Jackson Hole Packrafts and Rentals Review + Giveaway

    Despite the fact that Mtn Papa and I both grew up on lakes, so far we have not been a boating family.  We both LOVE water and spent many hours growing up water skiing, boating, canoeing, paddle-boating and ice skating (on lakes, so it’s relevent. :))  The simple truth right now is that we live in an area where water is just not easily accessible.  The wind (which I find myself mentioning often) is also a factor when you have children and white-caps are fairly common.

    Long story short, when a friend of a friend contacted me about doing a review of her Packrafts, I was psyched!  (in case you missed it, Amy did a guest post last week.)   Located 70 miles away from us, Jackson Hole Packrafts and Rentals not only rents boats locally, but also has a program where they will send you a Packraft for rent and include a prepackaged return label and box.  The perks?  Not having to buy a raft with the ability to keep it long-term (the rates drop dramatically with time.) 

    A great list from the Packraft Site about what the rafts are good for (besides the obvious):

    A packraft can…
    1. Easily fit into a backpack, small plane, boat, or the trunk of your car.
    2. Be used to cross a river that would otherwise be impassable on foot
    3. Provide shelter during a heavy down poor or during an all night rain
    4. Serve as a heavenly, soft ground pad for an afternoon nap or full night’s sleep
    5. Facilitate travel during endurance races
    6. Get you to that hot fishing hole on the other side of the creek
    7. Haul your bike or skis during a multisport adventure
    8. Be paddled around a pristine alpine lake
    9. Carry your sheep or caribou as you float out from a seldom visited hunting spot
    10. Be filled with water and let to sit in the warm sun – voila, your very own hot tub
    11. Our addition: They are REALLY fun coming down a hill on snow! 🙂

    While we had the boats over the course of 5 days, we….
    1. Took them out on a lake in Jackson (and then proceeded to spend most of the time looking for the camera I so clumsily DROPPED in the lake. Ug.)  Let J paddle around on his own in one (with Mtn Papa near by or towing him.)
    2.  Hiked into another lake closer to Dubois (through drifts of snow).  We were thankful to find the inlet was open and allowed for great paddling (and some breaking up of ice too, of course.)  Took advantage of some massive drifts left over for testing riding down the snow.
    3. Mtn Papa floated the river in town that we never had the boats before to try.  No class 5 rapids by any means, but definitely swiftly moving water!

    What we love about the boats:
    They are definitely light (about 5 lb.) and we can carry them along with our children on our backs.

    – The inflation system is quick and easy without the use of a pump (it takes less than 5 minutes to get the boats up and going.) 

    Shake bladder to fill with air (already attached to boat)
    Close bladder and push air into boat.
    Do final inflation via mouth

    – They are durable (and “gaping” holes can be fixed with Tyvek house tape).
    – They pack up small so will fit in with our (massive) gear pile we always have when we are out adventuring.
    – They are easy to maneuver.

    – While we are not at this caliber of boater, they are sturdy enough to handle some pretty gnarly whitewater (making them attractive to more “extreme sports” enthusiasts.)

    What we aren’t so crazy about:
    – We wish they came with their own little “stuff sack” to help just make the process of carrying them a little smoother.  Quite honestly, we didn’t have any issues, but it is what we kept thinking.
    – From the viewpoint of a family, we wish there were some way to be able to carry the kids in the boats a little easier.  (Note – we did try it with them on our laps and it just didn’t work with paddling.) 

    Some things to note:
    – Every time we used the rafts, we experienced the issue that since the water we were on was cold, the boats would have to be inflated more after their initial launch (since the cool water cooled the air in the rafts and resulted in a decompression of the inflation.)
    – While having a small child in the boat with you is certainly possible (we did it!) it is not ideal when you are depending on the skirt to keep you dry.  We found that if the kids sat at our feet facing us, we could unzip the end part of the skirt and then velcro it on the sides so it WAS attached.  However, it certainly wasn’t completely sealed and we had to be ok with a little water.

    – When planning on actually packing in somewhere to use the rafts, you certainly have to remember you will be carrying boats + lifejackets + paddle + inflation bladder.  This wasn’t a big deal, but just something to note!  We found it easiest to secure the raft on the pack first and then do another “layer” of securing with the life jackets and bag with the paddle and inflation bladder.

    – For rentals anywhere in the continental US, shipping is $30 for one boat, $35 for two boats, $40 for three boats, $45 for four boats (shipping IS possible to Canada, but rates are higher.) This covers both ways.  A return label is included in the rental. When renters are done with the boats, they just put them back in the box, slap on the return label and drop off the box at any FedEx location.  Easy peasy.
    – Amy is about to launch an online rental system that will make reservations SUPER easy.  Watch the site for that!
    – Interested in BUYING one of them???  Check out the Alpaca Raft site (and um…they aren’t cheap, but are great boats!)

