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Learn the equipment & techniques of packrafting so you can safely plan and execute your own packrafting adventures!

February 7, 2013 Update: Stretch Goal #1 ($35,000) - We've added another film short to the project! "The Ultralight Backpacker" - Read More!

LEARN TO PACKRAFT!

You are funding: (1) an INSPIRING and PROFESSIONAL production of the online video course series Learn to Packraft! which will present the equipment and techniques you need to know to BE SAFE and HAVE FUN in a packraft! and (2) production of the visually stunning festival documentary "The Packrafter".

Backpacking Light has been teaching packrafting field courses since 2006. We want to see people learn packrafting as safely and effectively as possible, and this online course will give you the instruction and inspiration to have a very high level of confidence as you explore the incredible world of packrafting!

Deliverables

  • Learn to Packraft! Level 1: A freely-available (public) online introductory course in packrafting that goes through an overview of packrafting equipment and basic skills for using a packraft on moving water. Will be free to the public (via the American Packrafting Assocation) when completed at SD resolution, and available to BackpackingLight.com Lifetime Members in HD. 20 modules (3 hours).

  • Learn to Packraft! Level 2: A more comprehensive intermediate course that focuses on overnight wilderness packrafting and whitewater paddling / river reading. This will be a standalone fee-based course, as well as included with Backpacking Light Wilderness Trekking School Packrafting Field Courses, made available through backpackinglight.com, and by license for other companies and organizations. 25 modules (4 hours).
  • Learn to Packraft! Level 3: An advanced course that teaches packrafting safety in technical whitewater (including specialized equipment, rescue skills, equipment modification / customization, packraft filmmaking techniques, and advanced paddling techniques) and expedition packrafting in remote locations. This will be a standalone fee-based course, as well as included with Backpacking Light Wilderness Trekking School Packrafting Field Courses, made available through backpackinglight.com, and by license for other companies and organizations. 20 modules (3 hours).
  • The Packrafter. A festival short film (25 minutes) in documentary style celebrating the inspiring beauty and simplicity of traveling light on wild rivers in remote wilderness. The A story will reveal the tempo, routines, and emotions of a wilderness packrafter on an expedition, with the B story focusing on the need for preserving opportunities for wild river recreation and river management stewardship. Will be made freely available to the public following its festival tour.
  • LearnToPackraft.com. Information about the course, along with its development progress, video previews, course sponsor info (including a product and service directory), and promotion of the course and documentary will occur at the Backpackinglight.com-sponsored blog LearnToPackraft.com.
  • Packrafting Instructional Articles & eBook. We'll be generating so much quality instructional content (and undoubtedly learning more in the process of filming our expert packrafters!) that we'll also be releasing a Learn to Packraft! instructional article series, to be published at backpackinglight.com and made available to backpackinglight.com members (Lifetime Members will receive all article content in a single e-book). 
  • The Ultralight Backpacker. A short film about ultralight backpacking philosophy, technique, style, and gear. The length and quality will depend on how far we get towards Stretch Goal #1 ($35,000)! Learn more here!
Completing the Learn to Packraft! Video Course Series will give you the tools you need to navigate complex and technical whitewater, such as the famous Mad Mile of the Gallatin River. Here, Ryan Jordan paddles through the House Rock Rapid.
Completing the Learn to Packraft! Video Course Series will give you the tools you need to navigate complex and technical whitewater, such as the famous Mad Mile of the Gallatin River. Here, Ryan Jordan paddles through the House Rock Rapid.

Production Quality

This course will feature professional quality production, with camera operators supervised by a Montana State University Film School graduate as our DP, professional sound operators, and professional editing (including color correction and sound space).

Equipment will include a variety of 1080p capture devices, including:

  • Aerial HD camera (maybe also aerial Red Epic!) footage (cameras mounted to remote-controlled six- and eight-rotor copters) that follows a packrafter down a river to show whitewater navigation (river reading) and paddling techniques;
  • Multiple POV cameras with our custom-built, image-stabilizing packraft mounts, and boom-mounted cameras on paddle rafts directly behind and in front of the packrafter) to illustrate river-horizon level water reading and paddling techniques;
  • High bandwidth cameras (Red Epics, Canon 5D's, Panasonic GH3's, and GoPro Hero 3 Blacks) for maximum resolution on HDTVs and monitors, and
  • Specialized high frame rate cameras for narrated, instructional slow motion footage and stunning documentary filmmaking (Red Epics).

