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I love hiking and I'm starting to love longer cycling trips too. I've done combined cycling/hiking trips (cycling to the trailhead of a hike). Last summer I met someone who carried an inflatable raft on his bicycle, as well as hiking equipment. Ever since, I've been thinking of the unprecedented possibilities of such a combination. However, I've never done any packrafting (nor other kinds of water-navigating, though I can swim well).

How much skill and experience does it take to use a packraft (with or without a bicycle)? My intention would be to use it on lakes and sheltered fjords, not on wild streams. However, it can be windy on lakes, and the lakes in question are quite cold (usually 4°C), so it's not without danger. Is it fine to get started by simply reading info from books, websites etc. and get on the raft, or should one really start with a proper course in safety?

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Disclaimer: I'm also talking from the perspective of not having any experience in packrafts, but more from a general survival standpoint.

Is it fine to get started by simply reading info from books, websites etc. and get on the raft, or should one really start with a proper course in safety?

I'd say that in certain scenarios it is ok to read up about it then get in and give it a try - but in other cases a proper safety introduction course would be wise. If you're jumping in a raft with no experience on a fast moving river with rapids, can't swim and aren't wearing a life jacket, well you've got what's coming to you!

If however you're talking about a calm lake, you're a strong swimmer, you're wearing appropriate safety gear (lifejacket) and you've got someone with you looking out for you, I'd say it's perfectly ok to just give it a try!

The only thing that makes me slightly nervous in your scenario is that you say the lake can get rather cold and windy. I'd say at least to start with, only go as far as you know you can swim - i.e. if the packraft were to disappear, you could definitely get to shore in one piece.

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