An Ode to Self-Bailing Packrafts

Is there a better way to celebrate Canada day weekend than spending the longest summers days paddling the amazing rivers around Mount Robson Provincial Park with friends? I think not!

The second edition of the annual Canadian meetup of packrafters, the Canadian Packraft rendez-vous, was help during the 2019 Canada day weekend. This was my second year attending and I was once amazed by the location and the amazing group of people in attendance. I left the event feeling rejuvenated and inspired.

Paddlers of different ability levels usually attend these events. The large groups and the presence of more experienced paddlers makes a safe environment for those wishing to get out of their comfort zone. On the first day of the event, we had such a group on the Holmes river. The flows were high from snowmelt and the rapids were continuous.

I was expecting us to have a couple swimmers in our group and I therefore chose to paddle my Nirvana Self-Bailer on that day. It is my boat of choice when I need to be able to exit my boat quickly and when a swim is likely. Even if I happen to fall out of my boat, the self-bailer allows a quick re-entry and I can be back in paddling mode without needing to go to shore to empty the water in my boat. I am also in a much better position to help swimmers with the ability to enter and exit my boat very quickly onshore.

We split our large group in two smaller groups to make it more manageable and down the river we went. We soon came to a continuous class-3 section with a huge hole at the entrance. Within seconds, three out of six people in our group were in the water! One of them, paddling another self-bailing boat, was back in her boat within seconds and ready to help the others. We chased some packrafts down the river, hopped out of our boats once the swimmers were safely onshore and once everyone was accounted for, we started paddling again. Swimmers having to empty their boat and deal with their spray skirt after a swim were starting to look at the self-bailer crew with envy.

The Holmes is full of fun features and wave trains. The self-bailer is an ideal boat to experience those and have the water splash on you in the wave trains. We ended the day by paddling down Beaver falls, a fun drop close to the end of the run and headed back to camp for some socializing and boat inflation competition!

The Canadian packraft rendez-vous holds a fundraising raffle each year to collect fund for charity and to fund future events. That evening, when the paddlers that had been swimming that day saw that the boat that was donated to us by Kokopelli Packraft and Valhalla Pure Outfitters was a self-bailer, people got excited. I highly encouraged those interested to purchase raffle tickets. Our lucky winner had been paddling a no-self-bailer packraft for many years and was thrilled to join the self-bailing community.

My self-bailer and me will surely be in attendance for the 2020 event!