Are you interested in combining pedaling and paddling? You’ve probably captured the idea of mingling bikepacking and rafting, and you see it as a heavenly-made match.
Well, have no worries as you have come to the right page. In this ultimate how-to guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know for Bikerafting.
When I first came across the idea of bikerafting, I thought that this was an enchanting way to explore nature and have some awesome experiences.
But I still wondered about all the gear needed for such an adventure and how to ride and paddle with them.
Will a packraft really hold all my bike packing gear and keep them safe as I paddle?
Isn’t it terrible trouble to paddle with a loaded packraft? And how do I even get a good packraft for bikerafting?
These questions and more started storming into my mind. I knew that there was a lot to learn about bikerafting before getting started.
So, I decided to research and read around to get some information on bikerafting. After acquiring the basics, I started my bikerafting trips, and from then I’ve never turned back.
All the guidelines and tips I have learned are here in this comprehensive guide to make your work easier and help you get started in bikerafting.
You’ll probably find most answers to your bikerafting questions. Keep reading to discover the best packrafts for an epic bikerafting adventure.
What is Bikerafting?
Bikerafting is a sports adventure that combines bikepacking or bikepacking with packrafting.
It involves packing your bikepacking and rafting gear on your bike, mostly a fat bike or mountain bike, to explore even the toughest terrain.
Then you unpack your packraft and strap the bike on the boat for water crossing or some water adventures.
The idea of lashing bikes onto boats was envisioned by Roman Dial, who then actualized it in 1987 with his first mountain bike and a Sherpa packraft.
While bikerafting dates back to the 1980s, it has gained popularity recently when adventurers like Deane started filming their rafting and biking excursions.
A lot of innovative advancements in bike and boat making have also contributed to the popularity of bikerafting.
Thanks to companies like Alpacka, who produce excellent modern packrafts for bikerafting. They have made it safe and easy to combine rafts and bikes.
The Ultimate How-to Guide for Bikerafting
Do you want to get started on bikerafting but are unsure of how to go about it? Here are some effective tips and tricks to guide you:
Pack as Light as Possible
The packraft will take up some weight, usually 3 to 5 pounds, so you need to go for the lightest bikepacking setup. You can cut down the weight by sacrificing some comfort.
Reducing your clothes and carrying a water filtration system instead of many liters of water will help cut down the overall weight.
Ideally, your full bikepacking gear should be under 40 pounds for a comfortable ride on rough terrains and smooth paddling in the waters.
Keep in mind that most packrafts are designed to carry a weight capacity of about 200 to 300 pounds.
Invest in Waterproof Bags
If your current bikepacking bags are not waterproof, you need to invest in some dry bags for bikerafting. Revelate Designs offers some great deals when it comes to dry packs.
Waterproof bags will keep your essentials dry when rafting or when it rains while out there. Moreover, you won’t have to worry about your items getting wet when the raft turns down.
Once you buy the dry bags, try and test whether they are waterproof and know which items to pack in them.
Buy Some Good Wet Weather Clothing
When bikerafting, there are higher chances that you’ll get wet no matter how careful you are.
So, you need to buy and pack a good drysuit to keep you dry all the time. Neoprene socks and gloves will greatly add to your safety and comfort.
You’ll also need an adult PFD for maximum safety in case your raft capsizes. In this case, I prefer the closed-cell foam PFDs to inflatable ones.
Research on Your Destination and Plan Your Routes
The next thing you’ll want to do when preparing for an epic bikerafting adventure is researching your adventure location and planning your routes.
Find out if there are any hazards or risks in the location you intend to explore. You can get such information from the local authority environment updates.
Talking to other bikerafters or cyclist friends who have been in the area can also help you gather some useful information about your destination. You don’t want anything terrible surprising you while out there.
Test Your Mountain Biking and Rafting Gear before Heading Off
Before you head off to your epic bikerafting adventure, you need to test your cycling and packrafting gear to ensure that everything works as it should.
Testing your gear will help you understand how everything works. It will also allow you to master how to easily strap the bike and your whole bikepacking rig onto the boat.
If you are new to rafting, you need to practice paddling on a nearby river or any flat water body. You may also consider taking a whitewater safety course.
Get a Packable Paddle
Bikerafting packrafts often do not come with a paddle, so you need to buy them separately. And you don’t just buy a paddle.
A bikerafting paddle needs to be compact and packable for easy traveling. You’ll find so many great options out there that pack into small pieces.
