The making of THE RUCKRAFT

For years we have been opening up new routes across land and water, we call it Cross Country Swimming.

To help us enjoy this new sport we mixed together different bits of kit from hiking, swimming, sailing and boating. Nothing was perfect. Waterproof rucksacks aren’t great for hiking and don’t float. Swimming tow floats are too small to carry the kit you need for a good day out or even an overnight adventure.

 
 
 
 
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The beginning

Our first foray into Cross Country Swimming was 2015 - a small band of us crossed Windermere and Coniston via Three Dubs Tarn and Moss Eccles Tarn. The trip was beautiful and was written up in The Guardian. But this picture tells the story of the problem we wanted to solve with the RuckRaft® - multiple dry bags, clipped together to carry enough gear for the hike and overnight stops.

 
 
 
 
 

Taking shape

The RuckRaft® started to take shape in 2016. We strapped a large child’s swimming inflatable to waterproof rucksacks with luggage straps and swam across Windermere on a journey to Loughrigg Tarn and Langdale YHA and then Grasmere, Rydal Water and Buckstones Jum.

Suddenly multi day trips of swimming and walking from A to B were possible. It all felt a little bit epic, like mountaineers who had opened new routes up across land and water - Cross Country Swimming. Now we now started to look into designing the right product.

 
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The problems WE NEEDED TO SOLVE

1 — Waterproof rucksacks were not comfortable to walk with for a long distance, we all had existing, trusty rucksacks we wanted to use

2 — A modular kit of inflatable raft and dry bag to fit any rucksack and hiking clothes seemed to be the most effective, versatile, and practical combination

3 — This kit had to pack down light but also support a full 70l pack as we loved the multi day mix of swimming and hiking and felt sure others would too.

4 — Affordable.

 
 
 
 

Prototypes

We started to sketch up our ideas and the early prototypes were functional - the bags floated, you could swim with them comfortably. With a raft that folded down to well under 1kg of packweight we could comfortably float and tow a full 70l Rucksack (enough for 3 days outdoors including stoves, tents etc). But the rafts were a bit ugly.

 
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Manufacturing

Getting the right buoyancy and attractive shape to the raft was proving difficult. But we started to get a little more success moving to a new manufacturer.

 
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The dry bag

Next was a dry bag big and tough enough to hold any size of rucksack. After all sorts of sketches we went for something very simple - an oversized bag that could fit any size of Rucksack along with shoes, clothes, tent and kit.

 

Materials

By now we had also found the right materials working with Rivertex ‘Riverseal’. Designed specifically for high-performance applications using strong, marine grade fabrics manufactured with TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) coatings for high performance, weldable, air holding applications. TPU is also a much more environmentally friendly coating than alternatives such as PVC which contains toxic chemicals, TPU is fully recyclable and biodegradable. It meant that the RuckRaft® would be a little more expensive but quality, durability and sustainability were important.

 
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Testing

Then we started to get to the product we wanted and started to test it in the sea, rivers and lakes. It worked beautifully, it was practical, light and packed down to a very portable 1kg.

 
 
 
 

The Ruckraft

Finally, it all started to come together. Over two years we went from a messy, imperfect mix of stuff to a practical, lightweight and fully functioning product.

 
 
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The RuckRaft® is available exclusively at our online shop which will be open in May, 2019