FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Packrafting?
Packrafting started out as a way to navigate lakes, rivers, and streams while backpacking. With a packraft, all of the blue lines on the map become a trail and the only thing limiting you is your imagination and skill.  However, with our design innovations over the years, packrafting has expanded into a paddle sport of its own category. Today you can find Alpacka Rafts doing everything from packrafting classics like two week traverses in Alaska, to low water runs down small desert rivers, to self-supported Grand Canyon trips, to Class IV/V whitewater classics, to hike in trips to remote fishing lakes.

 

How much weight can I carry in an Alpacka Raft?
The weight capacity of our packrafts varies by model as well as by use. In general, there isn’t a weight limit on any of the models and they will float very large loads. However, more weight will substantially affect handling.  In general, all of our single person packrafts can comfortably carry up to 75 pounds of cargo (in addition to the paddler) and they can carry much more weight than that if you can work with the effect on handling. We also have specific weight capacity guides for each of the Cargo Series models on those pages. As always, it is up to the paddler to use good judgment in determining how much weight that they can carry on a particular waterway.

 

Are Alpacka Rafts Durable?
Yes! Although our packrafts are lightweight, we use only the highest quality Made in USA materials which have been designed specifically for our packrafts. While it is possible to puncture an Alpacka Raft, our urethane coatings and base fabrics are very durable and slick which allows them to scrape and scratch through shallow sharp rivers with rarely anything more than minor nicks and scratches that can be easily repaired in the field.  Don’t be fooled by other brands selling cheaper models that look like our packrafts and claiming to use the “same” fabrics. Their fabrics are sourced over-seas and do not have nearly the same urethane adhesion strength, fabric tear strength, and UV resistance as our Made in USA materials.

 

Can Alpacka Rafts Run Whitewater?
Yes! Our Alpacka Series is quite capable in whitewater up to Class III and can run more difficult whitewater in the hands of skilled boaters. Even better, our whitewater series models are specifically designed to run whitewater and include thigh straps and backbands to allow the boater to roll the packraft like a kayak. In the hands of an experienced boater using good judgment, a packraft can run many Class IV and some Class V drops.  No matter what water you are running, your safety is determined by your skill and judgment. A packraft is the easiest watercraft in the world to portage. We never recommend running any water that you do not feel comfortable swimming out of in a worst case scenario!

 

Are Alpacka Rafts stable?
Yes. In fact they are more stable than most kayaks and inflatable kayaks. This makes packrafts very forgiving and easy to paddle.

 

Do Alpacka rafts have multiple air chambers?
No. The main purpose of multiple air chambers is to keep the boat floating in the event of a puncture. Large rafts will have 5 or 6 chambers for this purpose.  In a packraft with just 2 or 3 chambers, you will not be able to paddle the raft to shore if you lose one of the chambers which defeats the purpose and adds a lot of unnecessary weight and bulk. However, our Cargo Fly system adds the effect of having 2 additional air chambers on either side of the raft tubes. Unlike a traditional 2-3 chambered raft, this system actually can be paddled to shore in the event of a puncture.

 

Do I need special skills to packraft?
It depends. If you just want to get and enjoy easy water, all you need is a PFD, basic paddling skills, and good judgment to have a great time. We know of packrafters in their 80’s and of many toddlers who have completed extended trips in the front of their parents boat. If you want to do big backcountry traverses or challenging whitewater, you will need specialized skills for those adventures and you can learn a lot by taking a swiftwater rescue class or a kayaking course to learn water safety and paddling technique.

 

Where can I learn to packraft?
The basics of packrafting are as simple as inflating your boat, donning a PFD, and paddling out onto the water. Paddling a packraft is easy to learn.  There are some great online resources for everything from paddling technique to trip planning. For starters, check out the Packrafting 101 video’s from Media Feliz.  Roman Dial’s book Packrafting! is a great source of information as well as Bretwood Higman & Erin McKittrick’s website: www.aktrekking.com and www.groundtruthtrekking.org. The American Packrafting Association (APA) community forums at www.packrafting.org have some great ideas on trips as well.  If you want to learn advanced paddling skills, taking a whitewater kayaking class is another great option and the techniques you learn will translate right over to your packraft.

