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Cheaper Raft Options
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Ultralite Hiker
(Ultralite) - F
Cheaper Raft Options on 03/02/2011 20:33:59 MST Print View

What is the cheapest raft that can handle Class II rapids? Alpacka rafts seem great, but $820 is pretty steep.

I contacted Flyweight Deisgns and their raft can only handle Class I.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Somewhat cheaper on 03/03/2011 09:18:50 MST Print View

NRS makes a packraft that costs $550 I don't know how it does in whitewater (no spray deck). I also wish there was a cheaper raft out there - even if it weighted a bit more.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Cheaper Raft Options on 03/03/2011 11:55:34 MST Print View

You can take anything you want in class II as long as you are prepared to swim.

Ultralite Hiker
(Ultralite) - F
Raft on 03/03/2011 11:59:57 MST Print View

Not looking to swim. Just curious if there were a cheaper alternative to alpacka that could handle Class II.

Marc Shea
(FlytePacker) - F

Locale: Cascades
Let's Open the Discussion on 03/03/2011 12:29:57 MST Print View

Rob thanks for posting this question. We (FlyWeight Designs) get this question all of the time. For clarity, our boat was designed to be a calm water boat to be used primarily for calm water crossings and hi-lake fishing. Currently, as far as I am aware there are only 4 manufacturers of packrafts in the market, listed below -

FlyWeight Designs

You may think that I left Sevylor out, however, they discontinued the Trail Boat last fall so it is no longer being manufactured.

What I am able to divulge at this time is that we are working on some new boat/product designs. We feel that one of the products that we are developing could morph into a whitewater (class II and III) capable boat, however, until I get the prototype finished it is still on the drawing board. Price will be determined once we have finished the process. Our focus will be to keep production costs down and pass those savings onto the consumer as has been our philoshophy thus far.

I welcome the opportunity for people to provide us with feedback and suggestions as we move forward. I look forward to recieving the email that we get from customers and those interested in our products.

Ultralite Hiker
(Ultralite) - F
Re: Let's Open the Discussion on 03/03/2011 12:37:42 MST Print View

Thanks Marc. I hope my post did not come across as degrading to Flyweight, it was not intended as such, as I am sure the raft performs it's intended function flawlessly. I was just looking for a raft designed to handle such situations, rather than hope something designed for calm water would suffice.

I look forward to seeing new designs from Flyweight, as I cannot see myself spending north of $750 on a raft anytime soon. I am sure Alpacka rafts are fine rafts, and deserve the praise, I just do not have that kind of coin.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
"cheap" rafts and rocks on 03/03/2011 12:55:37 MST Print View

I think the more relevant question is: can you as a paddler take a Flyweight Designs raft down class II? If you're confident in your ability to not slice up the boat hitting rocks you'd probably do just fine.

A decent option, if you aren't super tall, would be the new Alpacka Scout. 490 bucks, and likely to be drier with the new stern.

Marc Shea
(FlytePacker) - F

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Let's Open the Discussion on 03/03/2011 13:54:09 MST Print View


I didn't think that you were degrading the product...I just wanted to expand on your comments.

Like you, I think that there are a lot of people that want a whitewater capable boat, but either cannot afford one or are unwilling to pay the prices for what is currently available. Hopefully, we can build a high quality product that meets the need.

I can tell you that I have found some great fabrics that aren't widely available that we can hopefully design a boat around. I am really excited about the prospects with these fabrics and they should yield a very durable, highly abrasion resistant finished product.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Re Lets opent the discussion on 03/03/2011 14:18:29 MST Print View

If someone can design a whitewater capable packraft in the 5 pound range thats more affordable than the current offerings that would be great. On the other hand I'm sure there are some very good reason why these rafts aren't cheap, there's labor, materials etc, you get what you pay for.
My idea is would it be possible to make a whitewater capable raft out of rugged but cheaper/heavier materials and save money there? Even if it was twice as heavy that would still be reasonable to tote around if there were signiicant cost savings.

