Alpacka Yukon Yak: 2010 v. 2015

R0010280Four weeks ago the kid was due the next day, and in the name of seeing our friends and keeping both of us together once we went out of cell range we drove 45 minutes north to Big Creek and the APA Packraft Roundup.  Somewhat unusually I had 20 dollars in my pocket, which I used to buy five raffle tickets.  The raffle was short, but stacked with nothing but great prizes, and while packrafts just keep getting better and better, Mo and Amy knew to save the best for last: an Alpacka Yukon Yak with all the trimmings.

I got lucky, and brought a new boat home.

R0010284I’ve used my red 2010 Yak hard and often, but always maintained it under the assumption that I’d be using it for a decade or more.  Packrafts generally, and Alpackas in particular, have made massive strides.  I’ve seen how much faster the new boats are on flat water, and how much better they do in whitewater, but assumed that given their ever increasing expense my money would be better spent elsewhere.

Turns out I was probably wrong about that.

R0010298I’ve had time to paddle my new boat all of once (Little Bear was 3 weeks old this morning), and those 7 miles on the water were all it took to see just how good a boat Alpacka now makes.

R0010290R0010286The differences between the two boats, chiefly the longer pointed bow and massively longer, pointed and rockered stern are plain to see, but on the water they come together with all the other little details to make for a 2015 boat which paddles in a very new way.  Speed, both cruising along and accelerating from a stop, is much higher.  Despite the greater length the new boat is every bit as agile as the old one, with the only downside a marginally increased difficulty threading through boulders and the extra weight which comes with more material.  I suspect if you stripped out the cargo fly and more complex whitewater deck, the weights would be remarkably similar, and the increased performance is absolutely worth it.  Catching and surfing waves is a dicey, clumsy proposition with the old boats, and a fairly simple one with the new.  Ferrying, pealing out of eddies, punching waves, and everything else which goes along with whitewater is not only faster and easier but much more controlled.  The 2015 Yak combines the best features of a packraft, namely the lateral stability and water skimming flotation, with an incisiveness which is nothing short of kayak-like.

That Alpacka was able to do both without one impinging upon the other is very impressive indeed.  All the stuff I wanted back at the end of 2011 is present in the 2015 boat.

The old raft still has a few advantages (slightly thick floor fabric, double coated main fabric which allows for interior patching, smaller packed size), and it pains me to do so, but it is up for sale [SOLD].  Anyone interested in a dated but still very capable boat at a good price send me an email.  I’ll send some detailed shots of the various battle scars you’ll be buying. I’m hoping for some epic rains to bring our rivers up a bit from their record-setting lows, and some spare mornings to put that water to good use.

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10 thoughts on “Alpacka Yukon Yak: 2010 v. 2015

    1. Tis true! Has put a good spin (understatement) on a summer which would have otherwise been a bit lacking with the low water and heat.

  1. What’s the extra very small red segment/section sandwiched between the yellow and blue segments just before the bow turns upwards?
    On the Alpacka page it has no photos of it…
    I’m a wee confused. Just got a Yak made in 2014 and didn’t think they’d updated it since – it is identical to the ones on the site…
    The only thing I think it does is lengthen it but why not just lengthen the other segments a bit?

    1. It might just be a bit of bling. Alpacka integrated little stripes there regularly for a period of time in 2012, and it might just be a special feature they add occasionally.

    1. Haven’t put a bike on the new boat yet, but I’m sure it’ll do fine. I’m on the tall side of those who fit in a Yak, and I have to rig my bike fairly carefully to allow for a full paddle stroke. If I bikerafted a ton sizing up to a Yak would be worthwhile.

      I anticipate the cargo fly being really nice for bikerafting. Tying a frame and wheels on is pretty easy. Adding a pack (which can go in the boat) is significantly more of a nuisance.

    2. I mentioned it on Twitter for Dave but in Europe Packrafting-store.de has some budjet options fro Alpackrafts. In Europe they are very reasonable options as the weak euro makes made in US Alpackarafts more expensive than they used to be, but I think the options should be little cheaper even when imported to US.

      The Nortik Trekraft is slightly bigger than Alpackaraft Llama but also a lot cheaper (550USD to US according to the shop). If bikepacking is the main interest I think the bigger boat would make sense for ease of carrying the bike and gear. And cheaper price probably doesn’t hurt if you’re on budget. I have one on the living room floor and will get to test it this weekend in proper water but based on the first impressions: Alpackaraft is still the market leader with state of the art materials and designs and they are constantly developing the packrafts. But the options are fully functional too, and cheaper. The “price” in this case is a bit heavier (but also bigger) raft.

  2. A few comments to add after some more water miles (albeit in mild WW, as NW MT now has nothing else within an easy drive):

    -The big stern makes waves and holes which might have been exiting in the old boat positively boring.
    -The new boat takes substantially more water over the deck, as the stern holds it straighter to the horizon in wave trains.
    -The WW deck is pretty darn good. Taped seams are a very welcome addition compared to the old deck (which was not taped). I get some pooling along the sides which is annoying and eventually leads to tiny leaks, but I think this could be solves by a PFD which rides higher on my torso. Perhaps a reason to finally upgrade from the 15 year old Kokatat I’ve been using. In any case, the increase in dryness and warmth is massive. Really psyched to get this boat out in bigger spring water next year. This deck could easily result in a lighter net pack due to less on-water insulation needed.
    -Stashing your pack inside and having it dry for hiking after a few hours of floating is pretty cool. You go have to revise your hike to float routine to make this work, though.
    -LB really likes U2, and is currently snoozing to “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. I need to save up for an Explorer 42 before next summer so he can come along.

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