    A chance to try them out!:
    Contest closed!  Andrew – you are the lucky winner!  Email me at mountainmamatales(at)gmail(dot)com to make arrangements for your boats!  Whoop!
    Amy so very generously offered the chance for one of you to try out TWO Packrafts for 3 days (a $180 value.)  *Winner pays shipping if not picking up in rafts in Jackson.*  This is an incredible opportunity for an excuse to come to Jackson OR a fun family event where ever you live!
    The “fine print” details: Winner is responsible for picking up and dropping off the boats in Jackson Hole, WY for free or please note that there will be a $35 shipping charge (round trip) to send the boats to the rental winner.  Travel days will not count as the three days.  Open to Lower 48 only (but, all you Alaskans, check out Northern Alaska Packrafts, LLC up in Fairbanks!)  Winning rental includes paddles, PFDs, inflation bags, spraydecks and small repair kit (usually there is a small charge for these on mailing rentals). Winner will make a reservation by calling Amy Hatch at 907-830-1016. Dates based on availability. 

    To enter (5 entries possible – leave a separate comment for EACH entry):
    1. Comment on this post about your experience boating/rafting and why you would be interested in these boats.
    2. Like Jackson Hole Packraft and Packrafts Rentals on Facebook (and then leave a comment on their wall saying that we sent you.)
    3. Like Tales of a Mountain Mama on Facebook
    4. Follow @mtnmamatales on Twitter
    5. Follow Tales of a Mountain Mama on Pinterest 

    This giveaway will be open until 8 pm MST on May 31st.  A winner will be drawn randomly and announced here and on Facebook after that date.  Please make sure to check back to see if you have won (AND PLEASE make sure you include your email address so I can get ahold of you if you DO win!:))  

    Jackson Hole Packrafts provided us with these rafts free of charge to facilitate this review. However, as always, the opinions expressed here are completely and honestly our own.


      1. Love this idea! We have sea kayaks, which are sturdy, stable and great with kids. They are also 100% non-portable! With the Colorado River flowing through our town and summers spent near high alpine lakes, we would love the chance to try hiking in and blowing up…a packraft!Thanks!

      2. What a great, thorough post! Love the photo of using the boat on snow! A quick tip: if after you fill the boats up with air, you put them in the water and splash water all over the boat, refill with air, then repeat, you won’t have to deal with the air cooling and the boat deflating while you’re actually in the boat. Thanks for taking the time to write this review, try the boats out in so many different capacities, and being so thoughtful in your feedback.

      3. Wow, sure wish I had this when I kayaked the Escalante River a few years ago. This would have been way easier to haul out of the bottom of a canyon (Coyote Gulch) than my hard shell ;). Very cool!

      4. I would love the chance to enter this awesome giveaway! (wigirl4ever on Twitter) I would be an excellent way for me to explore some of the surrounding areas of my new home in WY!

      5. Oh and I also follow you on FB of course (Kristie Salzmann) 😉 How do these boats do with canine passengers?

      6. My husband is a class 5 whitewater kayaker, while I prefer to raft and canoe in class 3 or below 🙂 Now that we are a family, we spend a lot time rafting in gentle whitewater and canoeing down our local river. We would definitley get some use out of this raft and would love to try it out! I had never heard of this before and it’s a really neat idea. We visit the Ocoee, Hiawassee and Nanahala Rivers often….so we realy need to give it a try!

      7. Just liked Jackson Hole Packrafts on fb 🙂

      8. Already follow you on fb.

      9. Already follow ypu on twitter.

      10. Follow you on pinterest, too! iI feel like a stalker, lol 😉

      11. This is an awesome idea. We watched a video of people packrafting the Grand Canyon and since then it’s been very intriuging to us. I think it would open up a whole new world of backcountry adventures. I think we would easily take it on some backcountry lakes, but our kids would go crazy if we found a secluded river. Luckily, they love water and getting wet!

      12. I like you

      13. I follow you

      14. I like JH packrafts

      15. Used to guide on the Colorado and Eagle Rivers (Pre-kid) and I just love this idea. The picture of child + boat on backpack has me totally giddy. Fun!

      16. I really love the idea of these. I’m sure it would be really easy to take one on a backcountry trip and even simpler to just throw it in the car. Our kids love the water and I think they would have a blast packed in there with me

      17. I like JH packrafts

      18. i like you

      19. I’ve been rafting since I was five. I am now a river guide in Jackson. I also love hiking and I like the idea of being able to combine these two interests together and explore new areas.


      1. […] summer, check out this gear review of Jackson Hole Packraft & Packraft Rentals Anywhere from Tales of a Mountain Mama. It’s good reminder that packrafts aren’t just for the extreme and hard core – […]

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