DESIGN & MANUFACTURE
There is a lot of concern about newcomers copying leading packraft brands perhaps using poor quality fabrics and shoddy construction methods. There is concern also expressed about the ethics of just copying the pioneering brands. A lot of this concern is justified. Why support those who aren’t contributing to the advancement of packrafting?
We share this concern and we wanted no part of it, so we set out to find a manufacturer that would work with us to incorporate our design ideas into a packraft range that would be firstly different, and secondly be well suited to New Zealand conditions.
We’re proud of the result of three years of pursuing this path. We paddled every brand available and noted what we liked and what we did not. This was a performance-based exercise, not a feature-by-feature process.
The big questions were
How did it paddle?
How did it withstand rugged use?
Was it comfortable to paddle?
A lot of days on the water, and a lot of “how can we produce the best packraft?’
Our packrafts are different in many small and some major details and we know they are made from the best materials and with world-class fabrication methods.
On first glance our packrafts may look similar to every other packraft out there, but there are a number of design and construction details that are worth noticing. Look more closely. Call us and try the model that you think will suit you.
Fabrics – the TPU is the best available and it is a constant focus of the factory and management. The factory owner has a background in fabric technology.
Construction – the seams in all our packrafts are firstly sewn, then taped on the inside and the outside with tape that is 50% wider than other brands. pic
All packrafts are custom made to our designs and to our customer’s requirements – colours and options.
The floors are different, as they wrap further around the bottom of the tubes are designed to remain flat and taut for speed, manoeuvrability and safety. pic
Our thigh braces are the best on the market, and an improvement on our earlier designs. pic
We locate the TiZips in zones of minimum stress, including the option of in the stern or in the bow. The bow position is excellent if you plan on carry heavy loads. pic
All boats have EVA backrests, not uncomfortable inflated ones that will give you nasty blisters.
The seats we fit as standard are designed for comfort and paddling efficiency.
The hull shape of the MOKIHI Series is different from all other brands. It focuses on good speed, good tracking, low windage, and keeping dry.
The hull shape of the TIWAI Series is quite different from other whitewater packrafts, designed to be more easily edged or” railed”, so you can nail those difficult eddies. When you paddle it hard you will notice the improvement.
The self-bailing version has an integral floor designed to keep water out, and to provide rigidity.
The new spray skirt is designed to overcome the fiddly designs of all current packrafts. One design for all models, and it keeps water out, but is easy to get in and out of your boat. pic
New inflation valves, with proper airtight seals, push to lock open, quick fit to the inflation bag, low profile so they won’t get damaged, and are replaceable without glue. Special tool supplied. pic
Inflation bags are bigger and stronger.
Choice of fabrics, single or double coated TPU, in a range of smart colours
Packraft floors from different manufacturers vary considerably in design, material specs and performance. There is a compromise between lightness and robustness. New Zealand rivers are full of abrasive rock and many rivers have shallow shingle rapids. Our floors are 840D and are really tough.
We took a lesson from whitewater rafts where the best rafts have a raised floor design that keeps the floor off the bottom of the gap between the tubes. Some packraft models have this feature and we like it for NZ conditions. Our floors wrap right around the tube bottoms so you get a double layer where the most wear occurs.
What it also does is reduce the span by a third, increasing the tension and making the floor very tight and flat. You don’t have your butt bulging down to hit every rock and the boat is just that much quicker across the water. It hurts and it’s actually can cause serious injury. In self-bailing models there is less water in the boat.
In the CW Series the boat tracks in a straight line and is less effort to paddle.
DESIGN & MANUFACTURE
Frontier Packrafts are made to Blue Duck's designs in Qingdao China in a modern factory with the latest machinery. The fabrics are nylon coated with TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). TPU coatings provide excellent UV resistance and wear. View technical details here. Most joins are welded and some are glued.
The designs are a collaboration between Blue Duck Packrafting and the Frontier factory designers. We know our rivers and lakes and we have paddled most of them and result is a top quality, fit-for-purpose range of state-of-the-art packrafts.
The design features are oriented to our conditions:
You need to be confident that dragging the gear through New Zealand forest and over alpine passes and being confident that your packraft will get you home.
Why be miserable sitting in your packraft?
We have worked with the factory to produce a seat, backband, thigh braces and foot rest combination that allows you to be comfortable and have a good efficient paddling posture.