 

Which model and size should I get?
Tough question! You can’t go wrong with the Alpacka Series for a do everything packraft. Its our original model and best seller for good reason.  The Gnarwhal is a great option if you want a do everything packraft with maximum whitewater capability, while the Alpackalypse is a great choice for the hard shell kayaker that wants a packraft.  Our Cargo Series is perfect for families, sportsmen, and bringing along an extra person or a pet.  Finally, the Scout is ideal for ultralight trips.  We recommend that you size the boat to you and if on the fence size up for comfort or down for performance. Sizing charts are available on all models. 

 

Why Buy an Alpacka over a cheaper brand?
All of our packrafts are made by hand in Mancos, Colorado with the highest quality materials and parts sourced almost entirely from the United States. In addition, our progressive designs have reshaped and pushed the boundaries of packrafting for nearly two decades. Take a look around at the other packrafts on the market—almost all of them feature designs and options taken directly from our packrafts. Finally, as an in-house manufacturer, we offer a full range of repair and upgrade services to keep your packraft in optimal condition year after year. You can buy a cheaper packraft, but you can’t buy a better one.  We truly appreciate your support!

 

How Long will it take to Ship my Order?
All of our packrafts are built to order.  The build process takes 5-10 days on average and up to 4 weeks during peak season from April through July. Custom orders (Vectran and Custom Multi-Color) options are built from scratch (we don’t cut the fabric until you place your order) and take a minimum of 4 weeks to prepare prior to shipping.

 

What are the fees for international buyers?
Our pricing does not include VAT or customs charges for international buyers.  You will be responsible for paying all of these fees, which may be assessed by customs when your order is received into your country.  The fees themselves vary depending on the country and order amount. We will not mark shipments as a “gift” or lower the invoice value to avoid customs charges. Check with your country’s customs office to determine taxes and fees.

 

How do I glue in additional attachments to my Alpacka Raft?
Your Alpacka Raft is made of a polyurethane (PU) coated fabric. You can permanently attach anything that can be glued or otherwise adhered to polyurethane. Use a high quality polyurethane compatible glue.  Although a PVC-only adhesive will not work on our boats, a dual-purpose adhesive such as Clifton 1-Part will let you adhere either urethane or PVC items to your Alpacka raft.

 

I just received my Alpacka Raft, how do I set it up?
Setup is easy. Check out the questions below or see our Setup Guide for more details.

 

How do I inflate my Alpacka Raft?

General. Alpacka rafts are inflated using a simple and ingenious inflation bag, which acts as a high-volume air pump and weighs a mere 3 ounces. All 2017 inflation bags are reversible and can be used either with both our 2017 valve and our 2016 and earlier valves.  With practice, you can fill the boat in about 90 seconds.  Finish off the inflation using your lungs.

2016 and Earlier Valve Operation – All 2016 and earlier models, plus the 2017 Scout, feature a two valve system.  Use the inflation bag with the large dump valve to fill the packraft with air, then unscrew the inflation bag and quickly close it off with the valve cap. Use the elbow valve to temper the boat up to pressure.

2017 Valve Operation – All 2017 Alpacka Series feature a lightweight single valve allows high pressure oral inflation and quick deflation with a quick twist of the valve core. Turning the valve core to the right will open the valve for deflation and turning the core to the left will allow the one-way flap to engage for tempering. To inflate, insert the valve adapter on the inflation bag into the valve and twist to the right to lock in place. Use the inflation bag to capture air and compress it through the valve. As the boat fills up, you may want to turn the valve core to the left (without disengaging the adapter) to close the one way flap which will allow you to get more air in with the inflation bag. When the boat is full, disconnect the valve adapter and proceed to tempering. To deflate, just turn the valve core to the right and squeeze the air out.

