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Alpacka Rafts

Alpacka raft in the surf on the Washington coast

Alpacka Rafts | Sevylor Rafts | Packrafting Tips | Packrafting Trips

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that since getting into packrafting, we've gotten to know Sheri Tingey (who makes Alpacka rafts), and Alpacka has become one of our sponsors for our upcoming trip.

Alpacka rafts are expensive - about $775 (2007). But they're amazing boats. They're tough enough to handle pretty much any water you might encounter in the wilderness. And using waterways adds a whole new dimension to any backpacking trip. Almost anywhere we go now, we plan to float or paddle at least part of the way.

Size and Weight
Alpaca: 4 lbs
Yak: 4 lbs 7 oz
Llama: 4 lbs 12 oz
All these weights are without the attached spray deck, which adds about 11 oz. We've paddled in all 3, but have taken the smallest size (Alpaca) on all of our long trips. A snug-fitting packraft handles better in waves, since it allows you to more easily move the boat with your body. Smaller packrafts also go faster in flat water. The larger packrafts are a bit more comfortable for bigger people, and the largest one (Llama), can fit two medium-sized people at once for calm-water fishing or short crossings.
A kayak paddle will add another couple pounds on top of this. We started with Aquabound Seafarer paddles with a carbon fiber shaft which are 200cm long (short for a kayak paddle, but long enough for a raft). These weigh 2lbs 3oz each. Now we have an Aquabound Manta Ray, and an Aquabound Splat, which are both lighter.

These rafts are amazingly tough for their size. The bottom is made of especially thick fabric, and can generally bump over rocks with no trouble. The tube fabric is not quite as tough, but can still handle most of what you might run into. In the hundreds of miles we've traveled in these rafts, there are only a few things that have caused leaks.

See the "Things we've done wrong" section on the Packrafting Tips page for issues we've had in them.

Alpacka rafts are amazingly good at bouncing through things. They'll go right through most holes and right over most waves without tipping. Their biggest issue is that they're back-heavy. The paddler sits at the back of the boat, and only their pack weighs down the front. Lean forward when you hit a steep wave to avoid tipping the raft over backwards. Also, in whitewater, the boats can get swamped by the waves. We just pull over now and then to dump out the extra water. Some people use Alpacka's sprayskirts.

Alpacka rafts are not the most graceful of boats for paddling flat water. They have no keel, and won't track at all. But once you get used to it, they're fairly comfortable to paddle, and they can do 2 miles per hour. In most areas, that's still definitely faster than bushwhacking.


  • Inflation bag - Alpacka rafts come with a 2 oz nylon inflation bag. You attach this bag to the main valve, fill it with air, grip the top closed and squeeze the air into the raft. It takes only 5-10 minutes to get the raft blown up this way, and only the final topping off has to be done by mouth.

  • Air mattress - Supposedly, an air mattress in the bottom of the raft will stiffen the floor. However, we use our air mattresses as life vests, partially inflating them, wrapping them around our torsos, and securing them under a coat. This actually works quite well

  • Spray decks - You can get one when you buy the boat, or get one added later. They're not quite waterproof, but keep a lot of water out, and keep you much warmer. Only downside is the added weight.

  • Patch kit - Bring alcohol to clean off the surface that needs patching (%100 is best if you can find it). Aquaseal works for patching small holes and tears, and cracks in the elbow valve, but takes a while to dry. The rafts now come with some "patch and go" stuff which seems pretty cool for holes (probably won't work on elbow valves), but I've yet to really try it.

  • Paddle - The kayak paddle adds another couple pounds to the weight. Carbon fiber paddles are lighter than fiberglass, but more expensive. A 4-piece breakdown kayak paddle fits best into a backpack. We use a 200cm paddle. Longer paddles allow you to reach farther over the raft tube, but also weigh more and are more unwieldly in the pack.

Alpacka rafts go for about $775. A 4-piece breakdown kayak paddle costs about $125 for a fiberglass one, or $190 for a carbon fiber version.

To read more, or to order, go to the Alpacka Raft website. Sheri Tingey, who runs Alpacka Raft, is great about answering questions and taking comments and suggestions from raft users.

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contact me at mckittre at gmail dot com
Last modified 7/16/06