Tag Archives: packraft floor

Alpacka Yak 1 (Decked) Main Page

See also:
Packrafting the Fitzroy River (NW Australia; 5 posts)
Alpacka Yak around Suilven mountain
Alpacka Yak to Suilven mountain
Urban Packrafting: the Death Weir Kebab Tunnel
Slackrafting to Clashnessie
Intex Slackraft vs Alpacka
Packrafting in France – Ardeche Gorge
Packrafting in France – Chassezac
Escalante packraft recce
Trying out bikerafting
Packrafting a Force 6 gale
Packrafting the Oscaig river
2011: Llamas get the point

After all that lot I sold my Yak and bought a non-decked, two-colour Yak in a 2013-14 sale

I’d parked the RV at the end of a 55-mile track south of the highway at Hole in the Rock, the top of a gully which drops 500 feet down to Lake Powell and which is bit of a scramble in places. If this was the Australia that I know, the chasm would be plastered with ‘Gorge Risk‘ signs. Looks like the Americans have got over all that, if it ever existed here. What you see – a steep, boulder-chocked gully where you want to take care – is what you get.

Getting down and back up from the lake wore me out for a day, but what was I complaining about? In 1880 Mormon pioneers spent six weeks here lowering two dozen wagons to get across what was then the Colorado river (read right) to get to a new settlement on the far side.
Once on the water I only went for a bit of a splash-about in a flooded arm off the main body of the lake as it was a bit windy and I wasn’t sure what weather lay ahead. By the time I got back to the top it had clouded over and stayed that way till I left the GSENM a few days later.
Changes on the conventional-looking pre-2011 rafts are summarised here: pointy ends, greater length, extended stern, 2-part backrest/seat and a deck that zips right off. I also have a feeling the floor’s made from a chunkier or stiffer fabric and so the extra butt-patch I had specified (left – done for free) may not be so necessary – but it sure feels worthwhile when scraping along a boney Scottish burn.

On the water first impression was not so good – oh dear the 4-inch shorter Yak was seemingly narrower at the front than my old Llama and I couldn’t put my feet side by side when pressed against the front (left image on the right) – this wearing size 11 Keen Arroyos (fairly wide). But deflating the backrest from full gave my legs more room and I actually found that both feet placed flat on the floor below the bulge of the side tubes worked fine (right image above right), just not so sure if this is so intuitive for brace control. I checked the front interior width of my Llama against the new Yak and it’s only an inch wider. In the picture left the new Yak and Llama fronts seem near identical in interior front width.

Getting back in the longer Llama, I now see the reason my feet didn’t jam was that I had a few inches gap between the front of my feet and the inner front of the boat where it tapered off. Sat against the back I could never reach the front to brace which is why I got the Yak. Also, the UDB on the new Yak may have constricted my feet a bit that day. Paddling a few days later without the UDB, I can’t say I noticed the foot jam. Got all that?

Other fascinating facts from my comparative measurements (above right) show the new Yak is only 8 inches longer then the Llama, so a new Llama ought only be 12″ longer, not 20 inches as estimated from the Alpacka website’s measurements at the time. The new Yellow Yak is nominally 4 inches shorter inside than an old Llama.

Other than that it feels much like the old Llama. Like they claim, turning/spinning doesn’t seem to be affected by the increase in length, but I’m sure the Yak’s bow yawed less from side to side as I paddled, due I suspect to the extended tail damping the paddle-induced pivoting effect, rather like a rudder or skeg. I did have my part-filled UDB strapped to the front where any weight tends to reduce yawing anyway. It was the first time I used the UDB on the water and have to admit the added guarantee of its girth and buoyancy was reassuring should a Colorado river barracuda make a bite at my Yak. Couldn’t really do any speeding in the conditions – it may be just half a mph faster, but that’s still some 20%.

As anticipated, the new 2-part seat is a real improvement. No more having the backrest flop down as you’re trying to get in quick off a steep bank or into a fast flow with a need to line up or burn. Like on my Llama, I just clipped the seat base onto the hull tabs with a single snaplink each side (inset, left) rather than mess about with the string they supply. Makes taking it out and drying/cleaning the insides easier.

