 7, 2015 6:40 AM # 
The only races I've done with packrafting have been mandatory and basically just something for the RD to get you and your bikes across a river. In the last one I did, there was a freaking great bridge just 100m downstream from where we crossed. Having to inflate the rafts, tie the bikes on, hope you didn't sink on the way over then pack it all on the other side was totally pointless in my opinion.
Dec 7, 2015 3:03 PM # 
I've never done a race where pack rafts were required but I've done a couple of races where they ended up being a key part of our trekking strategy, which I really enjoyed. We used them to shorten distances - particularly through the forest, particularly at night, particularly when a team member needed rest. We didn't use expensive pack rafts for that but we did need high quality paddles that broke down into 4 or 5 pieces - something we wanted to have anyway.
Dec 8, 2015 5:44 PM # 
Now that I own a Alpaca I think packrafting should be in every race. The packraft or hike around option is always fun when looking at route choice. In ExAK using the packrafts to get down rivers that you can't get any other boats onto was a blast and really opened up the options of where we could go.
Dec 9, 2015 2:24 PM # 
This rain keeps up and there'll be no option but packrafting in Ireland:

That's normally a field
Dec 9, 2015 9:30 PM # 
I'm pretty sure I see the CP hanging from the trees. Time to inflate the boats and go for it.
Dec 9, 2015 10:08 PM # 
Dec 10, 2015 12:08 PM # 
NSW Stinger:
nice discussion. I'd never used a packraft until ExAlaska but I'm a huge fan. I actually preferred paddling the Alpacka Gnu more than any race provided boat, that is until the lake section into horrible headwind in Brazil. Though if Mari insisted I swap to the front position I mightn't like it so much.
It should add some adventure and route choice and not just be used instead of traditional kayaking legs.

This discussion thread is closed.