Edited by Cameron on 03/03/2011 14:19:27 MST.

Marc Shea
(FlytePacker) - F

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re Re Re Lets opent the discussion on 03/03/2011 15:29:49 MST Print View

I think you can still accomplish the goal with high quality materials and a high quality product. I don't think that it is necessary to use heavier materials.

Are there hurdles to get over? Sure. We ultimately may not prevail. If we are able to develop a quality product at a more affordable price, I think there is only an upside for the market.

Maybe it would spur the other market players to reduce prices? Maybe it would spur more innovation? Competition, I think, is a good thing.

What is the right price? I like to hear what the right price point is.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Options on 03/03/2011 16:35:23 MST Print View

Right now there are basically two options with packrafts
1. A really expensive and heavier packraft by Alpacka or one of the other companies that can be outfitted for really technical whitewater.
2. The flyweight which is reasonably priced, and lighter but isn't designed for whitewater.
An Alpacka is more than a lot of us need. I don't have the whitewater skills to do more than class 2 or 3 right now. On the other hand a flyweight apparently isn't designed for class 2 or 3 and I would worry about shredding it. I would love a flyweight that was able to navigate minor rapids and REALLY tough (even if that doubled or trippled the weight). If it was still priced similar to the current flyweights I think that would create a fanastic choice for mortals like we who couldn't use the whitewater capablities of an alpacka anyway.

Ultralite Hiker
(Ultralite) - F
Re: Re: Re Re Re Lets opent the discussion on 03/03/2011 18:29:41 MST Print View

"What is the right price? I like to hear what the right price point is."

It will be different for everyone, but the price of your current offering is at my upper limit. I realize if you developed a whitewater capable raft it would probably cost more, so I will have to cross that bridge when it is released. The number of times I would be able to use such a raft is really the reason I would be hesitant to spend much more than 300.

I have access to several areas that are in the Class I-III range with lots of trails. I would love to be able to take the packraft 15-20 miles up river, then hike back. Those are the kind of trips I am planning.

Edited by Ultralite on 03/03/2011 18:34:56 MST.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
the Alpacka raft is not expensive. on 03/03/2011 19:04:30 MST Print View

it seems there may be an opinion or two that the Alpacka rafts are excessively costly. this might not be the case, if you consider that given it's 800 something dollar cost, one can reap a very nice recovery on the resale after a few years.

buy the raft and use it 10 times in the year. use it the next year too. sell it for -400 bucks. you are thence out $20 a float. that's chump change.

and Alpacka Scout's are only 500.
in the middle of a large cold river ... alone ... 500 becomes a figure of profound insignificance.
sort of...
because you're glad you spent it.
now, Scout's at 500 going in and a 300 recovery split 20 ways, it comes out to 10 bucks a float, which depending which side of the peter v fence you fall .. makes you twice the chump, or maybe just half. i'm not that sure*. (but somehow .. i, i .. gotta have Doug's help on this one.) for now we're calling it one of those murky areas of upper math.

* - unless you're a marxist. marx is dead .. i can cap on them when they're dead, right ? at any rate. marxist = chump x 2.


Ultralite Hiker
(Ultralite) - F
Re: the Alpacka raft is not expensive. on 03/03/2011 19:11:21 MST Print View

I do not necessarily think they are excessive. I honestly do not know the mark up. They are, however, out of my price range. Saving up 820 for a raft leaves me out of luck for several other gear purchases for the year. I would only get out 3-4 times a year though, so quite a few less trips than you.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Cheaper Raft Options on 03/04/2011 13:52:58 MST Print View

What is the cheapest raft that can handle Class II rapids?

