What custom boat mods would you like?

Hi Everyone,

We’ve been working on an easy way for folks to order custom grab-loop packages for their boats - like a ski carrying rig, internal cargo tiedowns, etc. - just like ordering a spraydeck. We’re interested in what mods you’d like to see available for the boats.

So far, our ideas list includes:
:arrow_right: Ski-carrying rig.
:arrow_right: Internal cargo tiedowns (grab loops inside boat, on side-tubes near front).
:arrow_right: Internal bow clip-point (grab loop installed for water bottle, camera, etc. on inside of bow.
:arrow_right: “Full-Raft Rail”: grab loops installed around the boat to run a line fully around it. Sheri calls this “the porcupine boat,” and Roman called it “the fun rail,” which is pretty good too.

What grab-loop etc. configurations would you like to be available?

Cheers from the Witch’s Hearth,

I’d like to see tie-downs on the bow and stern of the Fjord Explorer so that a pack could be strapped on each end and not hang over into the interior space of the boat. That way two people and their packs could fit and each be facing forward, like this:

The rear load is ideally located but I need maybe two more tie-downs along with the four already there. Also, that rear load is everything for two of us for a week, and it’s a big load. I’d like to be able to tie a smaller portion to the bow with a similar system.

You know I like big butts… I realize that’s not a simple mod though.

I’m with you on the internal grab loops. I’d imagine one on the inside floor at the bow, and one under the seat.

I dunno Andrew, I was expecting more from you… no hard-points for gun turrets? And how am I to attach my solid-fuel rocket booster?

Hi guys, I have a dory, which I use for flyfishing. I am mainly targetting fish in local coastal estuaries on the (Australian) NSW south coast.

A manner of kneeling, to get better height and visibility for ‘polaroiding’ fish when sight fishing would be good.

I’ve been toying with a strap across in front of the old spreader bar of the dory frame, made of seat belt webbing or similar.


Hi all, just got back from a trip -

Thanks for the good thoughts so far.

Jules, we’re experimenting with better way to kneel or stand (yup, stand) in the Fjord Explorer, which might help you out. It wouldn’t quite work on the old Dory frame, I’m afraid. Sheri’s always wanted to be able to stand & scout from the Dory/Explorer, that that was part of impetus behind the new frame, because it gives us a better framework to try to create a boat you can stand in. We’ll keep the community posted if our idea pans out.

Hig, what’s your thought for having one under the seat? What would you like to clip there?

Good thoughts there too, Roman. This year’s two-person-boating experiments and wew ways to carry gear could lead to some interesting developments. Sheri’s looking back to some to the techniques used on the Franklin, Tasmania, way-back-when for pack-carrying inspiration, too. I’m hoping this winter proves a good time for a lot of us to play around with some of these new methods.

Oh yeah, and don’t give up on me yet, Hig. Just because you can’t see the listings for Sheri’s daughter’s pomeranian (“Sir Didimus, unit (1), colors: orange, fabulous magenta, olive drab. Stuff sack included”) or “Plasma Cannon, Rotary” on the shop site doesn’t mean I can’t invoice you for them. :smiling_imp: Cheers, -Andrew

Having done another longish trip with two in one boat, I’d like to see a big butt/bow boat bit with more gentle curves inside the boat and a bit longer inside – the current Dory/Explorer interior is too pointy for comfortable two person sitting.

We have been running Class III in our big boat with both paddling kayak paddles and facing forward, no spray deck, and a load for a week. We like the power and quick control of two kayak paddles rather than canoe paddles for this white water. We don’t see any folding of the boat’s tubes except when it runs low on air (it has two leaks where tube meets the floor that hopefully we have patched).

Thanks for the feedback Andrew.

Roman - without wanting to pry, what kind of combnined weight are you carrying with two ? I’d like to consider this with the better half one day for afew simple trips, maybe moving to longer missions over time.

A long answer to Andrew’s question about why the inside grab loop…

Back when Erin and I were first packrafting, we put our pack between our knees in the middle of the boat. This had disadvantages… like having an ice-axe poking you in the leg for hours. And it puts the center of mass too far back. But it was very nice to lower the center of mass, and to improve visibility over the bow. The compromise I’d like to try would be a long, skinny food dry-bag that extends from the front of the seat to just behind my heels in the bow. This would be very dense and would lower the center of mass (though still shift it back a bit). To do this right, I’ll want two tie points at either end of the dry-bag so that it’s locked onto the bottom of the boat. Then, if knocked out of the boat far from shore I can release the bag on the front (something we already have set up) and then right the boat with the bag still in the bottom. Ideally it will be held down tight enough that the center of mass of the boat will be such that it’s more stable upright. This will help with re-entry in heavy white-caps…

Not that I want to be re-entering in heavy white-caps regularly, but if I was in that situation, I’d want as much in my favor as possible.

