Tag Archives: Teva omnium

Six Packrafting Essentials

Packrafting Quick Guide
Packboat rescue and survival aids

fx-gear

The basic gear you need for packrafting adventures so you don’t end up as above, or simply just inconvenienced and wet.
For general camping kit (sleeping, eating, washing) you’ll find lists all over the internet and beyond. Mixing paddling with walking, I prefer a 1-kilo down bag, a compact tent, a thick, full-length air mat and a Pocket Rocket-like burner with a big Tatonka or MSR 500ml+ pot/cup.
Below, I suggest cheap alternatives in green. A cheap alternative to a proper packraft is of course… a Slackraft but you’ll only every buy one once ;-)

1. A pack for your raft

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Do you use a regular hiking backpack packed with your boat in or outside, or a purpose-made drybag pack with usually a rudimentary integrated harness, or use a separate packframe harness as pictured?

If you’re a first timer and own a regular hiking backpack, make do with that, but having tried both I prefer a harness. You’re on the water so (unless you can store in the hull, waterproofness trounces all-day carrying comfort. A submersible UDB duffle is tougher and as airtight as a packraft and provides high-volume back-up flotation should you get a flat on the water; important and reassuring.

For short approach walks like on the Tarn, or theKimberley, I used the UDB’s basic integrated harness: just sewn-on straps. For Turkey which was mostly walking, I fitted it into NRS pack harness (above left and right; no longer made) whose capacity easily exceeds its straps and your back.
In Germany Anfibio Packrafting now sell the more sophisticated Six Moon Flex Pack (left; new 2021 design), a ‘drybag hauling system’. You can lash anything that fits within the straps, including your rolled-up boat. ULA Epic is another one. In Europe the packraft harness seems unknown.
Remember: with any big backpack the key to support and comfort is a stiff board or frame connecting the hip belt and shoulder strap mounts so the weight can be carried low on your hips, not hanging from your burning shoulders.

Cheap alternative: any old rucksack and a tough bin bag.

2. Four-piece paddle

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Get a paddle that breaks down into four pieces for easy transportation. A paddle like this may not be as stiff as a good two-piece, but the Aqua Bound Manta Ray left or the Anfibio Wave (right) will still be under a kilo and anyway, you’re in a slow packraft not a razor-thin surf ski. Some four-parters don’t like being left assembled when wet; don’t leave it more than a couple of days or it’ll be hard to separate.

feather

Even cheap alloy-and-plastic ‘shovels’ come with adjustable feathering; an ability to offset the blades. Flat (zero offset) works OK, but most find a bit of offset makes paddling more efficient. I’ve got used to 45° Right (right blade rotated 45° forward) over the years. Left handers will go the other way. The Anfibio Wave had infinite feathering and 10cm length adjustment.

Cheap alternative: A TPC 2-piece or similar.

3. PFD (‘personal flotation device’)

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A proper foam pfd is bulky in transit but is essential for remote solo paddles or white water (as is a helmet if you’re really going for it).
For flatwater paddles and calm, warm conditions Anfibio’s lightweight inflatable Buoy Boy (left) has twin inflation chambers, rolls down to less than a litre in volume and comes with handy net pockets and a useful crotch strap to stop it riding up when you’re flailing around in the water, but at any other time, you’ll barely know you’re wearing it. Note It doesn’t claim to be a CE-rated buoyancy aid

Cheap alternative: A used foam PFD.

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4. Wet shoes
I’m on my second pair of Teva Omniums (left) which are do-it-all wet shoes that are OK for walking too. If trekking the wilderness for days with a full pack over rough terrain, you’re better off with proper lace up trail shoes or boots, but bear in mind that anything with a breathable membrane takes ages to dry once soaked inside out. I use membrane-free desert boots. SealSkin socks are another solution, while they last. More here.

Cheap alternative: Old trainers or Crocs.

5. Day bag or case

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You want something light to carry your valuables when away from the boat in populated areas. Choose a bag or case which fits under your knees without getting in the way. Whatever it is, it will sit in water, get splashed or even submerged, so it needs an airtight seal. If it has handy external storage pouches or pockets, so much the better.