No more slouching and tired arms. The seating position is such that you can use your more powerful trunk muscles and sit up without tiring.
SELF-BAILING VENTURI DRAINS
We trialled these simple light additions to our self-bailing models. The results were not what we expected. They are now standard on all WW Series self-bailing models.
The flaps protect the drain holes from being a ready-made place to start a big tear in the floor and they work as intended if you get the boat moving fast enough. In practice this means you can surf upstream on a wave or in a hole and the water is sucked out completely. This allows some ability to play in whitewater or ocean waves with a dry boat. In a hole the bow often submerges and with our venturi flaps the cockpit empties in a flash.
This feature extends the self-bailer into the realm only decked models occupied.
The experts agree. If you intend to run overnight trips then a TZip is more than a nice-to-have, it’s essential. Storing overnight gear such as tents, clothes and food inside the tubes keeps the weight low for stability, off the decks to stop it all getting wet, and maintains a smooth profile for wind and water to shed off the boat. Finally, you can see so much better without a wobbly pack sitting on the bow. Once you have this feature you won’t go back to packs tied on the bow.
Our TZips are the global industry standard and our factory installed prices are the most competitive for this feature. Bow or stern? Your choice. Engineers will note that a radial zip in the bow is subject to 50% of the stress compared with a stern longitudinal zip.
We don’t offer dry bags with the TZip option. They are available at Bivouac and kayak retailers and are very cheap online on TradeMe. Aim for a diameter of around 250mm or they won’t be easy to load and unload. HINT: put them in handle end last.
Most manufacturers either offer a pricey custom service or you can have any colour as long as it’s the one colour.
Frontier manufacture to order on a very short delivery time. The colour choices are shown in the chart. You can have any combination of the above you like. NO EXTRA COST.
The seam tape is black. So is the floor.
Single coated or double coated nylon?
Single coated is more flexible and lighter and according to reports is therefore less likely to be sliced by a rock, tree or other sharp object.
There are manufacturing reasons for double coated as it gives you more options when using welding as opposed to gluing. How hard you pump the boat has an effect on how easily the boat rips. Too hard can be a vulnerability. Too soft is no way to paddle the boat.
The two fabrics feel different, but we can’t tell you yet what our preference is. We have owned a packraft that was single coated and it got scruffed a bit, and that is a pathway for moisture to track along the fibres.
Pick the colours you like, and if you need light weight, go single. Or just pick the colours you like……..
A spray skirt 9 keeps water out of the cockpit in rapids. They keep your lower body drier. They are suited to those who may not wish to carry a wet suit or dry suit. Spray decks keep you a bit warmer.
We have a unique design of spray skirt.
The seating position in a spray skirt packraft can be set lower, which is more stable for those who value this characteristic.
Self-bailing packrafts allow water to get into the cockpit, but drain it out quickly through floor drains. They require an inflatable seat to keep your lower body out of the wet.
They have the advantage of being very quick and easy to get in and out of, for scouting and portages.
For people who feel trapped by spray skirts, choose the self-bailing option.
Self-bailing seats are set higher. This has two effects; they are less stable, but enable the paddler to practice more efficient paddle strokes and use a shorter paddle.
You can ask for additional D-rings and attachment points at very low cost.
ALL Frontier Packrafts are made to order and therefore payment is in advance.
We do have demo boats for sale ex stock in New Zealand. Please ask.
OPTIONAL FEATURE ON OUR PACKRAFTS
The experts agree. If you intend to run overnight trips then a TiZip is more than a nice-to-have, it’s essential. Storing overnight gear such as tents, clothes and food inside the tubes keeps the weight low for stability, off the decks to stop it all getting wet, and maintains a smooth profile for wind and water to shed off the boat.
Finally, you can see so much better without a wobbly pack sitting on the bow. Once you have this feature you won’t go back to packs tied on the bow.
Our TiZips are the global industry standard and our factory installed prices are the most competitive for this feature. Bow or stern? Your choice. Engineers will note that a radial zip in the bow is subject to 50% of the stress compared with a stern longitudinal zip.
We don’t offer dry bags with the TiZip option. They are available at Bivouac and kayak retailers and are very cheap online on TradeMe. Aim for a diameter of around 250mm or they won’t be easy to load and unload. HINT: put them in handle end last.