Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Packraft Handbook

Rate this book
The Packraft Handbook is a comprehensive guide to packrafting, with a strong emphasis on skill progression and safety. Readers will learn to maneuver through river features and open water, mitigate risk with trip planning and boat control, and react when things go wrong. Illustrated for visual learners and featuring stunning photography, The Packraft Handbook has something to offer all packrafters.

432 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2021

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Luc Mehl

1 book6 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
66 (92%)
4 stars
5 (7%)
3 stars
0 (0%)
2 stars
0 (0%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews
1 review
June 21, 2021
On January 13th of 2020, I tore my ACL, crumpled my meniscus, and did all sorts of damage to my knee. I had surgery and was on crutches for four months. I couldn't work my usual job of rope access welding for six months, and was on light duty for the next twelve. Compounding the injury, Covid-induced isolation made indoor activities and friends out of reach.

Although it was a stark year in many ways, I can honestly say I'm somewhat glad that I got injured because it allowed me to illustrate The Packraft Handbook. If it wasn't for a non-functional knee, I wouldn't have sat still long enough to give the book the attention it deserved. I poured myself into that book, obsessing over the project more than I'd ever obsessed over any art job in my life. The result, I believe, is that I helped make a truly gorgeous textbook that is packed with really great information and fun details.

Luc is a brilliant writer, hilarious storyteller, and is wildly earnest about packrarft safety. His knowledge, attentiveness, and wit made The Packraft Handbook a joy to illustrate. Even though it has nothing to do with anyone else's experience reading the book, I give The Packraft Handbook infinite stars for giving me a source of purpose, fun, and connection during an otherwise painful and grim episode. It absolutely carried me through a spring on crutches, a summer of canceled plans, and gave special joy to a fall of packrafting with a group of badass women who became some of my favorite humans.

I've loved packrafting for many years, but this book made me love it infinitely more. I hope it does the same for you.
May 26, 2021
Luc Mehl has gifted the packrafting community with what I would best describe as The Freedom of the Hills for packrafting. The Packraft Handbook is a comprehensive manual that seemingly covers all aspects of this rapidly growing sport. For folks new to packrafting, this book is an absolute must-read and will establish a solid foundation rooted in safety and respect. For folks who have been packrafting for a while, this book has much to offer whether it be fine-tuning their paddling skills or figuring how best to plan for their next big expedition.

In addition to the many beautiful photos found in the book, what truly places it in a league of its own is Sarah Glaser’s illustrations that accompany the content throughout the book. Her thorough understanding of the concepts that Luc describes is made clear by these expert illustrations. I suspect her inbox will be full of work requests for similar outdoor-themed books going forward.

Bottom line, whether you’re just getting started with packrafting or are a seasoned veteran; do yourself a favor and go get this book. You won’t be disappointed!
July 28, 2021
A beautiful masterpiece both in how it is written and illustrated. Fully engaging, this book is impossible to put down! It is a fun, very informative, definitive guide that is for everyone - from the packraft curious to the expert adventurers. I especially love the treasure hunt of humor within the pages in addition to the wealth of knowledge now available at my fingertips. Huge praise to Luc and Sarah for creating a life saving resource for the community. It is worth its weight in gold.
June 13, 2021
My husband and I are new to packrafting and we bought this book to help us understand how to minimize the risks while getting into this sport. What a phenomenal resource for boating enthusiasts! Sarah's illustrations are wonderful and really help explain the concepts Luc has included in each section. This will be our go-to book for preparing for packrafting and other boating adventures.
1 review
May 17, 2021
I believe Luc Mehl’s Packraft Handbook is the most important book on packrafting since Roman Dial’s "Packrafting! An Introduction & How-To Guide" was published more than a decade ago. It’s the book packrafters have been waiting for: a comprehensive guide to packrafting, both approachable for newcomers and deep enough to satisfy experts.

Luc’s text and the many engaging illustrations share the friendly, unpretentious feel for which the packrafting community is known. The book provides step-by-step instructions for advanced paddling techniques, clear discussion of river characteristics, and insights into river running strategy. It does beginners an invaluable service by revealing the mindset of someone with an expert understanding of packrafting techniques and safety skills. This plays a vital role in trip success, on and off the water.

One of the challenges of developing a culture of safety is getting people comfortable talking about their mistakes, so others have an opportunity to learn from them. You’ll find no stigma about discussing close calls in The Packraft Handbook, where some of the world’s most accomplished packrafters share moments where they relied on luck more than they might have liked (the author right up there with them).