I use the Werner Skagit 4-Piece 230cm Kayak Paddle, and it allows me to raft efficiently, even in the roughest rivers.
Don’t Forget a Repair Kit
Punctures and other bike issues are inevitable when riding on rough terrains. So you need to bring a repair kit for your bike to ensure that you can always mend it whenever punctures happen.
You also want to bring a repair kit for your packraft as it’s not bulletproof either. Packrafts are prone to punctures, especially when rafting on extremely rough waters.
With a puncture kit for both the bike and packraft, nothing will stop you, even when exploring the most remote areas.
Carry a Satellite Phone or Messenger
If you plan to do a very remote bikerafting adventure, it’s prudent to bring a satellite phone or messenger for communication.
A satellite phone can be a lifesaver whether you are exploring the mountains, desert, or the open ocean. It will help you send a rescue signal if you land into trouble and need some backup.
If you are not a frequent adventurer and don’t want to buy a satellite phone, you can opt to rent one for your bikerafting trip.
However, you’ll need to confirm whether there are satellite phone restrictions in the location you intend to explore as some countries like China and Bangladesh don’t allow these phones.
Finally, Read Some Wild Adventure Stories About Bikerafting
If you need more inspiration for bikerafting, watching some water adventure videos and reading wild adventure stories is a great way to learn more.
Bikerafting videos and stories like those of Roman Dial will inspire you to practice more and build your confidence in combining biking and rafting.
Roman Dial offers instructions with stunning color photographs that make it even more exciting to follow his guide on exploring the wilderness and whitewater.
Best Packrafts for Bikepacking
Packrafts have been around for several decades, but not all of them are ideal for bikerafting. You can’t just buy any packraft as some won’t stand the demands of this type of adventure.
With a cheaply made raft, you risk punctures and a lot of struggle when paddling with your bike strapped. It won’t even hold the weight of your bike.
That’s why you need to invest in a good packraft that is specifically designed for bikerafting for the best experience.
Such packrafts are usually stronger and feature more durable construction to ensure that they can keep up with all the bikerafting demands.
So, how do you choose the best packraft for bikerafting? Read on to find out!
Things to Look for When Buying the Best Packraft for Bikerafting
r the backrest and backband as they are also essential for creating a comfortable and sustainable paddling posture.
Gear Storage and Extra Features
Some packrafts offer more storage space than others. The best one for you depends on the type of adventure you want to undertake.
If you plan to bring more gear, you’ll need a packraft with adequate space to keep your large pack safe and well strapped to the boat as you paddle.
Tie-downs are essential features to look for in a bikerafting packraft as they help you get back into the boat after falling out.
Some bikerafting packrafts also have cargo fly zips, thigh straps, and a whitewater spray deck to cover your chest and keep water out of the raft.
Such features are great additions, but I recommend going for as minimal as possible to keep the weight low.
TiZips can even introduce leaks if you are not careful about how you handle your packraft. So, go for a packraft that has the features you are comfortable with.
When it comes to packraft pricing, you can get a good boat suitable for most adventures at a relatively affordable cost. The price ranges from $600 to $2,500.
Depending on your budget, a lightweight Alpacka packraft of about $825 should suit your basic bikerafting needs.
However, if you want a rugged packraft suited for epic expedition and extreme bikerafting, you can go for a high-end option. Remember, you’ll get what you pay for.
Cheaply made packrafts may not be very durable as they use a material that can easily tear with the inevitable rafting abrasion.
Best Packrafts for Bikerafting
My best picks are the Kokopelli Rogue Lite and Alpacka Classic Packrafts. Let’s take a closer look at each packraft:
Kokopelli Rogue Lite Packraft
Kokopelli never disappoints. They pay attention to what people are looking for to ensure that they make quality packrafts that suit varied customers’ needs.
And this is the case with their Rogue Lite Packraft for bikerafting that works well for both whitewater and lake rafting.
I chose this packraft because of its durable construction and great features. It inflates with a D7 Leafield one-way valve that prevents air from flowing back as you pump.
The Kokopelli Rogue Lite Packraft features a nice twist cover that doesn’t get in your way as you paddle. Its spring valve is also well-built to prevent air from coming out when rafting.
I also loved how the seams of this packraft are sown then taped to cut down the overall weight for a smooth and enjoyable rafting experience.
The package comes with four tie-downs that are great lifesavers when the boat turns down.
One more cool thing about the Kokopelli Rogue Lite is its floor design that doesn’t sag below the water, keeping your bottom safe. You won’t feel it on your butt or feet when the boat rides over rocks.
