New Option: Self-Bailing and/or Inflatable Floor

Several people have asked if it would be possible to make a self-bailing or inflatable floor using the double-layer floor option, and I have finished retrofitting my multi-colored packraft with an inflatable floor in just this way.

The inflatable floor is a great success! It adds padding between you and any rocks or sticks you might paddle over, which protects you from injury and decreases the abrasive force exerted on the fabric. It also insulates your legs from cold water.

Instead of heat sealing the entire second floor layer to the bottom layer, I added baffles between the layers to hold the layers 4-5 cm apart (similar to my seat design or a camping mattress). I then sealed the perimeter of the upper floor layer to the bottom floor layer after adding a small inflation valve near the edge of the floor (the volume is small enough that it can be inflated by mouth).

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of adding baffles between the floor layers, you could simply heat-seal the layers together in parallel lines, but it’s not difficult to add the baffles, and it’s not much material, so the added weight is only a few grams.

It would be very simple to make this floor self-bailing by heat-sealing a few patches of the upper floor layer to the lower floor layer near the rear of the cockpit (i.e. the lowest point when afloat) and cutting holes in the center of the sealed patches to allow water to drain out.

I will be adding a spray deck to this packraft, so I won’t make it self-bailing, but for those of you who enjoy whitewater paddling in warm climates, a self-bailing floor would be a good option.

With an inflatable floor, the packraft can also be used as a camping mattress!

9 thoughts on “New Option: Self-Bailing and/or Inflatable Floor”

  1. Have tried this with a slightly wider floor to allow for the floor to inflate without pulling the sides in? You might be able to estimate how much extra floor width would be required based on the on you’ve already made. And I guess the sides might need to slightly curved. I guess it could get fiddly with constructing the tubes..

    1. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s definitely on the list of things to do. I have an idea of how to approach it, but it will require a bit of trial and error, so please bear with me 🙂

  2. interesting. I really like the idea of having a secondary air chamber albeit small.

    I’m guessing the floor will not be as tough as the laminated floor. Do you think the extra cushioning will improve the safety to the point the double layer is not necessary? Or would it be wise to make the bottom layer still doubled up? (3 layers in total)

    1. I think “necessary” is a matter of personal preference… some people might want the peace of mind. Personally, I’m more interested in lightweight gear, but others like to bash and scrape 🙂

  3. In my opinion the smartest design for a self bailing floor is a separate “mattress” that sets inside the boat. You could make one from your fabric or find a camp mattress that would work. I don’t have a packraft but am guessing a longer mattress could be folded to make a backrest or raised seat.

  4. Just curious, was the raft you retrofitted a single floor or a double floor before adding the inflatable floor?

    1. It was a single floor. It’s not possible to heat seal to the back side of the fabric, so “windows” would have to be cut in the top layer of a double layer floor in order to attach the third inflatable layer.

  5. Hey Matt – Have you used this as a camp mattress? Any idea of the insulating or R-value?

    1. Not yet. I think the R-value would be low because there’s no insulation and the air can convect freely… but it would be much better than sleeping on the ground!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *