Gnu or Explorer 42

Hi all!

First sorry for the long winded question, but I want to make sure we pick the right raft.

New member and new to packrafting. My wife and are are experienced kayakers and currently have a couple of hardshell kayaks, canoes and an Advanced Elements double kayak that we love for van camping. However we have been doing a lot of backpacking to alpine lakes and are now thinking of getting a packraft to paddle around these lakes when we hike/backpack in and/or use the rafts to take us and our gear across the lakes to other more remote camping areas. This is where I need your help as I find the info on the Alpacka website to be a bit sparse or contradictory.

We’re looking at a single raft that can carry both of us (I’m 5’11" 175lbs and she’s 5’3" 112lbs) and our medium dog along with our backpacking gear. The water we will be travelling on will mostly be flat water alpine lakes. Perhaps very very infrequently a mild river float. As we’ll be packing this raft along with all of our backpacking gear so weight is an issue. It looks like the Gnu and the Explorer 42 are the best choices for size however I’ll be darned if I can figure out the real weights of the rafts and how much they can carry. So onto the questions:

  1. What is the real weight of these rafts in my backpack? So everything we need to get them going (excluding paddles). So raft, two seats, patch kit, inflation bag, etc.
  2. Any idea on the max carry weight of these two rafts?
  3. We really want to keep it to one raft for the two (and dog) of us as opposed to two single rafts…is there another raft or solution that we should look at?
  4. If we went for the Gnu is the Vectran fabric worth it? I read somewhere that it’s lighter than the standard fabric, but again I can’t find out exactly how much.
  5. Any other thoughts/surprises/gotchas that you can think of?

Thanks for putting up with the essay here and any and all info is much appreciated.



Something to consider is that standard Alpacka boats are dreadfully, painfully slow to paddle on flat water. Especially if you are used to paddling hardshell boats. The Gnu promises 2x the hull speed of the typical shaped boats and that for me would be worth the extra 2 lbs in your situation.

Thanks adelorenzo.

Much appreciated on the info. I’m o.k. with pretty slow if I can save a goodly amount of weight. The older I get the less I “enjoy” long hikes with a heavy backpack (gotta leave room for the wine!). Any idea on the Gnu weight done in Vectran? I’ve asked Alpacka, but they just directed me back to the Vectran FAQ page and it only says that it weighs a “little less”.

For reference both my wife and I have paddled the Advanced Elements Packlite raft. Their version of a packraft. While slow it was certainly workable. Those rafts won’t work for us as we really want a double (due to some shoulder issues) and they require a pump to inflate.

Thanks again.

After all that I am still leaning towards the Gnu tho’.

Hello Guitarick:

I’ve been thinking about a 2nd Alpacka that would take 2 people and a dog. I have a Denali Llama that I love and would like to get my wife back out on the water. Thus I’ve been looking at many of the same issues as you. There is a great size chart available on the Alpacka site that provides a lot of dimensions:

While that chart suggests that the Explorer 42 would have a longer internal cockpit, the difference in seating position probably puts two people closer together in the explorer than in the Gnu (seated versus kneeling). However, if you run the Gnu with the center “seat” that you straddle while kneeling, the space between the two paddlers might not be available for a dog. I think that tube might be removable, so you might be able to run without it when the dog is along.

Of the two boats, I think the Gnus is the only one that can be fitted with a spray deck (removable). I use the spray deck on my Denali Llama a lot, and being able to fit one on a double boat would be necessary for me.

Gnu with Vectran? In the sizing chart linked above, the Gnu is listed as 7 1/2 pounds with an additional 1 lb 14 oz for the seat. I’m pretty sure those weights are for the Vectran boat. I think I remember from Alpacka’s previous website that the Vectran Gnu was about 1 - 2 pounds lighter than a regular fabric version. At first glance, comparing that to the Explorer 42 at 6 lbs 1 oz (boat)and 1 lb 3 oz (seat) looks a lot heavier. However, with the cockpit-length “seat” of the Gnu you get a cargo fly (in the seat) which could be a nice feature. All of that aside, it looks like the Explorer will be around 2 pounds lighter than the Gnu and the Gnu would be around 9 pounds in your pack. Add two paddles at 1 - 2 lbs each and you’ve got an 11 pound load. The inflation bag is minimal, but a couple of pfds will add another couple of pounds and bulk unless you go with some of the inflatable options folks have developed. If you’re only paddling lakes, you might not need to carry the spray deck or dry suits, so that additional weight would be avoided.

If all that just seems too heavy, then going with two separate boats like the Ghost would be lighter - but not nearly as useful for cruising around on a larger lake.


Hey Howard,

Thanks a lot for your well thought out reply. I just got back from a van/kayak camping trip so I’m certainly thinking of the same aspects you commented on. We are lucky in that we already have ultralight paddles and inflatable PFDs and the question really comes down to the weight of the raft against how much will I really carry it on backpacking trips. Over the last few years I’ve been lightening my pack with new lighter gear and now I’m thinking of adding 9-10+ pounds back in?? All that and about $1,000 as well… Hard decision.

Anyhow thanks again for the input. I hadn’t thought about the centre seat issue for space for the dog. Time for more thinking!



Their version of a packraft. While slow it was certainly workable.
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