An inner tube --> the redneck packraft originale

What is it that makes a raft capable of handling class II+? I was a whitewater guide for several years on various rivers and can offer a few hypotheses and ideas, all of which are open to debate:

- A durable hull (both against pressure, UV, and abrasion)
- multiple chambers
- maneuverability
- self-bailing or skirted so as not to take on water

I have a flyweight designs raft and have thought about making a skirt that has a durable (ballistic, 1000d, hypalon, etc.) perimeter to protect it from abrasion, which could theoretically allow it to be used in some light whitewater. However, much of the feasibility depends on the nature of the stream and it's geology. Ironically, some streams with few rocks that have some class II-III wave trains might be more appropriate for a wee raft than a shallow lake with sharp rocks.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Class II on 03/05/2011 22:55:28 MST Print View

@ Marc Shea, The old Sherpa Raft design would likely be relatively inexpensive and was exactly the boat these posters are looking for. Not a white-water boat (no spray deck) but 10 inch tubes in a donut construction, meaning a top and a bottom, like the Feathercraft. It was symmetric and had an upturned bow and stern. The tubes can be no smaller than 10 inches and the boater needs a good, stiff paddle to backpaddle.

Throughout the 1980 and 90s many, many Alaskans paddled Class II in vinyl pool toys they bought at the equivalent of K-Mart. They were cheap, lasted one or two trips and were a chore to deflate with their tiny valves. I knew guys who walked the length of the Alaska Raneg in 1996 and they deflated theirs by stabbing them with knives! Then they'd put a piece of duct tape on the hole next time they needed them. Bummer is you can't tie the pack in well, but not too important in Class II. The Sevylor Trail boat was the worst as it was far too small with a little 5" bow tube -- it was a freakin wave shovel!

Believe it or not, in Class II it's not the boat it's the paddle that makes the difference -- that and the paddler! The paddler's got to backpaddle and ferry to keep water out of the boat and put them where they need to be and a vinyl raft and a good paddle is fien for that.

We used to have these same conversations in the 1980s about Sherpa packarafts that cost $500, a lot of money for 20-somethings like us who worked less than we adventured. We paddled the vidnyl boats and trashed them on single trips and so went ahead and as Vacco suggests invested in the real thing.

An Alpacka Scout or an NRS at $500 is the Class II ticket right now -- but that's a lot if you never tried packrafting before, so go to Wallmart or wherever and get a vinyl boat and try out packrafting with a rented sea or whitewater kayak paddle (one piece carried in your hand).

And buy my book!

Edited by romandial on 03/05/2011 22:58:18 MST.

diego dean
Re: Re: Re Re Re Lets opent the discussion on 03/06/2011 09:10:49 MST Print View

Since you ask....

I am new to pack rafting but after watching some youtube and blog clips, I am hooked.

So I will be in the market for a new pack raft this summer. My price point would be a quality product for $350-450. And maybe a scaled down version from $250-300.

Yeah I might be able to justify a more expensive raft on a per trip basis on the assumption I would be able to sell it after...but if I really like pack rafting, I wont want to sell it and coming up with $800-1000 initially is a tuff pill to swallow.

A good 4-7 pound raft capable of class II-III that packs compact and capable of storing a medium size pack for $400 would be my preference.

Marc Shea
(FlytePacker) - F

Locale: Cascades
Re: Class II on 03/06/2011 15:52:12 MST Print View

@Roman Dial, I have been doing some research and it appears that the Sherpa, Eddie Bauer, and American Safety Products boats all share a common lineage. American Safety Products purchased a life raft company in 1973 (Patten) and it appears that they commercialized a life raft or two-man military boat in the mid to late 70's. FWIW my research points to American Safety Products as the first (possibly only) company to actually trademark the term "Pack Raft." It seems like the use of the term predates American Safety, but they seem to be the ones to commercialize the idea.

It appears that these companies also built their boats out of Neoprene coated nylon which was a standard of life raft manufacturers. It probably explains the common yellow and black color schemes on a lot of these boats.

From what I know, the Sherpa and these other boats were quite wide. The American Safety Products boat was designed for two people and I believe that the interior dimensions were 62" long and 26" wide. Do you happen to recall what the Sherpa dimensions were?

