Review: Intex Explorer 200, “Pack” Raft

One of my field objectives is to measure the depth of a meltwater pond – specifically, I want to create a depth profile for the pond, which is located about 8 miles into the backcountry at an elevation of 2921 m, or 9583 ft. (To be really clear, we’re only ascending about 275 m, or 900 ft, from ground level to the pond. Although Rendezvous Mountain has a pretty sweet pond, which is a 1300m, or 4500ft, ascent.)

I played around with ideas until I developed what I thought was the best way of getting at pond depth. I was trying to keep it cheap and relatively lightweight. My Research Gate project page details my methodologies, here.

Intex Explorer 200 on the Colorado. The Hyperlite Daybreak pack proved to be SERIOUSLY waterproof.

In the end, I bought an Intex Explorer 200 for about $20.00 from Amazon and a Hawkeye DT1H Depth Finder for about $75.00. I needed the handheld depth finder anyway, so that worked out nicely. The idea was that I’d pack the 2-ish pound raft (deflated) into my pack and row it across the pond, while taking depth measurements at fixed intervals on a transect.

Yeah…that’s probably not going to happen.

I took the pack raft – it’s really just a river float – out on the Colorado River just west of Lady Bird Lake in Austin. I wanted to make sure the raft worked well enough in temperate water before I took it to a glacial pond. Duh.

The crease next to the oar holders shows how much deflation took place in an hour.

An hour into the adventure, the raft started losing air. Fast. I don’t know what might have caused that – maybe water-air temperature differences or the rain, but I doubt it – I think it might just be part of the $20 raft experience.

The problem is that if the raft deflates like that in nearly-freezing water (think 35°F), I don’t want to end up falling into a pond with an unknown depth at 9500 ft and no cell service. Yeah, no…

So, right now I’m stumped at the pond depth problem. I’ve looked through other methods and I’m not convinced that it’s worth the money for a remote device (or the weight sacrifice, honestly). I might just forego the pond depth thing, but I’ll probably bring the handheld unit along, just in case it’s super shallow and happens to be warm enough to walk in.

At any rate, it was a nice day overcast out on the river with a light drizzle to combat the 90° weather. Plus, I learned that my Hyperlite Daybreak pack is really, really water resistant. I threw it on shore and it rolled into the water. (It was hilarious, actually.) When I pulled it out, everything on the inside was bone dry. Sweet.



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