Later on, washed up on the wrong side of the Virgin River Gorge in northwest Arizona, I also found the part-deflated backrest a handy way of portaging the empty boat – a bit like a Sherpa’s headband (left).
So, bottom line, not a huge difference in operation apart from less yawing which was never that bad anyway once you compensated for it. Can’t say I noticed any added buoyancy/better trim with the longer back, but it might be noticeable from the other PoV. The zip-off skirt is a nice idea; one less thing to unroll and dry after. The added snugness I dare say I’ll appreciate in rougher conditions and it sure is nice to have a yellow boat for a change!
There was a discussion on BackpackingLight about the new shape and here Roman D gives his opinion for a harder core of white water utility. More pack-Yak adventures this summer.

Old Alpacka Llama mods

My OE seat burst at the heat-welded seam inside the ‘U’ while bumping through the shallows in France. I re-heat-sealed it to the full seam width with an iron and it’s lasted since then, though Alpacka say it will fail eventually. There was a rash of failing seats and they sent me a replacement a few weeks later. On the original there was only a 5-8mm heat-welded band; the new seat base is yellow (less prone to sun-heat expansion-bursting) and has an even 8-10mm wide heat-welded seam all around.

One annoyance is that the seat backrest always flops down just as you’re staggering about on the rocks trying to re-enter and get set up before the next rapid. It needs holding back somehow; easily done with an elastic to one of the back lashing points, though I’ve since realised this won’t work with the skirt zipped up, so maybe a velcro patch then, inside at the back below the skirt zip.
In a bid to make the seat easily removable for drying and camp use, I removed the seat holding laces, tried some electrical wire instead for a while (as left), was going to velcro it in and finally decided just to attach it to the tabs in the hull with another couple of mini-krabs.

They say using an air mat is better for the floor, reducing high points of impact and also keeping your legs warm in cold water. I have a Thermarest (left, on right) which fits pretty well and is light, or an Exped (orange, left) which is much better to sleep on and fills out the back of the seat too. More weight forward is better, especially unloaded in white water with a strong headwind! Again, you wonder if inside the boat, gritty boot soles may cause excess abrasion when jammed in around the front end, so mats are best.

An Alpacka comes in a pretty basic form which allows you to customise it to your needs. Some mods I’ve made include attaching a clip and some bright tape to the main inflation cap – don’t want to lose that. I’ve also added a bit of garden hose to the spray skirt release tab to make it easier to find and grab in a panic. I still have a phobia about skirts, but am already learning to appreciate it in rapids. A 12-kg load sits very securely across the four bow lashing points using Alpacka’s Packtach quick release system. They say if you flip over with a pack on board you want to release it fast to make it easier to flip and drain the boat, if necessary. I’ve yet to try this but I’d imagine it would be quite easy to flip stern over bow, pivoting on the load. The load would also make getting pack in easier (though I have not tried that, either). I’ve improvised a toggle (inset left, pink) onto the Q/R buckle to make it easier to find and grab to release a bag, if needed.

I’ve also added mini carabiners – a blue one at the bottom below) to clip the thin Packtach chords to the 4 mounting points on the hull; it’s bad form having chord rubbing on nylon web under tension, plus it makes the whole Packtach system easy to remove without undoing fiddly knots.
As you can see I’ve also added a 3-metre lead (yellow/green tape) for towing and tying off. I’ve since changed that to a piece of paracord. ‘Painter’ I believe is the correct boating term, but I’ve become aware that whatever you call it, needs to be hooked carefully out of the way for faster rivers. I find threaded across the two mounting tabs can be done and undone fairly quickly.
I’ve glued another tab mount to the middle of the floor inside with Aquaseal and clipped a krab in to hold a day bag. These mini-krabs are my new thing and I’m using them for all sorts of things on the boat, the pfd and elsewhere.