Thinking a bit more about this, one could get really fancy and add a minimal tie-point in the center of the bottom underneath the boat. Then tie the dry-bag in as described above, but also attach a pole-keel (similar to Alpacka longboat: http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/blog/?p=274). Now the bag, on the inside of the boat, is effectively held to the keel, on the bottom of the boat.

For these tie-downs, I could see them being much lighter than the outside tie-downs. Maybe even just scale down those outside tie-downs by 50%.

I’m thinking it’s like 350 pounds or so = me (175) + peggy (125 dressed and wet) + gear & food (50+ pounds). Probably more.

Thanks Roman, much appreciated.

(Back as myself now, not the official Alpackster…)

Ah, I see Hig. That’s a fun idea. For an under-the-boat attachment point, though, I think we’d be wise to look at a thread-thread strap plate (like the old Dory oarframe attached with), rather than a grab loop - so there’d be no exposed loop of webbing on the underside. Good to keep it clean, there. We’re just getting a new die to punch that sort of circle-with-strap-slots, which we’re going to use for the ski-carrying rig.

Keep us updated on how the long boat is doing, Roman. I like the point about how the interior geometry is important for user comfort. I’m wondering if this project is going towards something like a lengthened hybridization of the Explorer/Dory hull and the whitewater boats. Fun stuff…

As background, I’ve got 2 yaks - one from ~2006, and the other from ?~2004/5, the only difference being the position of the rear tie down, and for both rafts I’ve built my own spraydecks.

Although my experience is rather limited, I’ve used the rafts with full packs and with bikes, but mostly with day packs/fishing gear for downstream travel after fly-fishing all day in NZ. I reckon that these rafts are the best fun one can have on water - I love them.

I’ll outline some design problems that I feel that I have had - whether these equate to “custom mods” is up for debate, but at worst , maybe it can just be put down to “feedback”

The biggest problem/irritation I’ve had has been water coming over the back of the boat in rapids. I’d love a higher back to reduce this (ie if the back tubes flared up a few inches). I know that the latest rafts have an inflatable back rest, but to me this seems unlikely to do much to reduce the problem. The spray deck (ie my deck , which is very similar to the 2007 deck, with zip across the front, and side opening velcro, but made in silinylon) helps to a degree, but you really have to wear it as a “Harry High Pants” to negate the issue. Even with a 25kg pack on the front, holding the bow down, we still shipped a lot over the back, and the pack then made it even harder to empty!

The second irritation that I have had is that I am always feeling the need to sit higher and further back on the seat, thereby pushing the back of the boat lower - yes, this might be a problem with me, but at just under 6’, the yak should be the right size. I seem to slip forwards and down off the seat, and wonder whether the seat needs a little redesign with a flare at the front to stop this? I’ve tried an inflatamat as a floor, but it made the whole raft sit higher, and I felt a lot more unstable in it. Just something more under my bum (which isn’t large!) , and a higher back would be fine for me.

I also find that the bow is quite tight, and that my feet go numb when sitting in the boat for any length of time >30 mins. This may be a combination of foot position in a person wearing boots, and with very high arches, but it always happens, and I think it would be negated by having a slightly wider bow, so I could move my feet around a little - they really do get jammed in there.

As to position of tie downs - from my point of view they are perfect for daypacks, full sized rucksacks, and bikes. I wouldn’t mind a tie down in the centre back, for use pulling another raft, so as to keep both more “on line”, and perhaps also for roping a raft down a section of river, although I’ve never done this, and always carried the whole lot around any rapids we haven’t wished to raft .

I’d never use an additonal front tie down as described. I might use an internal tie down. A grab rail is overkill, although an additional 3 tie downs, one left back, and one on each side, thereby allowing you to make a grab rail would be good - it would give us other options if we wished to tie packs/fishing rods behind us, or skis/rods alongside us, etc and “options” are what it’s all about, aren’t they?? But …anyone should be able to add their own tie downs - I suppose , however, that it would be nice to be able to buy one that matches the boat, so you can just whack it where you want it.

Andrew Allan (with just under 4wks to go before the next NZ flyfishing/packrafting trip!!!)

Thanks Andrew, this is all really interesting stuff to hear.

On shipping water over the back, I think you might find that the back rest actually helps out quite a lot. We’ve found this really effective, as long as you get the deck up over it. That said, if you’re really taking waves on the stern, you’re going to get water in. One of our ongoing sticking-points with water is actually that - even with the new inflatable lap-piece and back-rest - you do get little puddles on either hip. It’s a whole lot drier than even our 2007 decks, but not 100% watertight yet. Part of it is the weight vs. complexity vs. dryness trade-off game. I could eventually see us dividing the deck line into two decks: a light deck to keep you warm & basically dry, and a really aggressively developed whitewater deck to take a real beating & keep a lot more water out. That’s just speculation though, and we’ll see what Sheri’s Mad Scientist Brain invents…

So far, our playing around on the full-rail rig has been convergent with what you’re suggesting. A second stern-loop is now standard, and we’re finding two loops - one each out the outside stern - seem to do great for adding a full rail option. Roman, correct me if I’m wrong, but this also seems to be exactly what you’ve settled on?

