The Alpacka Story: The first packraft was build over 15 years ago by Sheri Tingey and her son Thor, for an off-trail traverse of the Brooks Range, in Alaska. Since then, Alpacka has developed many different designs with intelligence and intention; from the Ultra light “Ghost” model coming in at 1.5 lbs, to the two person giant “Gnu”, or the new whitewater ready “Alpackalypse”, Alpacka has something for all your needs.
Overview: The Alpacka Denali Llama is an incredibly versatile boat; capable of class IV rivers (with a few modifications), incredibly light, and extremely durable. (Note: Alpacka does not endorse all of the after sale DIY modifications on their packrafts due to safety reasons, read more here).
Performance/Use: Alpacka suggests that the Denali Llama is used on water up to class III. We have used the Denali Llama on flat water floats such as the Green River in UT, to class IV creeks and big water, such as the Pacuare River, Costa Rica, and it has performed incredibly well for such a lightweight inflatable boat.
pros: We found that the raft changed direction quickly, and was very responsive to paddle strokes. We were able to roll the boat (thigh strap installation necessary) in most rapids, however this was more difficult than in a hard boat due to the width and resulting stability of the Llama.
cons: We found that the raft did not do well with big waves, as it did not punch through the water like hard boats. A couple of times we flipped bow over stern, much to enjoyment of the Costa Rican raft guides on the Rio Savegre. Lee (6’3″) wishes he had gotten a smaller boat for a tighter fit, and thus better handling on more technical water.
Packability: Superb! The Denali Llama packs down to about the size of a two person tent (8″x 24″). The stuff sacks that Alpacka provides are sleek, and light. All other accessories are built with packability in mind; waterproof stuff sacks with one way valves, paddles that fold in 4, etc.
Whitewater Deck ($250): An absolute must for whitewater. the decks is attached to the top of the boat at the shop and works well with the spray skirt provided. The design is genius; 4 removable ultra light aluminum and pvc poles are fitted inside the deck to create a solid cockpit. The spray skirt is then held over the poles with an elastic band and two velcro strips, for easy exit if you flip. The one modification we wanted was extra velcro around the cockpit, as the skirt sometimes popped in bigger water. See info for these DIY modifications here (Note: Alpacka does not endorse all of the after sale DIY modifications on their packrafts due to safety reasons, read more here).
Self-bailing Floor ($200): New in 2016, we have not tested this option.
Cargo Fly Rear Zipper: This option is AMAZING! The Cargo Fly Rear Zipper allows you to access the inside of the packraft tubes for gear storage. This moves your gear from the vulnerable, tipsy, and wet bow to the dry inner tubes, thus increasing stability and keeping your gear super dry. Although we were a little worried about the zipper strength in the beginning, it has proved to be bombproof with regular maintenance. Be sure to clean and add silicon regularly, as we found that silty water will work its way into the zipper teeth on long trips.
Price: The Denali Llama comes in at $895-$970, and even more if you want some of the custom options (spray decks, zipper, etc.). We found this price to be high compared to other packrafts, but feel that it’s entirely justified by the durability, customer service, and custom options. The custom options are If you are looking for a cheap, light use boat to cross short calm bodies of water then something like the $270 Supai Flatwater Boat would be more economical.
Comfort: The Denali Llama is designed to be the largest of the Alpacka series. Built for paddlers between 5’10” and 6’4″, the Llama provides plenty of foot room, while staying snug around the hips (important in whitewater). We found that the Denali Llama runs a bit large; Lee is 6’3″ and still pads out the toe box, and hips for a tighter feel. In rockier rivers, or at low flows we found that an inflated 3/4 size thermarest pad underneath the butt pad prevented tailbone crushing impacts with river rock.
Water resistance: We found that the Cargo Fly rear zipper is bomb proof, and never had any issues with leakage. The Whitewater Spraydeck was pretty good but could use some improvement with added velcro in order to keep it on the cockpit in big water.
Weight: At 5 lbs 3 oz, we found the Llama to be very light for a boat that could handle whitewater. If only needing a boat to cross calm water, the Alpacka “Ghost” 1.5 lbs would make much more sense.
Material: The Denali Llama is made out of a strong woven fabric that is coated in Urethane on the outside in order to keep it waterproof. We found this material to be incredibly durable and relatively easy to repair in the field. Read more here.
Customer Service: We have found Alpacka to incredibly responsive, and helpful when asking questions, and having boats repaired. Their 3 year warranty shows how much trust they put in their product.
Specifications for the Alpacka Line
|S (Alpaca)||M (Yak)||L (Llama)||XL (Mule)|
|Boater Height||5’0” – 5’8”||5’6” – 6’0”||5’10” – 6’4”||6’2” – 6’8”|
|Ext. Length||88.5” (225cm)||92” (234cm)||96” (244cm)||92” (234cm)|
|Ext. Width||37” (94cm)||37” (94cm)||37” (94cm)||37” (94cm)|
|Cockpit Length||43” (110cm)||47” (119cm)||51” (129cm)||55” (140cm)|
|Cockpit Width||14.5” (37cm)||14.5” (37cm)||14.5” (37cm)||14.5” (37cm)|
|Foot Width||11” (28cm)||11” (28cm)||11” (28cm)||13” (34cm)|
|Base Weight||4 lb. 12 oz.||5 lb. 0 oz.||5 lb. 3 oz.||5 lb. 6oz.|
|Packed Size||8” x 24”||8” x 24”||8” x 24”||8” x 24”|
Conclusion: The Alpacka Denali Llama is an incredibly versatile boat; capable of class IV rivers, incredibly light, and extremely durable. We found that the best application is class III wilderness floats, or other inaccesible water (perfect for hitch-hiking) In big water, and bony creeks, you start feeling like you’re in a fancy inter-tube due to decreased handling, and rock impact through the floor. In the end, we are absolutely in love with the Alpacka company and their boats, and will likely buy a Yukon, or Alpackalypse for our next boat.
What can you do in a Packraft? Check out Luc Mehl’s Show Up Blow Up Mexico.
For other videos, packraft modifications, Alaska trip reports and generally rad stuff, check out Luc Mehl’s website: thingstolucat,com
Packrafting hero Roman Dial’s Site is a great resource. Roman has also written a How to book available on his site.