Explore further with Whitefish company’s packable rafts
Story by Molly Priddy | Photography by Heather Cauffman
When potential adventurers look at maps of Northwest Montana, they typically focus on the trails running through the national forests, national parks, and wilderness areas to determine where their journey will take them.
But now thanks to a local company, that map can include the waterways and lakes of this corner of the state, through lightweight, packable, inflatable rafts that hikers can carry with ease.
Gail and Ben Fassnacht started Montana Packraft – a company in Whitefish that rents packable rafts – a couple years ago after Gail was exploring the Bob Marshall Wilderness on her own and felt drawn to explore the water but didn’t have a tube nor any mules to pack a raft.
“There are amazing rivers in there,” Gail Fassnacht said. “I saw the need for packrafts.”
A packraft is what it sounds like: an inflatable raft that a hiker can pack into their bag for their journey. The Alpacka-brand rafts that Montana Packrafts rents weigh 4.7 pounds, or, as Gail said, about the same weight as a tent. No pumps are needed, because the rafts use air-inflation bags.
“It’s so doable,” she said. “The sense of freedom and creativity that comes with them – the trips you can come up with around here are pretty endless. You can do things you didn’t think were possible.”
Customers have used the rafts to float down popular rivers like the Middle and South forks of the Flathead River, as well as venturing into alpine lakes or rivers in Glacier National Park that are otherwise inaccessible.
Fassnacht’s recent trips have been day hikes with her young daughter to local lakes.
Already, the company is booked to rent its 10 boats all through July. Rentals come with the raft, paddles, personal flotation devices, a basic repair kit, and a roll of Tyvek tape. A one-day rental costs $45; three to six days is $30 per day; weekly rates are $200, with $25 per additional day.
“People are doing some creative stuff with it,” Fassnacht said.
For more information, call 406-544-7991, or visit www.montanapackrafts.com.