Self-Bailing Floor?

Several people have asked if I have plans for how to add a self-bailing floor to their DIY Packraft kit or to an existing packraft. That’s definitely high on my list of things to do, but as yet I haven’t had time to make a self-bailer kit, so here are some guidelines for making one yourself:

Some time ago I wrote about adding an integrated inflatable floor for the V2 DIY Packraft, which could be made self-bailing by adding drain ports. This works fine, but it adds a fair amount of time to the packraft build, and it tends to make a lot of wrinkles to the packraft’s tubes if over-inflated. It would also be difficult to repair if it was punctured compared to a regular flat floor.

My current recommendation is to make a separate inflatable floor insert (much like a camping mattress) to fit inside the packraft, and then add drains in the existing floor to make it self-bailing.

For drains, the red two-way push valves in the DIY Packraft shop would work well – see the valve comparison video for an explanation.

I’d put at least two drains in the floor, towards the sides and rear so they won’t be covered by the inflatable insert. Two drains would be good for spray and the occasional swamping, but if you’re expecting to take on wave after wave, you’ll want more drains for faster flow.

There are two ways to make an inflatable insert:

  1. Exactly like an extended DIY Packraft seat, with rectangular baffles between a top and bottom piece, or
  2. With just top and bottom fabric pieces, sealed together in strips so that when it’s inflated it balloons out around the areas that are sealed together.

The second option is simpler and faster to make, but it might not be as strong as the first.

Depending on the size of your packraft and which approach you choose (baffles vs. sealed through from top to bottom), you’d need 1-2 m of 210D or 40D fabric and an inflation valve to make your insert.

For lighter weight, you could use all 40D fabric, or 210D for the top and bottom and 40D for the baffles (if you’re making it with baffles).

I’d choose a Boston valve as the inflation valve, even though it’s a bit bulkier and heavier than the alternatives, because the volume of the insert will be fairly large and it would take a long time to inflate by mouth, so having the ability to use your inflation bag would definitely make life easier.

When designing the shape of the insert, make sure it won’t cover the floor drains or water won’t flow out through them!

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