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Visiting Alpacka Raft and packrafting Colorado

Packrafting with Alpacka Raft packrafts

The idea of visiting Alpacka Raft in Mancos, Colorado which is where all Alpacka packrafts are hand crafted, has been on our mind for a long time.

Pretty much ever since we started packrafting and read about how Sheri and Thor Tingey started Alpacka Raft back in 2000, we wanted to meet them in person. Their story has always inspired us and after using Alpacka packrafts for years on our personal missions, and now partnering with them for our family business, our passion for the design and quality of Alpacka Raft has been growing steadily.

In the Alpacka Raft factory with the new 2019 models
In the Alpacka factory, thinking of our next packrafting trip

We have seen photos, read about it, have spent countless hours on Skype with Thor and Sarah Tingey, and were super excited to meet everybody in person and see where Alpacka packrafts are hand made!

We knew that Seon was due to renew his NOLS Wilderness First Responder First Aid Certificate for our Packrafting Rescue Courses. So when we saw a course near Mancos at end of October, the decision to fly to Colorado was made in a heartbeat!

Flights were booked, bags were packed and the kids were told that another exciting adventure trip was awaiting us.

After surviving a long trip and 9 hours of time difference, we stood in front of the Alpacka workshop and were greeted by Sarah, Thor, Sheri and a bunch of dogs that are a part of the family.

Packraft Europe family meets the Alpacka family
Packraft Europe family meets the Alpacka family

First thing on the agenda was of course a tour through the factory.

We saw every step of the production process of an Alpacka packraft. Cutting, sewing, gluing, welding, all the local employees were focused on doing a great job and their commitment to quality is clearly evident. Another thing that surprised us is that nearly all of the staff at Alpacka paddle themselves. Think about that for a moment, the people that are hand crafting your packraft for you actually packraft, and share your love for the sport.

Alpacka quality packrafts
Alpacka packrafts hand crafted

We also spent some time with the repair and retrofit department.

Starting in January 2019 we will begin offering a limited selection of repair and retrofit services for Alpacka packrafts in Europe. Seon spent most of his days training in the repair and retrofit centre to learn how to do repairs and retrofits to the high quality that Alpacka stands for and we are excited to begin testing his skills!

Last but not least there are two more sheds that are specifically dedicated to R&D!

To improve existing designs, find and test better ones, work on the material, the components, the production techniques etc. It blew our mind how every little detail was so well thought of and how Alpacka puts a focus on doing the right thing rather than going for the cheapest option, even with decisions that most customers will never be aware of.

Alpackas bottom line is driven by passion, dedication to design, innovation, and creating the best packrafts available. Period.

Alpacka packrafts high quality material
Not just any packraft fabric. Alpacka packrafts are made using a specific fabric that is manufactured to Alpackas exact quality standards.

All Alpacka packrafts are crafted by hand in the USA, and every step in production is a testament to the values that guides Alpacka and their family of skilled craft men and woman.

It starts with their boat fabric (which is unique to Alpacka and made in the USA to their exacting specifications) and continues through every step of production and beyond. This dedication continues on for the lifetime of their Packrafts and is also evident in the repair and retro fit center where it is not uncommon to have rafts come in for upgrades that are over 10 or 15 years old and still going strong.

Another example is the glue that is used.

We could actually walk into the gluing room with our little kids and could hardly smell anything. When we asked Thor about it, he explained that Alpacka is using a glue that is free from VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and is much less toxic and harmful than most glues. This is something we had already noticed at packrafting meet-ups. Other brands of rafts can be identified by their smell even after weeks and months of use.

This is just one example of many that shows the dedication Alpacka has not only to design and innovation but also the health of the environment, their employees and their loyal customers.

In Alpacka's non smelly glueing room
Breathing freely in Alpacka’s gluing room

Of course we also met Sheri, who started it all and still has a sparkle in her eyes when we talk packrafting with her.

Although most of the day to day business is led by Thor and Sarah, Sheri is still very much involved in innovation, new designs and patterns and we saw her more than once on the sewing machine herself. Now in her 70s it is clear she is as passionate as ever about packrafts.

Sheri Tingey, inventor of the modern packraft and founder of Alpacka Rafts
Sheri Tingey, inventor of the modern packraft and founder of Alpacka Rafts

The days flew by and we got to know the people behind Alpacka a bit better and learned more about their ideas, passions and values – so much in line with ours!

