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Last weekend I went to the Liesjärvi National Park to test my new Alpacka Raft Gnarwhal self bailer, which I ordered from Packraft Europe. Before I upgraded to the Gnarwhal, I had the Alpacka Raft Yak for many years which I used to paddle on rivers, lakes and in the sea. I am 180 cm tall and ordered the model in size L. Here is a short test/review and I will add more information to this article over time.
Reasons for upgrading to a Gnarwhal
- Cargo Fly
- Whitewater seating system
- Backband and thigh straps
- Stern and hull design that maximizes stability, predictability, and forgiveness in challenging whitewater
The stuff sack is much bigger than the one which came with my 2015 Yak model. It’s much easier to get the packraft in and out. Alpacka also looked quite into details so you can find their logo on different parts of the packraft which looks really nice.
Moreover, straps around your knees give a completely different feeling and control over the boat. I also had the impression that the packraft is faster than the Yak when paddling on flat water.
I also liked that there is less stuff you have to care about and carry with you when you get the self bailer compared to the whitewater deck. Moreover, water gets out easier when you take the boat off the water. No need to turn it upside down anymore.
I also ordered the adventure bow bag, however, I didn’t receive it yet so I am not able to write about it. My plan is to use it as a storage bag for stuff that I need during the day (so I don’t have to deflate and inflate the packraft all the time). I would use it for my camera (with an additional case to protect it from possible bumps), stove and food.
Gear such as a whistle, knife or first aid kid is probably better off on your PFD
The new seating system also felt more comfortable, especially at the back. The footrest on the front also added to additional comfort.
Inflating the bag was straightforward as usual. However, there is no separate valve anymore to be used with your mouth. There is only one opening which is used for the inflation bag and your mouth to get air into the packraft.
My first impressions about the Alpacka Gnarwhal are positive. I like it already much more than my Yak. Also, the possibility to add gear inside the raft improves your visibility and stability on the river compared to having a backpack in front of you.
The built quality and details are also positive and it feels like a comfortable and solid raft. However, I still need to test it in a rapid. The huge zipper also allows you to stuff your backpack into the packraft. If you need some equipment for your packraft have a look on our articles about helmets and paddles or gear we use.