The Alpacka Raft Cargo Fly

The Cargo Fly is an airtight, waterproof zipper system in the stern of the boat. Opening this zipper allows access to the inside of the tubes to store your gear. With careful planning, everything can now go inside your raft rather than strapped on the bow in a pack.

The Cargo Fly option comes as a three piece set. The set includes the zipper in the boat and two zipper opening inflatable drybags that slide inside the boat tubes. These drybags are long and a slightly smaller diameter than the boat tubes themselves. After the drybags are slipped inside the tubes, they are filled with gear and clipped in place. Once in place they are inflated. This gives you two additional air chambers.

We use the Tizip Superseal zipper for the zipper in the raft opening. This zipper has a long proven track record for holding air and staying dry in multiple adverse conditions.

Some special considerations are necessary when using the zipper. Constant vigilance to keep sand out of the zipper is important. The opening is limited in size, so everything going in the boat needs to be in containers that are “long and skinny”. Care is also needed not stress the zipper during loading and unloading.

We can retro this option on all boats that have the “big butt” sterns, which started with the 2010 models. Unfortunately, older boats with the small sterns don’t have enough room for us to get the zipper in.

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Welcome to the revolution!


I love the idea of this but some more info would be good, like how much can be stored inside (in cubic inches / litres)? And some video of it being loaded up? I bet it is easier to right your boat packing like this…

“Wow!” is right. This is a very, very intriguing innovation. This might be to packrafts what sidecuts were to dowhill skis. Other than improving ones paddling skills and honing ones judgement, reducing the volume and mass of gear attached to tops of the tubes seems the best way to reduce the number of flips, swims, and lost boats. I have the obvious concern, however, that my Yak will suffer integrity problems from grit in the zippers.

Could this thread be duplicated or moved to the “Gear” topic? I really think that folks who go forward with either a cargo fly original purchase or retrofit need to be encouraged as much as possible to report on the board what they discover about the long term usefulness and reliability of this innovation.

I imagine a couple disadvantages of this system–wouldn’t putting gear in your tubes decrease the boat’s bouyancy (less airspace in the tubes)? And wouldn’t there be a greater likelihood of rubbing or punching a hole in a tube because the tube fabric could be sandwhiched between your gear and a rock? Or do I misunderstand?

I’ve been using one of the new boats with the Cargo Fly and really like it.

From a gear management perspective, it requires more time to pack and fiddle with the cargo bags in the tubes, than it does to simply strap on a pack. My perception of this is that maybe it’s because it’s winter and very cold here, so fiddle problems are more acute. Might be less of a deal in the summer.

From a paddling perspective, it’s fantastic. I’d rather put gear in the tubes than on the bow. I can see lines through technical whitewater better without a big pack on the bow. So, visibility is a bonus, especially in big wave trains. Plus, the boat is more maneuverable because you can swing the bow better on a hard paddle stroke, so things like snicker-snacking and pirouetting seem to be a bit easier.

I’m blown away by how much gear you can fit inside. I haven’t been on a long expedition yet, but I was able to fit the entirety of a pretty light winter overnight kit into the tubes without a problem, including a gas stove, pyramid tarp, sleeping bag, down parka, etc. I put my food and “day gear” in a 25L dry bag strapped to the bow.

The pic at the top of this page was taken by Jim Harris, of me, on our ‘River of Return’ trip this fall. In that pic I have ~8 days worth of food, clothing, shelter, and gear inside the tubes of the boat. I’d guess my load took up maybe 1/3 of the total space inside the tubes. In other words, the boat can carry a lot more inside the tubes than I can carry on my bike or back.

Having the weight inside the tubes lowers the boat’s center of gravity to just above the waterline, making the boat more maneuverable and less likely to flip. Somewhat surprisingly, it also makes the boat much easier to roll back up. Put another way, when the boat is unloaded for a day trip I can roll it but I don’t always get the boat back over. When the boat is loaded with gear inside the tubes, I get my roll 98% of the time.

If this works as well as ryanjordan and MikeC have described, it will be a major breakthrough for Alpacka. I mean the whole idea is purely un-f***ing-believeable! And as Alpacka has gained my trust as a company which knows what it is selling, I believe Cargo Fly will be widely used. I will consider buying one with my new boat, but Aiyana’s point about tube fabric getting sandwiched between gear and river obstruction still concerns me.

Edit: I was also wondering if there is some kind of locking system for the zipper to stay closed for sure?

I’m in awe at the continuous innovation that originates from Alpacka!

Just when you thought that it can’t get any better… It does, in quantum leaps!

