Meet the RuckRaft: an innovative floating dry bag works as an inflatable, waterproof raft that lets swimmers carry their belongings (up to 15kg worth!) with them on long cross-country swims.
I took the RuckRaft on a two-day swim-hike journey along the Devon coast to see if it lived up to its maker's claims of being a "simple, portable two-piece kit to transform all your gear into a raft you can easily tow while swimming".
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Does the RuckRaft really work?
The RuckRaft (£139.99) is pleasingly simple to use – manually blow up the horseshoe-shaped float, which takes about a minute, pop your backpack and other belongings into the dry bag, strap this snugly to the float and then clip the RuckRaft's tow strap around your waist.
The RuckRaft's dry bag has 120 litre capacity – more than enough for two backpacks, so two swimmers can share – and can carry up to a hefty 15kg of weight, but once it's floating in the water with you, it feels nigh-on weightless, and you'll barely notice it's there. It glides effortlessly behind you even in choppy conditions, and also does a great job of signalling that you're in the water, just like a traditional tow float. The raft's large size and bright orange colour feels reassuringly beacon-like, especially if you're swimming in and around boats and want to make sure you're seen. And if you do feel tired you can tread on water and hold on to the float for a breather.
The key question, of course, is whether the RuckRaft really does keep your stuff dry in the open sea. We were wading in for a one-kilometre ocean swim when I first tested the float and I was hesitant to trust the RuckRaft's buoyancy, even though the swimmers around me were happily stuffing their rucksacks, wallets and even mobile phones and cameras into theirs. I needn't have worried – I emerged on the other side of our swim with my stuff dry and intact.
Back on dry land, the RuckRaft is quick to reflate and pack up. Packed down, it's compact enough to pop in your backpack for the hiking or running section of your adventure, or if you're only walking a short distance, you can strap the inflated raft to your rucksack – at 1kg it doesn't add a noticeable amount of extra weight. The only factor to bear in mind on fast-paced swim-runs is that although the inflatable float is reasonably durable, you'll need to avoid dragging it around or setting it down on rough surfaces or sharp rocks, as it could burst.
How much does a RuckRaft cost?
A RuckRaft costs £139.99, or £144 for a limited-edition black version (whichever colour you go for, the dry bag is a bright orange, for good visibility in the water) and is available from AboveBelow. This is a lot more than a standard tow float, which will set you back around £30 – but I think a RuckRaft is well worth the one-time investment if you're a keen swimmer and plan to use it regularly for point-to-point journeys, and the price also reflects the raft's great quality, and the fact that it's made in the UK. Anyone just getting into outdoor swimming won't need to pull their belongings around like this, and can buy a standard tow float for shorter swims.
Who needs a RuckRaft?
What really makes the RuckRaft special is how many adventures it opens up for swimmers – you could take your hiking or your running kit with you, pack a small stove for a mid-swim hot chocolate or even bring along a small tent for a two-day swimming adventure. Some fans of the RuckRaft take theirs on a swim-hike journey to the pub for a pint! This clever raft might be overkill for beginner wild swimmers just going for casual summer dips, but for keen swimmers who want to explore further and try cross-country swimming, this is a game-changer.