Anyway, with the information that I have, I think that we can build something that will target a lower price point. I cannot give a time frame, but we will begin the process.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Class II on 03/06/2011 22:58:39 MST Print View

@ Marc.

I'll blow the Sherpa up and check.

There is a couple I have been getting emails from who really liked their American Safety boat as it fit them both.

The interior of the Sherpa was 52" or whatever the Alpacka Llama is -- I gave Alpacka that dimension for the Llama back in 2000.

It was wider than the Llama on the inside.

People can save money and weight by not getting a spray deck. If all you do is Class II and the occasional Class III, then no spray deck is needed. If you are doing Class III get a spray deck and by the time you do Class IV you'll want thigh straps too.

Karen Jettmar
(watergrl) - F
Raft for class II on 05/06/2011 22:50:28 MDT Print View

Hi Lucas,
If you want to buy an Alpacka raft, I'll sell you mine for $750, sprayskirt and all. It's barely used. You won't regret it; in fact, you'll probably change your whole attitude about hiking and paddling. Let me know a way to contact you, if you're interested.

Ryan W
(mwilks) - F
Re: Raft for class II on 05/06/2011 23:21:22 MDT Print View

Hey Karen,

What model and how old is the Alpacka you have? You might find some takers here on the Gear Swap or alternatively people are always looking for boats on the packrafting forums (


Chris S
(ChrisvonS) - F

Locale: UK mostly
Intex Sea Hawk on 07/08/2011 03:58:40 MDT Print View

You may think I’m joking but if you’re really hard up or just want to get an idea about packrafting, consider something like a tough, PVC Intex Sea Hawk dinghy. The one-man model goes here in the UK from 20 quid (pump extra); the 2-man less than double that. I’ve persuaded mates to get one of each to join me in my 1000-dollar decked Alpacka Yak and for what you pay a Sea Hawk must be one of the best value boats around. The quality is way better than you’d expect and I’m sure I could run WW2, and have a laugh doing it. It will definitely last more than a summer. The weight of the Sea Hawk 1 is about the same as my Yak, maybe a pound or 2 more.
The only drawbacks are they’re both too roomy for good control (unlike a snug Alpacka, etc); they have three chambers but some crap valves can’t deliver a high pressure. And also these are set up as rowing/fishing platforms, so you get moulded rollocks and rod holders getting in the way when paddling kayak-style. Like a rowing boat the fat bow is where you sit facing back towards the flat stern. As you see from my vids and photos on my blog (see profile - search 'Intex'), you can kayak paddle sitting either way, but at my weight the trim is a lot better if I sit at the bow in the rowing position facing ‘backwards’. Even then, paddling against the ‘blunt end’ I still managed 2.5mph on the sea.
Try one if you’re not sure, and then you’ll really enjoy the sensation of upgrading to a Flyweight, Alpacka, Baylee, etc!

Edited by ChrisvonS on 07/08/2011 04:00:11 MDT.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Let's Open the Discussion on 10/03/2011 09:34:13 MDT Print View

Let's do open the discussion.

It seems that one could DIY a servicable pack raft with a nylon shell and air-tight liner. The shell could be any weight of nylon appropriate to the end use and would serve to shape, contain, and protect the liner. The liner could be a thin film of vinyl, polyurethane or any other material that would allow a DIYer to seal the seams. Valves of various grades are available.

Roy Staggs
(onepaddlejunkie) - F

Locale: SEC
Marc Shea on 10/09/2011 11:56:32 MDT Print View

Marc Shea
This is what I want out of a pack raft:
Weigh less than 2 lbs
10' long and 23.25 inches wide
Stiff and as durable as a blow molded Prijon kayak
Able to support 666 lbs
Pack down and store inside a 500 ml water bottle
Nice chines so I can carve into eddies
Incredibly stable so someone who has no paddling experience can run class V
Inflatable self bailing floor
Water tight spray skirt
Camo on the top and florescent lime green on the bottom
I want it to track straight without corrective strokes from me
Must be able to spin on a dime and give me eight cents change
Must cost less than $100.00
Kind of stuff I used to hear when I was a canoe company rep. Keep working on and improving your designs. If you build a good product at an attractive price, people will wear you out buying it. Best of luck to you.

