Urban Packrafting: Let the Adventures Begin

Packrafting began in remote wilderness areas. But why should packrafters stay there? Why not bring these versatile little boats into urban areas, too? Filmmaker and outdoorsman Neil Irwin agrees…

Packrafting in the heart of Amsterdam in its extensive canal system.


Packrafting originated in the backcountry—rough-and-tough wilderness areas where having a light, rugged and packable boat was the perfect solution.

But there’s no need to keep these in the backcountry! Not when there are so many alluring urban waterways to explore.

Filmmaker Neil Irwin collected a couple paddle partners and hit Amsterdam’s legendary canals to capture an urban packraft adventure on film.

“Perspective: An Urban Packraft Adventure”

Packrafting is a leisurely, self-paced way to explore a city from the water instead of the streets. It gives a completely different perspective.

Neil’s short film “Perspective: An Urban Packraft Adventure” showcases what makes urban packrafting such a unique way to do this. Neil says,

“Seeing the city from this perspective, along with the freedom of movement travelling in this way brings, is very intimate and revealing. Packrafting is an ideal way to explore the less explored.”

His two “stars” in the film are veteran paddlers Jacob Kastrup Haagensen and Annie Le Evans.

Jacob carries his packraft and paddles on his back through the city—less than 10 pounds!


A Denmark native, Jacob is an experienced urban packrafter. Growing up in the city, he naturally turned to the urban waterways for his paddling, and has packrafted in several of Europe’s largest cities.

Annie Le Evans, based in Scotland, is a packrafter known for her wilderness excursions all over the world. Doing this film was her first taste of paddling in an urban environment. She shares:

“Being able to paddle into the heart of a bustling city was an idea I hadn’t pursued before. I felt like I was in a different world. Getting away from the city and onto the water we were on our own, able to go about exploring at our own pace without any distractions.”

Annie prepares to inflate her packraft. In just a few minutes she’ll be ready for the water.


The film documents the pair as they cycle through Amsterdam (with their packrafts and paddles in their backpacks) and find the perfect spot to launch on the water. As they paddle, they’re seeing the same parts of the city but this time away from the crowds and from a new vantage point.

Watch the short film “Perspective: An Urban Packraft Adventure” on Sidetracked.com.

Why Amsterdam Is an Ideal Urban Packrafting Destination

Amsterdam’s 60+ miles of canals make this city ideal for exploring from the water. Add 1,500 bridges, 90 islands and hundreds of historical buildings that line the banks—you won’t run out of sights to see very quickly.

The sea and canals are part of the culture and history of this city that’s almost 800 years old. Many of the current principle buildings date back to the 1600s. Neil says,

“Amsterdam is renowned for being a cycling city. Being very flat, it may not be the number one destination to head to for adventure. However, it’s abundant waterways make it a great city to explore from the water.

“Amsterdam’s streets run alongside some of the main canals, so navigating around is fairly straightforward in comparison to the cycleways that crisscross around the city.

Amsterdam is a great city to explore from the water.


“It’s certainly a stark contrast getting up close and personal to some of the vessels that lay dormant in the water, varying of different shapes and sizes. Houseboats, converted barges, small sunken pleasure boats, there seemed to be an assortment scattered around the canals.

“Having spent the afternoon on the water, it was easy to see how this notion of urban exploration on the waterways could be transferred to other cities and urban environments.”

What Makes the Packraft the Perfect Urban Boat

The most obvious reason a packraft is the perfect urban boat is its portability. It rolls up tightly and weighs under 10 pounds. It’ll fit in your suitcase for the airplane and in your backpack while you head for the water.

Moving from one paddling spot to another is a breeze when your gear is so light!


Especially when partnered with a 4-piece kayak paddle, a packraft is the ultimate lightweight boat you can bring anywhere.

In this film, Jacob uses the Manta Ray Fiberglass 4-piece paddle. Annie uses the Shred Hybrid 4-piece paddle.

Our newest high-end performance paddles have just been released in 4-piece models, too: Whiskey Carbon 4-piece and Whiskey Fiberglass 4-piece.

Watch the short film “Perspective: An Urban Packraft Adventure” on Sidetracked.com.

(Other sources: amsterdam.com; Alpacka Raft blog)

Contact our friendly customer service team today with your paddle questions: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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