Traft pitches a tent on an expedition-ready packraft
The growth of stand-up paddleboarding has brought to market some interesting accessories, including a few paddleboard-top tents from the likes of Hold Up and outdoor-survival personality Bear Grylls himself (okay, his team, anyway). An inflatable stand-up paddleboard can pretty easily double as a mattress, so why not? Well, because if you're going on a paddling/camping expedition for days on end, you might prefer sitting over standing. So what about a raft-tent? That type of day/night system is exactly what the folks at Utah's Traft are hard at work developing.
SUP-camping seems like a fun way to spend the night on an island or water-access piece of coastline, but we can't imagine standing and paddling day after day on a longer expedition. We'd much rather sit, and we'd much rather use a versatile vessel designed specifically with multi-day expeditions in mind.
The packraft is the quintessential multi-day land/water expedition vessel, small and light enough to carry in a backpack but burly enough to take on still and rough waters alike. It isn't a new concept, but it is one that's attracted attention in recent years, with more and more manufacturers and models hitting the market and alternatives like the Trekkayak floating out there.
With its lightweight, durable construction, the packraft opens up opportunities for all kinds of trips, from hike-in paddling expeditions, to paddle/hike backpacking trips, to bikepack-rafting and more. Those trips that include overnight camping demand some type of shelter, and an integrated packraft-tent feels like a natural solution.
Traft qualifies its own packraft design as a TPU inflatable tough enough for oceans and Class I-IV rapids, as well as lazier trips on still waters. The freestanding tent secures snugly to the raft's D-rings, and an ergonomic inflatable floor pad slides over top the flat raft floor, creating a cozy tent with integrated inflatable sleeping area.
The Traft tent can be used for overnight camping on land or as a doors-open sunshade on water, the latter while you're floating calmly on a hot, still day and not while battling rapids or logging miles through rough, windy coastal weather. Traft takes care to stress that the tent is not to be used for sleeping on water, for obvious reasons. Since the tent is a freestanding dome, it can also be set up without the raft, though it doesn't appear like there's a footprint so it'll be more of an open tarp-style shelter.
Traft is currently experimenting with different weights of TPU and is planning on releasing its packraft-tent system in two sizes. The larger 102-in (259-cm) raft will be sized for paddlers between 5-ft 11-in and 6-ft 4-in (180 and 193 cm) and have an estimated weight of 8.5 lb (3.9 kg), with the tent adding another 5.75 lb (2.6 kg) and the inflatable sleeping insert adding a pound (454 g). The 96-in (244-cm) model will be sized for paddlers between 5-ft 2-in and 5-ft 10-in (157.5 and 178 cm) and weigh in at roughly 8 lb (3.6 kg) for the raft, 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) for the tent and a pound for the sleeping insert.
Just like SUP tents, a packraft-tent looks pretty slick on paper, and the idea of using the inflatable as a comfy mattress sounds intuitive enough, but we wonder if the system really offers any advantages over just using an individual packraft, tent and sleeping pad. We'd actually need to do a little packrafting with the Traft to get a real feel for its advantages and disadvantages, but on paper, the weight doesn't seem like an advantage. We would hope for a weight savings by combining two pieces of gear into a single system, especially since the tent uses the raft as its floor, but you can easily find a fully enclosed, freestanding one- or two-person tent under 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) and a sleeping pad of a pound or two (450 or 900 g).
In terms of cost comparison, it will really depend what you're shopping the Traft against. The company estimates pricing at US$900 for the packraft, $280 for the tent with dry bag, and $150 for the sleeping pad, which seems in line with the market. It's possible to find a cheaper combination of packraft, backpacking tent, dry bag and sleeping pad, but it's also possible to pay more.
Traft is hoping to begin deliveries of the first-edition models in Northern Hemisphere summer and is working on retrofit kits to bring its tent hardware to existing packraft and stand-up paddleboard models. It also has a Kickstarter campaign in its plans. Those interested in getting updates can sign up on Traft's website, linked below.