Four 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.
I’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.
The 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.