Our goals with using innovative videography techniques and the best possible equipment:

  • Communicate concise, clear, and exceptional instruction in a real-world environment by overlaying narrated illustration (think: football play-action overlays) onto high resolution video images taken from multiple camera angles.
  • Create cinematic, high definition video celebrating the art of packrafting wild rivers in beautiful places.

Our Team

Ryan Jordan (Director/Producer)

Ryan at "home" on Montana's Gallatin River, home of one of the state's finest technical packrafting runs - the "Mad Mile".
Ryan at "home" on Montana's Gallatin River, home of one of the state's finest technical packrafting runs - the "Mad Mile".

Ryan Jordan is the Founder of Backpacking Light (www.backpackinglight.com), the curriculum architect and chief instructor at the Backpacking Light Wilderness Trekking School, a Montana packrafting instructor and guide (www.ryanjordan.com), author/editor of the book “Lightweight Backpacking and Camping”, publisher of the book “Packrafting!” by Roman Dial, and a member of the Executive Council of the American Packrafting Association (www.packraft.org). His favorite quote, usually shouted at the DP right before he flips, is "You're getting this shot, right?! RIGHT?! blbbllppeldddff (gasp) - DID YOU GET TH-- blrbbll..."

Testimonials about Ryan Jordan

Application of Technical Knowledge to Field Application: “It took meeting Ryan Jordan, ultralight gear maven and a fountain of knowledge of all things light in backpacking, to turn the mathematical modeling exercise of “how far can we hike self-contained” into the empirical observation of the Arctic 1000.” – Roman Dial, Adventurer, Packrafting.blogspot.com

On Ryan's Instruction Skills: “Ryan’s down-to-earth personality, framework for simplicity, and practical teaching methods – coupled with years of experience and depth of knowledge – make him a uniquely outstanding wilderness skills instructor.” – Damien Tougas, ToeSalad.com

On Ryan's Packrafting Instruction: "Packrafting with Ryan was spectacular, as he has so much experience that I was able to drastically shorten the learning curve, and had no worries hitting some fun whitewater." - Jeremy Hanks

On Ryan's Leadership and Ability to Empower Students: “Ryan’s an incredibly patient instructor who intuitively knew when to allow us to take the lead and when to step in with gentle educational nudges to ensure we got as much out of the course as we could.” – Douglas Ide

On Ryan's Ability to Inspire and Lead: "Trekking in Montana with Ryan is the perfect combination of world class varied terrain and incredible scenery coupled with expert leadership from Ryan Jordan. Do it.” – Mark Shane

On Ryan's Ability to Create an Engaging Online Video Course: "Your UL Backpacking Boot Camp course exceeded all my objectives; I learned a lot more than I expected; and your Mentoring answers were clear and thought-provoking. Your course took me to levels beyond what I had hoped; and encouraged me to explore new activities.” – Paul Randolph (Cheyenne, WY)

On Ryan's Ability to Create Outdoor Leadership and Skills Programming: “Ryan Jordan’s expertise was absolutely invaluable to NOLS when we started our Lightweight Backpacking Program. He was quick to understand our programmatic needs and provide workable solutions and suggestions to insure we were able to meet our goals.” – Gary Cukjati, Rocky Mountain Director, National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

On Ryan's Ability to Create Engaging Multi-Media Presentations: “Ryan is a very dynamic speaker who not only has great expertise in the field but can clearly share it in a manner that is relevant and entertaining to his audience. Ryan’s presentation style is very effective, the perfect mix of technical knowledge, humor, philosophy and story-telling. Inspiring photographs and videos show another area of Ryan’s talents as he smoothly delivers them via very engaging multi-media presentations.” – Daniel Galhardo, Tenkara USA (on Ryan’s featured address at the 2011 Tenkara Summit)

Sasha Joseph Neulinger - Director of Photography

Director of Photography Sasha Joseph Neulinger on one of Ryan's expeditions in the Canadian Rockies
Director of Photography Sasha Joseph Neulinger on one of Ryan's expeditions in the Canadian Rockies

Sasha Joseph Neulinger is a graduate of the Montana State University Film School and currently works with Grizzly Creek Films, producer of Nat Geo’s America the Wild series. Sasha is Ryan's ticket for traveling light, because Sasha's One Big Dude who can carry all the stuff. Ryan and Sasha have collaborated on other projects before, including a documentary feature about trekking in the remote wilds of Canada. Sasha's favorite quote, usually shouted back at Ryan, is "Hey! That was pretty good, but can you try again, but with more enthusiasm and less yelling?!"

