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DIY Packraft construction & packing notes

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This post is a work-in-progress documenting changes or additions made during the construction of four Telkwa packrafts purchased from the awesome folks at DIY Packraft. DIY Packrafts are extremely well designed and the kits assemble exactly as demonstrated in the excellent videos and printed instructions.  My intention is to substitute the  Leafield D-7 inflation/deflation valves to replace the supplied Boston valves.  While heavier and more bulky my experience is that inflation/deflation is much quicker due to larger porting, are easily cleaned, and are field-replaceable without thermal welding.

Completed raft #1 with homemade DripDeck made from the supplied inflation bag materials*.  The deck slides open the full length of the cockpit on the perimeter grab line. The black round snaps can be opened for both adjustments and complete removal. Installed weight is ~140 grams. The black 5 mm webbing loops at the rear corners allow the deck to double as a sail in light downwind conditions. * Primary inflation is from a Kokopelli Feather Pump which completes the task in less than one minute!  There are sources on Amazon which appear to have very similar options.  The backup is a spare Klymit inflation bag, modified for the Leafield value.  This bag does double-duty as a storage bag and additional air chamber inside the raft. 

There’s really only one tool that I’ve found that materially improves assembly processes.  It’s a small stainless steel mixing bowl with a flat bottom slightly wider than a typical welding area.  To the bottom of the bowl two parallel strips of 3M double-faced window film sealing tape are added just outside of the working area.  This easily removable tape typically has enough adhesion to complete the welding of one tube segment.  Removal and replacement of the two tape sections takes about a minute.

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vvp for bikepacking 🤔 Mega to Mini panniers – development notes

Spring 2020 – The purpose of this post is to give folks ideas about an approach to develop DIY gear for bikepacking and possibly bikerafting. Looking critically at all possible storage areas of my bikes led me to seriously examine the role that panniers could play in extending distances and multi-sport travel,*aka bikerafting. What problems might be solved by panniers that can be adjusted during the journey? Thinking ahead to possible outcomes when Covid-19 controls are reduced results in evaluating the prospect of needing to carry all or most supplies over bikepacking trips of several weeks. Ideally this could be achieved without using a backpack. Can on-bike storage be reconfigured to meet changing needs of food and bikerafting realities? These were some of the disparate thoughts rattling around as I considered prototyping more storage options for extended completely unsupported bikepacking trips.

From these ideas emerged some usage criteria: no unnecessary weight, quickly flexible, integrated with existing gear and systems, durable and without dangles, hikeabikeable, complementary to packrafting, function over form.

I then moved on to considering what gear and food might fit into different storage locations on the bike and packraft. While thinking about how this might work on a trip, the idea of significant volume flexibility emerged.

The main integration items are drybags, compression drybags, and food packaged in ziplock bags, ultralight backpack. For bikerafting the items are PFD, cold water immersion gear, inflation and repair supplies, miscellaneous packraft components.  For a fairly minimalist bikepacker the list got long very quickly …

Typical 20 litre drybags* seemed like a good organizational size to start working from. This resulted in rough bag dimensions of 4 inches deep, 10 inches wide, and about 24 inches tall when open. Other integration checks included 5 and 8 litre compression drybags, ziplocks full of food, PFD, full packraft kit (raft and 4-piece paddle are carried on the handlebars). * The Sea to Summit Ultralight Drybag Backpack (a favorite of mine) is also approximately this size.

The combination of usage criteria and volume flexibility results in the Mega to Mini panniers prototype. A maximum closed volume, 4 folds, of about 18 litres with a minimum volume of <5 litres when fully compressed. When empty, each pannier is flat with no protrusions.

Left pannier at close to minimum size, right pannier fully expanded with heavier gear in the bottom section.
Fatbike with variable volume panniers still attached ready to launch. Even with the raft and safety gear no backpack is required.
Set up for hike-a-bike while bikerafting with the contents of the left pannier moved to the right. Alternately a ultra-light backpack can be removed from a pannier and gear transferred completely off the bike.

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Waterproof hip and handlebar pack

This is a very simple method of securing a hip pack to a Jones H Loop handlebar. The attachment method works with many styles of bags simply by attaching a loop near the bottom to hold the bag in place within the H-Loop. At 240 grams this 4 litre rolltop drybag is not ultra light, however it is extremely durable. Newer models are available that weigh 180 grams. The only modification required is to push a knotted loop of paracord through the drain hole of the zippered pocket, a bead or ring to prevent the cord from sliding out is optional. The mounted bag pictured below contains a down jacket and vest, cache battery and cables, and an InReach. The bag also works well as a deckbag when bikerafting.

Length of paracord knotted and ready to be inserted through the drain hole.

Valhalla Pure Outfitters carries these Seal-Line Hip Pack bags for less than $65 Cdn. The weight can be reduced by replacing the heavy 25mm (1 inch) waist belt with a lighter grade of webbing and buckle set. This change dropped the weight of the red bag to 180 grams.

Adding an accessory pocket

Left to right: DeLorme InReach, Handy Andy 5 with Loop Velcro patch and belt loops modifications, Handy Andy 6 open, 44.4 Whr cache battery with Hook Velcro patches on the back. These modifications were made with a simple light-duty sewing machine.

The red bag has a patch of industrial Hook Velcro attached to the outside of the pocket. It was placed and clamped overnight for the adhesive backing to fully adhere. This patch becomes the platform to attach other items such as an electronics case. The image above has a couple of examples of utilizing different Handy Andy cases for holding devices and securing a cache battery to the Loop Velcro inside the case.