There are more expensive, more practical, as well as more blingy or more frequently used gifts, but from the day over 5 years ago, when I unwrapped my first, to today I’ve not found a more exciting thing to unbox than a new Alpacka raft. Our newly expanded family got a Double Duck for a collective gift this solstice season, and thanks to Alpacka’s new inventory system and the fact that we ordered a stock boat in a common color, we had it at our door four business days after ordering.
The first goal for this boat was to be a family backpacking craft. Having everyone in the same craft is not only lighter in the pack, but safer insofar as a squirming toddler goes. The distant second goal was as a freighter, for hunting and bikerafting.
Alpacka currently offers three multi-person boats, so our decision was not at all obvious, especially with scant user feedback available on any of them. The Gnu was discarded first; in regular fabric it is too heavy and bulky, and the Vectran was more than we cared to spend. The Gnu also has a slightly shorter interior length, and the increased hull speed wasn’t a priority. Between the Explorer 42 and the Double Duck the choice came down to lower weight and more interior room, provided by the later, and more durability and flotation (and presumably a slightly drier boat in whitewater) provided by the former. I’ve run plenty of bony creeks and whitewater with my Scout over the past three years, and its lighter floor has proven more than adequate, so that and Erin and Hig’s family photos pushed us over the brink, and we bought the Duck. The name and the cheaper price were welcome, but not decisive.
As can be seen above, it will be more than big enough. And it is both smaller packed and lighter than my new Yak (which has the considerable added bulk and weight of the cargo fly and WW deck). The whitewater and cold weather capability of the mainline boats are impressive, and the new boats are impressively better in both respects than the old, but my favorite trips have always featured mellow floating, and the Duck should serve as a nice van-sized Scout for that.
The Duck includes two seats, and standard lace-in rigging for the rear one. I’ll glue in some floor plates for using sleeping pads as seats, using a different design than I did with the Scout, to avoid the bartacks become abrasion points between the floor and rocks. I may also add another lash point to the rear, for strapping on a pack. Other than that it’s just inflate and go, once boating season arrives.
But if the last week is any indication, it should be a good winter.