Pumped on packrafting – the Eglinton experience

Tranquility in the Eglintons steep sided gorges

Tranquility in the Eglintons steep sided gorgesWedge me into a white water kayak and send me off down a river? No thanks! I’ll do rafting – at a pinch, but to be honest, I like to feel confident and in control of my own destiny when I’m out on less-than-smooth water – and the best news is I’ve found a way to be just that! Packrafting is the name of the game and I can’t get enough of it.

What’s a packraft?

Whether it’s towing the grandkids on a lake or mucking around ourselves, we’ve all had fun in an inflatable boat. To look at, packrafts aren’t too dissimilar, but appearances are where the comparisons stop. Packrafts are inflatable alright – they take just minutes to blow up using an ingenious no-pump-required blow bag to do the job. Simply ‘catch’ air in the lightweight sack which you attach to the packraft, seal it in seconds, and push the air into the raft. Do the same with the clip-in inflatable seat. Grab your life jacket and helmet, screw the ultra light-weight paddles together, and you’re good to go. Once in the water, you’ll be amazed by how manoeuvrable these craft are – we found them as responsive as a kayak!

Tough and light packrafts are the Kiwi way to goWon’t my inflatable tear in white water?

As we said – packrafts aren’t your average inflatable from the big red shed. Built of super-tough fabric, they’ll withstand a good deal of boulder scraping before they give in – and if they do rip a leak, they can be mended-on-the-go with custom-made tape – just remember to take your repair kit with you. The one enemy of packrafts, however, are sticks and submerged logs – think ‘big tears’ and keep well away!

How do I transport my packraft?

We hoped you’d ask this – because we love giving you the answer! Weighing around the same as a sleeping bag, packrafts are ultra-transportable in your pack, on your bike, or in the back seat of the car. The paddles are super-light, too. If you want to cross water mid-tramp, a packraft is the way to go. Oh, and did we mention that the right packraft can carry your bike as well as you!

Blow up the packraft in minutes with an air catching bag.Where can I go packrafting?

If you’re already an experienced and independent river kayaker or rafter, it’s just a case of adding a packraft to your armoury. If you want to get a feel for the sport, or try before you buy, there are a range of packrafting options around the country – just check the net. We opted for independent packrafting and hired our equipment from a no-fuss crew in Te Anau (they do guided tours as well).

The Eglinton

Nothing beats packrafting the Eglinton on a hot Fiordland day – which is what we had. The 3-hour long stretch of river we chose provided some tame white water, pristine canyons, waterfalls, and clear-to the bottom blue water – magic! With January almost at an end, and February being the month when free-to-roam Kiwis traditionally head out for a road trip, why not check out a packrafting adventure – you won’t be disappointed!