Last year I used an Alpacka Yukon Yak (just a little over 2 kgs) to explore an extremely remote river in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. A couple years before I used a Sevylor K2 two-person inflatable kayak on another month-long remote river exploration in coastal BC Canada (I took the second seat out and used the extra space for my food/gear). The kayak (empty) weighs about 18 kgs.
I have thirty years experience exploring isolated river systems alone, on foot, in a packraft, and in a kayak, so I’ve tried all kinds of methods.
The short answer to your question “Is there an alternative to a packraft” is sure, there are plenty. But there are none anywhere as good. An inflatable kayak will perhaps perform a bit better on open water with no current, and have more room for gear, but the advantages of a packraft in all other areas far outweighs this. For me, the deciding factor is that I do a lot of my trips overseas. I have to put whatever I’m using on a plane. The excess baggage charges for the kayak were absolutely killing me, but I’ve never had any excess charges with the packraft. To give you an idea, when I head to Guyana to explore a jungle river shortly, Royal Brunei Air (from Australia to London and back, which is the bulk of my journey) will allow me one 20 kg backpack plus a 7 kg carry-on - that’s it. This is for a month-long, remote-area jungle expedition. Every kilo over the 20 kg limit, I am charged 70 dollars, per kilo, in both directions.
Because I have to basically carry everything I need in one backpack, it’s just far more practical, at least for my (admittedly highly specialized) purposes to go with a packraft. Which, incidentally, was considerably cheaper than the Sevylor kayak anyway.
I guess if I alternatively interpret your query as "is there anything that works as well or similar to an Alpacka raft, that has the same durability etc, but is cheaper, the simple answer is no. If there was, I’d be using it.
If you would like to look at the trips I’ve done in both the Sevylor and the Yak, I have some YouTube videos on my site http://www.remoteriverman.com
I’ve produced a couple of television-quality DVDs which feature both these modes of remote river exploration. Packrafting the Kimberley (with bonus feature Jungles of Gabon), and also Coast of Bears, which was on the Ecstall River in BC. They’re on my site too, on the Products page.
I should mention that the first time I ever floated down a remote river in northern Australia I did it on a 17 dollar inflatable toy boat (like a swimming pool floating boat). As soon as I brushed against some pandanus palm fronds, the spikes ripped it to shreds, and I ended up trekking in trackless terrain for at least two weeks longer than planned. So going cheap does have its distinct disadvantages. If you’re in a semi-civilized area, that’s fine. But I am often 400 kilometres from the nearest human, so I only use what I cvan rely on. For me, that’s an Alpacka packraft. Mind you, it’s a bit tight getting a month’s worth of filming and camping gear, plus food on there, but I manage.
Remote River Man