Then it dawned on me....
What if you were to use your dry suit as an actual dry bag to carry all of your gear as a method of raftpacking for serious whitewater and steep creek day boating, and forego any pack being tied down so as to improve your paddling response?
I can't be the first person to have thought of this, but since I haven't heard it suggested elsewhere, or seen video footage of fellow packrafters utilizing what I've conceptualized, I guess I'll assume I am for the time being.
Anyhow...with a couple hours of gear arrangements, thinking, then more gear arrangements, here's what I came up with.
As you can see, the concept centers on the same ideas Roman had by using the PFD as a carrying system, but expands on it to provide more capabilities. With this system, everything you will need for steep creek or big whitewater day trips is inside the dry suit, in the pockets of the PFD, or strapped to the outside.
CONCEPT 1: DRY SUIT GAINS MULTI-PURPOSE USE AS CARRY BAG ON APPROACH.
Collapsing your dry suit & compressing it to an appropriate carrying dimension is easily accomplished by first inverting the arms and legs to create a rectangular shape. If your suit has a relief zipper, that's about how far inward the legs should go. One of the arms will be tricky, since the entry zipper is involved, but the other can be completely taken inside the suit. The newly-converted dry suit is now filled with the following:
- Packraft (rolled up the smallest way possible)
- Extra clothing (fleece jacket, wind shirt, neoprene gloves, socks, etc.)
- First Aid kit
- Throw rope
- Thigh Straps (don't have 'em yet, but they'd be in there if I did)
- Inflation bag
- Floor pad (optional)
- CamelBak (the neck gasket provides a very convenient hydration port)
Outside the dry suit, you can strap the paddle, or simply carry it all in one piece. I would not recommend trying to cram a broken-down 4-piece paddle into the dry suit, as this can cause abrasions on the inside. Inside/on your PFD, keep your knife, repair kit, whistle, sunscreen, and food.
CONCEPT 2: PFD IS STRAPPED TO COMPRESSED DRY SUIT FOR USE AS HARNESS.
This area may need further tinkering, but as of now the suit is compressed horizontally by two short nylon compression straps, then compressed vertically with one longer strap which holds the PFD in place. The key design goal is to keep the weight of the suit-bag forward on the shoulders as opposed to falling back. The current weight of the whole system as pictured (~15 lbs. without food & water) is right at the cusp, in my opinion, of needing an additional straps to keep the PFD in the right place to properly distribute the load. With just one vertical strap, there will be a tendency to sag one way or another.
CONCEPT 3: SYSTEM OFFERS FAST/LIGHT APPROACH & DESIRED FRONT LOAD (NONE) FOR SERIOUS DAY BOATING.
Since we are obviously frozen up, and I have no outside travel plans for the winter, this system won't get a serious test until after breakup. That should be plenty of time to get the right sized straps and figure out the best load arrangement. As of now, this is designed purely with serious day boating in mind, which means Class III or higher and a dry suit, helmet and other safety gear are necessary. If successful, this set-up can deploy a paddler downstream without need for any load tied to the bow, which can improve boat response in fast, technical whitewater.
Then there's the obvious advantage of traveling fast & light, a consistent goal of most packrafters out there. While this system may work and prove comfortable for a 3-5 mile approach with a float all the way back to the start, I can't see it being relied upon for any further distance or time frame.
That being said...I have another idea rolling through the cranial dome in regards to this compressed dry suit. We shall see if anything manifests.
|Backside view of the PFD-suit-bag carry system, showing desired dimensions for the partially inverted/compressed dry suit. A much shorter strap will be needed.|