The 2018 Packraft Roundup

When you can put your boat and your paddle in your backpack, the world is your oyster. Packrafts – ultralight, ultra-packable inflatable rafts – have been quietly revolutionizing backcountry travel in Alaska and the Rocky Mountain states for some years. As the sport increases in popularity, the American Packrafting Association – a free-to-join, grassroots 2,000-member organization – is seeing new members from coast to coast, not to mention internationally.

Still, it’s not likely you’ll run into other packrafters by accident, and APA’s annual gathering, the Packraft Roundup, is still your best bet for meeting other packrafters and soaking up the packrafting vibe. For a long weekend in June, 100 packrafters from across the US and Canada gathered in Carbondale, CO to swap stories, share techniques, and paddle together. River levels were ideal -- not too pushy, not too rocky… just right -- and the weather was pristine.

Groups paddled the Lower Roaring Fork, Crystal and Colorado Rivers, taking advantage of the excellent local bus system (and the extreme portability of their boats) to do away with car shuttles on several of the runs. Werner paddles have long been a packrafting favorite – four-piece versions being preferred, for their pack-ability – and some of Werner’s latest styles were on display at camp and in action out on the river during the Roundup.

Highlights from the weekend included a thought-provoking keynote from Carbondale local Jim Harris, in which he recounted his remarkable recovery after a dramatic kite-skiing accident threatened to end his career as an outdoor professional, and the announcement of APA’s conservation project An Arctic Refuge for All Americans. Above all, the Packraft Roundup provided the chance to make new friends, plot future adventures, and be reminded that packrafters are a community united around safety, conservation and fun.


Learn more about APA’s on-the-ground efforts in the ANWR: AN ARCTIC REFUGE FOR ALL AMERICANS

Visit the American Packrafting Association for more information about their organization and community.


Author: Joseph Bell, APA's President

Photographer: Dan Ransom