When our youngest child was just a few months old, my husband announced that he fancied buying some packrafts and doing some family packrafting.
Living hours from the sea (and a heck of a lot further from any pristine mountain lakes or fjords) he may as well have bought a skidoo. For ages our new rafts sat in the loft, used once or twice in a year.
But it turns out my husband was onto something.
A packraft is a super lightweight inflatable raft, small enough to bundle into a backpack. They’re designed for big adventures in places like Alaska – hike in, boat out.
And now that we’ve moved to northern Sydney, we’ve discovered they’re also pretty awesome for miniature adventures too. Especially when you’ve got young kids.
My husband and son have just come back from this Sydney packrafting microadventure: they bushwalked down to Cowan Creek, and paddled to Bobbin Head. The whole thing took the a couple of hours – a serious expedition, as far as Oscar is concerned. And while I while I was driving to pick them up from the end, I had time to think of a few reasons why (if you can excuse their price tag) every parent needs a little family packrafting with their life:
They pack up tiny
As in, you can bundle them into a large day pack, and they weigh about 3kg.
Which means if you’re packrafting with a baby or toddler who can’t walk far, you can carry the child and your raft, paddle and jacket no problem.
They’re designed to carry stuff
Packrafts are made for expedition gear. Carrying a shouty toddler is a bit of a side function, maybe, but we find there’s plenty of space in each of our largish one-man packrafts for an adult and a young child.
They open up new routes
If you go kayaking or canoeing, you’ll probably start and finish at a road. With a packraft, you just walk down any old track to the water. And, in theory, you just walk back up another one when you’re done (we’re waiting until the weather cools down to inflict that on Oscar!).
The possibilities are pretty endless.
They’re quick to inflate and deflate
Forget struggling to blow up an inflatable kayak with a squeaky footpump. Packrafts come with a special bag that you wave around to fill up with air, then you squeeze the air from the bag into the packraft. A couple of minutes later… ta da!
They grow with your family
We chose packrafts because we wanted a boat we could put kids in. Our baby girl was about eight months old when we first went out, sat on my lap and peeping out of a lifejacket. But let’s face it – we don’t want tiny-human cargo forever. Once they move out and get a job (I’m thinking that’s about age 10, right?) we’ll have boats we can use for grown-up adventures.
Have I mentioned they’ve even got spray decks for bumpy rivers and big sea crossings?
Like pretty much any parent, I want one thing for my kids: a LEGO trainset.
And in a serious mood I’ll tell you I want them to be content and grow up with a sense of adventure and fun.
It seems so far that packrafting makes my preschooler (and my husband!) happy. Maybe it’s all the good vibes that questionably come from time near blue space; maybe he just loves spending time two feet from a parent whose mobile phone is buried in a dry bag. I don’t really know. But when we’re packrafting with children they’re usually smiling. I’ll raise a paddle to that.