Alpacka Raft launched, literally and figuratively, in the Fall of 2000, as a collaboration between Sheri Tingey — the designer behind the products — and her son Thor, who had just completed a 700-mile traverse of Alaska’s Brooks Range, returning with a dream for a better performing packraft.
Alpacka designs and handcrafts some of the most innovative, premium packrafts available, all from their shop in Mancos, Colorado; and remains committed to a sustainable packrafting community and the local economy.
The brand’s new Ranger is essentially the solo version of the Forager: with scaled down design that makes it perfect for one. It’s light enough to pack out, but strong enough for all your gear. It’s a versatile, all-purpose, do everything kind of raft.
Alpacka says it fits somewhere between the Mule (7 lbs), and the Forager (12.6 lbs). Tingey took the design of the Forager and scaled it down to make it more comfortable and easier to paddle for the solo paddler, retaining plenty of space for gear for a multi-week river trip, including a small hard cooler. It’s also a great boat for duo-ing with kids up to 10 years of age…before they start to want to do their own paddling. “That makes it our choice for long classic river trips like the San Juan, Dolores, Montana’s Flathead system, and the big Alaska rivers,” says Thor.
The Ranger is also the perfect river based solo hunting and fishing packraft. At under 12 lbs., it is light enough to be backpacked into a remote river, but offers plenty of carrying capacity for medium to large game such as caribou, deer, elk, and sheep. The extra space also makes it great for carrying rods on river fishing trips, or bringing along the dog for an upland or waterfowl hunt.
We sat down for an exclusive interview with Alpacka Raft CEO Thor Tingey to bring you the inside scoop on this exciting new launch.
Why is packrafting such a rapidly growing sport?
It seems like the entire outdoor industry including paddlesports has experienced huge growth and demand the past year. But packrafting has been steadily growing for years as well. We think the main reason for this is that packrafting is a really accessible form of paddling. Traditional rafts, hardshell kayaks, and duckies have been the dominant river trip boats for a long time. But they all have their challenges. Full sized rafts are a big investment in both space and money, so they aren’t very practical for most people that do a lot of different outdoor activities. Kayaks provide the best performance, but the learning curve is steep and they can be intimidating for beginner and intermediate paddlers. And duckies are really easy to paddle, but they can be hard to store gear and a bit cumbersome to maneuver when fully loaded. Packrafts offer internal gear storage for trips, beginner friendly stability, and a super compact size for storing in your garage or going backpacking.
How does this new Solo fit into the existing product spectrum?
The Ranger fills one of the few remaining holes in our product range. We have everything from ultralight like the Scout, to all purpose like the Classic and Expedition, to whitewater focused like the Gnarwhal and Wolverine, to tandem boats like the Forager and Oryx. The Ranger was originally conceived as the solo version of the Forager, so it would be a little easier to paddle and pack for one person. The idea was a boat that would be ideal for backcountry hunters, like Caribou or Sheep hunting in Alaska. But when we made it, we realized it was just a really comfortable and easy to paddle river trip boat which fits a whole different segment of the paddlesports world.
Who is it perfect for?
It’s perfect for river trips and backcountry hunting. For river trips, its best on the classic easy whitewater rivers like the Green, San Juan, Chama, Main Salmon, Flathead, etc. It has a lot of space and capcity to bring a bit of extra gear and even your dog or a kid sitting up front. For hunters, it’s really targeted at hike in float out hunts for Caribou and Sheep in Alaska or deer and elk in the lower 48.
What else do you need to get paddling?
All of our packrafts come with everything you need to get the boat on the water, so you don’t need any boat specific accessories. But you do need a paddle, PFD, and whatever trip specific clothing and camping gear you might want if you are doing overnight trips. We recommend going with a 205-210cm paddle for the Ranger with a whitewater blade for more leverage when paddling, like the Aqua-Bound Shred. You’ll also need a helmet if you are interested in paddling whitewater.
Any other new technologies or developments that would set this new boat apart?
While we are constantly working on new designs, we’re also really proud of our designs, materials, and manufacturing techniques we have spent 20 years perfecting. The Ranger uses all of those items in a new size of boat that is bigger and roomier than our general single-person boats, but isn’t as big and heavy as our tandem models.