Alpacka Expedition
Packraft Review

Alpacka Packrafts are very popular in the packraft scene, especially among packrafters who do a lot of whitewater. In addition, Alpacka Raft promises to produce one of the best packrafts. In this article, we would like to take a closer look at the Alpacka Expedition and report on our experiences with the packraft on the water. This is the Alpacka Expedition in size Large and with a removable whitewater deck.

Technical Specification of the Alpacka Expedition

Nr. of persons:
Length:
Width:
Weight:
Pack size:

1
246 cm
91 cm
3,8 kg
43 x 20 cm

Max. load:
Material:

159 kg
210D Nylon (hull), 840D Ballistic Nylon (bottom)

Set-up and first impressions

The Alpacka Expedition is available in several color combinations (or custom color scheme for an additional charge), three sizes, and with a fixed or removable whitewater deck. You choose the size based on your required seat length. Depending on the size, the Alpacka Raft has an outer length of 231 to 246 cm. The width is identical for all three sizes.

Of the two deck options, the fixed whitewater deck provides the most effective splash protection and is ideal for paddlers who do a lot of challenging whitewater. For an additional cost, the Alpacka Expedition comes with a removable whitewater deck, giving you the ability to customize the packraft to suit your needs. We’re curious to see how well the removable deck keeps out the water on our model.

Alpacka completely eliminates the need for a plastic bag as packaging and packs the packraft and accessories in a lightweight thin fabric bag that you can use elsewhere. We think the idea of avoiding plastic is really great. A more robust bag for permanent use would have been even better, because the size of the bag is optimally adapted to the packraft and its accessories.

alpacka expedition bag
The packraft is in a thin bag
alpacka expedition scope of celivery
Scope of delivery of the Alpacka Expedition
alpacka expedition large deflated
The unfolded packraft

The Expedition series is standard equipped with a Cargo Fly (luggage compartment accessible via a T-Zip zipper in the rear). A T-Zip is a waterproof and airtight zipper, which allows you to store your luggage inside the hull dry and safe. You must place the luggage in the inner tube before inflating the packrafts.

alpacka carry handle cargo fly
T-Zip of the Cargo Fly (inner luggage compartment)
alpacka dry bags
Dry bag (left) inside the hull

The packraft can be inflated with the supplied inflation bag.The dark green inflation bag is lightweight and makes a robust impression. Make sure that the T-Zip is completely closed before inflating.

The valve of the boat makes a very high-quality impression. The screw thread is very easy to handle. The valve can be opened and closed via the blue thread. To inflate with the inflation bag, you have to turn the blue thread slightly counterclockwise and screw on the thread of the inflation bag. Here we are missing the obvious marking that shows whether the valve is open or closed. With the inflation bag you get the packraft filled to about 80% with air. Then you turn the airbag off and create the final air pressure with your mouth. Here you should blow as hard as possible to get a good stiffness. Inflating the packraft with your mouth also works very well. No separate mouthpiece is required.

alpacka expedition raft setup
The inflation bag is used to inflate the packraft
alpacka packraft valve
The inflation bag is screwed on the valve
alpacka expedition inflation
You create the final pressure with your mouth

Then inflate the seat cushion via its air hose. It is best not to inflate it completely so that it is easier to place in the interior. The seat cushion is attached to the floor so that it cannot slip during the paddling tour. Then you inflate the seat according to your desired thickness. This is very easy, because the air hose of the seat is long enough.

The backrest (or back strap) is attached via four attachment points. You can adjust the backrest forward and backward via the two front straps, so you can adjust the packraft to fit your height and clothing (neoprene socks vs. hiking boots). Thanks to the generous dimensions of the seat cushion, there is still enough seating space when you put the backrest all the way forward.

alpacka expedition seat backrest
Alpacka Expedition seat cushion and back rest
alpacka expedition removable cockpit whitewater
Packraft without deck
alpacka packraft deck whitewater
Packraft with deck

The deck is attached via four zippers and two Velcro fasteners. The attachment and removal of the deck is very simple and works easiest when the packraft is not yet inflated or only slightly inflated.