Tempering – Tempering should be done by mouth or you can use a small pump. If tempering by mouth, you will not be able to overinflate the boat. Inflate it as hard as you can get it by mouth—short sharp breaths are more effective as the boat gets more tempered. You will need to re-temper the boat after a few minutes in the water as the air inside the boat adjusts to the water temperature. On sunny days, you will need to de-temper (let air out) the boat any time you bring the boat out of the water for more than a couple minutes. Due to the volume of air in the boat, the boat can reach dangerously high pressures very quickly if left in the sun.  If using a pump, do not inflate the boat above 2-psi.

 

How do I deflate and pack my Alpacka Raft?

Deflating – To deflate, remove the valve cap and twist the valve core to the right. Roll the boat from the bow to remove additional air. During the valve break in period, you may need to hold the valve open (turned to the right) during deflation. If you have a Cargo Fly, once the packraft has been de-tempered with the valve you can open the Cargo Fly zipper to release the rest of the air.

Folding/Rolling – There is no right or wrong way to roll or fold your boat for transport. Do whatever fits best for your use and carrying method.  We recommend the following ways:

– For a wide thinner roll, fold in half lengthwise and roll from the bow.;
– For a narrower thicker roll, fold into thirds lengthwise and roll from the bow;
– For a relatively square fold, try folding into quarters lengthwise and then folding in 1-foot length sections from the bow and secure with a strap.

 

How do I install my seat?

We have several styles of seats depending on the model:

Tie in Seats – Our non-self bailing Alpacka Series models (and many of our discontinued models) have tied in seats. To install, lineup the coated fabric seat tab (with holes) that is sewn to each side of the seat with the similar tabs that are attached to the sides of the packraft. The valve side of the seat should face up. Thread the tie in cords (included in the package) through the tabs and tie off each end to hold in place.

Sleeve Seats – All self bailers, all Whitewater Series models, and the Explorer 42 use a 3/4 length seat that is held in place by a sleeve that is attached to the floor of the boat. To install, slip the uninflated or partially inflated seat into the sleeve with the valve facing up and inflate to secure in place.

Gnu C2 Seat – The Gnu C2 Seat attaches to the Gnu via a series of aluminum hooks which connect to heavy duty loops which are welded into the floor of the Gnu. There are also two 1-inch male quick release buckles at each end of the C2 Seat which connect to corresponding female quick release buckles on the boat. Installation is easiest with the Gnu inflated and the C2 Seat inflated but not tempered.

Gnu Touring Seats (Kneeling Configuration) – To install the Touring Seats for kneeling, the wide flat side of the seat faces down and will push into place on the floor. The seat is designed to be oriented so that the higher part of the “saddle” is towards the stern. The paddler can kneel on either side of the saddle with their feet hanging off the back edge for a comfortable and cushioned kneeling position. When inflated, the seat pushes outwards to stay in position and keep it from falling out when you are out of the boat. The straps (for installing in sitting position) can be hooked into the floor attachments for the C2 seat for extra security.

Gnu Touring Seats (Sitting Configuration) –  To install the Touring Seats for sitting, the wide flat side of the seat faces up and the “saddle” side faces down. Position the seats so that the curve on the flat side that you are sitting on faces the stern. There are 4 strap plates on the seat which allow the seat to be secured by lashing 1-inch webbing straps to the two grab loops on the end of the packraft and the two triangles in the center of the tubes. You can cinch the seat down tight for a comfortable seat like a classic touring canoe.

 

How do I setup the Cruiser Deck?
The inflatable pillow in the center of the deck should be inflated when in use to shed water off to the side and limit pooling. To enter the deck, pull open the Velcro® closure, enter the boat, and reclose the Velcro® closure around your waist. To exit the deck, open the Velcro® closure. In the event of a capsize, the Velcro® is designed to free itself as you exit the packraft and there is a webbing loop attached to the left side of the boat that allows you to pull the Velcro® open if necessary. We recommend that you always practice entering and exiting the deck before taking your packraft into any hazardous conditions. WARNING: Do not add any additional closures (hooks, buttons, snaps, zippers, etc.) to the Velcro® closure as these items can impair your ability to safely exit the packraft.

 

How do I setup the Whitewater Deck?

