- Dress appropriately for the environment (drysuit, wetsuit, thermals/fleece, etc)
- Wear decent river shoes that you can walk out 30+ km in
- Take a backpack so that you can easily carry your boat and walk out of there
- Rig your boat so that you can hang onto it in a swim/portage and also so that you can rescue others
- Carry on your person vital safety & rescue equipment (throwbag, knife, whistle, carabiners, sling, PLB or inReach, fire lighting kit, medications, snacks, etc)
- Ensure that the group supports the attitude that it is ‘okay to walk’ and allows time for this
One of the great things about packrafts is how easy they are to carry and portage around dangerous sections of rivers! If in doubt about a particular rapid or a long difficult section of river make an early call to walk. For me, one of the most important items of gear to assist in this is having shoes that allow me to confidently move across slippery rocks. Shoes with decent grip make it easier to portage and do shore-based rescues in a hurry.
Always assume that you will end up in the water either through swimming or assisting in a rescue so dress appropriately. Check out super experienced packraft expeditioner Moe Witschard’s ‘10 tips to help you stay safe and dry’ in regards to packraft attire. In the cool temperate rainforest environments that I regularly paddle, your clothing choice on multi-day trips is critical – canyoning shoes along with a drysuit are a necessity rather than a luxury.
Likewise rig your packraft ready for a swim and for the rescue of others by ensuring that you have a suitable fixed perimeter line at the bow and at the stern. This makes it much easier to hang onto your boat, which is one of the most critical things you should aim to do if you capsize. Trailing a short stern line is popular with some folk and in big volume rivers may be an advantage however on shallow rocky rivers any such loose lines may actually be an additional danger.
Monica Morin has a great blog on Alpacka’s website that espouses a similar theme.