Packrafting Glen Canyon (March)

March is a time of unsettled weather. Fast moving fronts move through the area. The thousand foot cliffs will funnel wind and create standing waves on the river, unable for a packraft to make progress back to Lees Ferry.

The weather is very important to consider when planning a trip in the canyon.

Everything I take upriver, I have to bring back on my raft.

Packrafting is a exercise in minimalism and March is going to be interesting with the cold and possibly windy weather. Two weeks before our trip, we had a powerful storm front that affected the state with record snowfall. But at this time, the weather is warming clearing and there is a warming trend, it's looking good so far...

On this trip, Siegfried Forster will be joining me. He and I bought our packrafts about the same time. He is in town and March is a little early for me but I want to guide him upriver the first time and also spend time fishing with him. I meet him at a Tenkara USA Summit and he is a really nice guy.

Last September, I sat there sweating, cowering under the small tree from the intense heat radiated and focused on me from the giant lens of the river bend horseshoe, I began to look at my excess equipment, shit that I brought that I just didn’t even use or need. It wasn’t a big mistake but it did not add to the experience, it was taking away. I have to stuff, pack and paddle it back.

I’m not going to make that mistake again.

On the very iPad that I generated the first pack list, I brought on that trip and used to trim the first list at my camp on the river, I am typing this note at home, I’ll be leaving the iPad at home, only what I need...

It’s hard for me, I am a minimalist. My pack list is under constant scrutiny. This process is augmented by actual usage and on-site follow up.

I don’t need stuff, I only need what I need for a light, fast solo trip.

There are special considerations depending on the season. The temperature can swing from snowy in the morning to a sunny afternoon in a t-shirt. It can be super hot during the day, check. Freezing at night, check. Surrounded by clean cold water, I do not need to bring more, I need to trust my equipment and filter my drinking water. I don’t need to bring extra plastic along.

Pack rafting back out of the canyon is fun. The trip back is through time, literally through unfathomable depths of a deep sandstone canyon. When I do relax and focus on my craft, it is affected by the weight of all the extra stuff I didn’t need. The raft wants to swap ends in the gentle breeze, the nose is weighed down and I’m reminded of my inefficient planning.

I’ll get good at this through practice.

Go through the list again, you are not allowed to add to it, only take away.

I could leave the headlight at home but at night, I need to see. The solar light is a must, it provides a small but comforting circle of light. I need a back up source... Ok, my iPhone has a flashlight, take away the headlight!

Dinner, check the Mountain House web site, beef stew sounds good.

Check your notes again, ok. I need to inflate my boat before I am backhauled. I want to drop off my bundles of firewood and continue on upriver to do some fishing then float back to my camp. I don’t want to wast time upriver blowing up, this will save some time for fishing.

Thinking it through, on the backhaul, how does my kit get moved? All camping gear in the waterproof bag, my cooler, pad, paddle and firewood are loose, that’s ok, firewood, waterproof bag (all camp goods) get dumped off at 9-mile and I’ll go a couple more miles upstream to fish and fool around before paddling back to fish and to set up camp.

That’s good.

I wanted to do this last time. The logistics are doable.

Figuring this stuff out is fun. It isn’t overthinking. My travel is all downstream. I can’t paddle upstream, the current is too much. So thinking about how to maximize my ride upriver is a big part of my route planning. I only get one ride up, don’t blow it.

Photographs, I didn’t get any of my packraft last time. No big deal but I want a few for my friends here this time. I will set up the Nikon on the tripod and do it that way. I’ll have to make a note for myself to do that.


Almost here, counting down the days...

I remember really enjoying watching a movie on my phone. I didn’t remember to check the uploads, they got moved to the cloud, let me check the phone now and pull one down to watch or rent. Upload “The Force Awakens” looks like I’m watching a Star Wars movie!

I’ll add to this tomorrow and the next couple of weeks before I go. For me, trip preparation is fun and almost as important as the trip itself.

Glen Canyon Weather for March: Expected daytime highs 60, lows 37

Packraft, paddle, stow bag and pfd

Tent, sleeping bag, pad, chair, cooking, water, light and food

Clothes and personal items

Fishing boots, waders, fly and tenkara rod with pin soles and fishing kit

Pack list for March Glen Canyon camp and packraft x 2 nights

Sawer filtration kit
Platypus 1 & 2 liter

Fat wood
Firewood x 4 bundles
Fabric sink

Stove - Gas Cartridge x 2
Snow Peak Table
Long Spoon
Sierra Cup
Cook Pot

Pack Raft
Inflation Bag
65L WP bag
String Attach Kit
Bow Bag
Patch Kit

North Face Tent
Pad - Quilt - Pillow
Monarch Chair
Solar light

Hat, Buff, Fingerless gloves, sunglasses
Wading boots
Tent booties
Capilene baselayer top and bottom
Liner Socks, mid weight socks x 2
R-1 Hoody
Puffy jacket
Rain jacket

Medicine bag
Baby wipes
Small Towel

5-weight fly rod
Fly box pack

iPhone - extra battery
Stuff backpack

Dinner (rehydration meal plan) x 2
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, coffee x 2
Snack: trail mix

Notes: Strike through are items that I brought but did not use or could get along without.

Tenkara-Fisher: Packrafting - Salt River - Glen Canyon 

We used Lees Ferry Anglers backhaul service. Terry Gunn's fishing guide service has been operating there forever. They love the river, their customers and they care us. Although I know the river well, Terry knows so much more than I can imagine from working within Glen Canyon for decades.

Our trip was in-between rain and wind. We had perfect weather for the entire trip.

Our paddle back was quick and without event.

I used the honryu 5m rod and caught a couple of fish, my five weight western rod, I hooked into and played one for a while and it shook the hook.

We hiked and enjoyed our stay at 9-mile and I will be back soon with more friends and family.

Motoring up river with Lees Ferry back haul services in style


  1. Very Cool Adam. Glad you had a great trip.

  2. Отличный рассказ Адам! Фотографии супер!

  3. What a great trip. I'm especially envious at this time of year. Thanks for sharing!

    I noticed one of the things you struck from the list was fingerless (sun) gloves.

    Check this article out -

    It "is" AZ (my wife grew up in Phx), the effect of sun exposure is cumulative, and hopefully you'll continue to share your Tenkara knowledge, insights, and adventures with us for many years to come. Fingerless gloves don't weigh anything and take up zero room when you wear them.

    1. I got plenty of Arizona rust (skin cancer) I can't remember how many have been frozen, cut, chemical peeled and grafted, scraped, removed ad nausea... I use sun gloves, my "GoreTex Windstopper" gloves are hard core cold weather and wet gloves, I scratched them because it was not cold enough to use. I use a variety of sun gloves which I always have packed here or there or long sleeves that have thumb holes etc.