Alpacka Rafts Review | Epic Rafts or Rip Off? [2020] + Guide

From using copious amounts of Aquaseal to keep their first raft from falling apart, Alpacka has come a long way, providing a few of the best packrafts to date. Having each of their packrafts handmade to order assures you of getting them fresh of the factory with materials in pristine condition.

Alpacka takes pride in giving you the liberty to fully customize your raft, building them up from their signature variants. Choosing among their vast selection of packrafts could get overwhelming, so we have narrowed the list to one for each hull shape.

Top 4 Best Alpacka Rafts Reviewed

  1. Alpacka Caribou
  2. Alpacka Gnarwhal
  3. Alpacka Forager
  4. Alpacka Classic

#1. Alpacka Caribou

Caribou – The Bikeraft

Features

  • Classic Hull with a Late Rise Bow
  • Open Deck Configuration
  • Classic Seat
  • Nylon Construction Material
  • Ultralight at 5 lbs.

The Alpacka Caribou makes it possible for you to go bike-packing without breaking your back from lifting your gear with the packraft’s ultralightweight feature. Its Classic Hull lets you securely load your bike in front without compromising stability and maneuverability on whitewater.

Caribou’s light weight also contributes to better weight distribution since your keeping your balance with a bike in the raft’s front might pose a challenge. The patented Late Rise Bow technology gives it the ability to maximize the raft’s carrying capacity while giving you ample gliding capabilities. This feature allows multi-sport athletes to smoothly transition from biking to whitewater rafting, making this packraft highly adaptable.

An optional Cargo Fly Zipper lets you store your gear in the packraft’s tubes should you wish to keep them drier. Alpacka also offers bike strap kits that allow you to secure your bike in place as you paddle.


#2. Alpacka Gnarwhal

Gnarwhal

Features

  • Rally Hull
  • Temper Assist Valve
  • Whitewater Fit
  • Standard Cargo Fly
  • Nylon Construction Material (Vectran option available)

The Alpacka Gnarwhal makes traversing big waves easier with its Rally Hull design. Its rear has a center panel that allows for more volume and buoyancy, while its curved ending improves maneuverability. A rockered bow lets you slice through waves and turn more smoothly.

Compared to other Alpacka packrafts with Rally Hulls, the Gnarwhal is relatively rigid, giving you ample stability and better paddling control. This feature makes it possible for beginners to work on their footing since it is more forgiving than other packrafts.

Its more massive size also allows for more storage capacity, making more room for your gear. A standard Cargo Fly Zipper keeps your gear inside the packraft’s tubes for better weight distribution.

Its whitewater fit includes thigh straps and foot braces to secure you in place and focus more on paddling than keeping your stance. The seat comes with an adjustable backband to allow for better back support.

This packraft, like any other Alpacka raft, is made to order with the whitewater or self-bailing deck options to choose from, allowing you to choose accordingly. A removable whitewater deck is also available for better customization.


#3. Alpacka Forager

BHA Forager

Features

  • Cargo Hull
  • Self-Bailing Deck
  • Inflatable Floor
  • Standard Cargo Fly
  • Nylon Construction Material

Alpacka Forager is the perfect tandem packraft for your hunting and fishing trips. This packraft is a part of the BHA Series; wherein all proceeds go in support of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

The largest among both Tandem and BHA Series, the Forager fits you and your partner in the raft comfortably, wit more than enough space for your fishing or hunting gear. Its Cargo Hull construction allows for maximum storage capacity without compromising the packraft’s stability.

Like the Rally Hull, a Cargo Hull’s rear has a center panel that maximizes volume and buoyancy, improving on the Forager’s balance. Its curved design lets you glide better, making the raft highly maneuverable. Alpacka’s Late Rise Bow design lets you cut through water better by adding weight to the front of the packraft.

Forager’s broader but shorter built, in comparison to other Cargo Hull packrafts, makes it more stable and spacious, which is suitable for carrying back hunting game and whitewater rafting. This specific built also makes it possible for one person to paddle while the other sets up to hunt or fish.


#4. Alpacka Classic

The Classic – The Iconic Original Alpacka Raft

Features

  • Classic Hull
  • Temper Assist Valve
  • Relaxed Fit
  • Classic Seat with Inflatable Seatback
  • Nylon Construction Material

The Classic Hull in the Alpacka Classic allows it to have a more extended rear for improved stability with a slightly elevated front to assure better maneuverability in whitewater. Its lightweight that does not compromise on functionality lets you go on spontaneous adventures conveniently.

Its no-fuss design leaves a lot of room for you to customize this packraft accordingly. Alpacka lets you choose between four built configurations, allowing you to tailor-fit this raft to your type of adventure.

An open configuration lets you have full control of how you want to maximize the deck. This setup keeps the packraft’s weight to a minimum, making it perfect for recreational trips.

