The Rapid Raft from Uncharted Supply Co. is the lightest and most packable raft to ever be made available to the public.
Designed to fulfill a military request for rapid deployment and re-packing for fluid transition to the water, the Rapid Raft is an efficient and trustworthy mode of transport. Its durable and ultralight construction make it perfect for a variety of uses including:
Emergency water landings
This extremely durable 3 pound raft inflates in seconds and can hold 400 pounds.
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I have been looking for a solution for a long time to get on the water in hard to get to areas (remote fishing, duck hunting small ****** ponds, etc). The only options available have been to bulky and cumbersome. This raft is the perfect solution! Folds up to the size of a loaf of bread, no pump needed, and fast to deploy! I was a little concerned with still having to carry a paddle of some kind to use it, then I saw a video online about using webbed swimming gloves to paddle. It's the perfect solution! Now I just tuck the gloves under the buckle (with a self-inflating seat pad as well) and everything I need to get out on the water in the same small package. I'll probably add a length of hose to make adding air easier, but not critical.
I've been using this raft for a few years now, mostly around the southwest US, but have also taken it up to the PNW and northern Rockies. This is a serious contender for a backpacking-optimized packraft and I thought I would share a few thoughts for potential buyers.
For context, I have been packrafting for ~8 years and own multiple different packrafts, including products from Alpacka, Klymit and Supai Adventure Gear. I've taken whitewater-class packrafts down the Gates of Lodore, ****'s Canyon of the Snake, The Gunnison Gorge, the Salt River wilderness section, and the Grand Canyon. I've also used packrafts extensively on hiking/boating combination trips, on the Flathead, Escalante, San Juan, and for canyoneering exits in the Grand Canyon.
I bought this packraft because I was not happy with the boats on the lightweight side of the spectrum. Alpacka has wonderful, fully kitted out options for whitewater, but the boats have gotten increasingly heavy (in relative, backpacking terms, a few ounces and pounds more than you'd like to carry, if you don't need the capability). And until Alpacka came out with their recent updates to the Scout and Refuge, the lightweight options available in the US were primarily the Klymit LWD and the Supai Adventure Gear boats. The Klymit and Supai are great if the goal is to carry the absolute lightest raft possible, with little consideration to performance. But I wanted a boat that was somewhere in the middle - more comfortable, durable and capable than the absolute lightest boats, but lighter than the 8-12 lbs of full whitewater packrafts. That's where the Uncharted Rapid Raft came in.
The rapid raft has an oversize stern similar in geometry to whitewater packrafts, which gives much more stability than a boat that has equal volume stern and bow. If inflated fully, the boat also has some lateral stiffness, unlike the klymit/supai. Both of these factors make the rapid raft much more usable in mild Class II whitewater. The tubes are not very big, so the boat gets easily swamped, but its much better than the other lightweight options for mild river travel. It also uses more durable fabric than the klymit/supai, and offers a much more comfortable seating position (in the super light boats you tend to starfish rather than sitting upright). This makes it more comfortable for extended river travel.
The big improvement however lies in the rolltop closure. This feature is touted for rapid inflation, in practice its a little awkward to scoop air in, and its not like traditional packrafts are really slow to inflate TBH. But I was interested in the rolltop not for inflation, but as a lighter, simpler, less expensive and failure-prone alternative to the tizip for cargo storage. Storing gear inside the tubes allows you to keep your deck uncluttered, protect your cargo from getting wet, and lowers your center of gravity to again improve the boat's handling. Its a game changer for backpacking, and not a feature that's really available on other lightweight boats (note that since my purchase, alpacka has released an updated scout model and new Refuge model that offer cargo storage, however both are much more expensive than the Uncharted offering).
Taken together, the improved design, handling, durability and cargo capacity are worth the weight penalty vs the other ultralight options. Its a really well designed package. At this point my Supai boat has been relegated to trips where there is just a water crossing (vs water travel), and weight trumps all. But if I'm planning to travel the river for some distance and want better handling and cargo hauling, without necessarily needing full whitewater capability, the rapid raft is my boat of choice.
A few suggestions to Uncharted: I didn't initially take the rapid raft seriously because of the military/tactical/survivalist oriented marketing. In my opinion its got a really nice balance of features for backpacking, but it might not be an obvious choice for backpackers because the majority of that market is typically not shopping milsurp/hunting/survival oriented brands. A second branding that is specifically targeted to the backpacking market might really pay off. I also think there's a whole suite of add-ons you could potentially offer to rapid raft buyers, including things like:
-an on-the-go/emergency patch kit
-a seat sized for the rapid raft
-cargo drybags sized for the rapid raft tubes (note to buyers, there's a few makers on etsy offering tall skinny dyneema drybags that are compatible with the rapid raft, in the event Uncharted decides not to come out with their own offering)
-a waterproof "bow bag" sized for the attachment points on the front of the raft, for on the go gear storage
-cobranding with the flextail tiny pump which is ideally sized for inflation
The raft is very light so with that in mind you are going to get some difficulties tracking when paddling. I would have liked to have seen a detachable Skeg or fin on the base but it is super stable on the water. The stowing points are strong and well positioned I added some adjustable straps for ease of use and some bungee. My own modifications were a food grade silicon extension to the inflation hose which really helps keeping the raft topped up. I also added a 20mm closed cell foam floor which rolls up small and gives insulation and rigidity to the floor which helps paddling on your knees. All in all a great raft and packs down into a waterproof back pack really well. Really impressed with the quality of the materials.