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.
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.
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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Rough and Ready Creek is a tributary of the upper Illinois River. I fell in love with it after my initial visit in 2011 and subsequently returned three more times to paddle this uniquely special creek. My most recent expedition with NWRC guides Nate Wilson and Ryan Saevitz involved carrying our gear for a day and a half to paddle it’s remote upper reaches. The most challenging part of running this upper section is being there when the conditions are right. You need to go in...
We are proud to be home from the first commercial trip down the Chetco River in over a decade. Before the Biscuit Fire in 2002 Allen Wilson ran trips down the Chetco, and this spring NWRC was issued a permit to follow in his footsteps. Our trip started at the Babyfoot Lake Traihead on the eastern edge of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. We were all thankful that the Siskiyou Mountain Club had spent the past few years clearing this section of downed trees that had fallen after...