Packrafting is intensely fun if you ever get the chance. Packing the gear is a chore. I often find myself packing and repacking wondering where the extra space in my bag has gone. Once the boating gear is packed it leaves little room for other essentials, so pack wisely! A disappointing amount of extra space and a heavy pack are the norm, no matter how light your backpack and tent are. Here in Alaska, we need to prepare for the weather, and there can be snow in the Brooks Range in August which makes the adventures even more fun :)
Below is my packing list with a focus on saving weight for all the gram counters out there. There are many great brands out there and listing all the options is out of the scope of this article. Trust your local guide or gear shop, you can usually find an excited local for recommendations.
Packraft: Do you really need thigh straps? To save weight remove them if you can. I’ve heard of some creative ways to save on seats and seat backs with nylon webbing for a true sufferfest
Paddle: 4-section paddles are neater but more prone to breaking. 2-section paddles might give you the comfort of only bringing the one rather than packing a spare
Dry Suit: Water temp and safety make this a priority, possible to eliminate in warmer climates or very safe flatwater trips
Life vest - Get a light one!
Helmet: May not be necessary on easier trips
Throw rope: A dedicated polyester throw rope that doesn’t absorb water
Repair kit: No weight saving here
Bow bag: Get creative and this can serve as an extra pocket on your backpack
Baselayers: Alpine fit of course! Lightweight, long lasting, doesn’t stink, quick drying. Save weight by not needing extra backup clothing. I rarely bring a short sleeve, it never gets used
Underwear: 2 pair, wool
Midlayer: One pair of quick-dry pants like bushwhacking leggings, thin synthetic puffy jacket
Footwear: Paddle shoes or boots (not both), crocs, 2 pair wool socks
Headwear: Brimmed hat, Alpine Fit merino wool hat, bug net
Gloves: Paddling gloves are a luxury but much needed on some trips.
Sunglasses: Preferably polarized. Best to have a safety cord in case of a spill
Backpack: A no-frills backpack to save weight is important. The lighter ones usually fit inside the boat better as well. I will admit on shorter trips or trips with lots of hiking I take a backpack with a more comfortable harness system
Tent: The lighter the better. Options abound but one with a quick setup is nice after a long day
Sleeping mat: The new thicker sleeping mats have changed the game. If you haven’t bought one recently they are light and comfy, best of both worlds
Pillow: I’ve suffered using a stuff sack with clothes for years but recent air pillows don’t add much weight and I sleep better
Sleeping bag: Save weight with a quilt
Headlamp: Make sure it’s charged or has new batteries. Don’t bring extra batteries if you don’t have to
Water filter: Get a soft-squeeze water bottle with attached filter. Super light and easy
Eating utensils: Sierra cup doubles as cup and bowl. Titanium spork for eating
Stove: Get a contained unit like JetBoil. Lightweight, efficient
Food: Take your pick of freeze dried options plus some snacks for mid-day
Sunscreen: Pack as little as you can. Remember Alpine Fit is UPF 50+!
Lip Balm: No more than 1 per person
First Aid: Size depends on the length of trip but make sure you can take care of the basics and have enough for the whole party
Fire Starter: I have collected sap and hunted for dry twigs but having one good fire on a trip makes for a happier bunch. Now I bring one fire starting stick that I break in half for 2 fires
Bear Can: I do the Ursak and hang it when I can
Bear Protection: Bear spray and sometimes some small flares. Definitely not a firearm, waaayyyy to heavy
Insect Repellant: Don’t use deet, it wears on latex cuffs and anything plastic. Use picaridin which doesn't have all the drawbacks of deet
Toiletries: Only the basics, one roll of TP, toothbrush/toothpaste, one flosser, a plastic shovel or trowel for digging a cat hole for your poop
Be safe out there but don’t suffer! Pack and weigh your bag before you go. If you are tipping 50lb and have lots of hiking to do, then try and take the unnecessary items out. If it’s a short trip and you have less food, or if you are on the water for a few days at the beginning then you can pack a little extra. Have fun!!