The number of companies making packrafts is growing alongside the sport of packrafting itself. There are now 7 different brands of packrafts available, with an eighth one coming soon. So the obvious question is which is the best packraft? The answer: it depends. It depends on how you’re planning to use the packraft and the amount of money you want to spend.
This series explores the pros and cons of each brand of packraft. In addition to an analysis of Alpacka Raft packrafts (below), here is a link to our article on Feathercraft packrafts. And stay tuned for articles on Supai Adventure Gear, NRS, Flyweight Designs, Klymit, Advanced Elements and Kokopelli Raft Company.
Alpacka Raft Packraft
Although packrafting has been around in various forms throughout centuries, Alpacka Raft created the first modern-day packraft in 2001 in Alaska. Today, all of its packrafts are designed and made at the company’s headquarters in Southwestern Colorado.
Alpacka packrafts shine in wilderness whitewater because they are both lightweight and durable. Their standard boat weighs about 5 pounds and rolls up to the size of a large sleeping bag or small tent. This makes it quite easy to hike them into the backcountry. Meanwhile, Apacka packrafts have been used on the big rapids in the Grand Canyon and to paddle waterfalls. (Note: we don’t actually recommend doing either, but we’re just saying … it’s been done and Alpackas have held up to the test).
The standard Alpacka packraft comes in three sizes: Alpaca (small), Yukon Yak (medium) and Denali Llama (large). These models start at $783.
Alpacka also offers several niche models of packrafts including ones designed for two people, fishing and adventure racing.
If you plan to be in class II or above whitewater, we highly recommend a spray deck. Since Alpacka packrafts are NOT self-bailing, spray decks prevent frequent stops on shore to dump water out of your boat. (Even with a spray deck you’ll still have to stop occasionally, but much less).
Alpacka makes two types of spray decks: the Cruiser Spray Deck at a cost of $200 and the Whitewater Spray Deck for $250. Both need to be installed by Alpacka. The Cruiser Spray Deck is simple to use. It seals with Velcro and intuitively pulls off in the event your packraft flips. It also completely unzips from the boat for those blue sky, flat water floats. It works well in Class II-III whitewater, or when it’s raining. The Whitewater Spray Deck is more water tight, but also a heavier, more complicated system. We recommend the Whitewater Spray Deck if your focus is on paddling big rapids.
We frequently get asked about the Cargo Fly. The Cargo Fly is a system that allows you to store gear inside the packrafts’ hull. It has its pros and cons. It allows for efficient packing, it creates a low center of gravity helping to stabilize the boat, and it creates a multiple chamber boat (the storage bags get inflated once packed). The downside is a more complicated setup and difficulty accessing your gear while paddling.
Now for the shameless plug: if you’re unsure which size or model is right for you, you can test out an Alpacka packraft by renting from Jackson Hole Packraft & Packraft Rentals Anywhere. We rent Yukon Yaks (size medium) and Denali Llamas (size large) with both Cruiser Spray Decks and Whitewater Spray Decks. We also have a few Feathercraft BayLees (self-bailing) available for rent. We ship rentals throughout the Lower 48 and Canada. Here is the link to our rental prices. Call us at 907-830-1016 to make your reservation.
Here is a link to our article on Feathercraft packrafts, and stay tuned for more articles in our Best Packraft Series.
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of Alpacka packrafts?