When Seon was working in the repair center, I grabbed the kids and explored the surroundings of Mancos! Between snow capped mountains and desert canyons, it is an area of contrasts. It is a small town where Cowboys are still part of the normal scenery, one day even a full herd of cattle was herded straight through town.

On the weekend we drove to Utah to paddle Colorado river.

First a gentle stretch with the kids and to try out the new 2019 models (more about that soon :-)))

Family packrafting with Alpacka packrafts
First packrafting trip for our younger one – less than a year old and loving it!

On the next day, Molly (Alpacka customer service) had organized permits to paddle the Westwater Canyon and Seon went paddling with the Alpacka crew.

It was a full day on the river with deep blue skies, stunning scenery, good whitewater, laughter and great packrafting. I think Seon has a new favorite whitewater packraft…

Packrafting Westwater canyon with the new Alpacka 2019 models
Packrafting Westwater canyon with the Alpacka crew
Alpacka packraft in whitewater
Dustin (design engineer) testing new features
Alpacka 2019 models new packrafts
Lunch break on the river – spot some of the new 2019 models!

Packrafting Colorado river with the Alpacka Gnarwhal

Packrafting Westwater canyon with Alpacka Raft
Sarah and Molly taking the right line.
Packrafting Westwater canyon with the Alpacka Wolferine
Sarah and Thor leading the way.

After a few more days in the factory, our visit came to an end – such a great trip!

Michaela & Seon

 

Some more pics from the trip:

Alpacka Wolferine packraft
Seon very happy in his new favourite Alpacka, which he built mostly himself! More about this story soon 🙂
Packraft Europe family on tour
Family hiking in the desert
HMG Hyperlite Mountaingear UltaMid 4 shelter
Pitching the Hyperlite Mountaingear UltaMid 4 shelter for family desert camping
Canyon hiking
Canyon hiking – you can do it!
In the Alpacka Scout packraft
Think that’s about the right size for me – Maya in a Scout.

 

 

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Land + Wasser = Packraft

Alpacka Packrafts paddeln den Fluss hinunter in mitten unberĂŒhrter Natur

Pack was? Werden sich viele fragen.

Packrafts sind hierzulande noch ein gut gehĂŒtetes Geheimnis, auch wenn sie in anderen Regionen schon fast zur StandardaustrĂŒstung von Wanderern und Bikern gehören.

Alpacka packraft Caribou auf Fluss in Österreich
Bikeraften – Mit dem Bike am Packraft den Fluss hinunter!

Ein Packraft ist ein leichtes, aufblasbares Boot.

Man kann es auf die GrĂ¶ĂŸe eines kleinen Zeltes zusammenpacken und daher ganz einfach im Rucksack, am Rad, in öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln oder natĂŒrlich im Kofferraum mitnehmen. Je nach Modell wiegt es ca. 2-3kg.

Alpacka Packraft neben Paddel und Baby
Ein zusammengerolltes Packraft und Paddel neben unserer Tochter. Wer ist kleiner?

Sobald man es dann aufgeblasen hat, kann man Seen, FlĂŒsse, und mit dem richtigen Modell und Können, sogar richtig schweres Wildwasser paddeln.

Kurzer geschichtlicher RĂŒckblick.

Erste Packrafts aka Schlauchboote wurden bereits vor gut 100 Jahren entwickelt. Das moderne Packraft hat mit diesen Schlauchbooten jedoch so gut wie nichts mehr zu tun. Im Jahr 2000 starteten Sheri and Thor Thingey mit der Entwicklung von Packrafts in ihrem Keller in Alaska. Sie entwickelten Alpacka Raft, mit dem Gedanken leichte und robuste Packrafts aus dem besten Material, mit innovativem Design und höchster QualitÀt herzustellen.

Daran hat sich bis heute nichts geĂ€ndert, es gibt nun dank wachsender PopularitĂ€t und Nachfrage auch schon viele andere Packraft Marken, die zumeist in China produziert werden. Allerdings sind Alpacka Packrafts nach wie vor die MarktfĂŒhrer bei QualitĂ€t und Design und werden in Handarbeit in den USA hergestellt.

Packrafting Grand Canyon mit einigen Alpacka packrafts
Packrafts in ihrem Ursprungsland, den USA.

Worin liegt nun der Reiz des Packraftens?