Recently in France I tried an Underwater Kinetics box (22cm x 16 x 8; 540g, above left) used on ebay for under a tenner. It’s about the size of a Peli 1150 but a bit less deep and took my Kindle Fire, camera, wallet and bits. It’s light enough to carry away from the boat and also happens to make a handy camera stand. 
But most of the time I use a 20-L Ortlieb Travel Zip (left) which zips open easily and stores loads. As for a camera? This is what you want.

Cheap alternative: large, clip-seal lunchbox and a plastic bag.

6. Repair kit

tyvec

A couple of feet of Tyvec or similar tape and a small tube of Aquaseal is probably all you need for quick repairs.
Something I’ve never had to do in years of packrafting.

Cheap alternative: Duct tape and a rosary.

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Paddling shoes and boots

See also:
Lowa Elite Desert Boots

Rounding it all up over the years and my packboating footwear has narrowed down to:
Teva Omniums for light duty day paddles and 
Lowa Desert Elite boots for heavier tramping with loads.

Otherwise, this is what counts

  • No membrane
  • No mesh uppers, but a tough, quick-drying fabric that can take the knocks and is salt water tolerant. Durability is more useful than the lightness and wet grip.
  • Good draining – particularly at the heel rather than the instep, as that’s how you drain a shoe when sitting down in a boat with your legs sticking out over the sides.
  • A thick, chunky sole, ideally from a boot not a trail shoe. One that offers solid support over rocky terrain and good grip in mud or wet grass. Custom insoles for comfort tuning can always be added later by the owner.
  • Proper laces. Forget velcro and cinch-cord locks – that’s for cag cuffs and stuff sacks. Laces may not be high-tech, but they’re field repairable and still the best way to get a shoe or boot to fit a varyingly sized human foot securely.
  • A wide fitting (for me).
  • Some provision to stop stones getting in and possibly wearing holes in a latex drysuit sock (though wearing socks over drysuit socks is probably a better solution).
  • And great build quality.

Until that distant day comes I’ll stick with my Teva Omniums (now on my second pair), even though they’re rather more for day-use than overnighting. Update here.

With an IK you hop in, paddle away and hop out. You’re not normally tramping for days carrying your gear. Even Neoprene booties will do, or just an old pair of trainers. Packrafting footwear (that is, trekking the moors and paddling the lochs, usually with a camping payload) requires an amphibious boot which will drain and dry quickly while giving you support on the trail.

Of course you can just use any old boot and let it get wet. But anything with a membrane (GoreTex) can take quite a while to dry.
On my first ever overnight packraft trip I used Keen Arroyos (left) and paid the price. I made the mistake of putting water duties (drainage/easy drying) above ground support for trudging cross-country with an 18kg load. With the thin soles and feeble, slip-prone lacing Still used by Keen), I didn’t feel at all secure in the rough, and when I got to a long, road-walking stage the feet soon got sore. On any kind of rocky terrain or path they’d have been worse.
Having said that, when my current Teva Omniums wear out, I may give the Keen Newport H2 a go. They’d drain a lot faster from the heel.

I then adapted a pair of less flimsy Karrimor Meridian trail shoes (left) I got for 30 quid, by pushing draining holes through with a red-hot poker. Shame, as they have an eVent membrane, of which I hear good things. They weren’t a great full-on hiking shoe and under my 95kgs the sole got mushy and the tread offered little grip in steep or wet Scottish conditions, partly why I find a packstaff so useful. But they were better for loaded, rough-country walking than the Arroyos. And it has to be said they’re survived a regular sea-water soaking, rinsing, airing and drying pretty well for a pair of cheapies. Nothing came apart but it can’t be far off.

Brasher Lithiums (left) fitted me OK, had an usually stiff sole which also happen to make good MTB boots and they passed a test on the Fitzroy in Australia, although much of the time we were wading or even sinking in quicksands which were easier to get out of barefoot.

After a couple of nights I poked through drain holes (below) on the instep and above the heel so they drain as the feet point up in a boat. Back home on regular day walks the Brashers turned on me, rubbing blisters at the heel and then squishing the small toe as they were too narrow.

Another idea could be some Crocs. Remember the Croc Craze a few years ago? Their Swiftwater Mesh Deck Sandal (below) is an acquired look, like all Crocs, but goes for under 40 quid on ebay and weigh less than the Tevas. For something which gets squeezed out of a tube every few seconds in an Asian factory, with that mesh upper I’m no convinced they’ll last very long.