Jeremy Platt
(jeremy089786) - F

Locale: Sydney
El Cheapo on 04/07/2012 01:09:05 MDT Print View

The cheapest solution I could find is a small $20 kmart raft which I cut holes in to make it self bailing. Its biggest problem is, as mentioned earlier, crappy valves which do not allow it to develop high pressure. Also, I would love to see one with higher floor to keep me a bit drier.

It works for me in class 2 and even a couple of 3's if you are not scared of swimming.

Some pics at:

Edited by jeremy089786 on 10/22/2013 02:53:00 MDT.

. Callahan

Locale: Stoke Newington, London, UK.
The right price point! on 04/11/2012 19:57:38 MDT Print View

"What is the right price? I like to hear what the right price point is."

The right price point is the one that the raft manufacturer attains!

sean neves
(Seanneves) - M

Locale: City of Salt
Re: El Cheapo on 04/18/2012 12:02:51 MDT Print View

Hey that's an excellent modification you've done there! The "Bents basin" is the most substantial river that I have seen these toys in. A thought about mods (LOVE the self bailing mod!): install some "real" or "boston" valves for easy inflation and deflation. I will try this on my crappy pool toy and report!

Jeremy Platt
(jeremy089786) - F

Locale: Sydney
Bents Basin on 04/18/2012 17:58:52 MDT Print View

Hi Sean,

Glad you like the mod. It is really really simple! I was also amazed at how much it improved the performance of the boat. I got in contact with flyweight to see if they are keen to make one, but unfortunately they don't have time now.

I reckon you could buy one of their basic or rugged boats and simply glue in the floor of one of $20 boats and then make it self bailing. It is certainly very easy to cut the floor out of the cheap boats, I have done it a couple of times to make pillows and so forth.

Also, for those of you who are keen, I have added the link to the raft heading down Bents Basin:!/2012/04/packrafting-bents-basin-grade-2-3.html

All the best,


Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Bents Basin on 04/18/2012 18:09:19 MDT Print View

Feathercraft makes a self-bailing packraft but it's 10 lbs and more costly than a decked Alpacka. Sitting in water all day is not at all appealing to me either. Self-bailing big boats have you sitting on the thwart tubes and not the floor.

Nice work on the DIY though. Seems fine for the mild stuff.

Edited by simplespirit on 04/18/2012 18:11:07 MDT.

sean neves
(Seanneves) - M

Locale: City of Salt
Re: Re: Bents Basin on 04/22/2012 19:07:44 MDT Print View

Hard to tell from the pics, but I am seeing some substantial drops on that little stretch of water. Looks like solid 3 or 3+ to me. One solution would be to raise your butt above the water with a small inflatable seat. That's what I do in one of my more wet duckies.

Amy Hatch
If you use packrafts only occasionally, think about renting ... on 10/18/2013 20:18:04 MDT Print View

Just thought I'd throw this out there ...

Through my company, Jackson Hole Packraft & Packraft Rentals Anywhere (, I rent packrafts throughout the Lower 48 and Canada. Cost starts at $40 per day with significant savings for multi-day rentals (a week, for example, is $200).

My process is simple. I Fed Ex you the Alpacka or Feathercraft packraft and you go on an adventure. When you're done, you put the boat back in the box, affix the return label I provide and drop it off at any Fed Ex location.

Questions? My name is Amy and my cell number is 907-830-1016. We just finished our third summer in business, so we have the process pretty dialed at this point.

I will allow this posting as it is very relevant to this thread - but don't push it. I may change my mind if needed.
Vendors should NOT join in here: go to Gear Deals and offer a DEAL.

Roger Caffin
Online Community Momitor
Backpacking Light

Edited by rcaffin on 10/21/2013 14:34:58 MDT.