Packraft Expedition Training & Advanced Paddling Skills: 3- or 5-day Course
Due to the popularity of the 3-day Advanced Paddling course in May, we’ll also offer this as a 3-day course, with a 5-day potential extension for people wanting additional packraft expedition training. The cost is $255 more for the June three-day, but all lodging and food is included. People attending the three-day will be finished by 4p.m. on day 3.
Advanced Packrafting Course Overview
Do you want to take your intermediate packrafting skills to the next level? Would you like to learn more about expedition planning, from planning and packing to understanding GIS and paper maps so you can get after it in the backcountry? If so, our Packraft Expedition Training & Advanced Paddling Skills Course can take you to the next level.
Learn how to work together with other packrafters in fast-moving whitewater scenarios to ensure a safe expedition. Participants will hone their skills over three to five days on various rivers in Southwest Colorado. This intensive 5-day course is based out of Scullbinder Ranch. You’ll arrive the night before the course starts for orientation. Then you’ll spend the first two days focusing exclusively on paddling skills and drills. Days three through five will include more expedition planning, training and practice of all the skills you learned. The rivers we run depend on water levels in the spring in SW Colorado. We expect to spend one to two nights out, again depending on water flows. We will limit participation to eight max, and four max for the 3-day portion.
To be considered for this course, please fill out this pre-trip questionnaire (click to download) and email it to Doom. Thanks! This is a course for solid intermediate and intermediate-advanced boaters.
Cost: $2250 (or $1350 if you are doing just the first three days).
50% is required to hold your spot. The remaining balance will need to be received through 30 days prior to your course (by May 6th). The remaining balance is due immediately if you are registering inside of the 30 day window.
Minimum Age: 18
Multiple nights at Scullbinder Ranch starting with the night before the course. Shuttling to and from the rivers from the Ranch. High quality prepared gourmet meals made with locally-grown produce and meat for the duration of the trip while in the front country, plus bagged lunches, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and electrolyte mixes. High quality dehydrated breakfasts and dinners, lunches and snacks in the backcountry. We offer vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. We cannot accommodate celiacs. Glamping tents or the cabin, equipped with beds, comfortable memory foam mattresses and quality bedding. At night we will have slide show presentations on expedition planning and/or we will review videos of the skills you learned during the day.
Does Not Include
Rides to and from the airport (but we do offer shuttle services if needed). Adult beverages. Additional meals or dinner if the group chooses to go to a restaurant. Packrafts and packrafting equipment.
Who This is For
This course is for people who aspire to become advanced packrafters, but who already have solid intermediate packrafting skills. This means you need good paddling, backcountry and swiftwater safety skills and that you are reasonably fit.
✓Brett Davis: Class V boater, OG multi-sport adventurer, Asst. Director Outdoor Pursuits, Fort Lewis College, ACA Whitewater Kayak and Packrafting Instructor Trainer.
✓Steve “Doom” Fassbinder: OG backcountry multi-sport adventurer, ACA Level 3 Packraft Instructor.
✓Ben Phillips: Class V boater, repairs expert. Ben will just be teaching the repairs clinic for the course.
Course Details: The Animas River & Other TBA Rivers – What You Need to Know
What to pack: Advanced Packrafting Specific Gear Checklist
The goal of this expedition and advanced paddling course is twofold: 1) to develop the skills you need to plan, manage and lead an expedition, and 2) to advance your paddling, group management on the river, river reading and other river skills. We strive to give you the tools you need to do bigger and more exciting adventures on your own, and to turn any blue line or blob on a map into a trail.
The first two to three days of this course will be intensive skill learning and practice. The last two to three days we will do a multi-day adventure to put those skills to practice. Due to the ever-changing and inconsistent spring flows of Southwest Colorado, the river we run and the time we spend on that river for the multi-day adventure will be TBD until the weeks before the course. We will constantly keep the team updated, and we will have a group discussion. We have various rivers to choose from.
Advanced Paddling Skills:
✓Technical and complex strokes
✓Dancing with the river: running big waves and laterals.
✓Managing vertical drops
✓Paddling a expedition loaded boat in whitewater
✓How to read whitewater
Advanced Expedition Planning
✓Using online resources: GIS, USGS water gauges, Google Earth, etc
✓Using paper maps and navigation in the field
✓Trip planning & logistics
✓Expedition pack lists
✓What to pack and how/where to pack it
✓Expedition vs. personal items
✓Expedition food planning and prep
✓Leave No Trace practices in the backcountry
✓Managing your backcountry camping and boating gear
✓How to find a good camp
✓Time management skills
✓How to efficiently transition from the river to camp
✓Read & run style boating
✓Reading whitewater/hazards and avoiding them
✓Scouting and decision-making
✓Expedition group dynamics
✓Group downstream travel technique & communications
✓Eddy hopping, traveling in groups. How to travel down a river safely by eddy hopping in groups
✓Clear communication: hand signals
✓Setting safety and choosing challenges: review, practice and implementation
✓Basic optional roll instruction (not a focus of the course).
✓Backcountry repairs clinic
1) Swiftwater rescue training.
2) You must have the following whitewater gear: a self bailing or decked packraft, a PFD (rescue PFDs preferred, but not necessary), drysuit (a wetsuit is not appropriate), helmet, paddle, neoprene cap and neoprene pogies/gloves, throw rope, whistle and river knife.
3) When stepping up to continuous class III and IV whitewater, quick self-rescue skills are crucial for safety. We suggest participants be able to fully self-rescue in flatwater five times in under two minutes. Your ability to self-rescue will factor into your decision-making when considering certain rapids. Paddling fitness often declines over the winter, but many swimming pools let you bring your cleaned packraft in for training.
4) You must be comfortable paddling into and out of eddies in a Class III rapid.
5) You must be confident in Class III rapids. We will ask you to identify the six hardest runs you have ever done and at what CFS the rivers were running approximately. If you did a Class III, but it was extremely low water, than it probably was no longer a Class III.
6) **Not required**. But if you have video footage and can easily send us a video of you packrafting, that would help us better understand your skills in the water and help us figure out skills we can best help you with.
7) We will require a minimum of three group Zoom meetings with all the instructors and participants prior to the course.
About The Animas River
Most of the intensive training for this course will take place on up to Class III+ on the Animas River, with a lot of time spent on the Animas City Kayak Play Park. We’ll do various sections of the Animas to and from the Play Park.
Length of Play Park: 1.25 miles
Length of Daily Adventures: 5 to 8 miles
Difficulty: Class II+ III at 500-2000 CFS
Class III to IV 2,000 CFS and up.
High Water Flows: May-July
Flow: below 500cfs is low;
1,000-2,000cfs ideal for this course
Water Flow please see water levels
Please note, due to the nature of this course and the expense of securing advanced course guides and getting advanced course insurance in advance, our cancellation policy for this course differs slightly from our standard Cancellation Policy. A cancellation fee of 20% of the total cost will be charged in the event that you need to cancel your Packraft Expedition Training & Advanced Paddling Skills course for any reason up until 6 weeks (42 days) before the course. Cancellations made greater than 21 days (3 weeks) prior to a scheduled course will be refunded 50% of the agreed fee. Cancellations made within 21 days (3 weeks) of the scheduled course will be refunded 25% of the agreed fee. We strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance, which will recover most of your fees due to cancellation. Please discuss with your insurance provider or look at Travel Guard. We are not affiliated with Travel Guard. For more information on rescheduling options, please review our Terms, Conditions & Cancellation Policy.
Photos & Videos
Photos from the 2022 Learn Advanced Packraft Paddling & Expedition Skills Course, by Andy Burr