Alpacka Pack Rafts are considered one of the leading packraft companies out there. This Colorado company has been designing and hand building pack rafts since 2000. They offer quite the model range from ultralight white-water packrafts to backcountry heavy capacity packrafts. They are on the more expensive range of packrafts since they are handmade in the USA and offer great customer service. We currently own three models that I will review; The Expedition, The Caribou and The Forager.
Coming from a family that has owned and operated a whitewater canoe guiding business since the 70’s, I was slow to come around to rafting. But after picking up our first 13’ Sotar Raft, I was hooked on new ways to explore rivers! Finding room for our gear in the car with a growing family lead us to follow our buddy into the packrafting world.
The best thing about packrafts is the size. No need for a trailer or multiple people to haul these around! They all can fit into a backpack and the Caribou model was designed to fit on bike handlebars! I find that we use them more since we can grab our tote full of boats and go. They also fit in the rear trunk of the RAV4 with a large dog or in the Thule Topper. If I want to go take my kids for float, I can easily hike in my boat, with paddles, life jackets and enough snacks for an army (two kids under 6). If you happen to get a hole in the field, a simple Tvek Tape repair should get you back home afloat.
Pictured below is a comparison of sizes when loosely rolled. Check out how small these are, about as tall as 4 cans! We also like to cheat at the put in’s and use the Makita Blower to inflate quicker, but they all come with a inflatation bag that looks like a pillowcase.
From top left; Forager rolled with all accessories, Expedition Rolled with all accessories, Caribou rolled with all accessories, All the gear needed for three packrafts.
Alpacka Rafts Lineup
Coming in at about 5lbs this is the lightest and smallest packing boat we have. It was designed for Bikerafting to fit rolled up on your handlebars. It is the lightest full sized packraft on the market today.
We opted in for the built in Cargo Fly Zipper upgrade so we could stash our things inside the tubes. This is necessary if you will be doing any overnight trips. It is made of 210-denier high count nylon fabric for the tubes and the floor is 840-denier nylon fabric. We have not had any problem with holes so far and have used it since 2020.
Reasons to love:
• Size and weight- smallest full size packraft on the market
• Durable- heavy weight floor can withstand a lot of use
• Easy to paddle- can handle white water and does okay on flat water
• Biking/Hunting Ready- made to fit a load on the front and still able to handle with ease some class I/II rapids. I wouldn’t charge into the Snake River without trying it out loaded on easier water.
• Space- Can fit one large human 6’-2” and either a dog or young child in front.
Things to question:
• Price- Alpacka rafts are not the cheapest but are high quality
• Doesn’t perform as well as other models in white water
• No white-water skirt option- so either must have dry suit or be okay with being wet.
(with Cargo Fly Zipper) $1,050
The prettiest boat in our fleet (Fireweed) is the Expedition, and also the next boat out the door for a different model. This boat is THE adventure boat, a mix of performance and packability. It is higher performance than the Classic. It can handle whitewater for sure but isn’t the most stable, you might be swimming more rapids than in a more forgiving boat like the Wolverine.
It has been taken on multi day trips with all our stuff crammed in the cargo fly. It is comfortable with a back band, thigh strap and foot brace. I liked the foot brace since we got a size Medium so both adults could use it (6’2 and 5’4).
It can also fit a dog or kid when not using the whitewater deck.
Reasons to love:
• Packable and durable
• Most versatile packraft- big backcountry adventures or weekend excursions
• Removable White Water Deck- can leave off to use as an open boat
Things to question
• Price- almost $2k for a single boat
• White Water performance- if you will be doing mostly white water, I would switch to a higher performance boat like the Gnarwhal.
• Removable White Water Deck- get the built in deck if you will be using in cold water or only white water
(with removable whitewater deck) $1,825
From left; Snack boat, Lake view paddle, comfortable lounger
If I only had one boat for our family, it would be the Forager. We can easily fit all four of us in here and while it is cramped it is so much fun! Coming from the canoe world, this boat paddles the same as your classic Mad Rivers and Old Town Canoes.
As far as comfort goes the front person will feel it in their lower back unless you kneel. That is the only complaint I have. We have this ready to go for all car camping or lake going adventures. You can use a canoe paddle or go solo with a kayak paddle. We can fly fish out of this easily while the back person paddles.
You can store all your gear in the tubes. The dry bags inflated inside turns it into a multi chambered boat for rivers that require that.
Reasons to love:
• One boat for all of us! Two adults and two children under 6
• Can load this sucker up with up to 1,000lb
• Great for self-supported long trips
• Can solo if wanted
• Easy to repair in the field, just bring some Tvek tape
• Can fit it all in a carry-on for World Travel
Things to question
• Not cheap
• Heavier than the smaller boats (about 14 lbs) and takes up more room in pack
• No skirt and will need dry suits in cold water or white-water trips
(with front passenger seat) $2,300
If I had one boat for our family it would be the Forager since we all fit in it. As far as the whitewater boats, I will be selling the Expedition to get the Gnarwhal to better fit our needs. I really enjoy the idea of a packraft since we can use our Rav4 and still have room for all our critters to tag along! We have used them many times over the past few years.
We have bikerafted, fly fished, love boated (when your dog lounges and stares at you as you paddle her around a lake), taken some multiday adventures and we have more trips planned than vacation time allows! Do yourself a favor and invest in a packraft!