Fitting the Coaming. The Whitewater Deck coaming is a 98-inch long 1/4-inch I.D. PEX pipe with an aluminum joint for connecting the coaming after threading onto the cockpit rim. To attach the coaming, unzip the two water resistant zippers on the cockpit rim and thread the coaming into the sleeve from the end without the aluminum sleeve. You may have to push and pull the PEX to work it all the way around the cockpit rim. Join the PEX with the aluminum joint and close the zippers to lock the coaming in place.  Due to shrinkage of the deck fabric, you will need to trim the coaming pole to fit after a few weeks of use. Trim the end without the aluminum joint about 1/2-inch at a time until the coaming fits snugly in the cockpit rim when zipped closed.

Fitting the Spray Skirt. The spray skirt should be worn over your paddling clothing and under your PFD.  To attach the spray skirt, start at either the back or front and work the opposite direction. It may take a few rounds of practice to get used to fitting the last bit of the skirt over the cockpit rim. If it is still to tight, trim the coaming pole as described above.

 

How do I install a Backband?
Our custom foam backband comes standard on all of our Gnarwhal models and can be added to any of our Alpacka Series models. It can also be installed on 2016 Self Bailers with our heavy-duty aluminum hooks (see below). Finally, it can on any prior year model by self installing D-Rings (available in the DIY Backband Kits). To install:

  1. Detach the stabilizing straps from the backband, loop them through the strap plates in the stern, and reattach to the inner ladder locks on the backband.
  2. Attach the backband by threading the straps on each end of the backband through the stern facing D-Rings on the packraft from the bow to stern and then thread through the aluminum common loops and attach to the outer ladder locks on the backband.
  3. You can adjust the backband while paddling to give a tighter or looser fit.

NOTE – If you have a 2016 Self Bailer, we can provide two heavy duty aluminum hooks for attaching the backband to the webbing loop on the packraft. The straps on the end of the backband should be threaded through the aluminum hooks (only one of the holes, not both like a ladder lock) and then back through the ladder locks on the backband as described above. The aluminum hooks should be installed so that they face down when attached to the packraft.

 

How do I install thigh straps?
All Whitewater Series models come standard with our patent-pending 4-point thigh straps. In addition, you can self install these thigh straps on other models by purchasing our DIY Thigh Strap Kit.  We do not recommend installing any third-party thigh straps your packraft. Our 4-point thigh straps provide better control and rolling performance than a 2 or 3 point thigh strap.  In addition, our straps are adjustable at all 4 points to provide optimal fit and comfort.  The straps are designed to be fit to a specific user by adjusting the length and placement of the top two attachments and the length of the ankle attachment. Once adjusted, the straps are tightened and loosened for use with just the hip attachment. You should only have to adjust the top and ankle attachments for the first time use or when you are changing users.  To set the initial fit:

  1. Sit in the inflated packraft with the backband adjusted to a comfortable leg position with your knee bent.
  2. Drape the thigh strap in place over your knee and note the of the metal hooks on the strap plate on the top of each side tube with the straps wrapping slightly around your knee cap.
  3. Attach the straps at all four points and adjust the length of the ankle strap so when the strap is tightened at the hip it lies flat over your thigh and knee. Once the top and ankle points are set, tighten and loosen the strap with hip adjustment which is threaded through the D-Ring facing towards the bow.

NOTE – If you have a 2016 Self Bailer, we can provide two heavy duty 1-inch quick release buckles for attaching the hip points of the thigh straps to the packraft. The thigh straps should be threaded through the top slot in the quick release buckle (not both slots like a ladder lock) and then back through the ladder lock on the thigh strap for adjustment.

 

How do I setup and care for my Cargo Fly?

Overview – The Cargo Fly is the ultimate packraft gear storage solution. The three-piece system utilizes an airtight and watertight zipper installed in the stern of the boat together with two gear storage dry bags which are clipped in place along the inside of the raft tubes. The system provides drier and more secure gear storage, improved paddling performance due to a lower center of gravity, quicker transitions from packrafting to hiking, and the internal dry bags act as additional balanced air chambers for increased safety (even over a two-chamber packraft) in the event of a puncture.