Part of our vision is really about giving the boater options - like “we can mod the boat, or if you like, we can get you the grab loops, etc. and you can do whatever you want - and you can use our mod-template or the forums as an information resource.” Its in the same vein as keeping the boats easily field-repairable.

On the seat, you might actually think about using a Dory/Explorer seat. That would give you both a backrest and additional lift. Plus, at 6’ it sounds like you’re starting to push the size-limit on the Yak. On modding the seat design… that’s another thing we’ve got on the list to play with. Our R&D has gone up a lot since we started our shop, but it seems like the list grows longer every day.

Have fun in NZ! I openly admit to being green with envy.

What I would like is a small inflatable thwart shaped like the bow of the boat for my Denali Llama. When I do just a little day trip I don’t need the extra space in the front under my pack. At the moment I take a paddle float from my sea kayak and inflate it to take up the extra six inches so my feet have something to brace against, but if you could make a small thwart out of the same material that is specifically cut to fit the boat then you could run it in day-trip vs expedition mode depending on your gear space requirements.

i know i will be carrying 1 - 2 flyrod tubes a lot of the time. is there a tried-and-true mod for this? if not, some thought might be put into the hauling of fishing gear.
is there a place on these boats that the forum members would discourage a grab loop or other fixed mod? I’m talking about that certain place on all boats that seems to rub the wrong way. For instance, i have a pfd that has pockets that are in the exact place that my thumbs pass by when i’m paddling(oar frame). if i don’t close those pockets, i hook my thumbs every other stroke - annoying. i would think that directly to the side of the paddler might be a bad place in a packraft(in the path of hands and arms that are paddling)(?). Just a couple thoughts…
take care, abel6wt

I have not yet experience the superior durability and performance of an alpacka raft, but there is one mod I would like to see based on my experience pushing my POS coleman beyond it’s limits.

I know alpackas are more durable than my coleman, but whenever possible, a little extra abrasion protection would be awesome.

I would like to see a fold-able plastic hard bottom shell for the outside of the Alpacka. It would be more weight of course, so it should be an accessory that can be easily removed or installed rather than a mod per se. I think a design similar to those plastic origami folding camping cups and bowls would be a good starting point. Putting metal snaps on the raft to attach the shell would be very problematic as the snaps would create stress points on the tubing. The plastic would also have to be vented, so that water could flow in and out easily so that it would not retain water and cause erratic handling.

Another, possibly less problematic idea would be to make a big “glove” for the raft that would cover the bottom up to the sides and attach near the perimeter of the spray skirt. The material could be modeled after cut resistant gloves like these https://www.turtleskin.com/store/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=APD-1A1. If the material is stretchy and form fitting as well as water permiable, I doubt it would cause handling problems. Mounting it could be as easy as running a nylon retaining loop through an eyelet in the material every 18" outside the spray skirt.

Hello JDFIU,

Irrespective of any other factor, the Turtleskin material is not cost effective in that it costs nearly $29:00 for a pair of gloves, and it would take a great deal more material to produce the type of cover which you suggest.

The cost of wastage would also have to be included.

The additional weight and drag would reduce payload and speed, and as the point of a Packraft is to pack it in or on one’s backpack, the weight and bulk of the cover would appear to detract from the original purpose and benefit of having a Packraft!

I agree the cost of that specific material is prohibitive, but it is also overkill for a packraft. To avoid water logging a looser weave would be needed. The material does not have to be that strong, just non- absorbent.

I do disagree that a packraft is to be in a backpack though. I think that a packraft is just to be packed! They would complement an ATV for hunting. Something to narrow the gap between heavy durable rubber tubes and the packraft tubes would be good.

Anything attached to the raft such as snaps could weaken the integrity of the raft.
The less stuff you have on the outside the better, as you have less stuff to snag on things.
The smoother it is, the better it is.
That’s the way I see it anyway ???


JDFIU wrote:
I do disagree that a packraft is to be in a backpack though. I think that a packraft is just to be packed!

One of the major attractions of packrafts for me is the fact that it is light and small enough that it can be backpacked or even carried in the hand (I can do this with the “Alpaca”). It does not need to be carried to the put-in by car and therefore can be used anywhere that one cares to travel by any means: foot, train, bus, public transport, bike or car. Forget about the water it may be best suitable for, what other watercraft can you do this with?

Folding kayaks can also be packed, but even the lightest is a struggle to backpack with. I think the lightness and backpackability (new word?) is one of its major assets.