The number of companies making packrafts is growing alongside the sport of packrafting itself. There are now 7 different brands of packrafts available, with an eighth one coming soon. So the obvious question is which is the best packraft? The answer: it depends. It depends on how you’re planning to use the packraft and the amount of money you want to spend.
This series explores the pros and cons of each brand of packraft. This article discusses the Feathercraft BayLee, Bolder and Beast packrafts. Here is a link to our article on Alpacka Raft packrafts. And stay tuned for articles to come that will look at Supai Adventure Gear, NRS, Flyweight Designs, Klymit, Advanced Elements and Kokopelli Raft Company.
We have Feathercraft BayLee 1 Self-Bailing Lightweight for River packrafts available for rent. Give us a call at 307-269-0966 or e-mail us at info at jhpackraft dot com to reserve your boat today.
The Feathercraft BayLee, Bolder and Beast Packrafts
Feathercraft and Alpacka Raft are the only two companies making a white-water capable packraft. However it’s worth noting that Kokopelli Raft Company may have one out by this summer.
Feathercraft stands alone as the only company making a self-bailing packraft. It also is the only company making a packraft designed for extra heavy loads (ie a boat for hunters to easily haul out large game).
Several experienced packrafters swear by the technical edge that a self-bailing boat offers, saying it’s nice to not have to deal with a spray deck.
Another nice feature of Feathercraft packrafts is that they have multiple chambers. This not only adds a layer of safety, but is also helpful when paddling rivers that require multiple chamber boats.
The drawbacks of the Feathercraft packrafts are the expense and weight. Depending on the model, a self-bailing Feathercraft packraft costs between $1,530 and $2,375. And they weigh between 10 pounds and 18 pounds. Some of this weight comes from the number of valves required to fill the multiple-chamber boat: 2 valves for the hull, 2 valves for the seat bottom and back, and 4 valves to inflate the floor.
By comparison, an Alpacka Yukon Yak packraft with a Cruiser Spray Deck weighs between 5 and 6 pounds and costs $1,095.
Feathercraft also offer an Alpacka-style packraft with a spray deck and a non-bailing floor. This model is called the BayLee 1 Lightweight for River. It weighs 6.5 pounds and costs $1,195.
There are a few factors to consider when choosing which Feathercraft model to purchase. The first is your height. If you’re over 6 feet tall, you’ll want to opt for the Bolder rather than the BayLee. Another consideration is your gear load. The Bolder has more room than the BayLee for gear, including space behind your seat. The Beast is the end-all-be-all for carrying heavy loads with a capacity rating up to 1,000 pounds. Both the Bolder and Beast also include grab lines.
Finally, think about where you want your center of gravity in the boat. The Bolder and Beast are longer boats with the seat moved forward. Here is Feathercraft’s explanation for this design:
“Packrafters learn to lean as far forward as possible to avoid backflips. But this is an unnecessary struggle. By making the boat just a little bit longer, you move your center of balance forward. The improvement in performance is dramatic. When you enter a hole, all of your energy can be devoted to going forward. Forget about back flips.”
Feathercraft has a long history of making excellent crafts in the water sports industry. It uses durable materials and makes its boats at its shop in Vancouver, Canada.
Bottom line: if paddling performance is more important to you than weight and cost, then seriously consider a Feathercraft packraft.
Here is a link to our article on Alpacka Raft packrafts and stay tuned for more articles in our Best Packraft Series.
We have Feathercraft BayLee 1 Self-Bailing Lightweight for River packrafts available for rent. Give us a call at 907-830-1016 or e-mail us at info at jhpackraft dot com to reserve your boat today.
Have you paddled a Feathercraft packraft? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Is it the best packraft available in terms of technical performance? Is it worth the money? If you haven’t paddled a Feathercraft packraft, would you like to give one a try? Why or why not?