Packrafting – “Roads? Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads”

Cycle touring opened a world of travel and exploration for us, and we can tell that packrafts – a magical little boat that fits in your backpack or on your bike and can be blown up and packed down in minutes – are going to open our world even further.

What They Are

Packrafts are lightweight (4-5 pound) rafts which fold up small enough to put in your backpack or on your bike, yet are durable enough that experienced rafters use them to travel down the Grand Canyon. For us, they are a small practical boat – that will fit in our apartment – which will allow us to explore new areas by paddling across lakes or down quiet rivers. We will be able to enjoy campsites otherwise inaccessible by roads or even trails, cross rivers on biking or hiking trips, and fish and hunt a whole new terrain.

How They Work

You roll them out then fill them up! It’s seriously that simple. It takes us about five minutes, though I’m sure those with practice can do it much quicker.

And then you go! Preferably once you are in water.

Or if you are like us you attach your bike to the front first. Then you go.

And then you cycle back home once you are finished.

Who Makes Them

Alpacka began making packrafts fifteen years ago and is still the leading brand today, hand making each boat out of Colorado. Their most popular line – the Alpacka – has a size for everyone (we are using the Llama which is the large), while they also make a few even lighter weight boats and a tandem. They have add-on’s for many of their boats – spray skirts and internal storage which we will get to try out this trip – and sell four-piece paddles and lightweight dry/paddling suits. They even have a three year guarantee with their boats and the packrafting guru we met here in New Zealand has already had his for six (with only one hole ever, which was easily repaired with a patch kit).

Before embarking on an eight day trip – down the Waiau to the sea before biking to the end of Lake Manapouri and then paddling across – we decided to test them out for the day (without the bikes attached). We hiked from our campsite right in town with everything in our one small backpack (two would have been nice) and put in at the start of the Waiau river. We then spent the afternoon paddling amongst jumping fish in what felt like the middle of nowhere even though there was a popular trek nearby, and a road not too far away. Once we were done we hiked out to the road and hitchhiked back to town – something which definitely wouldn’t have been possible with any other boat!

The blue bag you see hanging off is a homemade throw bag – our old stove bag, rope, and chunks of foam from a kids water toy. Since we didn’t come to New Zealand prepared for packrafting we are making due with what we have (or can make).

Fishing anyone?

Or how about a gentle ride to a quiet picnic spot?


If you couldn’t already tell, we are beginning to get a bit obsessed; the possibility are endless!

If ever you are in New Zealand and want to try packrafting, make sure to check out Arno at Packrafting New Zealand for rentals or guided tours ranging from one to six days!

11 thoughts on “Packrafting – “Roads? Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads”

  1. Now this is seriously cool. I love both canoes and cycling. I’ve always wanted to to do something like this and i can see real value in this concept here in Cairns.
    Really wonderful idea. Enjoy your solitude in the boats. I simply love paddling down a fresh water river watching fish, and occasionally crockodiles swim beneath me.

  2. Hello, guys Thanks for opening a new facility for me! ))
    I would like to see if you successful to fit all the luggage into the boat — two front bags, two rear bags, a handlebar bag and something that lies on the trunk, of course, including the bike itself.
    Did you already tried to do it?
    GL and best regards,

      • Shirine,
        I guess, Gerardo asks about the boat model.
        Gerardo, Wandering Nomads said about testing «Llama» model, most likely it is «Denali Llama» —

        I am still interesting, if you were successful to fit all the luggage into the boat — two front ortliebs, two rear ortliebs, a handlebar ortlieb and something that lies on the trunk, of course, including the bike itself. I almost near to buy the Llama, but still not sure about its capacity to fit all bags and bike.

        BR, Vit

      • Hello! Yes indeed everything fit in the Denali Llama. We put all of our gear inside the boat in the internal compartment – which easily fit everything and we could have fit much more – and then put our panniers down under the bikes just to add a bit more protection.

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