Testimonials about Sasha Joseph Neulinger

"Sasha is a powerhouse. His passion for mission translates directly into the work he produces. His attention to detail makes a huge difference in the final product." - Pete MacFadyen, LCPC, Executive Director/Founder, Big Sky Youth Empowerment.

"Sasha is a pleasure to work with. His attention to detail and grasp of the larger picture imperative for us when we needed to create product-focused videos here at Simms. Sasha, in a few words, “got it” and came through with films that are going to help us drive consumer attention. I look forward to working with him again." - Rich Hohne, Online Marketing Manager, Simms Fishing Products

Sasha and Ryan shooting footage for Learn to Packraft! in Montana. Ya gotta love a DP who's standard clothing includes a dry suit.
Sasha and Ryan shooting footage for Learn to Packraft! in Montana. Ya gotta love a DP who's standard clothing includes a dry suit.

Instructors, Packrafters, and Technical Advisors

The packrafters and technical advisors for this series include expert packrafting instructors from Backpacking Light's Wilderness Trekking School, as well as packrafters who are known for constantly pushing the limits of our sport in our home area, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem:

In addition, all Learn to Packraft! curriculum content and instructional video will be reviewed by the American Packrafting Association Board of Directors* for technical accuracy, safety, and best practices.

American Packrafting Association Board of Directors / Technical Review Team:

  • Brad Meiklejohn
  • Thomas Turiano
  • Moe Witschard
  • Amy Hatch
  • Forrest McCarthy
  • Roman Dial

Project Timeline

  • March 2013 - Completion of filming for Level 1 (modules will start being released approximately 6 to 8 weeks after completion of filming)
  • June 2013 - Completion of filming for Level 2 (modules will start being released approximately 6 to 8 weeks after completion of filming).
  • August 2013 - Completion of rough cut for the documentary The Packrafter.
  • October 2013 - Completion of filming for Level 3 (modules will start being released approximately 6 to 8 weeks after completion of filming).
  • November 2013 - Festival-ready cut of the documentary The Packrafter.
  • February 2014 - Completion of all Level 1 course modules
  • April 2014 - Completion of all Level 2 course modules
  • June 2014 - Completion of all Level 3 course modules

Budget

Kickstarter funding will augment existing funding (see below) and be used for the following:

  • Professional videography, sound, and editing time to create 10 hours of detailed, technical, and inspirational instructional content and a 25 minute documentary film;
  • On-screen animation sequence overlays to enhance visual instruction of packrafting techniques.
  • Specialized film equipment rentals for equipment that we don’t own (high speed cameras, rigs and dollies, camera copters);
  • Honoraria for film student interns assisting with the production (camera assistants, sound assistants, and editing assistants);
  • Honoraria for packrafting stuntmen (!);
  • Whitewater guides that will pilot camera crews operating near the packrafting instructors;
  • Location travel (gas and cheeseburgers to get us to local rivers and back!);
  • Video hosting & bandwidth service fees;
  • Kickstarter & Amazon Payments fees.

Kickstarter funding will not be used to pay for indirect costs, overhead, or purchase of equipment (see "Bootstrapping" in "Risks and Rewards" below).

The total budget for this project is more than $65,000 (a bargain considering the sophistication of cinematography and editing techniques and equipment used, and the amount of content that we'll be generating (more than 10 hours of instruction plus a 25 minute cinema movie). We have already solicited enough donations of equipment, time, and services that achieving our Kickstarter goal will guarantee the successful outcome of this project! Please help us be a part of something spectacular and change the way quality multi-media content is produced for both instructional and inspirational purposes!

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

WEATHER & WATER: Our biggest risk when it comes to film delays will be weather and water conditions. We plan to start filming immediately, with filming really picking up speed as soon as the ice is off of our favorite wilderness whitewater creeks and rivers.

