Packraft upgrade


Kayak backrest

The reasons for this change:
1. Better steering response because of higher pressure at the bow. The higher pressure is created by sitting more to the front which is not possible with the inflatable backrest from Alpacka.
2. Higher comfort because you don’t touch the hard edge on the back of the cockpit anymore.

The new backrest weights 260 grams, the original inflatable backrest from Alpacka weights 54 grams.

We bought the base of this kayak backrest at Decathlon. We removed the bottom seat and used a soldering iron on the backrest. The result:


The included attachments don’t fit the packraft. We’ve sawed off the buckles and replaced them with short straps. The straps will be connected to the thigh-straps in the packraft:


The backrest tends to slip down during rafting. To counter this, we’ve added a ring to the bottom of the backrest. A short rope pulls this up in the packraft. Two photographs say more than explaining by words:




Wax on, wax off

This spring I’ve done a waxing course to learn how to do the maintenance of our skis. A bit of skill is all you need to wax your own skis and doing it yourself is fun and saves some money. During this course you’ll not only learn how to wax, but also how skis are made and how to keep it in good shape.

The only tool which you definitely need and costs a lot of money is a trestle to mount your skis on when waxing. The skis shall not shuffle and the waxing makes quite a mess, so the kitchen table is not allowed to be used. With some scrap wood and a bit of closed-cell foam I’ve made a tool to attach to the workmate:



All you need to perform the maintenance of your skis fits in a small box:


The last thing you need is some time. Wax on, wax off (don’t forget to breath, very important)…





Vasa Sport – Het complete waxboek
3e druk, november 2013
Machiel Ittmann

Thigh straps for packrafts

In order to get better control of our packrafts we mounted thigh straps. 01 Good (but a bit old) manuals how to make and mount thigh straps can be found at: The Roaming Dials – Thigh straps how to and Things to luc at – Pimp my packraft. 02 Contrary to what’s written on those websites, we did use Alpacka’s grab-loops. We’ve talked to EU’s only retailer who ensured us that the grab-loops (when properly glued) can hold 175 kg. They mounted multiple thigh-straps and never had a problem with them. Make sure you use the correct glue and you glue it the proper way! 03 In 2012 we’ve mounted grab-loops as well, see article: Adding tie-downs to a packraft. For the current grab-loops we used the same procedure, except for one minor thing: Just before applying the grab-loop to the boat, we heated the grab-loop a few seconds. The glue becomes a bit sticky again and will immediately adhere to the boat. This will make life easier while working in the front of the boat.

In the meantime we’ve improved two things:
1. As the buckle was wider than the strap it slips a bit each time we use it. At the end of the day the slip was so large that the thigh strap was almost unusable. We’ve solved this by changing the straps with off-the-shelf ones from Sea-to-Summit, which are also cheaper than the ones we had before.

2. The straps have been glued onto a flexible boat causing some slack. While using the straps this means you first start to hang to one side, your knee moves to the inside and later the boat follows. During our packraft trip to Switzerland we saw that a small cross-connection with the boat makes it follow much more direct.


Scrutinizing our cooking gear

Last year we started to reduce weight by changing from tent to tarptent. Our old tent we only use during winter hikes, for all other hikes we use our tarptent nowadays. Last packrafting weekend made us scrutinizing our cooking gear.

First we went to search for a replacement for our pot. Till today we used to take a pot with lid and two eating bowls with us. If we could replace this by a pot that could also be used to eat from, we won’t need our eating bowls anymore. We found a new pot with lid: Quechua Popote Rando 1P. It is saving us 140 grams and a lot of volume in the backpack. The windscreen needed an update too. Our old windscreen was free standing on the ground. When using a large gas canister, the windscreen was too low to cover the flame. Our new windscreen for the MSR Pocket Rocket is based on this article. It’s made from 0.3 mm thick aluminum and a few paperclips. The gas canister and windscreen can be stowed in the pot. It saves a few grams and hopefully cooking will be more efficient with the new windscreen.


We’ve also taken a critical look at other fuels. Perhaps we find some advantages of using alcohol or Esbit. First we need a windscreen that can be used as pot stand as well. We used the same aluminum to build a windscreen that uses two tent pegs to support the pot and two paperclips to hold it together.

The new windscreen with a Trangia stove.

This windscreen is used to test the performance of several stoves. We’ve investigated weight, costs and availability of:
– MSR Pocket Rocket with a 1 litre aluminum pot.
– MSR Pocket Rocket with Quechua pot.
– Trangia stove
– DIY alcohol stove
– Esbit stove

We did not look at our Primus multi fuel stove in the comparison. That stove and fuel bottles are much heavier that all other stoves. We used to take this stove with us if we need to fly and were not sure if gas was available where we were going to.

In the comparison we measured the time it took for each stove to get 800 grams of water to a rolling boil and we measured the amount of fuel that was used for that. The outcome can be found here: StoveComparison

The following conclusions can be drawn:

– Esbit is always the most expensive. (About ten times as expensive as alcohol)
– Alcohol is the cheapest.

– Esbit is hard to find and might not be taken on a plane.
– Gas in a threaded self sealing gas canister is reasonable available in shops like Intersport or Decathlon.
– Alcohol is available everywhere, for instance as spirit in each supermarket or convenient store.

Totaal gewicht:
– Gas is always lightest.
– Alcohol is relatively heavy, but is used fast.

– Gas cooks fastest.
– Alcohol takes about 2 or 3 times longer than gas.
– Esbit takes about 3 times longer than gas.

Which fuel is best fit in the end, depends mainly on which property is most important. For a few days hiking gas and alcohol are about the same fit for the purpose. For a long hike, gas has advantages, but might be hardly available.

Time for a coffee break …

Other people use Esbit on their trips because of its simplicity: It’s solid fuel, it cannot leak and there’s no specific stove needed. We’ve tried Esbit again but our cooking times were still twice as long as other people’s: In the Netherlands the 4 grams blocks are the only ones easy to acquire. These are not packed in air-tight containers and our blocks were several years old. Probably there was some moisture in those blocks resulting in loss of energy. By using the air-tight packed 14 grams blocks we get the same cooking times as other people.
As stove we copied Brian Green’s Esbit Tray Stove from a small sheet of tin.


Click here to see all photographs.

Adding tie-downs to a packraft

We’ve taken our FlytePacker packrafts on a few tours now, but still miss a way to attach our backpacks to the boat. Like a Dutch proverb says: “It’s better well cribbed, than badly designed by yourself.” So we took a good look at the competitor packrafts. A nice manual is available on, but here is our step-by-step guide:

1. Order the tie-downs and glue at

2. Clean the boat where the glue will be put. Use alcohol and a cloth.

3. Mark the place of the tie-downs on the boat.


4. Mix the glue (Helaplast) and the hardener (RFE) and use a brush to put glue on the boat and on the tie-downs. Do not attach the tie-downs to the boat yet! We’ve used about 40 ml of glue for 8 tie-downs.

Materials needed.

5. Wait for half an hour, the glue needs to dry.

6. Again use a brush to put glue on the boat and on the tie-downs. This time let it dry for 5 minutes!

Glue on the boat.

Glue on the tie-down.

7. Once the glue is dry, press the tie-down to the boat. Press from the middle of the tie-down to the outside to let the airbubbles out.

8. Heat the tie-downs with a hair-dryer to about 60C and use a roller to press the last air-bubbles out.

9. Done! Leave alone for 72 hours to dry at room temperature.

The result.

And this is the result with packs attached:

With a daypack.

With the trekking backpack.