Packrafts are far from being a novelty anymore; they’re becoming a mainstream piece of paddling gear for both their performance and packability. But there are tricks to the trade for using them, and a new book is out that eases that learning curve, promising to teach readers of any skill level something new.
The lightweight watercraft sits somewhere between a kayak, a ducky and a raft; and people often bring them along on hikes because of their light weight and easy transportability.
Packraft enthusiast Luc Mehl published “The Packraft Handbook: An Instructional Guide for the Curious” in February and the book uses photos and illustrations to show readers how to use the highly transportable watercraft. The illustrations were done by fellow packraft enthusiast Sarah Glaser. Both Glaser and Mehl are Alaskan natives and the book was published by Mountaineer Books, an independent, nonprofit publisher based in Seattle, Washington.
The popularity of the packraft continues to grow, with the handbook aiming to teach people about how to use the boat, along with safety guidelines and the experience that Mehl gained paddling Alaska’s whitewater.
Packrafts are built to be lightweight, packable, durable and easy to inflate. Most packrafts are able to handle everything from a lazy river to Class V runs.
This isn’t Mehl’s first foray into teaching packrafting. He holds a class in south central Alaska between mid-July to late September ranging from class I to III+ training.
The president of the American Packraft Association, a non-profit organization interested in promoting community feeling among packrafters, celebrated the publication of the book.
“This is the book we’ve all been waiting for. It is both approachable for newcomers and deep enough to satisfy experts. I know that I will refer back to it often as I continue to develop my own skills,” said Joseph Bell, the organization’s president.
The association is also intested in packrafter safety and education, and opportunities to packraft responsibly on public lands.
Packrafting and Alaska seem to go hand in hand as the state is also the birthplace of packrafting company and industry pioneer Alpacka, now based in Mancos, CO, which began making them more than two decades ago.
—By Eric Jankiewicz
Don’t Believe Us? Check These Testimonials
“A definitive text on the sport. Luc has the knowledge, community concern, and brilliance to write this needed handbook, and he found a perfect partnership with illustrator Sarah K. Glaser. Each epitomizes the modern adventurer who is self-propelled and self-reliant, with broad smiles and welcoming dispositions that come across clearly in this delightful and informative book.”
–Roman Dial, author of Packrafting! and The Adventurer’s Son
“This book should be on any river runner’s bookshelf or nightstand. Period. The ease of reading has made it a joy and will forever sit in the back of my mind for all my future river adventures with or without a packraft.”
–Josh Duplechian, Trout Magazine
“‘The Packraft Handbook’ captures Luc’s knowledge about backcountry river travel. Everything from reading water to river hazards, packraft gear and safety equipment, ‘The Packraft Handbook’ reaches both beginners and expert paddlers.”
–Mary Cochenour, Out and Back Podcast