The Kama Sutra of Packrafting

The Kama Sutra of Packrafting (Sanskrit: कामसूत्र) is an ancient Alaskan text widely considered to be the standard work on doubling up in packrafts. The original text can likely be attributed to Roman Dial, Dick Griffith, and Sheri, but countless others have made contributions. A portion of the work consists of practical advice on doubling up. It is largely in prose, with many inserted anustubh poetry verses. “Kāma” which is one of the three goals of Hindu life, means sensual or sexual pleasure, and “sūtra” literally means a thread or line that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to an aphorism (or line, rule, formula), or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Contrary to popular perception, especially in the western world, The Kama Sutra of Packrafting is not an exclusive sex manual; it presents itself as a guide to a virtuous and gracious living that discusses the nature of love, family life and other aspects pertaining to ultralight adventuring. [Wikipedia, more or less]

I’d love to have some photos to fill in the gaps below… let me know if you have some to add!

Beauty and the Beast

Level of intimacy: low
Stability: low

The least intimate pose, Beauty and the Beast is a classic starting point for partnered packrafting. Passengers sit back-to-back in the middle of the boat and can alternate paddling. Beauty and the Beast is limited to calm waters due to the forward position of the paddler. Attempting this position on rough waters is likely to cause a early spill and ruin the mood.

Beast with Two Backs

Level of intimacy: low
Stability: very low

Another low-intimacy option, Beast with Two Backs involves passenger and paddler sitting on opposite ends of the boat facing each other. The traditional position of the paddler allows for slightly rougher water to be navigated. It is recommended to interlock legs to increase stability, especially when both passengers are tall. However, the instability due to extra weight at the bow is difficult to overcome, and rapid currents should be approached with caution. Of course, the high levels of tension and excitement from Beast with Two Backs in rough water can be very stimulating. Successful crossing of rough water is often followed by a sense of bewilderment and confusion about why we didn’t bring a second boat.


Level of intimacy: moderate
Stability: moderate

A standard stable position for partners with a moderate level of intimacy, Honeymoon involves the passenger sitting in the paddler’s lap. The paddler’s legs should be tucked under the knees of the passenger, while the passenger’s feet hang over the bow. If the passenger gets cold they can be wrapped in sleeping pads, tarps, or other gear. The passenger needs to resist the urge to stabilize the boat by adjusting their position; the raft is more easily maneuvered if the passenger maintains a zen state. An advantage of Honeymoon is that an exhausted paddler can pass the paddle to the passenger and take naps.


Side Straddle

Level of intimacy: low
Stability: moderate

A less intimate variation of Honeymoon, Side Straddle provides a stable configuration for moderately rough water. The paddler sits in the back of the boat, standard paddling position, while the passenger sits sideways in the front, legs dangling over the tube. Side Straddle is not ideal for long engagements due to the strain of keeping the legs elevated and out of the water.

Rear Mount

Level of intimacy: moderate
Stability: moderate

Rear Mount is a viable option for flexible or petite partners. Both passenger and paddler kneel in the boat, facing forward. The kneeling position allows the paddler strong strokes, which allows moderate rapids to be navigated. The primary disadvantage of Rear Mount is the difficulty of maintaining the kneeling position over long stretches of water. Care must be taken to avoid injuring knees on rocks in shallow water.

Top Mount

Level of intimacy: high
Stability: moderate

Originally developed by Brad Marden and Eben Sargent, Top Mount is a variation of Rear Mount for intimate partners or those with a limited time window. The passenger lays on their back on the floor of the raft while the paddler straddles for a canoe-style seated position. Top Mount is not recommended for shallow waters, as the passenger’s back and paddler’s knees are at risk of hitting rocks.

Laying pinned to the floor of the packraft may leave some feeling vulnerable, but the unparalleled view of the ecstasies and agonies played out on the face of your partner is worth it.

-Eben Sargent

Riding High

Level of intimacy: low
Stability: low

Another Brad Margen / Eben Sargent original, Riding High is the position of choice for couples who appreciate a top view of the action. Packs are stowed in the boat and the entire assemblage is straddled as though riding horseback, feet dangling in the water.

This position does not afford much stability, so trust, communication, and the ability to move as one are essential.

-Eben Sargent

More Photos

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