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Backpack Boat Printed Plans

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5'/ 1.5 m


for PDF plans, click HERE

carry this boat to your favorite fishing hole

NOTE: Backpacker (photo above) and Backpacker Plus (first photo below) plans are in a single package. You will receive both plans when you order.

Backpack Boat

This 25 pound 5 foot long boat can be backpacked, trailered or pulled over backcountry trails to access those deep holes in remote lakes where larger boats never go. Removable straps can be rigged to a packboard or backpack and dual skegs provide an axle location to mount wheels for pulling on rough trails or trailering behind a quad. The optional wheels can be left in place to facilitate launch and retrieval, or removed.

Construction is a variation of traditional stitch and glue techniques or the boat can be built using traditional wood boatbuilding methods--or a combination. The bottom is sheathed with a combination of fiberglass cloth and graphite and seams are covered with glass tape. The boat hull can be left open for added space or optional side compartments can be added to provide hull support, accessible dry storage and the safety factor of emergency flotation.

Only simple woodworking tools are required including jig saw, drill, block plane and a few clamps. Rectangular scrapers are used instead of sandpaper when finishing epoxied surfaces and aside from hardware attachments no metal fastenings are required in the boat and no critical wood working skills are required.

Seating is adjustable fore and aft with a plank seat atop the compartments or in a more relaxed position on the bottom in an adjustable canoe chair. The wide beamed boat will support an average size adult on flat water and can be paddled facing forward, or rowed facing aft with 3 foot long oars, or the smallest of trolling motors will push the lightweight hull. Makes an easy car-topper or can be hauled in the smallest of trucks, and size can be increased a small amount by scaling up patterns.

Backpack Plus

I should have expected this. As soon as I put a minimum size boat on the website I start getting emails about a version "just a foot or two longer"! Builders like the shape but want to tweak the size just a bit. The original Backpacker was 5 feet, so we made this expanded version 6 foot 9 inches and a full four feet wide at the chine. As shown it weighs 43 pounds--little attempt was made to build it lightweight and it has solid mahogany gunnel strips, large compartments, the bottom is sheathed with six ounce glass cloth and seams are taped with 3 inch wide 10 ounce tape. A lightweight version would go under 40 pounds making it an easy car-topper for the smallest of compacts.

The Plus is just the midship section of a much larger dory. It has the same rocker as the smaller BackPacker but the shape is spread over a larger hull so it rows and motors somewhat more efficiently, and the smallest of electric trolling motors provides sufficient power as long as you're not in a hurry. The beam at midships is 58 inches which along with rocker provides maximum stability in the small boat. The Plus makes an easily managed solo fly-fishing design and is also a nimble compact drifter for small streams. As a drifter it will spin easily to position or hold the boat in current. Rigged as a lightweight duck boat there is room for a six footer to recline between the compartments. Oars as short as 4 feet work best for maneuverability when drifting and six foot oars are often suitable for open water.

As a recreational family boat it handles two normal sized adults on flat water and provides enough stability to make it enjoyable for kids. The angled sides and wedge shaped hull becomes more stable as it settles into the water to increase beam and length when loaded. Two can sit on opposite sides on the compartments with their feet up, or there is room for two adjustable seats between the compartments.

The Plus is easy to build with a few simple tools and no butt-blocks or scarfs are required and no critical woodworking skills. The sealed compartments provide hull support in the open, easy to clean interior, secure dry storage and a safety factor of positive flotation even if the hull unexpectedly fills with water from waves. Access to each compartment is provided by flush fitting Beckson screw-out ports which install in minutes.

Backpack Boat - Customer Boats

I finally got it done. It is made of glued up cedar strip,then fiber glassed. Ken


Hi Paul….I've attached photos of my Backpacker Plus. It rows really well and the beam made it quite stable for fly fishing. The photos show me facing aft, in conventional rowing position. A number of issues still to resolve but love the little boat. Jene Hughes


Paul....just some photos to show some progress on the BackPacker. Lowe's had the hardwood ply, 5mm and two sheets with a damage discount came to about $25. Looks like purpleheart--two coats epoxy and fiberglass on the bottom. Weight 19 lbs. A skulling oar is in the works. PS my excuse for flaws: so people will know it's hand made!
Rod Lee


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Additional Information

Designer Name:
paul butler
Length (range):
Under 8' / 2.44m
5'/ 1.5 m
Length at Waterline:
4 feet 6 inches/ 1.3 meters
42 inches/ 1.0 meters
Hull Weight:
Under 85 lbs / 38.56kg
Estimated Hull Weight:
25 pounds/11.3 kilograms
36" / 91.44cm
Unloaded Draft:
4 feet 6 inches/ 1.3 meters
Weight Capacity:
200pounds/90.7 kilograms
Primary Material:
Marine Plywood
Method of Construction:
Stitch and Glue
Hull Type:
Hull Shape:
Round bottom
Power Source:
Built-in Floatation:
Unit of Measure:
Instruction Manual:
Step-by-Step Instructions
Lofting Required:
Recommended Experience Level:
Designer's Thoughts on Experience Level:
Boat Type:
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0 Reviews

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