Our Best Gear Tips for Bikerafting Adventures
Deane Parker and two friends circumnavigated Kahurangi National Park in New Zealand’s South Island by mountain bike and packraft—about 600 km total. Deane’s company, Fluid Trails, produced the film, An Epic Bikerafting Adventure in Kahurangi National Park, using footage and stories from their trip.
His film was premiered at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival in June:
Here, Deane gives us their gear and packing suggestions. We hope you’ll take these tips and plan your own bikeraft adventure:
By Deane Parker
A long time ago I realised the better equipped I am to go into the backcountry, the more comfortable and safe it is. Sounds sensible, eh? As technology has etched itself firmly in the outdoor retail industry, a multitude of high tech, lightweight and super-practical knick-knacks have become available to help us.
Bikerafting is an extremely gear-intensive pursuit. It will put any hardened outdoor adventurer’s gear packing system to the test. The Fluid Trails Route was simpler from a gear point of view in that we didn’t need to lug tents or sleeping mats. We were able to take advantage of the huts on the trails, and planned nights at two towns and one friend’s place.
Also, New Zealand is a high-rainfall temperate climate, so drinking water is abundant. We never had to carry water with us.
Below is the gear we used, along with insight into how we carried it on both our bikes and packrafts:
Our Bikes and Bike Gear
All three of us chose different Salsa bikes for the trip. Rose was the smallest with the biggest wheels on her 29+ full-suspension Deadwood. Muel rode a Redpoint, a long-travel 27.5 full-sus, and I took a fully-rigid fat bike, the Mukluk. We all used the Salsa Anything cradle on our handlebars for carrying the packraft and some all of the four pieces of paddle.
Muel and I used a seat bag (Muel: Stealth Bike Bags, me: Revelate terrapin 8L) for additional clothing. Rose, riding a small frame, used a Thule Freeloader rack and put a 25L dry bag on the top with her full-length wetsuit, down jacket and sleeping bag.
I carried most of the bike repair kit in the frame bag of the Mukluk. We had no on-trail mechanicals. However, we had one major bike mechanical on the river when Muel went upside down on the last rapid on the Mokihinui River, snapping the lever end of his maxle on the forks.
I had snapped one of these levers before as well. My learning for that is to replace the quick-release maxles with the bolt-on version with a hex end—meaning nothing exposed to bang on.
Rose brought a motorbike tubeless tire plug kit for large gashes, which is a great addition on expeditions. We also had a standard bike plug kit, which is now an essential part of my repair kit. This makes a puncture in a tubeless a two-minute job, as opposed to wheel-off and tube-in.
Other repair gear of note: heavy-duty needle and nylon thread, 11&12 speed quick links, and a sturdy pair of Leatherman pliers.
Our Packrafts and Paddles
Our boats were Alpacka Raft Gnarwhals, in the self-bailing configuration. There is considerable debate as to the best deck/self bailing option. We ended up going with this choice because it was the lightest, and it allowed us to have quick entry/exit for filming and scouting rapids. I have a rafting/inflatable kayak background, and believe self-bailing is the best option for adventure boating.
Bikerafting expeditions require an internal storage zip, such as Alpacka’s cargo fly, to enable storing gear inside the pontoon.
Knowing the quantity of gear we would need to lug on the bike, I really wanted the lightest possible 4-piece paddle that could stand the rigours of shallow rocky rivers.
We were very happy with Aqua-Bound’s Whiskey Carbon 4-piece paddles. The Whiskey Carbon is the ideal bikerafting paddle: it’s feather light, has multiple feather angle choices, and has proven to be super durable.
Our Clothing and Camping Gear
We gave our clothing thorough consideration, due to the requirements of thermal and shell layers for packrafting:
- I chose to take a separate lightweight paddle jacket. Muel and Rose wore their rain jackets on the river.
- I took 1.5mm NRS wetsuit pants, Muel wore wetsuit shorts and polypropylene long johns. We both wore over trousers on top. Rose was concerned about getting cold on the river, so she wore a full-steamer wetsuit.
- We all brought True Fleece merino base layers, mid-weight hoodies and a down jacket, as well as merino or fleece pants and overtrousers for our bottom half.
- We used True Fleece beanies and hut socks.
- I bought some $10 flip flops at the Takaka supermarket, wore them out to dinner, then posted them home the next morning!
- We wore Tineli bike wear: Enduro shorts for Muel and I, and Trail shorts for Rose, along with their trail jerseys.
Our PFDs were Rasdex mutli-sport vests, which have ample pockets on the front for snacks and bits and pieces. On the back is a large pouch that accommodated my 18m throw bag.
The huts on the Old Ghost Road and Heaphy Hut are well-insulated and heated by log fires. Camp clothing could be lightened somewhat with the tinge of a night at a damp rock shelter and the changeable cooler temps of late spring in NZ.
Muel and I both had very lightweight sleeping bags (mine is 150gm down), while Rose took a much heavier bag. This led to a bit of anxiety heading up to the Gridiron Rock Shelters for me, personally. But, fortunately, the night proved to be mild and we got a good sleep—with me wearing every bit of clothing I had!
Our Electronics, Communication and Navigation
To be able to communicate with the two drone pilots that assisted us, we used the Garmin Inreach Explorer+. This also enabled us to send out regular tracking pings.
Navigation was not an issue given the familiarity of the terrain, but I have the whole topographic map series for the South Island downloaded on my iPhone.
We had two 12000mva power banks for charging our cameras and phones.
I shot most of the handheld and static footage with a Lumix GH4 with the 12-60 3.5/5.6 lens, using a Rode Video mic. Additional footage was shot with two GoPro Hero 5 black cameras. Dylan provided some footage shot on a Sony A6500 and drone work with a Dji Mavic Pro. Tony Glentworth provided footage shot on the Buller River with Dji Phantom ll.
I edited and graded the film on HitFilm Express.
You can connect with Deane on Instagram or his website: www.deaneparker.nz
(All photos courtesy of Deane Parker and Fluid Trails)
Contact our Wisconsin-based Customer Service team with your paddle questions today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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