Hybrid highs: the fun of combining two outdoors sports into one | Adventure travel

We get some humorous seems as we set off up the path from Pen-y-Cross at the foot of Snowdon. There are the standard crowds: gangs in matching T-shirts on a charity ascent, Brummie lads in trainers and baseball caps, {couples} in matching outside gear. And there’s us, with paddles and life vests connected to our dry bag rucksacks.

We’ve to elucidate a number of occasions: we’re going to inflate small rafts, paddle throughout Llydaw, the blue lake under the summit, trek down the valley to the place the Glaslyn River is sufficiently deep, then paddle on to Gwynant lake earlier than we begin strolling once more. My guides on this journey, Jason and Marianne Taylor of adventure company Tirio, inform me packrafting will not be new. In reality, Jason tells me, Royal Navy Lieutenant Peter Halkett began it in the 1840s, when he devised an ingenious rainproof cloak that will double as an inflatable boat. It had a constructive reception from Arctic explorers, however the navy refused to undertake the thought.

Now, a number of technological leaps down the street, we’re inflating our rafts (extra like rubber dinghies to me) on the lakeshore. Jason is a person after Halkett’s personal coronary heart: we use light-weight dry baggage to pump air in and these later double as holdalls. The method proves fast and problem-free, the packraft tools small enough and lightweight to not be an annoying burden.

The writer, left, and Jason Taylor, walking with their rafts on their backs.
The author, left, and Jason Taylor, carry rafts on their backs. {Photograph}: Marianne Taylor

One thing has occurred in the world of outdoors tools. It has grow to be lighter, harder and extra sturdy, largely by new supplies, however there have additionally been technological improvements (for instance, inflatable paddleboards and tents), plus new options to previous issues (the dry gown has reworked altering on a chilly British seaside). These developments are catapulting area of interest hybrid actions into the realms of mainstream chance.

In the world of inflatable rafts, the leap ahead has come by changing PVC in favour of new thermoplastic coatings (TPU). Sven Schellin, co-founder of German producer Anfibio tells me of different incremental advances: “We use glue-free welding as a result of glue is heavy. Plus, the new coatings are gentle and abrasion-resistant.” This has allowed the single-skin inflatable craft to come back in below two kilos, a weight that makes packrafting a sensible chance for anybody.

Outdoors individuals are at all times fast to undertake new concepts. In the summer season of 2020 I noticed closely laden cyclists on a Hebridean ferry who claimed to be mixing biking with rafting. Is that the subsequent step?

Rucksack with packrafting gear.
Rucksack with packrafting gear. {Photograph}: Jason Taylor

Jason is unconvinced. An engineer with a mountain rescue background, he has seen how the new hybrid sports draw individuals from completely different disciplines. “For those who come to packrafting from a whitewater kayaking background, like I did, the water risks are nicely understood. For those who don’t, you possibly can run into difficulties fairly simply.”

We hike all the way down to the Afon Glaslyn, the river’s unbelievable blue color arising from the stones beneath. Now we swap rafts. Jason will take the Anfibio Delta MX, I’m going to strive the American-made Kokopelli Rogue, whereas Marianne sticks with the Anfibio Alpha. The river is low and I’m attempting onerous to not snag and puncture mine. Jason is expertly negotiating the rocks whereas explaining one potential hazard of a kit-heavy hybrid sport. “For those who’ve acquired rather a lot of precious tools and also you get into difficulties, you may get into a monkey fist entice.”

I scrape over a boulder whereas a low-hanging department removes my hat. A monkey fist entice sounds dangerous however I don’t know what it’s. Jason explains: “The monkey fist entice is a coconut shell with a gap in it, simply massive sufficient for a monkey to slide a hand by and seize some rice. However then the monkey’s fist holding the rice is just too massive to get out the entice – until it drops the rice, which it is not going to.”

I bear in mind all the occasions I’ve risked my life to save lots of a bit of tools – and we’re not speaking £1,000 bikes. I’ve scrambled down cliff faces to retrieve a lens cap. I’m a monkey fist entice nightmare. My bike had greatest keep on land.

