Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Explorer 42

New Packrafts on the Market!

Since writing the post about New packrafting toys  two years ago a lot has happened on the packrafting market. And on the other hand, not so much has happened: it’s still the same interesting growing niche sport.

But, there are new boats worth a mention!

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New packrafts

Alpackraft Gnu with Vectran fabric and sraydeck. Photo stolen from Packrafting-Store website.

Alpackraft Gnu with Vectran fabric and sraydeck. Photo stolen from Packrafting-Store website.

Two years ago I wrote about the Alpackraft Explorer 42. Since then Alpackraft released the Gnu: a two-person white water capable packraft with a spray deck and somewhat resembling a miniature two-person canoe.  Moro photos and detailed specs on the Packrafting-Store website. For the Europeans wanting to try the Gnu it’s again available for rent from Packrafting Store!

Now that I’ve tried the Explorer 42 I’m finding the Gnu to be very interesting option. Sharing a raft (with enough room for both to paddle…) is refreshing and great fun and feels especially well suited for lakes and easy rivers which are plentiful here in Southern Finland. The Gnu would offer more hull speed and more floatation than th EX42 which would be welcome. And of course there’s the option to use the spraydeck. Spraydeck might be very welcome in some situations even though I wouldn’t see myself using the Gnu for any serious white water (difficult class II or above).

Alpackaraft white water packraft. Photo stolen from the promotional website.

Alpackaraft white water packraft. Photo stolen from the promotional website.

Gnu is already old news for most but the latest thing from Alpackraft is pretty new: The yet-to-be-named Alpackaraft white water specific packraft. It’s a turn-key white water package with no need for glueing attachments for thigh straps or other DIY modifications.

It’s still clearly a packraft but quite a different boat: the hull is longer and narrower than the Denali Llama, the bow is more pointy and there’s more rocker. It comes with a refurnished cockpit, white water spraydeck, knee braces, Cargo Fly, etc. The price is that it’s pretty heavy at 4,5kg, nearly one kilo heavier than a Denali Llama with white water spray deck and Cargo Fly. And it also costs 1900 USD. But if you compare the weight and price to similarly equipped raft and take into account all the DIY work required and the added performance it’s not actually that bad.

The big questions is: do you need that extra performance? Personally I’d love to try the new raft but I don’t think I’ll need the added performance anytime soon so I’ll opt saving my money and carrying little less for now.

Typical for Alpacka Raft company, there’s not much information about the raft available yet but you can see prototypes in use for example on Mike C‘s video from Veracruz:

In addition to Alpackarafts (and the Feathercraft‘s offerings) there is an increasing amount of options for more serious packrafting:

Kokopelli Hornet. Photo stolen from Kokopelli website.

Kokopelli Hornet. Photo stolen from Kokopelli website.

The crowd-funded Kokopelli Raft company is now selling and shipping their packrafts. For me it seems that all the models are based on the same symmetrical hull design and the difference is whether it comes equipped with or without a spray deck and/or Cargo Fly type inner storage option. It seems the design and solutions are pretty similar to those of Alpackrafts but there are also some differences.

The rafts are heavier than Alpackarafts but also use burlier materials (floor: 840den vs 210den and tubes: 210den vs 75den, though the coating is the key here…) and are roughly the size of Alpackraft Explorer. The hull is made of two symmetrical sections with separate valves and eight attachment points. The Kokopellis don’t come with a seat or backrest but with a detachable inflatable floor (by NSR?). Some may appreciate the sturdier fabrics and most will probably welcome the cheaper prices: the basic Kokopelli Hornet sells for 599 USD (compared to 945 USD for the Alpackaraft Unrigged Explorer).

Again something I might like to try but probably not going to buy as I don’t see it offering any advantages over my current packraft. But a lower cost option is always welcome and will likely help making packrafting more popular. The Kokopellis also seem like a great option for bikerafting or for people sharing a raft on easy waters or rafting with a canine companion.

The Aire BAKraft. Photo stolen from Forrest McCarthy's blog.

The Aire BAKraft on a test run. Photo stolen from Forrest McCarthy’s blog.

The very latest boat on the waters is the BAKraft by Aire named Hybrid SBF. Forrest McCarthy blogged about this self-bailing vessel that seems like a hybrid between an inflatable kayak (Aire’s main business) and a classic packraft.