The mounting of the coaming is simple and cleverly solved. The coaming is stiffened with an plastic ring. On the coaming there are two large insertion openings, each of which can be opened via a zipper. Here you can insert the ring, which is a robust plastic tube. The two openings make handling very easy. The second opening helps you to “push” the tube around better. When the plastic tube is back in the first opening, you can connect the two ends of the tube and close the zippers. This will give you a stiff coaming. The plastic tube stays in place and cannot come loose. This concept is very well thought out.

alpacka expedition coaming
Plastic tube for stiffening the coaming

When using the deck, you don’t have the full length of the interior available. The back rest can be set very far back, but then the deck is in the way, so you would be leaning against the coaming. For tall people, it would have been handy if the seat hatch started a little further back.

alpacka expedition backrest
When the deck is used, the entire seat area cannot be used

Alpacka bzw. Packraft Europe bietet für eine maximale Performance im Wildwasser 4-Punkt-Schenkelgurte und eine Fußstütze als Zubehör an. Die Schenkelgurte lassen sich sehr gut einstellen. Die Fußstütze kann über den Luftdruck individuell angepasst werden, wie viel sie vom Fußraum ausfüllen soll.

alpacka thigh straps
Optional thigh straps
alpacka packraft foot brace
Optional foot brace

The bottom is made of 840D Ballistic Nylon coated on both sides, which is a high value for a packraft and makes an extremely robust impression. Ballistic nylon is one of the most durable weave patterns, which gives the material a very high tightness and tear resistance.

The hull is made of a 210D nylon, which is coated on one side (i.e. only from the outside). The one-sided coating saves weight on the one hand and on the other hand it increases the tear resistance of the material in contrast to a material coated on both sides (the fabric is not too embedded in the coatings and can react more flexibly when stressed. Thus, it does not tear until later). The only disadvantage of a one-sided coating is that it can leak more quickly in case of damage.

To prevent this, Alpacka has placed the bottom very generously on the side hull, so that it is additionally protected. This makes perfect sense, as the highest stresses occur on the bottom of the packraft.

The hull material is sewn together, taped and double welded. The bottom is both glued and welded to the hull.

alpacka packraft workmanship material
The workmanship is very good.
packraft material
440D Nylon (top) vs. 840D Ballistic Nylon (below)
alpacka expedition bottom
The bottom is generously placed on the hull.

Dry bags are included in US and available as option in Europe. They can be attached inside the boat tube with a clip. They are used for safe and watertight stowage of luggage in the air tube. In addition, they additionally serve as separate air chambers in the packraft and thus increase the safety of the packraft.

alpacka packraft space
Dry bags for the Alpacka Expedition

If you buy the dry bags separately they are a pretty expensive. We could not identify any special features of the dry bags compared to conventional dry bags. We recommend that you do not buy the dry bags if they are not included for the moment and buy them later if necessary. We had stowed luggage in the tube without the dry bags on several tours, which worked without problems. On a multi-day tour with sleeping bag and sleeping pad the dry bags were a useful addition, so that the camping equipment would stay dry in case of a tear in the boat skin. However, inexpensive dry bags are also sufficient here.However, these can then not be fixed inside the boat.

Very practical are also the attached red carrying loops at the bow and stern. Thus, the packraft can be carried comfortably to the water even in fully loaded condition by two persons.

Review of the Alpacka Expedition on the water

We have done very different tours with the packraft (from a small afternoon trip on a lake or river to whitewater tours between WW1-2+ and a multi-day tour with camping and hiking part). Depending on weather and use, we used the packraft as an open or closed packraft.

packraft bow bag
Alpacka Expedition with the optional Alpacka Bow Bag (24 liters)

If you are not in the white water and good weather is announced, you can leave the deck at home. Without the deck you not only save weight (about 300g) and space in the hiking backpack, but also have more space in the Alpacka Expedition as a tall person.

We carried the bow bag (optional accessory) with us on every tour, as it proved to be very practical. It holds 24 liters, is easily accessible on the water and is securely attached to the bow via four carabiners. The bag opens via a waterproof zipper. It is ideal for storing camera, drinks and break snacks that you want to have at hand during the tour.

open packraft alpacka expedition
Without deck and with bow bag
alpacka expedition deck
With deck and bow bag
packrafting
With deck and hiking boots, the interior space is narrow even in size L

The opening of the deck is very large, so that getting in and out is possible without any big problems. With the deck up, we (1.86 and 1.89 m) find the footwell a bit small, or just enough. After a while, we mostly paddled with our legs bent so that our knees stuck out. Without the deck, the space is much better for taller people.

packrafting river tour
Despite the slim back rest, the voluminous rear offers the possibility to lean comfortably.

We initially had to get used to the backrest because it sits very low. For comfortable paddling tours, we would have liked a higher backrest, because we are probably just used to it from other inflatable kayaks. Nevertheless, it is very easy to relax or paddle relaxed in the Expedition, because you can loosen the backrest on the water and thus lean on the tube.