May through July are always sketchy because we never know what the snowpack is going to be like, or how fast it will melt. We like paddling muddy water but we don't like suicide runs down Class V rivers during high water when the project could be halted by, say, death.

PRODUCTION DELAYS: Production delays are common in our business, but are usually pretty manageable, and Sasha and Ryan both have extensive experience with the sleep deprivation required to get things done. The main wild cards here include the bandwidth of the film student interns that we'll be involving on this project. It's really important for us to give back to our community by supporting the students at our alma mater - Montana State University - and we're willing to accept that we need to be flexible with them so they can give us all they got as they prepare to launch their own careers soon.

BOOTSTRAP AMBITIONS: Trying to bootstrap a project like this with a Kickstarter budget of only $28,000 has required us to make sure we had some other key pieces in place before launching the Kickstarter campaign. Those key pieces include sponsors and very talented individuals that have already committed cash and in-kind donations of equipment, services, and professional time; and the support of Backpacking Light as an organization that will keep 100% of the Kickstarter funding away from the usual indirect cost overhead required to bring projects to life - costs like accounting and bookkeeping, legal fees, insurance, and the usual day to day administrative costs. This allows us to keep Kickstarter funding allocated to direct costs - those items that directly impact the quality of the content being produced!

FAQ

  • We'll include an introductory module that introduces you to the gear, skills, and philosophy of ultralight backpacking to get you up to speed. In addition, in the packraft camping episodes, you'll learn a lot about ultralight gear and techniques for overland wilderness travel that is relevant whether you are packrafting, bikerafting, or just backpacking.

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  • Yes! We'll be producing a massive quantity of video, still images, and studies of many different wilderness travel (and packrafting) styles. This raw content will be used to create new articles, video, and photography for http://backpackinglight.com members. In addition, note above the benefits for Lifetime Members: access to the HD version of the Level 1 course, an eBook called "Learn to Packraft!", and the HD downloadable version of "The Packrafter" documentary. The incentive you get for backing the project on Kickstarter is that you get early access to these products, as they won't be released to http://backpackinglight.com until the project is complete.

    Also, the Learn to Packraft! course will be tightly integrated with Backpacking Light's Wilderness Trekking School field courses, so if you take a packrafting course with us, you'll be getting this online course too!

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  • Backpacking Light's mission is to "To promote multi-day, backcountry travel in a self-supported ("backpackable"), lightweight style." At its core, packrafting is all about traveling across vast landscapes by foot and paddle. Considering the broader scope of our mission, packrafting offers opportunities to "lighten up" in a variety of areas, including pedal-and-paddle (bikerafting) trips, traveling (think of taking your packraft with you on a business trip!), and minimizing the volume (including storage volume!) and weight of your outdoor recreation gear.

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  • We've done a bunch of proof of concept videos behind the scenes looking at using slow motion to teach paddle skills in rapidly moving whitewater, and here's what we found. Slowing down crappy footage doesn't tell the story and you can't show the minutiae of rapid paddle strokes or surging whitewater. Software slo-mo products like Twixtor are great but they turn dynamic backgrounds (whitewater) into an awful pile of mush. That leaves us with high frame rate cameras. Our favorite footage so far has come from the Red Epic. These types of cameras, combined with perhaps minor slo-mo enhancements using Twixtor and the like, give us exactly what we need, and will make for stunning documentary footage.

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    Executive Producer: Satisfaction of knowing that you were involved in something huge! Your name will be listed in the credits of the documentary film, "The Packrafter", and on our Supporters' Page on the "Learn to Packraft!" website (LearnToPackraft.com).

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    A postcard celebrating the art of packrafting (totally framable!) signed by our crew thanking you for your support! (+ all of the above)

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    Access to 1080p HD Level 1 course modules online as each module is completed, a one-year membership to backpackinglight.com, and an online private preview of the documentary "The Packrafter" before its public release. (+ all of the above).

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    All of the above plus an invitation to a pre-release private theater screening of The Packrafter Documentary in Bozeman, MT that includes a reception with the film crew, and a visual arts presentation about packrafting in the Greater Yellowstone Region by local packrafters.

