Packraft Packing Systems for On the Water + the *New* Expedition Bow Bag

Alpacka Raft Pro Team Athlete Dulkara Martig on Her Preferred Packing Methods for Packrafting Adventures

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Dulkara’s Packing System

My favorite packrafting trips are remote and long, involving multisports or rugged sections of hiking before I get to a river. This past fall, I embarked on an expedition to the Brooks Range in Arctic Alaska. The bears were munching on their final berries of the season, bursts of orange, yellow and red danced across the tundra, and fresh snow blanketed the mountain tops most mornings. We discovered spectacular granite spires, endless seas of boulders, and a magical river winding its way west, towards the Chukchi Sea. My packing style for this trip was slightly different from other trips I’ve been on, as how I pack depends on the length of a trip, how many sports are involved, and the environmental conditions or season. However, I always consider these the two key principles before embarking on any adventure:
  1. Keeping things dry: My main tip would be to always prepare for submersion, whether you are hiking or packrafting. Ideally any dry bags or packing accessories should be versatile so you can use them for both hiking and packrafting modes. For example, the bow bag and the lightweight cargo fly storage bags can both double up as a dry bag in your backpack.
  2. Accessibility of items: Accessibility is both about safety and convenience. Carefully consider what you have on your body and what you have in your packraft (cargo fly storage, inside cockpit, attached to the front of the raft). One of the biggest risks packrafting is getting separated from your packraft, with all of your gear inside it. Think carefully about where you are packing items that are essential to survival or to help with evacuation. At minimum I recommend having emergency communication device(s) and a fire lighting kit on your body. There are three main places to keep items on your body: in the pockets of your drysuit, the pockets of your PFD/life vest or in a small bum bag attached to your waist.

Dulkara’s Packing Style

My go-to packing system for wilderness trips is the cargo fly internal storage combined with the new (I got to test it in the field before it launched) Expedition Bow Bag, and a couple of items in my PFD and/or drysuit. I keep rescue equipment, such as a throw bag, inside the cockpit of my packraft.

Expedition Bow Bag Contents:

  • A couple of warm layers: medium weight layer for upper body, beanie, fleece buff, gloves or pogies
  • Maps or route information I may want to refer to on the river

  • Camera equipment

  • Other electronics: extra batteries, head lamp

  • Food for the day and a water bottle 

  • A small first aid kit
  • A small packraft repair kit

  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, sun hat 

  • Bug spray

  • Bear spray if I’m paddling in Alaska!

Why do I love Alpacka’s new Expedition Bow Bag? Because it’s convenient and big enough for me to store everything I need during a full day on the water. It has easy attachment points so it doesn’t bounce around and make your packraft go off-balance in more technical water. I also love being able to access camera equipment much faster for chance wildlife encounters. I enjoy paddling technical water, and I appreciate the convenience of being able to access items in short stretches of calm water with technical rapids quickly approaching. That used to be hard when I utilised different drybag systems, but with the Expedition Bow Bag it’s much more efficient.