In calm waters, the straight-line characteristic and speed is that of a 1-person packraft usual and does not differ from other packrafts without skegs (e.g. nortik TrekRaft Expedition).  Packrafts with skegs (e.g. Anfibio or MRS) have better straight-line characteristic in calm water. 

The packrafts offers a lot of space without deck

We had tested the Alpacka Expedition on different whitewater rivers in Germany and Austria (Loisach, Ammer, Lech). In this water we liked the paddling performance best. The handling in white water is very good. It reacts more precisely and you can use more technique than, for example, on a nortik TrekRaft Expedition or Kokopelli Rogue. First, you sit higher due to the high seat cushion. Second, the Alpacka is minimally more tippy, but it’s easier to edge as a result.

The precisely adjustable backrest allowed us to adjust the packraft exactly to our height and needs. The thigh straps give even more control from whitewater 2 and 3. In whitewater, we found the interior space to be optimal in combination with the deck. It is a bit narrow, but offers such a good hold.

whitewater packrafting
The Alpacka packraft performs really well on whitewater

Attaching the spray skirt is really easy. It is extremely light and yet it made a robust and high-quality impression. The splash skirt has not slipped off us even once in the white water, even if you push against it with your knees. Nevertheless, it can be pulled down very quickly and easily with the help of the front loop, if it should be necessary.

The protection against splashing water by the removable whitewater deck in combination with the splash skirt is very effective. We had slight concerns at first that some water would get into the boat over time, especially in whitewater due to the water-permeable zippers. In whitewater level 2, we could not perceive any disadvantage to a solid whitewater deck. Although the zippers are not waterproof, the front and rear Velcro covers protect it from water. There is also an additional cover under each zipper so that the water is blocked from entering and is drained away again.

Dismantling the Alpacka Expedition

The seat cushion and the backrest can be removed from the boat very easily. For the seat cushion, you open the air hose and press out the air. You can leave the deck on the boat. Only the hose of the coaming should be pulled out before rolling up the packraft.

Now open the valve of the boat and push the air out of the packraft while folding it. The Packraft can then be rolled up again very easily into its original packing size, so that it fits into the supplied bag again without any problems. However, make sure that the T-Zip is closed and does not bend when rolling up.

alpacka expedition folded
The packraft rolls up very well into its original pack size.

Strengths and weaknesses of the packraft

The packraft’s greatest strength is its high quality, which is reflected in the material, workmanship, design and equipment. You can see that Alpacka has the ambition to build the best packrafts. If you look at the manufacturers or dealers website, you will quickly see that it is a boat made by packrafters for packrafters. We could not find any real weaknesses. At most points there are rather things that we liked less. But even that is complaining on a high level.

Advantages

+ very well thought-out packraft + high configurability + very high quality workmanship + very robust bottom, which also sufficiently protects the side tubes from below + high quality valve + good seating comfort and fastening + high load capacity + very good performance in white water

Disadvantages

- high purchase price - valve position (whether open or closed) not immediately obvious - supplied bag in the long term not usable as a transport bag - complete interior with deck not completely usable and with hiking boots for tall people on long and relaxed paddling tours a bit narrow - holder for an optional skeg would be useful

alpacka packraft review
The versatility of the Rush 2 is almost unlimited.

+ attractive design + robust material + plenty of space inside + versatile + improved footrests and coaming compared to other Gumotex inflatable kayaks + high stability due to stiff kayak bottom + 2 years warranty + spare parts can be reordered

– expensive accessories (e.g. cockpit) – little splash protection without cockpit – no possibility to fix a 3rd seat (for child)

Final notes on the Alpacka Packraft

The Alpacka Expedition is a very high priced and extremely high quality packraft. The material and workmanship indicate a long life. Alpacka rafts are among the most expensive packrafts on the market. Packrafts generally have a high price, at which outsiders can probably only shake their heads. The question arises whether the extra price is justified here. After testing and comparing it with other packrafts, we can say: Yes, the extra price is justified. You get an almost perfect packraft here, which is hardly anything to complain about. Nevertheless, you should consider whether you really need such a high-end packraft before buying it. It would be a shame if it is only used once or twice a season.

If you only want to paddle calm rivers or lakes, you can also choose a cheaper Alpacka Raft or packraft of another brand. However, for those who will use their packraft a lot and will put a lot of stress on it (e.g. whitewater), the Alpacka Expedition is a good choice. 

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gumotex rush kayak
The cockpit reliably protects against splash water while paddling and does not constrict the interior.