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    Module (“episode”) sponsor. Your name/logo appearing at the beginning of a module. Choice of episodes will be provided in order of receipt of your Kickstarter pledge. Includes a listing with a link to your website in our publicly-available “Products and Services” Directory at the LearnToPackraft.com website (+ all of the above).

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    NEW REWARD (1/23/13)! Includes all awards at the $275 level and lower PLUS you will be funding ONE participant slot for a day-long packrafting program for disabled U.S. Veterans through EAGLE MOUNT. See this update for more info: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/backpackinglight/packrafting-documentary-learn-to-packraft-video-se/posts/398789

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    NEW REWARD (1/23/13)! Includes all awards at the $275 level and lower PLUS you will be funding ONE participant slot for a day-long packrafting program for disabled and terminally ill youth in the Bozeman community and State of Montana through EAGLE MOUNT. See this update for more info: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/backpackinglight/packrafting-documentary-learn-to-packraft-video-se/posts/398789

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    Module sponsorship (see $300 level above for details) that includes a 60 second video highlighting your product/service in our “Products and Services Directory” at the LearnToPackraft.com website (+ all awards given at the $225 level and lower). You have the option to provide contributed product/service for visual placement in modules.

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    Half day of private packrafting instruction and float on a local Montana river (near Bozeman) for you and a buddy with Ryan Jordan - travel to Bozeman is not included, but we'll provide transportation from Bozeman to the river and back, and all of your packrafting gear! (+ SPONSORSHIP OF ONE EAGLE MOUNT SLOT (see $450 and $475 reward levels above) + You can DESIGNATE a company of your choice to receive a $500 MODULE SPONSORSHIP + all awards given at the $275 level and lower).

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    Full day of private packrafting instruction and float on a local Montana river (near Bozeman) for you and a buddy with Ryan Jordan - travel to Bozeman is not included, but we'll provide transportation from Bozeman to the river and back, and all of your packrafting gear! (+ SPONSORSHIP OF ONE EAGLE MOUNT SLOT (see $450 and $475 reward levels above) + You can DESIGNATE a company of your choice to receive a $500 MODULE SPONSORSHIP + all awards given at the $275 level and lower).

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    Overnight (2 day/1 night) private packrafting instruction and guided float on a local Montana river (near Bozeman) for you and a buddy with Ryan Jordan - travel to Bozeman is not included, but we'll provide transportation from Bozeman to the river and back, and all of your packrafting gear! (+ all awards given at the $275 level and lower).

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    Module sponsor for all episodes (total # of episodes will be greater than 50) that includes a 2 to 3 minute film highlighting your product/service in our “Products and Services Directory” at the LearnToPackraft.com website (+ all awards given at the $225 level and lower).

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    Host an evening "event" at the venue of your choice (you pay travel and venue costs) for your group as a fundraiser, community contribution, or other purpose. The event will include a theater screening of the documentary "The Packrafter" along with Ryan Jordan's visually-stunning narrated multimedia presentation celebrating the sport of packrafting! (+ all awards giving at the $275 level and lower).

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    Title Sponsor - your name/logo appearing as the opening credit of every module, the opening credits of the documentary "The Packrafter", the home page of LearnToPackraft.com, and a 4 to 5 minute film highlighting your product/service in our “Products and Services Directory” at the LearnToPackraft.com website (+ all awards given at the $225 level and lower).

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    Book a full-service private packrafting expedition for up to eight people for five days/four nights with Ryan Jordan down the majestic Yellowstone River -- the longest undammed river in the Continental United States. Ryan will provide packrafting gear, fishing gear, guides (including a paddle raft and guide for younger and/or less experienced river travelers!), food, and exceptional personal service (travel and pre- and post-trip lodging not included). (+ all awards given at the $275 level and lower). NOW INCLUDES (1/23/13) - We'll provide your group with a few loaners from our inventory of GoPro Hero 3 Black's to mount to your heads/packrafts. Plus, Sasha Joseph Neulinger will be filming this trip and we'll assemble the footage from the GoPro's, along with both Sasha's and Ryan's professional film cameras, and each participant will be provided with an Assembly (chronological) cut (30-60 minutes) of the footage set to a killer soundtrack so you have a professional memory of your trip!

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Funding period

- (30 days)