<Note to self, gotta start saving!>

Does anyone know how long and how Alpacka has been testing this concept?

6 nights on the bony Verde River last month. With dogs. And too much gear. Zippers worked great. Tougher challenge was learning to pack, which is what we spent lots of time doing on this trip. Next trip will be more trim and streamlined.

I did use some caution and tried to keep any stowed hard object away from the outside or bottom of the tubes. My boat is a thinner fabric than the regular packrafts but still, no sign of any damage despite lots of rock rubbing. (Some signs of rubbing on the floor, but that’s okay.)

It really is amazing how much crap will fit inside. Way more than one should probably bring. And boat handling is great; way better than having stuff on the top. Just kind of disappears while paddling. Only to reappear when dragging the boat out of the water.

We rinsed our zippers before we opened them, and kept them closed while camping. And brushed off our inside-the-tube bags before stuffing them in. – All to help keep grit out of the zippers. And we kept the zip lube handy.

I did some internet research and the consensus for these zippers seemed to be that grit wouldn’t result in their immediate failure and permanent damage. More that grit would prevent a full seal.

Then I did some practical “research”: First pool session after our trip, my zipper was bubbling out some air. Un-zipped it, wiped with my fingers and felt some grit come away. Re-zipped. Sealed up fine again.

Some photos here and beyond:

I know with water proof zippers on drysuits, you must roll them up a certain way when packing to prevent the fabric holding the zipper teeth together from tearing. Also, you are supposed to store the suit with the zippers unzipped to prevent future leakage. Is this the same with the cargo fly? Also, suppose the zipper started leaking a little during a trip due to miscare, I wonder if I could repatch the leaky zipper each day with my tyvek tape?

was just wondering how the cargo fly goes with portaging?
also is it a pain deflating / reflating every day on multi day trips to get at your gear - I assume you would keep your lunch out at least
Am about to purchase and am not sure if i should get the cargo fly.

So far I’d have a hard time not recommending the CargoFly. Meaning, yes, it’s worth it. On my first mutli-day trip it was somewhat awkward. But I learned enough that I can probably make the packing smoother in the future. And even if it was a little awkward, it didn’t really matter when we were only loading once per day.

And yip. Camera, lunch, first aid and such stay in my deck bag.

Out on a speculative limb: For trips that involve lots of portaging, like river crossings all throughout the day, I might plan to just strap a pack on the bow. Especially with lots of muck involved.

Using the Zip – lower center of gravity and less above-water profile on an already floaty boat – makes it much easier for me to paddle in rough water and windy conditions. And though I have the zip, there’s nothing that says I have to use it every time.

Glad I threw the cash at it.


Hey John

In regards to “Portaging”

Personally I find it easier to portage my boat with the Cargo Fly and my gear inside opposed to having a bag on the front of the boat. I have been a hardshell kayaker for 20+ years so it is hard to break the habit of just picking up the boat and throwing it on my shoulder. With all the weight lashed to the front of the boat it makes portaging a pain in the ass if your trying to balance all the tippy weight located on the front of the boat if it’s on your shoulder. With the weight inside, centered in the tubes, it rests on your shoulder quite nicely. I have seen people carry boats differently but this is how I carry a boat and I’m not going to change.
I do have thigh straps, so that does make it easier to pick it up and get on my shoulder, and with your arm inside the boat holding the bottom end of the strap and the boat on your shoulder (same arm) makes it super stable while you are walking or climbing. Without thigh straps I can see how this may be slightly difficult to keep it where it need to be or to even picking the boat up.
You do need to plan what you are going to need for the day, but loading the boat and re-inflating every day is just a few extra minutes in the morning and well worth the extra time in regards to how much better the boat paddles with a lower water line, lower center of gravity, and better mass distribution.

I would highly recommend getting a zipper… you will not regret it, and like Greg said, just because you have it does not mean you have to use it all the time!


For user of cargo fly,
Everybody is still happy with cargo fly?No leaks?or drawback?after some use ,look like is a necessity for you?Regret the simplicity of your old system?
with experience pack/unpack is still a mess?other comment?

thanks to share


I used the Cargo Fly for a 6 day trip. 1 day hiking in and 5 days floating. It was great. It does take a little planning on how to load it. The first time I stuffed one side and when I got done I realized that I did not have anything to put in the other side. It did not take me any longer to pack it up and get ready to go than it did the other guys without the cargo fly. Just used a little care of when I unpacked and packed it and never had any issues with the Zipper. It is really nice not to have to worry about a dry bag leaking and all of your gear being wet.I cannot really see a down side to the cargo fly.