With the last Christmas sales at Alpacka Raft, I bought myself through the freshly established European packrafting-store, a Denali Llama with the new whitewater spray deck. With my open Yukon Yak which is still an older model from 2007, I felt like I was often pushing its limits. Whenever in sections of splashy whitewater I always had to look multiple times for a place to stop, get out of the boat and throw all the water out. Even though I learned quite well how to keep most water out by back paddling as Roman Dial describes in his guide, there is always a limit where after it is impossible to keep all the water out and I often found it frustrating in these circumstances by not having a spray deck to keep me dry and warm as I ended too often sitting chilly in inches of water in the boat. The new design of the rafts with the pointy bow and stern is yet another improvement I’m very pleased about.
After trying Willem’s Yukon Yak with the cruiser spray deck, I didn’t felt very confident with this spray deck design so eventually I chose the new whitewater spray deck instead. Even though I don’t have the intention to search for heavier whitewater now, I feel at least happier with this spray deck as it keeps me drier and I can attach and detach the hatch already fluently without much practice.
Some might say the whitewater spraydeck is a compromise in packraft portability since it makes use of four pieces of aluminum tube to construct a strong base for the hatch opening. These pieces of aluminum tube fit in or on my backpack though I will test first if this remains as portable in use on a long trip before I make a final opinion about it. The small weight increase over the cruiser spray deck is a fact unfortunately. The choice between one of the two spray decks now seems to be one of compromise anyway.
I made my own packtach system from fluorecent dyneema and line loks and made a smaller one on the tiedowns on the stern even though I suppose too much pack weight on the stern will be detrimental to stability and speed. So only lighter gear items might be transported in the backside.
I had the plan to make a rather long winter packraft trip last week, running a river over its whole length in several days, but two weeks of very cold (at least for the region where I live) weather made the rivers freeze up here. So I was bound to play with the boat and the spray deck by sitting in it in the living room. Last Thursday when the ice had just melted away, I finally ran the Kleine Nete river at home while playing and getting the feeling with the slower maneuverability of the pointy design. I must say, this boat with the spray deck is much more comfortable than my Yukon Yak, even though I will keep my Yak for bikerafting and trips where the hiking is more prominent than the boating. With the mild weather expected here over a week, I’m excited to get out here soon with my new boat on a multi day river trip.