As a beginner mountaineer, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills served as my climbing bible and the book to which I referred interested friends. The Packraft Handbook will play this role for me in packrafting. I know that I will refer back to it often as I continue to develop my own packrafting skills. Whether you are contemplating buying your first packraft, or a confident packrafter upping your game in Class IV rapids with experienced friends, this book is for you.
June 13, 2021
This book is so much more than a pack-rafting how-to. It delivers in simple, well-organized descriptions and graphics, a lifetime of boating experience that not only prepares the new pack-rafter that I am, but reinforces a full quiver of useful tips for anyone playing in and around the water. As a 20-year SAR pro and swiftwater rescue technician, I kept expecting to find an omission or some nuance that reflected the inevitable bias or dogma that usually finds its way into such books. This book avoids all that, while being comprehensive and careful in its presentation. A great effort that will no doubt result in legions of happy paddlers, and more than a few lives saved.
2 reviews
July 22, 2021
In 2006 I was one of those people who heard packrafts were basically a fun, accessible way for hikers to cross and float rivers. We were completely wrong about the risk factor, and although the community has come a long way, this book fills a critical need for high quality education. I'm so lucky to have stumbled into some whitewater safety training before anyone got hurt, and now the Handbook is continuing to expand my knowledge and skills. The safety education in this book is fantastic. My field is public health, and I think Luc and Sarah are very skilled at illustrating and communicating their objectives to build a #cultureofsafety. Also, it's fun to read.
Profile Image for Haley J.
1 review
August 20, 2021
I just taught a youth packrafting course and reviewing this book beforehand was critical. Despite packrafting for many years, I still learned a lot from reading this book. And it made me a significantly better teacher. There were so many great nuggets of knowledge presented in such a digestible manner that I found myself directly repeating some of Luc's words and phrases. I also found myself thinking directly about some of Sarah's illustrations to help physically, verbally and conceptually convey skills to this group of young women. Thanks for this great resource, can't recommend enough!!
July 10, 2021
Having just purchased packrafts and tried them out on bigger water than we should have, we signed up for a course in basic packrafting. This book covers everything we learned in the course and much more. It's THE reference every packrafter should read. We read it cover to cover and will continue to refer to it on our packrafting journey.
Profile Image for Adam Jensen.
1 review
July 11, 2021
A brilliantly written introduction to packrafting. The book covers all essential aspects of packrafting, from boat designs, paddle strokes, and trip planning, enfused with a strong focus on safety.

I'm halfway through the book, and it's already made me a better packrafter.

A must-read for beginners and experienced packrafters alike!
1 review1 follower
June 8, 2021
On behalf of Stikine Packrafts inc:

We just recieved @lucmehl 's fantastic new book. "The Packraft Handbook". We can not recommend this book enough. This book is a complete work and an absolute Master Class on the subject of packrafting. Nothing is left short in here. If you plan on spending time in a packraft, THIS IS THE BOOK!!!

The Packrafting community owes people like @lucmehl a debt of gratitude for personally shaping the safety and planning culture surrounding packrafting.

This book is simply phenomenal.
June 9, 2021
Dang...I never thought a book about packrafting could be such an engaging read, but Luc Mehl's THE PACKRAFT HANDBOOK Is fabulous! Just picked it up yesterday and I've already read 80 pages and committed myself to lots more wet re-entry practice. If you're into boating, safety, risk assessment, and/or trip planning, regardless of your skill level, this is well worth a look!
2 reviews
June 9, 2021
I picked up my book from Luc yesterday and after looking through it I am already thinking about how I can use it to educate my kids on the culture of safety. I believe Luc's project will help many readers learn to both love exploring the outdoors and always come home to share that love with others.
July 10, 2021
I’m new to pack rafting and found The Packraft Handbook to be extremely helpful. I love the layout of the book and the illustrations are really awesome as well. I think of this book like a Bible, I’ll have to come back to it as I advance in my pack rafting journey. Well done!
Profile Image for Sarah.
7 reviews2 followers
June 6, 2021
This is the only handbook you'll ever read that you can't put down! The artistic creativity interwoven into this well written compete guide keeps you engaged, and helped me to absorb and remember the material. I also appreciated the added highlights of the history of the sport, as well as the personal stories. A must buy for any paddler.
Profile Image for Steve Boyce.
1 review
June 30, 2021
This is a solid 5.0. This book is the absolute ultimate Packraft resource. Unbelievably well written and amazingly rich in illustrations. Safety is a clear priority for this author and I’m grateful for this. He has not only covered all of the bases, he’s kept it fun and entertaining while offering sobering stories about what can go wrong. This is perhaps the most well-written handbook I’ve ever read. I was blown away. Thank you Luc Mehl!! Start and end at home!
Profile Image for Bologna_frog.
109 reviews1 follower
August 5, 2021
Alpacka should bundle this with every boat they sell.

Yes, absolutely learn to raft from your friends and take that safety class.
But also look up your questions in this book.
Luc has had many experts vet this book. You're not just getting his opinion, you're getting a whole village worth of wisdom.
July 27, 2021
This is not a boring handbook! It definitely has a 2021 modern feel to it, which is so refreshing since most whitewater books seem to be from the 80s and 90s.

I am a Class V whitewater paddler and I gained a lot from reading this. My favorite part of the book is how it is structured--the author thoughtfully considered the order and layout of the topics. This allows the reader to dive into a topic in a bite-sized sitting.