The outcome is very interesting and also different to the classic packraft designs: it looks like a short IK, comes with a self-bailing floor and Aire thigh straps and the hull is constructed of urethane bladder covered with separate layer of Dyneema for high-strength protection. Size-wise its shorter and wider than Alpackraft Alpacka but as the design is very different the comparison on this level doesn’t probably make much sense. It weights under 3 kg with the self-bailing floor and backrest so it’s actually quite light. The beefy Aire thigh straps (also widely used as a DIY modification in Alpackarafts) add about 0,5kg. There’s some room to stove gear in the stern but apparently Cargo FLy type solution for stowing gear inside the tubes is in the making. The Hybrid SBF will be available in 2015 for RRP of 1200 USD. In addition there is a cheaper (and likely lighter) non-selfbailing version, the Hybrid Lite, coming too.

In my opinion this is very interesting design as it actually offers something new. Again I’d love to test it but don’t know if I’d buy it due the lack of a spraydeck. For serious white water use the selfbailing floor is probably as good or even better option than spray deck. And if you’ll need to bring a drysuit anyway or paddle in warm waters is makes a lot of sense. But for easier floats in colder climates the spray deck offers extra warmth and protection… Though I think a MYOG spraydeck would be rather easy project here…

The little ultralight packrafts

Supai Flatwater Canyon II on the right, Anfibio Buoy Boy inflatable vest in the middle, simple foam PFD on the left and 1L Nalgene for scale.

From right: simple oam PFD, Anfibio Buoy Boy inflatable vest and Supai Flatwater Canyon II packraft . A Nalgene for scale.

In addition to the full-sized and super capable packrafts there’s the sub-segment of superlight one-person rafts suitable for crossing lakes and rivers on hiking oriented trips, fishing on remote lakes, etc.

– The traditional boat and sort of benchmark in this category is Alpackraft Scout (1660g) being the most robust boat in the group.
Supai Adventure Gear Flatwater Canyon II  is the lightest boat in the group at 680 g with good design but small size and light materials.
– Klymit has the LiteWater Dinghy (LWD). The weight is reasonable 990g as is the price but based on what I’ve seen I’m not convinced by the design.
– Ruta Locura sells an ultralight version of the LWD called LWD-UL made of thinner fabric and thus being lighter (790g).
– FlyweightDesigns has updated the Flytepacker and it’s now called CrossFlyte and has an inner part (740g) and detachable skin (850g) for added robustness (total 1590g).
Advances Elements Packlite Kayak is more like an ultralight “pool-toyed” IK but at 1800g and with reasonable price it fits the segment well.

Packsailing

A client packsailing upstream the Kymijoki on my packrafting course in August.

In addition to the new rafts there are also new accessories which open up new ways of using the pakcrafts with packraft sailing being the latest thing. Packrafting-Store sells a kayak sails sized for packrafts and Joni and Marko have been pioneering the packsailing in Finland and Joery is also pushing the limits of packsailing by sailing the Belgian coast line (67km) in one day!

Being able to cover over 60km of flat water in a packraft in one day is pretty impressive! Packsailing is of course highly weather dependant (as is packrafting on flat water in general) but with the sail weighting only around 400g it makes sense to carry one just in case if the route includes long sections of flat water.

– – –

That’s it for now I think.

I wish I would next see a sub-2kg packraft capable of handling class III white water and preferably equipped with a spray deck. Something like a white water version of the Alpackaraft CuriYak. In the end that would be the ultimate boat for majority of packrafters and I could have done 95% of my packrafting with such a boat and it would’ve been a lot lighter in my pack than my current boat. So, if the great people at Alpacka Raft company are reading this, feel free to start working on the idea! 🙂

Edit: Post edited on 2.10. as I got new infromation: Alpackraft Gnu is again available for rentals from Packrafting-Store and the weight of the Aire Hybrid SBF BAKraft doesn’t include the thigh straps.

New packrafting toys!

No, unfortunately I don’t have any new packrafting toys for myself but there have been few very cool new products hitting the market this summer. And even though I’ve tweeted about every one of the new toys they are also worth a blog post as I have readers who don’t follow me on Twitter. (For those readers: It’s an option worth considering just go here and click “Follow”.) A lot of this information is originally from packrafting.de, a great blog worth following!

To get you started here a few pics from the recent trips near Kilpisjärvi, both including a bit of packrafting. Both trips were possible thanks to the packraft rental service by Backpacking North.

My mate Tuomas packrafting the Kummaeno river. A lot of walking followed by easy river with low water level: a trip where a light but sturdy packraft would have excelled.

N floating down the gorgeous Reisadalen after a lot of walking. Again a lighter packraft, or a raft for two, would’ve done the trick here.

Dry suits, designed solely for packrafting!

