Basic Whitewater Packrafting Course - Seattle - 2024

Packrafting Course

Basic Whitewater Packrafting Course

This course provides a basic introduction to the gear and skills needed to navigate and safely paddle Class II rivers. Topics covered include river navigation, reading whitewater, basic whitewater paddling strokes and maneuvers, self and partner rescue, team boating, trip preparation and self care.


  • An evening lecture to introduce gear and provide a course overview
  • An evening lecture to introduce river hazards and safety skills
  • A river outing to practice swimming safety and rescue 
  • An evening lecture to introduce river navigation and paddling
  • A river outing to practice various paddling techniques
  • A river outing focused on river navigation and team boating

For students who have taken the Introduction to Flatwater Packrafting Course the gear lecture is optional.  The second and third lectures and all three field trips are required of all students.  

For students who have successfully attended the activities associated with this course, participation in one additional Class II river trip is required to earn the Basic Whitewater Course Badge.  


Because of our small committee size and permitted party sizes on field trip rivers, we have space for only 10 people.  We will accept people by application, giving priority to people who are willing and able to help our committee grow.  


The course will be open to applications.  To apply, follow the application link, fill out the questions, and submit.  

rEView OF APPLICations begINS:  NOV 30, 2023

Applications will remain open after this date, but on Nov. 30 we will start to review applications and contact applicants.


Spaces will be offered to selected applicants. You will have priority to register for 5 days; if you wait to register after these 5 days, you may lose your priority. 


The Packrafting Handbook by Luc Mehl is required reading.  This is an excellent, comprehensive resource for packrafters from beginner to expert.  Reading this book will provide an alternate, experienced voice, more details than we can give in class, and serve as a good reference through your packrafting career. 


river Swimming

  • Execute a flat jump into whitewater
  • Swim down a Class II rapid in the safety position
  • Transition into an aggressive swim, catch an eddy
  • Exit a river in a seal crawl
  • Ferry swim across a Class II river
  • Aggressive swim to a rope and hold in the position for rescue


  • Packraft inflation, rigging, deflation and care
  • Drysuit and other gear that you wear and their use and care
  • Perform a mock boat repair


  • Re-enter a stabilized boat in deep water
  • Swim 50 feet (15m) with a paddle in a Class II current 
  • Self-reentry from deep water in 90 seconds
  • Capsize while holding on to paddle and boat


  • Stabilize a swimmer's boat while they reenter
  • Tow a swimmer 30ft (10m) to their boat
  • Right a capsized boat and boat bump 30ft (10m) to a swimmer
  • Paddle with two paddles 50ft (15m)
  • Throw a rope to a swimmer and belay them to shore


  • Launch into current
  • Back-ferry across a Class II current
  • Downstream ferry through a boulder garden
  • Catch and exit from an onshore eddy
  • Catch and exit from a mid-stream eddy
  • Paddle through a small hole
  • Paddle through a Class II wave train
  • Manage boat speed by back-paddling and sideways slowing 

reading whiteWATER

  • Current, eddies, boulders, holes, wave trains
  • Wood hazards, strainers
  • Mid-stream and onshore eddies
  • Sieves, siphons, whirlpools
  • Channels and cobble bars
Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

Students will need to provide the following equipment.  

Whitewater packraft.  This means a boat with a deck or self bailing so that it does not fill with water.  Should be made out of “rugged” material.  Largely, that disqualifies any “light weight” rafts.  It must be rigged with bow and stern grab lines.  We have mostly chosen Alpacka Rafts, and can attest to their quality.  Other manufacturers make suitable rafts.  Thigh straps are not required, but many people like having them.

If you wish to order an Alpacka packraft, that should be done after getting into the class in December or January.  Other pieces of gear are more readily available and can be purchased after the gear meeting.

Dry suit.  Goretex breathes better, but is more expensive and heavier.  See the Kayak Academy's Buyer's Guide.

Whitewater Helmet.  Fit is most important.  Allow space for a hat or balaclava.  Consider how sunglasses fit.  Bicycle helmets or climbing helmets are not acceptable. 

PFD.  A wide range of options are suitable.  You might choose a light weight PFD if you anticipate carrying it, or choose a rescue PFD if you’re goal is more difficult rapids.

Paddle.  Single piece paddles are light and strong, but awkward to transport.  Four-piece paddles are easy to transport but weigh more.  Two-part paddles are the most common, reasonably light and easy to transport.  A two-part paddle can be carried inside most rafts.  However, on a backpack, two-part paddles are awkward. 

River shoes.  Most shoes that can get wet will do. Soft neoprene boots can work but will be uncomfortable for walking on river rocks. Functionally, your shoes should:

  • Offer good protection from rocks
  • Be oversized to allow extra socks.  
  • Drain water easily.
  • Not have loose laces or other features that may catch on something.

Whistle.  If you don’t own one, the Storm Whistle is effectively loud.

Warm Layers:  The outdoor layers that you use for other sports likely work well.  

Deck Bag / Dry bags:  For storage of equipment on and in the boat.  We find the expedition bow bag to be super useful and recommend it.  You can make do with several dry bags.

Repair Kit:  An adequate repair kit comes with Alpacka Rafts.  If your raft does not come with such a kit, anticipate putting one together.

Hand Protection:  Some combination of warm paddling gloves, pogies, and blister protection.

Course Materials

You must register for this course to see course materials.