Pack Rafting Strategies: Hand Paddle How-to

NYARA will have three teams racing at this year’s Untamed New England 4-day race in Maine. One signature of Untamed is the pack raft section. Most adventure races have trek sections, paddle sections and bike sections. Untamed likes to link up the trekking and paddling into a unique section that involves long distance trekking with strategic waterways/crossings. Alpacka Raft (a race sponsor and general supporter of AR) makes some great boats which have become the gold standard for races that include pack rafting.

The overall goal of the pack rafting section (aside from not popping your boat) is to keep weight down and speed up. Teams have a number of strategies from using four individual boats, to squeezing two people into a one person boat. Some teams use kayak paddles that collapse into four pieces others rely on hand paddles. Here’s a quick how-to that gives you step by step instructions for DIY hand paddles. The big upsides include: huge cost savings (these babies can be made for the price of a 5 gallon bucket), weight savings (they weigh almost nothing) and space savings (they take up almost no room in the pack).

For all you visual learners out there, here is the step by step in photos. For everyone else, we will detail the steps below.

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This whole process will take under 15 minutes.
1. Get a five gallon bucket
2. Using a hack saw, cut off the thick ring at the top if the bucket
3. Flip onto its side with the newly cut side facing you
4. Lay your hand on the bucket with fingers slightly spread out (like how you would paddle)
5. Trace an arc around your hand
6. Using some heavy duty scissors and/or exacto knife, cut out the shape you traced
7. Place hand on the cutout and mark (about knuckle height) outside your first and third fingers
8. Use a big ol’ nail to punch holes into your two marks
9. Get something stretchy — elastic, an old bike tube, etc.
10. Stick the elastic through the hole on the left, tie a knot on the back side (concave side)
11. Pull the stretchy stuff through the second hole so that it is laying flush on the surface ( you want it to have enough tension to hold onto your fingers) then trim and tie off

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There you have the finished product — with some action shots. We will keep you posted on how well they work in our tests.