Its urethane coating makes it thicker and sturdy enough to withstand any bikerafting abrasions.
Weighing about 4 pounds, Rogue Lite is a lightweight packraft that fits well in most handlebar packs.
And once you buy this packraft, you get a patch kit and repair glue for easy maintenance and repairs while out there.
A magical inflation bag allows you to fill the packraft without having to use a pump.
Alpacka Raft Classic
The Alpacka Raft Classic is a high-quality boat that comes in three different sizes. The medium (Yak) and Large (Llama) are the best ones for bikerafting as they provide adequate space for a bike.
It comes in four color options, including Cedar Green, Sierra Red, Fireweed, and Forget-Me-Not.
Manufactured in Mancos, Colorado, the Alpacka Raft is designed to be a tough boat for use on various adventures.
What’s more impressive about this packraft is that it’s light enough to fit in small packs, and it won’t let you down when rafting in rocky rivers.
It comes with minimalistic attachments to make it simple and cut down the weight for easy attachment to the bikepacking bike.
Want some extra features? No worries! You can add strap plates, D-rigs, and handles to improve performance.
Alpacka allows you to choose from several configurations, including an open cruiser deck, self-bailing, whitewater deck, and removable whitewater deck.
I usually prefer bikerafting with this packraft over others due to its compact design and the two extra stern grab loops to easily grab the boat.
If you want to get started in bikerafting and are wondering which packraft to buy, feel free to invest in any of these rafts.
How to Strap a Bike to Packraft
The best way to strap your bike into the boat will depend on several factors, including your bikerafting style and the type of water you are rafting on.
Here is how to lash your bike to your packraft for a long crossing:
Step 1: Get Your Bicycle and Straps Ready
- If your packraft has standard grab loops, attach the straps to the sharp end before putting the bike on.
- Remove the non-drive side pedal if you have a pedal wrench. Leave the drive side pedal into the bike as it stays up in the air.
- If you don’t want to take the non-drive side pedal off, you can wrap it with socks or a towel to avoid puncturing the raft. But you need to do it perfectly. Otherwise, I recommend that you take it off for extra safety.
- Put the pedals into your frame bag and make sure there are no valuable items that may be ruined by water in this pack.
Step 2: Remove the Front Wheel
- Take off the front wheel and keep the axles in the frame or re-install them on the fork after removing the wheel.
- While most bikerafters will skip this, I usually remove the back wheel, especially when I don’t have a rack mounted on the rear. I only skip it when doing short crossings.
Step 3: Lash the Bike to the Boat, Leaving More Room for Efficient Paddle Stroke
- Place your bike on the front side of the boat and adjust it well before strapping it down. Voile straps are the best in this case.
- Stack the wheel(s) on the bike and ensure that they are well balanced on a good foundation. Again, ensure that the weight distribution is right to increase control and stability.
- If you didn’t remove the back wheel, mount a seat post bag or frame bag on the front side of the bike to counterweight the heavy rear.
- Put some dry bags or your backpack in the back of your boat to avoid flipping and prevent wind from blowing the raft.
Step 4: Pack Your Gear on the Raft
- Once you strap the bike frame and wheels, it’s time to get your other gear on the boat, from sleeping bag to cooking gear.
- If you are on a multi-day bikerafting adventure and have large packs, you don’t want to mount them on the bike as they will make it hard to see.
- The best way to pack them is by putting them in the boat or sitting on them. Using them as a backrest also makes sense.
Now, you may be wondering whether your bike will puncture the inflated packraft as you paddle.
The truth is that it depends on how you strap your bike
Frayed cable ends and cut-off ends of zip ties can easily puncture your boat. So you need to be more careful when working with them.
Your bike pedals can also puncture the packraft, especially if they have spikes. You can use a pad to cushion such pedals and avoid punctures.
Bikerafting is a fascinating way to explore the wilderness and whitewater and have unlimited fun.
If you want to combine packrafting and bikepacking, that’s a very good idea. You can follow the above tips for both short day trips and multi-week adventures. Sure, you won’t become a pro on your first trip, but trust me, the more you do it, the more you’ll get better.
The key to a perfect bikerafting experience is knowing how to pack for the trip and efficiently transit from bike mode to packraft mode.
If you want to spice up your bikerafting trips, you can add other activities like mountain riding and skiing. You can also bring a few friends for some fun, relaxing games at the campsite.