The cruiser deck’s splash guard lets you stay warm and dry, allowing you to paddle during the winter. A Velcro closure makes you get in and out of the raft, quickly ensuring your safety in case of a wet exit.

A whitewater deck’s securely fitted spray skirt provides the ultimate protection from getting utterly wet during backcountry rafting. Alpacka also offers a removable option for this type of floor, making it more adaptable for all seasons.

The self-bailer configuration has a relatively open deck with a floor that helps in keeping you dry. This deck type is suitable for warmer days and for paddlers who prefer to get in and out of the raft quickly.


Top Pick: The Alpacka Caribou

All the packrafts in this article each have unique traits to cater to a specific type of paddler, but what makes the Alpacka Caribou stand out is its more adaptable construction. 

While the Gnarwhal makes an excellent choice for its capability to handle stronger waves, the Caribou outshines the former for its portability. Outdoor activities with the Gnarwhal will ultimately be limited to whitewater rafting, whereas the Caribou can give you a full-on land to water adventure.

The Alpacka Forager also makes an excellent choice, but like the Gnarwhal, carrying around a packraft as massive as this would make hiking or biking exhausting. Alpacka Classic’s simplistic design could’ve been an excellent match to the convenience Caribou offers, but like the Gnarwhal, its adaptability is limiting.


Alpacka Raft Buying Guide

Alpacka’s hull shapes are quite different, which allows for a more customized experience. This feature, however, also entails a closer look for you to maximize the packraft’s capabilities.

Packrafts with a Classic Hull have more massive tubes that allow for ample protection against impact and balance. The Classic, Caribou, and Scout rafts all fall under this category, and while they all differ in maneuverability, they all prioritize being lightweight and portable.

Rally Hulled packrafts assure you of finishing a trail on whitewater. Their sterns have a patented center panel design that allows for maximum buoyancy and volume. Its curved end allows for more predictable movements, letting you have full control of the raft despite strong waves. The Alpacka Expedition, Wolverine, and Gnarwhal all fall under the category, with the aggression of their rockers being their only difference.

From the term itself, Cargo Hulled packrafts prioritize on maximizing storage capacity, making it suitable for extended camping trips, fishing or hunting big game. Its rear is similar to that of the Rally Hull, allowing for optimized volume and buoyancy despite the heavy load. The Late Rise technology on the bow allows for better movement through the waves with the weight concentrated on the front. Alpacka’s Mule, Explorer 42, Forager, and GNU all fall in this type of hull.

After finding out the kind of hull shape suitable for you, choosing the right boat size will help improve your comfort as you paddle. As the term suggests, a relaxed fit lets you move your legs freely, giving ample space as you cruise leisurely. Packrafts with an Expedition configuration provide a more secure fit by letting your feet rest close to the bow for better control. The Whitewater series would require fully bent knees to optimize your legs’ contact with the thigh straps.


Conclusion

Alpacka’s dedication to letting every rafting enthusiast have a packraft explicitly made for their needs sets them apart. This attention to detail that does not generalize assures you that of getting your money’s worth, allowing for a better, more personalized experience.

The Alpacka Caribou is the perfect adventure companion for its capacity to let you go from biking to rafting in a snap. Traveling and walking long distances will not be a problem, making this an ideal raft to bring anywhere. Its simplistic design leaves room for many upgrades suitable for more challenging waves and is forgiving enough to let paddlers of all levels stay afloat.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What’s the difference between Vectran and Nylon?

A: Vectran makes the packraft stiffer, improving its stability but will ultimately make the raft more susceptible to its lack of flexibility. The Nylon material that Alpacka uses is relatively nimbler and comes with a Polyurethane film that makes it resistant to abrasions. This difference makes Alpacka’s Nylon packrafts a more versatile choice, with the Vectran option a more suitable upgrade for deeper whitewater. The rigidity of Vectran makes it less compact, something you also need to keep in mind before deciding on the raft’s material.

Q: Do all Alpacka packrafts have cargo zippers?

A: While all Alpacka packrafts are capable of having Cargo Fly Zippers installed, not all models come with this inclusion, something you need to check on before purchasing. You could do away with them for leisure rides since drybags should keep your gear dry, but adding storage on the tubes supposedly equalize weight distribution of which improves your stability. Longer and more competitive boating trips would require lugging in more things, and installing Alpacka’s Cargo Fly Zippers will allow you to secure your gear and maximize deck space.

Q: Can I repair an Alpacka Raft myself?

A: Alpacka’s website has an entire section for doing repairs on your raft. Since it’s highly likely that your packraft will experience wear and tear, repairing the raft yourself will lengthen the raft’s lifespan. Reading through the Repair Guide section of Alpacka’s website will help you assess the damage and do the appropriate repairs. They also offer a basic and expedition repair kit to let you do the repairs yourself with their recommended materials that will not coincide with the raft.

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