Dry suit just makes packrafting a lot more comfortable if it’s cold, the water is cold or you’re doing hard stuff in white water. For most use you don’t really need one but might occasionally still want one. We didn’t have dry suits on the aforementioned trips but I did miss mine on the Kummaeno. I have been using an Ursuit AWS 4-tex suit made by a Finnish company Ursuk. They make great dry suits, especially for demanding professional use, and the AWS 4-tex is also a very good dry suit for the use it was designed for. But it has socks and they tend to wear out and start to leak in packrafting use (which includes walking with the suit, often sand, sticks and squirrels in your shoes). And  for the trips where you have to carry your rafting kit over long distances, a lighter option would be nicer…

Tuomas on Lätäseno back in 2011. One of those moments when you really appreciate a quality dry suit.

And da-daa! Now there are two dry suits designed solely for packrafting.

They are both very simple and light weight and instead of socks (or fixed boots) they have gussets in the ankles. The long-awaited dry suit from Alpacka, the Stowaway, hit the shelves this summer and a bit later the European Packrafting-Store launched their own Anfibio line including a dry suit called the Packsuit. I have to say that on the screen the Alpacka Stowaway is more appealing thanks to the zipper on waist (for the need that naturally occur during a long day of packrafting) and a neoprene neck closure (suits better for my skin). But the Packsuit’s zipper seems better for ventilating while on waters (Yes, it’s dangerous so practise at your own risk!) and the price point is really good.

As the Ursuk dry suits are though bastards I don’t see myself investing on a new dry suit any time soon… But if you are looking for a dry suit mostly for packrafting, I’d choose between the two dry suits really designed for packrafting.

As the waters in Finland are already getting colder it’s timely to remind also of the cheaper option for a dry suit: neoprene wetsuit. These are not as comfortable (especially when wet the next day and crispy in the freezing morning air) nor are they as light but they are cheap alternative for stretching the packrafting season towards the winter. For packrafting I’ve used one of the cheapest a sub 40 euro model available from Motonet-stores in Finland. It’s designed for surfing and probably doesn’t excel even for that but it’s cheap and gets the job done. A real bargain.

New packrafts!

I’ve been mostly using an Alpacka Denali Llama which is a great packraft for my needs but occasionally either too small (as me and N found out last summer when trying to packraft with two people and two rucksacks on board) or too big and heavy. The big and heavy part usually leads to leaving it at home if it’s not really needed for the trip but a light raft would be nice for occasional river or lake crossing and generally as a tool to provide more freedom of choise in the backcountry. And now there are options to tackle both of the problems!

The Alpacka Explorer 42. Picture stolen from Packrafting Store website.

For the need of a two-person packraft there is now the Explorer 42:Nearly canoe-like two-person packraft by Alpacka Raft available on Packrafting Store. It’s 32 cm longer from the inside than my Llama and the inner doesn’t taper towards the front which means there should be really enough room for two people and two big packs. Just add few tie-downs to the stern as the big butt easily supports a rucksack or two. It weights only 2650 g (without seats) i.e. 1325 g per person. That’s not bad as the classic solo packrafts from Alpacka weight about 1 kg more! Add a pair of Trekking Pole Blades (140 g) to your trekking poles for canoe style paddling, use your sleeping pads as seats and you have a sub 3 kg packrafting package for two! (Just don’t take it on white water… Though some nice class I might go…)

The Alpacka CuriYak. Picture stolen from Alpacka website.

For the need of a sturdy but light tool for backcountry travel there has always been the Alpacka Scout. But with an inner length of 104 cm and limited buoyancy it’s not really meant for people of my size (186 cm tall). Roman Dial has been using a longer spray-decked special version “the Super Scout” but the design is not available for the public. Instead there is now the all new Alpacka CuriYak! It’s very interesting design with pointy bow and big stern with the standard 12 inch tubes but the tubes in the middle are only 10 inch in diameter. It’s sized like the standard Yak (i.e. has 10 cm more inner length than the Scout) but weights only 1,87 kg (versus 2,25 kg for the Yak). Unfortunately there is no spray-deck available for this one but a MYOS spray-deck is always a possibility… Anyhow, very interesting boat and if I could afford, I would definitely buy this one to accompany my Llama. (Then I could upgrade the Llama with the new spray-deck and skirt, add thigh-straps and so on. To pimp your packraft  take a look at Luck Mehl’s great tutotial.)

And there is also a lot lighter option for this category from Klymit (the company making the weird sleeping pads) the “Light Water Dingy”. As the name suggest it’s really meant for easy water and seems a bit dubious in my opinion but would probably do great job on easy crossings and would double as a very comfortable sleeping pad. Only problem is the 200 pound weight limit as I’m way over that, even without any gear! But for some this is probably an interesting option to the FlytePacker packraft (or for inflatable beach mattresses typically used on Finnish multisport competitions). Oh, it weights only about 650 grams and should cost around 250 euros. Not too bad.

Feel free to comment the post and the topic, especially if you have any first hand experience about the products mentioned here or links to user reports!