Internal Dry Bags – The Cargo Fly system includes two internal dry bags:

Ultralight Dry Bags are included standard on all Alpacka and Cargo Series models and optional on Whitewater Series models. The Ultralight Dry Bags feature a standard roll-top style closure. Weight 9oz/pair.

Standard Dry Bags are included standard on all Whitewater Series models and optional on all others. Standard dry bags feature an airtight zipper closure and inflation tube to act as additional air chambers. Weight 18oz/pair.

Installation – Both ultralight and standard dry bags (except Forager) can be secured inside the side tubes with the included 3/4-inch quick release buckles. On initial setup, the male buckle will need to be threaded onto the 3/4-inch webbing tab installed about half way down the side of each tube.

Packing – Internal dry bags should be evenly weighted to balance the load on either side of the packraft. Heavier items can be packed towards the bow or stern depending on the paddler’s preference.  Note – All hard and sharp items (pots, fuel canisters, stoves, etc.) should be packed in a padded case or wrapped in clothing and placed to the top and inside of the internal dry bags to prevent pinch flatting your packraft in shallow rivers.

Care & Maintenance – Follow these simple steps to keep your Cargo Fly TiZip SuperSeal® zipper in good repair (See more in our Cargo Fly Care Instructions):

Keep the zipper lubricated! Lubricate the entire length of the zipper before the first use, before and after any multi-day trip, and anytime the zipper feels sticky or difficult to move. Clean excess lubricant off with a cloth.

Keep the zipper clean and free of dirt and sand in the field. Load and unload your boat in the field in a clean area and keep your zipper closed when not in use. Clean sand and dirt contamination with a small brush and or by blowing on the area to prevent the zipper from separating.

Dry your zipper after every trip. Allow your boat to dry with the zipper open after every trip. The coating on the zipper can degrade if stored damp, which will cause the zipper to leak.

 

Do I have to do anything special to care for my Alpacka Raft?
  Alpacka rafts are low-fuss, low maintenance boats. They’re designed for people who are hard on gear. Part of our goal has been to build boats that don’t need a lot of attention either on the river or off it. Your boat will endure a lot of abuse. Very little is needed to keep your boat in “fighting trim” from year to year. However, simple preventative care will lengthen its life and keep it beautiful.

Store your packraft out of direct sunlight. We use the highest UV resistant urethane coatings available. These coatings will stay color fast far longer than cheaper packrafts that “look” like our boats, but use a much cheaper lower UV resistant coatings. Storing your packraft out of direct sunlight will prolong its life and reduce UV aging.

Wash your packraft. Washing with mild dish soap helps keep your boat clean and prevent the spread of invasive species across waterways.

Air dry your packraft. A wet packraft can spread invasive species. In addition, if your boat is stored wet, it will start to smell like cat urine and this smell can be very difficult to remove.

Clean, dry, and lubricate your Cargo Fly zipper. See the Cargo Fly Care Instructions for more details.

We recommend periodic Seaworthiness Checks. These should be done when pulling the boat out after a period of storage, after any non-design use (ex: using it as a tarp or gear-sled), or after any event that might have damaged the boat.

Do not use “UV-Protectant” or similar sprays on your packraft – These sprays create a hard outer coating that prevents repair materials and glue from sticking to the packraft. If you do accidentally use a UV protectant spray on your boat, it will wear off after use but you will have trouble with repairs or gluing any attachments to the boat until it does wear off.

 

How do I store my Alpacka Raft?
  Before long-term storage, wash the raft with fresh water. Get any sand, mud, and debris out of the floor area, where it tends to collect. Air-dry the raft, making sure it’s totally dry before storing it away.  Fold the raft loosely so air can circulate around it.  The boat’s fabric breathes and resists moisture build-up from condensation better when it’s exposed to the surrounding air. Ideally, keep the boat in a cool, dry place.

 

How do I repair my Alpacka Raft?
  In addition to being incredibly tough and low maintenance, almost every part of your Alpacka Raft can be repaired in the field to get you back home safely. Please see our Repair Guide for specific repair instructions. In addition, we offer factory repairs on all of our boats at reasonable rates. It’s part of our commitment to standing behind our products and keeping you out adventuring. Questions? Email benton@alpackaraft.com for answers.