More Aire


Another hot day, so walked to Armley ‘beach’ and went as far as the weir near the industrial museum, then back upstream to find somewhere to get out. Carried the raft to the canal for the return trip.

Segment One

I live near the river Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool canal, and when I moved here I thought it would be great to be able to explore them on the water, but I don’t have a car so a traditional kayak or canoe is impractical. I had a vague memory of seeing a crazy folding bike and inflatable boat adventure, (Alastair Humphries, the initial story I remember seems to have disappeared)), which led me to learn about packrafts, and then how expensive they are. Then I found DIY packraft, and after some research, ordered a Skeena kit.

The kit comes as scored pieces of fabric, which are cut out and heat sealed together using a dodgy-looking instrument called a leather iron. It took a long time to build but I really enjoyed the process, it was great seeing it come together. The guidance on the website are really good, including videos, images and written instructions.

Folded packraft and dismantled paddle.
Rear half of inflated packraft showing seat
Inflated packraft and paddle on grass bank.

The maiden voyage was on the canal, nice tame water but getting in and out was a bit difficult.

Small bottle of prosecco 'launching' the packraft on its maiden voyage

I want to add an extra top-up valve somewhere accessible while afloat, as the temperature of the air inside drops as it cools in contact with the water so they usually need a few puffs after a while. Also required are some more attachment points at the rear for some line to grab on to. In future I might add a removable spray deck – I think my paddling technique has room for improvement as I do a lot of dripping, which gets on my legs in onto the floor, but I am quite short so I think that might have something to do with it. But I kind of like the simplicity of it being open.

View of packraft on canal

Paddle is from, ‘Mania’ model; it splits into 5 pieces so no sections are longer than the blades, and is length and feather adjustable. Buoyancy aid/PFD is an Astral V-Eight, I haven’t tried out its full function yet.

Packraft on canal under railway bridge.
Paddle in canal.
Front of packraft on canal about to go under a stone bridge.
Front of packraft on canal in front of a lock gate.