Jason Taylor packrafting with Crib Goch and Snowdon in the background.
Jason Taylor packrafting with Crib Goch and Snowdon in the background. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby

The mountain climbing and rafting combo, nevertheless, appears to make sense as we descend Snowdon. I like the change in tempo between strolling and paddling. “It additionally makes some journeys a lot simpler,” says Jason. “Estuaries grow to be satisfactory. In Scotland we hiked to the foot of Suilven in document time by paddling throughout two lochs.”

We slip quietly throughout the lake and I’m already questioning about different prospects. Packraft crusing?

“There are sails made particularly for packrafts …” says Jason. He sounds uncertain.

“One other monkey fist drawback?”

He grins. “Not likely: it’s simply that an umbrella is definitely less complicated and higher.”

That’s a well timed reminder: it’s not about procuring, however fixing sensible challenges. And the options might be easy, typically homespun. The spirit of all these sports, I reckon, is slightly bit William Heath Robinson, a person who knew all about the many makes use of of an umbrella.

Different new hybrid sports

Kayak fishing

Kevin Rushby kayaking off the Ceredigion coast.
The author paddling by the surf off the Ceredigion coast. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby

Inuit hunters will likely be stunned to listen to that kayak fishing is taken into account a brand new sport, but it surely undoubtedly is to me. The technological advances have include sit-on craft which can be broad sufficient to supply a secure platform, with rod holders and even pedal energy, so that you don’t have to make use of your arms for paddling. On prime of that come GPS wayfinders and fishfinders, though I’m not going to trouble with these – I need to catch a fish, not take residence a freezerful. Additionally, I need to be taught to learn the water, not be observing one more tiny display. I buy a Feel Free Moken 12 fishing kayak from Manchester Canoes, the place Duncan proves a helpful supply of info, including as I go away: “Bear in mind: should you don’t get moist, you’re not studying.”

The prospect of going out to sea with no information focuses my consideration. I test tides and wind power and course. “The sit-on kayaks are gradual,” Duncan had warned. “You’re not going to have the ability to paddle towards something stronger than a breeze, or an honest tidal present.”

After I get all the way down to the Ceredigion coast, I discover the wind is whipping in onerous. I get the boat out by the surf however I haven’t dared add a fishing rod – partly as a result of I’ve forgotten to deliver any means of lashing it to the hull. If it goes overboard, it is going to be misplaced. After I get again, I really feel I’ve realized rather a lot, with out even casting a line. I did a kayak journey on the sea alone. My first fishing expedition, nevertheless, nonetheless awaits.

Rock-climbing, mountain climbing and tenting

View of Scar House Reservoir near Pately Bridge, North Yorkshire, UK
View of Scar Home Reservoir close to Pately Bridge. {Photograph}: Ian Wray/Alamy

The concept you may stroll, climb and camp is an previous one. In 1760 the Genevan naturalist Horace Bénédict de Saussure began trying such journeys, finally reaching the summit of Mont Blanc (27 years later) and in the course of inventing alpinism. In these days of canvas tents, hemp ropes and hobnail boots, you required the power of Hercules, or a military of porters. No extra. Dan Pearson from specialist retailer Ultralight Outdoor Gear tells me about Cuben, a composite fibre initially made for racing sails in the 1992 America’s Cup. “It’s 15 occasions stronger than metal,” he tells me. “Producers rapidly realised it could possibly be woven into straps, man ropes and ripstop materials, making them lighter and harder.”

The result’s {that a} two-person tent equivalent to the Tigerwall from Colorado-based outfit Massive Agnes weighs simply 656g. Even four-season shelters like Terra Nova’s Laser collection and MSR’s Carbon Reflex can are available nicely below two kilos, although not below £500.

