Packrafting local waters.
Bozeman summers are short and full of activity. So why add yet another option to the mix? Because variety is the spice of life, that’s why, and trying new things is fun. This summer, try packrafting. Here’s how to get started.
Rent a Boat
The last five years have seen packraft technology develop quite a bit, making the sport more accessible to more people. Before you dive in head-first, rent a rig through backcountrypackrafts.com. This online service will mail you a raft (and other gear if you need it), and once your adventure—and if you do it right, an adventure it will be—is over, you simply pack the raft back up and send it back. This is a great way to demo before committing to a purchase. Once you’re ready to buy, head to the Barn on Huffine.
Choose a Float
Traditionally, packrafters carry inflatable rafts on their backs, deep into wilderness settings before filling their crafts with air and floating out. While the packrafting capital of Montana is probably the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, there are plenty of options around here, too, for packrafters of all skill levels.
If you’re just getting started, a mellow float near a popular trail is your best bet. For beginners, Bear Trap is a great test piece—below the Kitchen Sink, that is. Walk up from the trailhead, hiking as far as you’d like before inflating your boat and floating out. Bring a packable fly rod and pull over on the far side to fish water inaccessible to other walk-in anglers.
To up the ante a bit, head to Taylor’s Fork south of Big Sky. The high-alpine snowpack should provide steady flows well into summer, so if you play your cards right, this scenic, ephemeral float will be yours for the taking. Drop a car at the highway and then drive up the drainage as far as you want before putting in; the local gurus call this “lift-served packrafting.” For a calorie-burning multisport option, drop a bike at the takeout instead.
For a true wilderness float—and a classic packrafting experience—pack your craft along the Stillwater trail in the Beartooths and float out. There will be some portages along the way, but the scenery is unrivaled, and the out-and-back trail goes up to 20 miles into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, so you can make the excursion as big or small as you’d like. This kind of trip takes planning and wilderness-safety skills; if it’s above your pay grade, go with an experienced partner or save it for a later date.
As with all new activities, packrafting has its barriers to entry—but that’s no reason to write it off. If it’s something you’ve wanted try, now is the time to give it a go. See you on the water.