Each topic includes GENIUS illustrations--the illustrations add so much clarity to each discussion and many of them were new to me even though I have read a lot of illustrated whitewater books. Wow. These illustrations are amazing.

Another one of my favorite features is the "Pro Tips" insets which illustrate concepts through a deeper dive which often include true stories from past trips.

It's fun to read cover-to-cover. Easy to understand. The book is organized so well that it makes a great reference to have on the shelf. The illustrations alone are worth the price.
Profile Image for Chris Buck.
3 reviews
August 14, 2021
This book was so informative, I tabbed and highlighted it just to be able to reference in the future. I can really appreciate the dedication to safety throughout the book. Incredible read and fun illustrations!
1 review1 follower
June 16, 2021
The Packraft Handbook

Informative, Entertaining, Humble. For a normal how-to book (especially in the outdoor/adventure space), you can pick two. If you're lucky. The Packrafting Handbook is all three, and because of that, it will save lives.

Imagine picking up an introduction to SCUBA textbook and having it make you laugh and cry by turns, and just overall be so memorable that you crush your open water test after reading it. That's what this book is for packrafting.

Luc is a scientist and so it's no surprise that he builds the book off of a foundation of data and first principles. But he also sprinkles in colorful anecdotes and photos like punctuation marks--underscoring and enlivening by turn. Knowing a bit about his background as an adventurer, I'm sure he could have done this just with stories of his own. Instead, he draws in many or most from the broader network of packrafters. Could he have told his own tale of repairing a gash in the field? Sure, and an ego-driven author might have done just that, but then we would have missed out on a delightful story of an impish grizzly marauding through an empty camp. But more importantly, doing so centers the community not the author, thereby advancing the central goal of the book: advancing a Culture of Safety.

Then there are Sarah's illustrations. First off, they are hilarious. I'm cracking up just looking at the portraits she drew of herself and Luc on the back cover. Luc delighting in a roll of tape and a graph was a particularly nice touch. But the illustrations are more than just the cherry on top. They are what stick with me most--a river laid out as conveyor belts; the downstream hand grabbing at edges; even the easter eggs like orca breaching during wet re-entries. *Chef's kiss*

The task of this book was a delicate push-pull task of celebrating an adventure sport while curing the hubris of the adventurers. It succeeds even beyond my lofty expectations.

Here's to starting and ending at home.
5 reviews
July 13, 2021
Luc and Sarah have created a unique whitewater instruction handbook, I wouldn't say that it's justfor packrafting. The concepts that this book explains are applicable across crafts and it would behoove all whitewater paddlers to page through this book. Sarah's illustrations really hit home what eddy lines mean, why kayaks can be tippy when entering the current and more!

I've been a whitewater rafting guide for 7 years and as more of my friends get into packrafting, this is an invaluable resource to get them started. I wish there was something like this when I got started!
Profile Image for Luc Mehl.
Author 1 book6 followers
December 8, 2021
Can I review my own book?

How about I review how awesome it was to work with Sarah K. Glaser on this project. We spent a year trading text and illustrations. Sarah was the perfect partner ... her background in whitewater kayaking, then packrafting, and her talent as an illustrator ... allowed us to create the most inclusive and for-visual-learners book on the market.

I couldn't be more proud of this book and I hope it helps you safely enjoy the world of packrafting.

1 review
July 27, 2022
This is an exceptional book. On picking it up, one’s immediate reaction will likely be, “durn, this is heavy.” And it’s reasonable to presume that it is because of the paper stock used to present the high quality graphics and pictures. After several readings, however, I am convinced that it’s weight is due to the ten plus years of Melh’s Alaska experience where packrafting was born and developed. That he also fell in with and learned from more experienced packraft pirates brings their weight of experience along for the float.

Experience to be useful to others still needs to be methodical in its presentation, clear, and engaging. The team of Luc Melh as writer and illustrator Sarah Glasser are a perfect compliment. Getting text and graphics to work together in a woven curriculum is not easy to pull off; everything here is clear, deeply informative, occasionally quirky, and always fun.

The sections and chapters are well organized. Packraft equipment; how rivers work and how to navigate them; backpacking and rafting, and so much more. But the heart of the book is its sober review of what can go wrong and assessing risk. The chapter on risk alone is worth the price of the book, and its concepts have relevance for adventures far from the river.

The rivers don’t care if we love them or if we drown and gently float downstream. We can be grateful that Luc Melh and Sarah Glasser cared enough to risk the time and effort to bring this wonderful book to the public.
Profile Image for Danny Eagan.
3 reviews
February 1, 2022
Luc's many years of paddling experience, attention to detail, and scientific background ooze from the thoughtful pages of this book. It's hard to imagine the hours that went into researching and preparing for this book, but I'm sure glad that he spent them. Care has been taken to explain concepts clearly and succinctly, and the the stories, tips, and photos sprinkled throughout are welcome additions to the theoretical explanations presented. The illustrations are fantastic and reminiscent of William Nealy's excellent book, "Kayak." Well worth keeping close for the beginner, intermediate, or advanced packrafter — something in here for everyone.
Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.