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June 13, 2018

Born From Necessity: The Invention of the Modern Day Inflation Bag

Packrafting History

Alpacka Raft’s Sheri Tingey and the Invention of the Modern Day Inflation Bag

The original packraft inflation bag (for modern-day packrafts) was like an accordion, cylindrical and held open with metal stiffeners (stays) that Sheri Tingey found on the floor of Home Depot; bailing wire that used to hold bags of insulation together, she says. The bag part was made of the same Silnylon fabric that I-Bags are made of today, but they didn’t hold much air because they were only 13 inches in diameter.

“If people took care of them, they worked fine,” says Tingey. “But more often than not, people would destroy them when they wadded them up in their backpacks. The stays would bend and look like bananas or half moons and were permanently screwed up.”

The day Tingey invented the modern-day inflation bag, she and her friend and fellow adventurer Nora Tobin were heading up to paddle Willow Creek in Alaska. They decided Tobin would drive. And, unfortunately, upon arrival to the put in they realized that Tobin had forgotten her inflation bag and Tingey’s inflation bag and her pump were back at the house.

But in those years, she says, she was always looking for a better fitting to the “weird threads” on the only valves she could find for her packrafts. She kept an extra nozzle in her purse.

“Whenever I went to a hardware store, I’d compare what they had with what I had,” Tingey said. “And while sitting at Willow Creek I thought, ‘well I have a nozzle piece in my purse…’ I grabbed it and I rummaged through the back of Nora’s Subaru and found a big, black 55-gallon garbage bag. I looked at it and though, ‘OK,’ and I took the duct tape from her repair kit, taped the nozzle to the bottom of the garbage bag, and Nora and I held the bag up at four points to make a square.” When she grabbed the hole, closed it off, and squeezed it, she realized she could get twice as much air into the packraft as with her original inflation bag.

“It was a complete bingo moment!” she says with a laugh. She then just had to figure out how to do it with one person. She thought to put something stiff on the sides so it because a square when it was opened, and that was it.

“It was total necessity,” she explains. “There was no way either of us were going to blow up those packrafts with our mouths. It was hysterical. Literally since I made the first inflation bags, I’d been looking for something better. I didn’t even think about going down that direction. The second we used the garbage bag I thought, “There it is!’ And now you see this model everywhere.”

How to Inflate Your Packraft & Alpacka Raft’s New Valve & How to Use It from Alpacka Raft on Vimeo.