Tips & Technique

Inflating your boat

Caring for your Inflation Bag

The inflation bag is designed to be light, easy to use, and easy to repair. To extend its life and to deal with common field problems, remember these points:

  • The inflation bag is made of silicone-impregnated nylon. It is super-light, slippery (useful in preventing objects in your pack from snagging and ripping it), and has a high tensile strength. It is water resistant but not 100% waterproof or airtight. Silicone-nylon cuts and burns easily. If the fabric snags on an object, it can rip. Stow your inflation bag inside your pack where it won’t snag on brush or be exposed to sparks from an open fire.
  • The PVC nozzle & interior fitting of your inflation bag are held together by friction. This is by design. However, the PVC fittings can work loose over time. To re-snug the fittings, just press the two PVC fittings back together, tapping lightly with a rock or hammer if necessary. This friction-fit enables quick field repair of a broken nozzle.
  • Replacing a damaged nozzle with common hardware: The PVC fittings on your inflation bag can be found at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or any other hardware store that carries a selection of pipe fittings. The nozzle piece is a standard 3/4″ thread PVC plumbing part. Not only can broken or lost parts be replaced at many hardware stores, but an alternative inflation system can be constructed if desired.


General Maintenance and Storage

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 the boat out of direct sunlight.  This slows UV degradation of the urethane.
  • Air-dry the boat after use or washing.  Important!
  • Clean and Lube Cargo-Fly Zipper.

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.

To do a Seaworthiness Check:

  • Inflate the raft.  Observe if it is holding air properly.  leave the raft inflated for several hours to determine if you have a leak.
  • Verify that the valves are functioning correctly.  Use soapy water if unsure.  Check The rubber O-ring on your main valve cap for cracks, this creates the seal.
  • Give it a “once over” inspection.  Check for damage, paying particular attention to the tubes and floor.


Long-Term Storage

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.

For Breakdown Paddles: Always store breakdown fiberglass or carbon paddles disassembled, or they can “lock up” due to the expansion of the ferrules inside the sockets.

Where there’s moisture, mold can grow. If a wet boat is stored for long periods, it should still be river-worthy when unpacked six months later, but it might not smell very good.


Packrafting 101:

Alpacka rafts are simple and easy to paddle. The basics of paddling a one-person raft are easily learned. Alpacka rafts are designed to be “jacks-of-all-trades,” usable by everyone. You can figure out the basics of flatwater paddling just playing around.

We’ve distilled some of the basics for paddling in calm water and low-class (Class Iand II) rivers.

  • Just Explorin’

    Always wear a PFD. We recommend all our users wear PFDs.

  • Alpacka rafts are extremely stable. They are designed not to roll. We build our boats to be extremely stable. Capsizing your raft is pretty hard.
  • Falling out isn’t a big deal. Falling overboard in deep water isn’t a big problem, provided you’ve practiced the art of getting back into the boat. To do this, flip the raft upright if it’s capsized, and pull yourself back in over the side-tube.
  • Alpackas bounce! Alpackas absorb and soften impacts, gently bouncing off boulders and other obstacles.
  • Alpacka rafts are shallow-draught boats. They “hover.” Alpacka rafts are relatively smooth-bottomed, with a shallow draught and no keel. Although this means the raft doesn’t track as well as a kayak, it also makes the boat easy to spin.  You can also skim over obstacles and into shallow landing spots.
  • Alpacka rafts are sensitive to windage. The same high buoyancy which allows an Alpacka raft to float over eddy lines and descend shallow creeks makes it sensitive to strong winds. Fighting a headwind on open water can be a little challenging.
  • Alpacka rafts can puncture. Initially, most Alpacka owners are very concerned that their boats will puncture. After using the boats for a few months, that hesitancy is replaced by aggressive confidence. Yes, our boats are tough, but they are inflatable and they can puncture. Be wary of sharp objects! Don’t boat down something you aren’t prepared to swim out.

Examples of Packrafting Activities…

The essence of a packrafting trip is remarkably simple: find someplace you’d like to float or paddle your boat, get your packraft, and off you go! It’s that easy. Some of our favorite “trips” are to the lake after work, or to the local wetland, floating on a lazy summer Sunday, watching the herons and beavers.

  • “High laking” often with a fishing rod. Pack up to an alpine lake, and off you go.
  • Hike up, float down. Your classic packrafting trip. Hike up into the wilderness, hop in the river, and float down! It’s a way to see a different side of the trip, and we know older trampers who prefer it because it’s easier on their bodies.
  • Car boatin’! Will, a former Alaska fishing fleet skipper, told us the best stories about “car boating.” He’d keep his Explorer in the trunk of his car, and every time he saw someplace – a pier, a wetland, a channel – he wanted to explore, he’d park, inflate his boat, and go for a row.
  • Rowing with the dog around the local lake. We’re pretty fond of this one. An evening row on the lake with the dog is one of our favorite ways to unwind at the end of the day.
  • Running a river, via car-boat-bike. This is a great “after work trip” for athletes. Grab packs with your rafts in them, load your bikes on the car, and drive to the river. Drop the bikes off at the take-out. Drive up to the put-in, inflate your rafts, and float the river down to your bikes. The rafts go back in the packs, you hop on the bikes, and pedal back to the car. Voila!
  • Bikerafting. Another great day trip option is bikerafting: biking to the put-in, paddling or floating a river with your bike-on-board, then biking home from the take-out.  There’s some fun bikerafting entries on Doom’s blog .
  • “The Big Traverse.” These are those “trips for the intrepid,” when you really want to get out somewhere remote, and make the river a part of your journey. Some boaters link hikes with multiple river crossings and descents, often taking a week or more in the wilderness. Others cross mountain ranges, hiking up one side and paddling down the other side. At their logical extreme, these become “Raftaneering” trips, often combining such elements as mountain biking, mountaineering, skiing, brush travel, orienteering, whitewater travel, and long floats. For a somewhat comical “Big Traverse” story, you can read an Outside Magazine story of transecting the Olympic Mountains, WA, from Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean – saltwater to saltwater.
Not much hi-tech gear required here.