Chetco River Kayak & Equipment

by Zachary Collier

Last week we returned to the spectacularly beautiful Chetco River. This mighty river has it's headwaters in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and flows 56 miles to the Pacific Ocean. We are lucky to outfit and guide a few intrepid groups down this river each year.

Anyone who has been down the Chetco will talk about it's amazingly clear water, jaw dropping scenery, and the hard work it takes to get there.

Developing the techniques and equipment to run this style of trip has been a fun project for us. On all of our Chetco trips we carry our overnight equipment in our inflatable kayaks so gear needs to be small and light. When we do the wilderness section of the Chetco we carry all the gear on our backs 10 miles to the river so it needs to be especially light for those trips.

SOTAR ATV and Watershed Dry Bags

When we started running trips on the Chetco we worked with SOTAR to design the ATV kayak to carry equipment and be stable while running narrow chutes and steep drops. These are the yellow boats in the video above.

We also talked with Watershed Dry Bags and learned about their Recce Pack which is larger than their more popular Patrol Pack and the perfect size for the ATV kayaks. Our custom Recce Packs are the black dry bags in the front of the kayaks in the video.

SOTAR ATV in Conehead Rapid on the Chetco River

SOTAR ATV in Conehead Rapid on the Chetco River

After a few trips on the Chetco with this equipment we were happy with everything but the weight. The combination of SOTAR ATV Kayak, Watershed Recce Pack, and ALPS Commander External Frame Pack is around 42 pounds.

AIRE BAKraft Expedition and Hyperlite Backpacks

Over the past year we've been testing equipment that uses Cuben Fiber, a strong and lightweight material originally developed for racing sails used for the America's Cup.

AIRE has been developing a lightweight kayak using Cuben Fiber called the BAKraft Expedition. I tested this boat all winter including a first descent down the North Fork of Rough and Ready Creek. This past week I took it down the Chetco for the first time and was thrilled. At only 10 pounds it is easy to carry down to the river and portage around rapids. The boat is well designed for running difficult rapids.

AIRE BAKraft Expedition with Hyperlite 4400 Porter Pack as backrest

AIRE BAKraft Expedition with Hyperlite 4400 Porter Pack as backrest

I've also been testing Cuben Fiber packs made by Hyperlite Mountain Gear in Maine. Their 4400 Porter has plenty of room for personal and group gear as well as gear loops on the outside that the AIRE BAKraft can be attached to while backpacking. Hyperlite also makes a stuff sack that goes inside the pack making it nearly waterproof. This combination is not as waterproof as the Watershed Dry Bags but the weight savings are significant.

The Hyperlite Porter Pack also works great as the backrest for the AIRE BAKraft. I'm excited about how this equipment works together for an efficient and lightweight combination for river trips that require a hike in. The total weight of the AIRE Bakraft, Hyperlite 4400 Porter Pack, and stuff sacks is under 13 pounds.


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Author

Zachary Collier

Owner of Northwest Rafting Company, Zach Collier combines international guiding experience in places like Siberia, Bhutan, and Chile with a natural business acumen for systems and logistics. Whether he’s on big water or in the back office, Zach strives to ensure NWRC offers exceptional whitewater and wilderness experiences for guests and guides alike.

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