In unerschlossenen Wildnissgebieten wie zum Beispiel in Alaska braucht man es natĂŒrlich ganz einfach als Transportmittel. Die Landschaft ist mit FlĂŒssen durchzogen, die zu tief sind um sie zu durchwaten. BrĂŒcken gibt es weit und breit keine. Sprich wenn man ans andere Ufer will, um dort weiterzuwandern, braucht man ein Boot um den Fluss zu ĂŒberqueren. Aber auch hierzulande gibt es viele FlĂŒsse und Seen die sich zum Paddeln eignen.

Bikerafting Abenteuer mit Mountainbike und Alpacka Packraft.
Mountainbike + Packraft =Bikerafting
Alpacka packraft mit Moutinabike auf Fluss in Österreich
Bikeraften in Österreich

Jeder, der schon einmal eine Mehrtageswanderung mit CampingausrĂŒstung und eigenem Essen gemacht hat, weiss wie schnell der Rucksack so richtig schwer wird.

Im Packraft kann man Gewicht super verstauen, bei gewissen Modellen kann man es einfach in die SchlÀuche hineingeben und gewinnt dadurch sogar noch an StabilitÀt beim Paddeln!

Es gibt 2 Personen Packrafts, wo die ganze Familie Platz hat.

In the Alpacka Raft factory with the new 2019 models

Packrafts sind auch viel stabiler als Kajaks, daher ist es sehr leicht zu erlernen und einfaches Wildwasser kann schnell jeder fahren. Wobei man in diesen Fall immer mit erfahrenen Paddlern packraften sollte und idealerweise vorher einen Kurs macht, denn im Wildwasser liegen natĂŒrlich auch Gefahren.

Aber der große Pluspunkt der Packrafts liegt darin, dass man es so einfach mit anderen Sportarten und AktivitĂ€ten kombinieren, und einfach mitnehmen kann!

Moutainbike auf Alpacka packraft fĂŒr Bikerafting Abenteuer
Entweder das Packraft ist am Rad, oder das Rad am Packraft!

Neugierig geworden?

Wir betreiben diesen Sport nun schon seit einigen Jahren und freuen uns ĂŒber Fragen und Interesse! Gerne beraten wir Dich bei der Wahl des richtigen Packrafts und Packrafting AusrĂŒstung. Auf verschiedenen Events in Europa sind wir auch mit Testbooten vor Ort.

Alpacka Packraft paddelt im Regen
Packraften auf der Salza

Du kannst uns per Email: info@packrafteurope.com, Telefon: +43 681 1052 4240 oder auf Facebook www.facebook.com/packrafteurope kontaktieren!

 

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European Packrafting Meet-up, Soca 2018

Wow, what a weekend! We kept repeating this phrase again and again while reluctantly driving away from Camp Liza which was our base for the 4 day meet-up. It seemed weeks ago that we had arrived along the same road, full of excitement about the upcoming event. We were expecting 47 paddlers from 13 countries and the weather forecast was fantastic. The Soca was mid to high flow at 50cumecs.

About half the people were expected to arrive on Friday afternoon and it was a real pleasure to start to get to know each other around the first evening campfire, many more were to follow.

Meet-up participants standing around the fire pit

The official program only started at Saturday noon, leaving more time for people to arrive. In the late morning paddlers with white water rescue training or significant experience met for a skippers meeting to discuss group safety strategy for paddling the river. Afterwards we all came together for a group introduction and safety talk were local knowledge about the Soca river, sections to paddle and hazards was shared.

Packrafting Meet-up participants grouped around red Alpacka packraft

 

We then headed to a section of the Soca that Seon had scouted early morning that had all the features for some safety training sessions: an easy class 1/2 section of river with a large deep eddy and an easy access large gravel bank just down river. Gabriel from Outventurous ran practice flip and re entry drills in the still water of the eddy, while Annika from Packraft-Touren provided some excellent coaching on techniques for eddying in and out, and Seon from Packraft Europe  gave some coaching on ferry gliding.

Safety training by Seon from Packraft Europe Alpacka dealer

Luis in his Alpacka packraft during a radical turn

Once everybody had gone through the 3 stations (Flip, Eddy, Ferry) we moved downstream to the large gravel bank and practiced whitewater swimming techniques. After which everybody got back into their packrafts and paddled a short way downstream to the next take out and headed back to camp.

Safety training on the Soca during the packrafting meet-up

 

The day was rounded up with a group dinner at Camp Liza’s restaurant, after such a full day it was great not to worry about food and just sit down and relax!

