Packrafting in the UK?

by backpackingbongos

For a while now I have fancied using a canoe for an overnight backpacking trip in the Scottish Highlands.  I have romantic visions of paddling across a remote loch and setting up camp on the other side, or even spending the night on a small island.  All very well and good but there are the practicalities to deal with, transporting and storing a canoe plus getting it onto the loch or your choice.  I started googling inflatable canoes and saw there are a wide variety and options, but they are still on the heavy side to carry to remote lochs.  This was when Alpacka Raft caught my eye.  Imagine an inflatable that is light enough to actually backpack with and is designed to carry you and your gear across a wide variety of water.  I then noticed the prices and my heart sank, damn they are expensive!

It was Phil and Martins response to my post, ‘My most expensive ever gear purchase‘ that has got me dreaming again.  Is this something that could happily be done whilst backpacking in the UK?  For example look at the Inverpolly nature reserve above Ullapool, there are loads of lochs joined together.  Image exploring that by boat and setting up remote wild camps, the possibilities could be endless.  The packability means that if you live near a river or canal you could paddle downstream and then jump on a bus back to your start.  Thats something you definitely could not do with a canoe!  Martin recommended Roman Dials book and it is something that I am going to track down.

Youtube has loads of packrafting videos, I have picked out a couple that give an impression of what it is all about.  Any one out there doing it in the UK?

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28 Responses to “Packrafting in the UK?”

  1. Romans book is superb and his blog shows all that is amazing about packafting. Then look at the Alaska walk Andrew Skurka done this year and the combination of a packraft and backpacking is there to see in all its appeal. I have been thinking about getting one but also need a updated DSLR camera as I do like taking good photos. Our pastime is expensive !!

    Go for it.

  2. Where did you get the book from Martin? Can’t find it on UK Amazon so may have to order from the US. I think that I will do lots of reading and thinking before I commit to something like that! I live near the National watersports centre so may try out some canoeing lessons there.

  3. Backpacking Light .com along with a very nice hoddie top they sell.

  4. Ohhh, yes! I have been dreaming about a Packraft since I first saw them on BPL.com. On my hike last autumn in the North, constantly walking next to a river, I wish I could have just had a packraft and paddle it down. Did you see Jörgen’s article about Packrafting from Abisko to Nikkaluokta? Its awesome!

    You can buy them in Europe, btw, which doesn’t make them cheaper but less hassle with customs. Check Avanza – they’re in Sweden.

  5. I would image that Finland would be an amazing place for packrafting – cheers for the links, I will check them out.

  6. I’ve always fancied a Canoe or Kayak but living in a flat means I don’t have the storage space. An inflatable would certainly get around that problem. It would certainly open up some interesting trip opportunities! Not sure how they would perform in adverse weather but being portable I suppose you would resort to walking.
    I bought the book “Scottish canoe classics” recently which also wetted my appetite for a water based adventure.

  7. Some friends and I took Kayaking lessons last year and we’ve been talking about doing some inflatable stuff on the river Wye for ages. Difficulty is trying to wild camp down there though – quite difficult!

    The inflatables are getting better but are so much more work than a canoe or kayak on open water like a loch. The thought of actually canoeing around a big loch for a few days has a lot of appeal though.

  8. Paul, I have the same problem living in a small terrace. The only problem with inflatables i have read is they are not so good in the wind – good if you want to go downwind but meant to be difficult rowing into it. I suppose there is always the option of hiring a canoe or kayak in places in the Highalnds?

    Marcus, how were the lessons? I see that Plas y Brenin do a variety of lessons. Their 5 day course looks pretty good. Scotland looks like the place to go for a multi day trip.

  9. It is done. I know of someone else that has just made a similar purchase too…

  10. Phil I need to know more………………..

  11. Over the coming months I should hopefully be able to answer a few of these questions, but I don’t want to curse things by saying too much more.

    Oh, I don’t know if you’re aware of http://www.zinio.com/, but if you’re NOT, then you’re probably eligible for a free digital magazine. And Roman Dial’s Packrafting book is on there….

  12. I will keep an eye out………….But then I have a feeling that there may be an unusual TGO crossing this year? Loch Mullardoch with a westerly wind followed by a Loch Ness crossing at a point of your choosing?

    I currently get TGO magazine via Zinio, do you know a way to get the book for free (probably have to sign up as a new customer?).

  13. Not a clue. I’ve got the paper one, but I know Colin Ibbotson got his this way.

  14. Hi. Go onto Zinio.com and search for packrafting, the book comes up and has a cost of $0! (Does not matter if you already have a Zinio account or not). As Phil suggested I am that other person that has just purchased a Packraft in the UK. Mine’s a few days ahead of Phil’s and has just passed through customs and is now heading north. Very exciting! It is an expensive purchase and the packraft is only the start. You also need a paddle, PFD, helmet(?), and falling in a Loch or mountain river at this time of year without some kind of dry/semi-dry suit just doesn’t bear thinking about!

  15. Hi Colin
    just did a search for it on Zinio.com and was just about to check out and they were going to charge me $24.95, must have sussed out they were giving it away! I look forward to seeing how you and Phil get on with packrafting. Good that others have taken the plunge first (so to speak!).

  16. I just downloaded if for free. Maybe you have another email address you could register? Or register on behalf of a friend….

  17. Hello James, you really should be thinking about sea kayaking, there is a huge new world out there to explore and the wild camping is incomparable.

    I do like your blog,

    Douglas 🙂

  18. Douglas, I definately has crossed my mind. The bothies that I stayed in on Islay and Jura had loads of comment from Sea Kayakers so it appears to be a popular way to explore the Islands. I have been thinking of giving open canoeing a go and booking myself on a course in the spring. Have always fancied exploring some Scottish lochs. I enjoyed the photos of Jura on your blog.

  19. I can heartily recommend getting an Alpacka Raft, I like them so much I bought two! (o:

    A boat that I can pack with me, is more durable than I could ever have imagined and which weighs in at about five pounds is all that I wanted, so I got a custom built yellow Denali Llama.

    When asked to take my friends child Packrafting I then got a Dory/Explorer.

    Reading about Erin and Hig’s experiences with Alpacka Rafts really inspired me to have my own, and its the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

  20. I am a huge fan of packrafts!
    Here’s a video of a trip I did across Scotland with one:

    Al

  21. My recent purchase from Alpacka is making its way to me whilst I write this!! 🙂
    Plan on taking it over to South America next year but in the mean time need to brush up on my skills!!
    Can anyone suggest some good trips in the uk or Europe which will be exciting but not to extreme for a beginner?

    • Enjoy your new purchase Rich. I have no idea about suitable trips, so I hope someone pops along to give advice.

  22. I’ve had my Llama for 6 months now, the whitewater decked version…great boat. I’ve run Symonds Yat, Cardiff International Whitewater Centre at 8 Cumecs and the river Usk so far… The Dart Loop next month. Great for diving into eddies, nice and stable, very easy to turn as the bow is so light. Forgiving when breaking into current. No edges to speak of, but leaning helps in the usual way. All that in a 6lb boat!

    Gets bounced up a bit at the front in wave trains which adds to the amusement. Not a very good flat water boat though, the hull’s not particularly efficient… so don’t buy it exclusively for the local canal. The low efficiency hull is also a disadvantage when trying to paddle against any significant current… I just get out and walk. All the way to the cafe if necessary…

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