May 2021: Promoting the packrafting “Culture of Safety”

What is the “Culture of Safety”?

The packrafting Culture of Safety is an effort to normalize safety. We want it to be normal to wear a life vest, paddle at appropriate water levels, seek training, and feel comfortable pointing out dangerous outfitting or habits that you notice at the put-in.

I wrote The Packraft Handbook to serve as a common framework as we develop our Culture of Safety. Check out my Zoom presentation for the American Packrafting Association to learn about this strategy.

Use and follow these tags in the month of May:

#cultureofsafety
#packraftsafety
#thisispackrafting

Why Now?

People are listening. Between hype for the forthcoming The Bikeraft Guide and The Packraft Handbook, and crawling out from COVID, the global community is HUNGRY for this information. Manufacturers and safety instructors are currently overwhelmed with demand.

What’s the Goal?

No packrafting fatalities in 2021. The last packrafting fatality was in May of 2020. We’ve gone 12 months; let’s close out the year.

How do I Enter to Win the Prizes?

Join the conversation and enter to win sweet prizes (including a new Alpacka Raft packraft!).

There are many ways to join the conversation:

  • Create content: Ask questions, make short videos, etc.
  • Engage: Respond to questions, provide resources, etc.
  • Share: Share #cultureofsafety resources each week and let folks know about The Packraft Handbook!

To be eligible for a WEEKLY prize: participate … and mark your eligibility on the Things To Luc At mailing list.

Prizes

  • Alpacka Raft: Custom-designed salmon Classic packraft. Size medium, you pay shipping from Alaska, can be international (female-identifying or non-binary only).
  • Hyperlite Mountain Gear: Backpack (US-only)
  • Anfibio Packrafting: Accessories bundle … AirSail, pump, skeg, leash! (Eu-only)
  • Aqua-Bound: Four-piece Whiskey fiberglass paddle
  • Revelate Designs: Harness and Egress Pocket bundle
  • Packraft Europe: Store credit (Eu-only)
  • Backcountry.Scot: Enrollment in safety course (UK-only)
  • Four Corners Guides: The Bikeraft Guide (US-only)
  • Yukan Canoe: 200 CAD credit toward packraft course (Whitehorse, Canada)

The Plan: Weekly Themes

Each week of May will be dedicated to a content theme. The themes match the organization of The Packraft Handbook.

Brands, instructors, and individuals are encouraged to create and share insights, products, resources, questions, and answers relevant to the weekly theme.

I assume most of this messaging will take place on social media, but please use whatever mediums you have access to. Make this personal and run with it. Don’t hesitate to use this to drive awareness of your products or services. This is meant to be a horizontal organization: everyone contributing as they feel fit.

Week of May 3rd:
Foundations

  • Getting started
  • Equipment (outfitting hazards)
  • Boat control, fit
  • Basic paddle strokes, edging
  • Wet re-entry (self-rescue)
  • Learning and how to progress

Week of May 10:
Rivers and Open Water

  • How rivers work (discharge, gradient, etc.)
  • River running
  • Open-water crossings
  • Hazards specific to rivers and open water
  • Conservation efforts

Week of May 17:
When Things Go Wrong

  • Rescue
  • Repair
  • Medical emergencies
  • Close-calls
  • Lessons learned

Week of May 24:
Putting the Pack in Packrafting

  • Carrying cargo (bikepacking, etc.)
  • Backpacking equipment
  • Camping (Leave No Trace)
  • Trip research and planning

The Tone

I think it is important to keep this messaging inclusive … call people in (celebrate what is done right) rather than calling people out for mistakes. Celebrate questions and find ways to be constructive with criticism.

Thanks all, let’s do this!

The Packraft Handbook

Intended to provide a common framework as we build our Culture of Safety… order yours!

16 Comments

  1. This is my summer to experience packrafting for the first time (Alaska ANWR and Montana in The Bob). I would love more information/tips about taking a bunch of inexperienced packrafters down the S Fork of the Flathead in August.

    1. Those are two primo destination for your first season! I think you will want to get comfortable with everything in the “Foundations” part of The Packraft Handbook … make sure everyone’s boats are rigged safely, practice wet re-entries in a pond first, practice paddle strokes, etc.

      1. Thanks for the feedback. Ordered your book and very much looking forward to the read and next weeks theme

  2. I’m brand new to packrafting. What tye of packraft do you recommend for beginners? Are there places in Anchorage that rent them? What about places for classes and beginning raft trips? I should probably buy they book. I bet it answers a lot of these questions lol.

    1. Yep … you will probably get a lot out of the book!

      There is at least one rental option in Anc, I can’t remember the business name, but I bet you can find it by searching online. Packrafting Alaska offers frequent introductory courses that would be a good place to start. I offer more advanced courses, but not as often.

      The Ak FB packrafting page is a wealth of knowledge and trip reports … that will be a good resource for you too.

      1. Thank you! I ordered a copy of the book. I will look into classes and renting a packraft or buy one eventually.

    1. I did geek out a bit (and learned a lot) about tides in the Open Water Crossings chapter. Sarah Glaser made a wonderful illustration showing how the tides vary between standing and progressive wave models between Ireland and England. It is a perfect example!

  3. I often find myself in a position where there are no other packrafters around and end up on easy (flat) water because I just can’t seem to completely avoid floating. I therefore depend a lot of secondary safety measures such as emergency contacts, beacons, lowing expectations, etc. Will these topics be included in these themes?

    1. This is a great question … and I don’t know where it will fit into the themes. If you have an instagram account, I would ask there, using the hashtags for this campaign.

      For my part … going solo requires lowering risk tolerance. I would pay more attention to my equipment and walk anything that looks like it poses any threat … “lowering expectations” as you say. But things like emergency contacts and beacons … if something goes wrong in the water, you probably don’t have time for those folks to be any help.

      I included an excerpt in the book from Zorba Laloo in Meghalaya India. I asked Zorba about how he created a paddling community there. He was going solo and then built a community so that he would have partners. It was an inspiring effort.

  4. Really looking forward to the week of the 17th “When things go wrong”! Definitely could use more knowledge here!

  5. Thanks for providing a link to your recent APA presentation. I could not catch it live.

  6. SO excited for the next few weeks and themes. I am a brand new beginner in the packrafting world and I want to dive right in! I tend to get the “wobbles” in a kayak in certain situations so I am looking for any advice to get started strongly in pack rafting and learn how to be comfortable. Does anybody have advice and tips on taking kayak knowledge and experience and bringing it into the packrafting world (paddle strokes, equipment recommendations)? Ready for this new adventure and want to be prepared and SAFE as possible! #packraftsafety #thisispackrafting

    1. You will find the packraft to have much better primary stability (stability on flat water) than a kayak. But the packraft has less secondary stability (stability on edge). So … less wobbles, but the trade-off is that when you start to tip over, it is hard to recover. One thing that will make a difference is thigh straps … they enable you to influence the boats edges, similar to a kayak.

      Other than that, most concepts are the same … paddle strokes, etc. The packraft sits more shallowly in the water, so draw strokes end up being very effective in packrafts.

      Mark Oates has some excellent information online about how to packraft. Those resources will be especially useful if/as you seek more technical water.

  7. These illustrations are awesome! Reminds me of “Sea Kayaking Illustrated” by Jon Robison

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