Sunday morning we woke up to another day of blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures, we couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather. Time for breakfast, coffee (thanks to LA MATTINA) and gear talk. Annika went over a few paddling tips and the finer details of eddy techniques, and shortly after Seon gave an in depth presentation about “Developing a culture of safety”, and demonstrated proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Personal Rescue Equipment (PRE) and explained the need for  Whitewater Rescue Training within the packrafting community.

Safety packrafting briefing about rescue gear with people listening and a red Alpacka packraft

Seon doing a packrafting safety briefing

After soaking up all the knowledge, everybody was itching to get into the water again and go paddling. Some people jumped straight into the river at the Koritnica / Soca confluence right next to our campground, others walked downstream and skipped the first bit in order to start paddling on the easier lower section.

Alpacka Packrafts on the Soca

We all joined together at the Cezsoca (Prijon) put in, and did a mass packrafting run with 38 paddlers down to the large gravel bank where we had practiced whitewater swimming techniques the day before. We enjoyed a riverside lunch and went straight into a throw bagging workshop.

Throwbag training, an important skill for packrafters

Afterwards it was time to continue on and it was amazing to watch as people practiced and refined their skills, everyone was catching eddies and ferry gliding as we all made our way down river enjoying each others company and the beautiful surrounds. Everyone was smiling from ear to ear 🙂 It is not often we get to so see so many packrafts together and we certainly got some attention from kayakers and rafters on the river!

Packrafting on the Soca river on a beautiful day with lots of Alpacka rafts

Sunday evening the focus was on the third pillar of the event. Besides sharing an awesome time with other packrafters on and off the river and learning about safety, river protection  and conservation was a big part of the event. Included in the registration fee was a 5€ per person donation to “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”, which fights for protecting the last wild rivers of Europe from being dammed. Patagonia has recently released a documentary film to help spread the news about what is taking place in the Balkans. The movie was only just released and we were able to screen the film “Blue Heart” on Sunday evening at the campground! Check out the Blue Heart trailer.

By Monday, the third day of the meet-up, everybody knew each other, had paddled together, had practiced basic river safety and knew how to look out for each other on the river. So we formed small groups and went off to paddle different sections of the Soca and Koritnica depending on ability.

Packrafting down the Soca river with multicolour Alpacka boats

Some also decided to take a day off and go for a hike to the massive Boka waterfall just West of Bovec. In the evening, we did a raffle of all the great gear and give-aways provided by Anfibio Packrafting Store , Packraft-Touren and PacKraft after which our thirst for adventure was fueled by a presentation from Gabriel where he shared his experience and knowledge of remote wilderness expeditions, some of the close calls he has had and the valuable lessons learnt. It was an awesome presentation and really helped to round out the whole event.

Packrafts on the Soca river with sunlight through the trees

Finally Tuesday came around with some people going for a last paddle, others starting to pack up their gear for the trip home. It was 4 fun packed days on and off the water coming to an end. Everybody was stoked, had learned and practiced important safety and paddling techniques and we have raised 463€ for the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign!

Packrafting action

This was the first European Packrafting Meetup and it will be hard to beat, but we will try! This is going to be an annual event, every year, beginning of May at the Soca, so if you couldn’t make it this time, make sure to save the date for next year!

Furthermore we are looking into a second meetup later this year, in September. The format will be an expedition style meet up. We will put in, paddle and camp at a different section of the river every night. Dates and location to be decided.

Join the facebook group Packrafting Meet-ups, Safety Info and River Conservation to be the first to know about the exact dates for both meet ups, and all other packrafting events!

Thanks to everybody for coming, and special thanks to Max and Seon for all their efforts in preparing and organizing the meet-up!!!

Seon in his Alpacka gnarwhal packraft watching the other packrafts float by

 

A huge thanks to all the supporters of this event:

Anfibio Packrafting Store for MRS demo rafts and loads of cool prizes.

Packraft-Touren for loads of cool prizes and Annika’s help with safety on the river and her excellent coaching.

PacKraft for Kokopelli demo rafts, loads of cool prizes and Geoff’s safety support on the river.

Camp Liza for a great campsite and all their help in making this event flow smoothly.

LA MATTINA for the fresh roasted coffee 😉

Packraft Europe for Alpacka demo rafts and the “Blue Heart” Movie screening.