There are additionally light-weight rucksacks, cookers, utensils and sleeping baggage. Even garments have misplaced weight and grow to be cheaper: corporations together with Patagonia and Rab are making light-weight gear that can be environment-friendly. Boots like Inov-8’s Roclite series use a brand new materials, graphene, to make featherlight grippy soles.

The writer on Brimham Rocks, north Yorkshire.
The author scrambling on Brimham Rocks, ‘an excellent spot for a picnic and a climb’. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby

The lightening up of outside gear has brought on a revolution in accessibility. Dan tells me that on the 2019 coast-to-coast challenge in Scotland, a gruelling self-supported backpacking occasion that he took half in, an 89-year-old lady was accompanied by her 91-year-old husband. “They had been match and difficult, however realistically their participation was solely doable with ultra-lightweight gear.”

Suitably impressed, my son Niall and I load up and set off strolling alongside the Nidderdale Manner in North Yorkshire, finally reaching Brimham Rocks close to Pately Bridge, an excellent spot for a picnic and a climb on gritstone. In the finish, after yomping all the gear in, we did use the cooker, however by no means acquired the climbing gear out: there was simply an excessive amount of satisfying scrambling and exploring to be achieved. Many such locations are actually being linked on Strava, enabling a sort of aggressive orienteering to emerge – one other dimension to Monsieur de Saussure’s invention.

SUP mountain climbing

Paddleboarders in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, UK.
Paddleboarders in Scarborough. {Photograph}: Scott Bairstow/Alamy

Greater than a decade in the past I went to Scarborough’s South Bay to have a go at paddleboarding. We had fun, however I totally anticipated the sport to go the means of horseback cricket and ski ballet. A lot for my fortune-telling expertise: standup paddleboarding (SUP), a hybrid of browsing and kayaking, has proved vastly fashionable and enduring. Now the packable and inflatable SUP is weighing in at round eight kilos, so I’d say that makes SUP mountain climbing doable so long as the hikes aren’t too lengthy. In Idaho I noticed SUPs with tenting gear on board travelling lengthy distances by water; in South Africa I’ve seen how paddleboarders stand clear of any shark exercise and get to look at dolphin pods in the swells; and yoga and health lessons have taken to utilizing them, too. The tempo of innovation will not be slowing: producer RED has a windsurfer SUP (and a backpack model). Electrical-powered variants are on the market whereas a solar-powered SUP has been constructed. The longer term goes to be fascinating.

Cross-country swimming
Curiosity in wild swimming is big now, thanks partly to books like Wild Swimming, however mixing it with mountain climbing or working in Britain at all times meant an issue: the chilly moist water adopted by the chilly moist gear adopted by hypothermia. New developments are serving to, nevertheless: for instance, Ruckraft makes a raft that bobs alongside behind you in the water, conserving your package dry – a lot simpler than towing a traditional dry bag. Wetsuits have additionally moved on, with neoprene panels of completely different thickness and super-smooth surfaces. Now Alpkit is releasing a wetsuit that’s truly designed for working in: the Duel weighs round 600g and is scheduled for launch in mid-Might.


Kevin bikepacking along the shore of Ardnamurchan, the Highlands, Scotland.
Kevin Rushby bikepacking alongside the shore of Ardnamurchan, the Highlands, Scotland. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby

I’ve been strapping tents on the again of bikes for a few years, however now we’ve a reputation for it: bikepacking. That is truly vital as a result of producers have recognised that that is an out of doors sport value designing for. Big Agnes and Vango have each began making light-weight tents that work for cyclists (shorter poles, or none in any respect, well-considered space for storing, straps for putting the tent in your handlebars and so forth). Alpkit has a helpful web page on select the proper bike. My very own expertise says it is a sport the place you don’t have to go shopping-crazy. Most of all, don’t purchase large panniers. You’ll solely fill them and remorse it later: maybe on the A859 between Luskentyre and Tarbert throughout a downpour, however probably elsewhere, too. Thoughts you, I solely have myself responsible: I had beforehand turned down the supply of that different helpful hybrid, the electrical bike.

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