Getting the right size Alpacka is important as you’re supposed to fit in snuggly front to back to aid control in white water. At my height (6′ 1″) the Llama is just right, with a little optional padding behind the seat to get my feet pushing firmly against the bow. With my set up my Llama weighs in at just over 3 kilos now and has nearly as much payload (~15kg) as well as a similar if not better white water ability as my Gumotex Sunny IK. (The boat pictured above is a Solar, not a Sunny).
The Llama is 180cm x 97cm. Alpacka don’t give payloads but I’ve paddled it with the g-friend adding up to 150kg total. Depending on what you’re paddling I’d say 115kg is about optimal as me (95kg) plus 20kg of clothing and camping kit and boat.
Out of the bag (into which it’ll never fit again…) first impressions are the toughness of the material and the quality of construction. Tube diametre varies so the various-sized panels are glued and taped together to give the slightly narrowing bow, with the kicked up front and a bulkier stern. Rolled up again (right, withy the blue air bag tucked in) after sucking all the air out via the mouth valve, it’s about the size of a bulky two-man tent.
Inflation relies an ingenious super light ripstop bag which screws into the boat’s dump valve at the back. Scoop up some air, twist the top of the bag shut and then squeeze it with your chest and knees. filling the boat. It sounds clumsy but works really well and takes about 10 squeezes to nearly fill the boat. Once done, unscrew the air bag, screw in the cap (you won’t lose much air doing this as the hull is not heavy like an IK or elastic like a balloon). You then top it off by mouth via an elbow valve with another 10 lungfuls. Once you get on the water and the air inside the hull cools so you’ll need to give 2-3 more puffs to firm it up; easier to do out of the boat.
The inflatable seat is light and basic, almost flimsy compared with the rest of the boat, but absorbs the blows from submerged rocks (though mine burst a leak early on). It’s actually very comfortable and the ‘toilet seat’ design means you’re not sitting in pooled water. One annoyance is that the backrest always flops down when you’re trying to re-enter and get set up fast before the next rapid. It needs holding back which I’ve easily done with an elastic.
As it stands I am very pleased with my Llama; it’s colour, features, weight, comfort and performance. You can tell a lot of thought has gone into refining an old design without forgetting that simplicity means less weight, less stuff and easier repairs in the field. Durability of such a light craft is my main worry, but the proof will be in using it more. They say they’re tougher than they look, but obviously you want to treat it with care.
I suspect long-term ownership and hard use of an Alpacka may mean occasional field repairs, but a little TLC and maintenance is the way it should be to get full use out of quality gear, rather than wearing it out and throwing it away.
When it’s all over, drying is as fast as a full-coat Gumo IK and deflating takes all of a minute or two. You can then wrap it up around your paddle, swing it over your shoulder and walk home.
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