Adapt your packraft paddle into a Packstaff

Packstaff in Scotland

No one’s ever asked me how to make a packstaff attachment for their four-part paddle, but I’m going to tell you anyway. After seven years use, I’m still a big fan of my idea.

What’s so good about packstaffs? Well, they’re a great way of converting your light but strong paddle shaft into a light but strong walking staff that’s stronger and longer than walking poles which are useful on the trail, but redundant on the water. While not needed on the flat ground, staffs help you trek uphill and down dale with the same benefits as walking poles; they spread the load off your ageing knees to your arms and chest. And when hauling a full load, they help with balance, reducing the effort of your core in self-correction. I am sure my legs have felt less tired after a full day of loaded packstaff walking in the hills.

Plus a longer packstaff can easily take your weight as you inch downhill with a heavy backpack pushing you forward. A cheap telescopic walking pole would collapse, or sure feels like it might. Like any long staff they’re also handy for prodding bogs, fighting off Turkish mastiffs plus help with vaulting narrow streams or fording stepping stone rivers in a bid to keep the feet dry. Again, a lightweight walking pole may not be stiff enough to do this.
An MYO packstaff nib weighs 200g, costs next to nothing, and works with any four-part paddle, like my Aquabound Manta Ray. There’s even a bloke on ebay who’s partly copied my concept.


Find a bit of tube that’s close to the right diametre to slip into your paddle where the blade goes. My blue tube was from some cheap paddle that came with a long-gone slackraft. Add tape to make a snug fit, if necessary. But not so tight that you risk jamming when wet.
Drill a hole at a point where there’s enough overlap to make the assembly strong, and then fit a spring clip. I bought a pair on eBay for a fiver, though you can buy cheaper pressed out ones for less.
As it happens it turns out my AquaBound uses cheap pressed clips. You may not be able to find the typical 7-8mm buttons to fit the AB files. I settled with 6mm. This spring clip is easy to fit and a big improvement over my previous ‘slip-on’ nib which got sucked off in bogs.

Collar is important to take loads off the button

Next, line up the two holes or fit the spring clip and add a collar. You don’t want the nib’s striking force impacting on the clip’s button alone. I sawed a bit of old fibreglass kayak shaft which was a tight fit on the blue tube, so split it then glued it on. That glue didn’t work so well so I roughed it up, more glue then added a couple of rivets. The collar also protects the end of your paddle shaft a bit. The actual end ‘nib’ is currently a black plastic screw section. Stuff and glue in a bit of cork or other blockage in your nib end (right) to stop the tube slowly filling with mud or stones. The nib weighs 137g

Using the packstaff with an open shaft at the top, I sometimes worry that stumbling onto that shaft at face height could be painful. With a canoe T-grip (left; fiver on ebay) you can press comfortably on the staff coming down a hill, and it also acts as a handy hook. Mine had to be ground down to fit. It weighs 78g with a 6mm SoftTie to attach it to the nib during transit.

When you don’t need to carry the packstaff you can stick it under a shoulder strap, but I find it slips out. So better to break it down to two parts and slip it under a belt or similar loop. Again, I find the double-loopable SoftTies handy for this, and the loop stays on this paddle to make a handy paddle leash attachment using the mooring line when sailing or in rough conditions.

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