everything you need to know to care for and repair your packraft.
care & repair for your packraft
General care & maintenance:
Alpacka Rafts are Low-Fuss and Low-Maintenance. Alpacka packrafts are designed for people who are hard on gear. Part of Alpackas goal has been to build boats that don’t need a lot of attention either on the river or off it. Your boat will endure a lot of abuse. Very little is needed to keep your boat in good shape from year to year. However, simple preventative care will lengthen its life and keep it beautiful.
In the field:
- Other than Cargo Fly Zipper care, very little needs to be done to keep your packraft in good working order while in the field.
- Generally attaching your packraft to your back (or bicycle) in a way that it can fall off (this has happened) or is subject to excessive abrasion.
- Clean Your Packraft: Washing with mild dish soap helps keep your boat clean and prevent the spread of invasive species across waterways.
- Air Dry Your Packraft: If your boat is stored wet, it will damage the Cargo Fly zipper and can develop a strong cat urine odor which can be very difficult to remove. In addition, a wet packraft can spread invasive species. We recommend hanging your boat to dry after every trip before storing.
- Storing Your Packraft: After it is clean and dry, we recommend storing your packraft in a cool dry place with good air flow. Hanging, loosely rolling or folding are good methods. We do not recommend storing your packraft in its stuffsack. To reduce UV aging, do not store your packraft in direct sunlight.
- We recommend periodic Seaworthiness Checks: These should be done when pulling the boat out after a period of storage, after any non-design use (ex: using it as a tarp or gear-sled), or after any event that might have damaged the boat.
- Do not use “UV-Protectant” or similar sprays on your packraft: These sprays create a hard outer coating that prevents repair materials and glue from sticking to the packraft. If you do accidentally use a UV protectant spray on your boat, it will wear off after use but you will have trouble with repairs or gluing any attachments to the boat until it does wear off.
Cargo fly care & maintenance:
You must clean, dry, and lubricate your Cargo Fly Zipper after every trip and often while in the field!
Maintenance kit: You will need a small (about 3×3″) clean rag, zipper lubricant, and a small brush. You can use old t-shirts to make new rags. Old toothbrushes make great cargo fly brushes. Keep your kit with you in the field and maintain often.
Cleaning: If you are having trouble getting your zipper to close, it is most likely due to an obstruction in the chain (i.e. the teeth). Therefore, you need to keep your zipper chain clean and free of sand, dirt, and debris. Because lubricant attracts sand, we do not recommend applying lubricant direct to the chain. If your zipper needs cleaning, start with a small brush and use warm soap and water for more difficult cleaning.
Lubrication steps: Your zipper should always run smooth and easy. If your zipper is difficult to move or feels sticky, it needs lubrication. Always make sure the zipper chain is clean before lubricating.
- With the zipper CLOSED apply a lube to the rag and use the rag to work the lube into the urethane laminated exterior of the zipper. Do not apply lubricant directly to the zipper teeth!
- Continue to use the rag to until all exterior surfaces of the closed zipper are coated.
- Wipe down the zipper until all excess lubricant is removed. Excess lubricant will attract dirt and sand.
- Open the zipper and use the rag to lightly lube the chain and sealing edges.
- Apply a small amount of lube to the docking end.
- Open and close the zipper several times, it should slide smoothly and close easily. Repeat the above steps if necessary.
The goal is to regularly maintain a very thin coat of lube along the length of the zipper allowing the head to slide freely and dock easily.
Storage: After each use, leave the zipper open and allow to dry thoroughly. Failure to dry will cause the zipper to rot and crack, which is not covered by warranty! If you need to travel home with a wet packraft, leave the zipper on the outside where it can breathe
- Separating Behind Zipper Head: If the zipper separates behind the head, it will self heal by pulling the zipper head behind the separation and reclosing. You may need to follow the cleaning and lubrication steps to make it reseal. If necessary, close the zipper by hand through the problem area.
- Separating at Zipper Base: If the zipper separates at the base, you will need to clean the area and manually close the first 3cm of the zipper by hand and then back the head over the closed area to reset.
- Leak at Zipper Base: Sometimes the zipper will close, but leave a small gap at the zipper base due to an obstruction in the teeth. You will need to separate the zipper by hand at the base, clean the area, and then reclose following the steps above.
Warranty and replacement: Only the installation, not the Ti-Zip zipper, of the Cargo Fly is covered by Alpacka Warranty Policy. We offer replacement of Cargo Fly zippers through our Repair & Retrofit Services.
In depth repair guide:
Packrafts are made of lightweight materials and will require maintenance and repair under normal use. Knowing how to repair your raft is essential to a successful packrafting experience. Read the the information on this page carefully. Be Prepared! Be patient! Use an extra pair of hands if available. Dealing with tape, glues, and fabrics can easily get out of hand. Think through your repair before starting.
A note on fabrics: Most of the older Alpacka boats (purchased before 2014) have a urethane coating on both sides of the fabric. Our current fabric (from 2014 on) has urethane only on one side (the outside) of the fabric, which significantly improves tear strength. The inside of these tubes resembles a woven fabric and does not feel smooth like plastic. We call this the “Uncoated” side. It is important to know which type of fabric you have so you are prepared to fix it. Look inside the dump valve, or stick your finger inside and scratch the fabric, if it feels smooth and a bit shiny, then it is double coated. If it looks like looks and feels like a nylon jacket, its single coated fabric.
Packraft Repair Materials:
- Alcohol Wipes: Basic denatured alcohol wipes available at your local pharmacy, great for prepping the raft for a successful bond of repair tape or glue.
- Patch-N-Go: A strong, easy, and effective repair tape, great for most tube and floor repairs. Provides for long lasting repairs when applied correctly. This is a great product.
- Tyvek® Tape: Amazing on packrafts! (Lowe’s® House Wrap Tape works too) We discovered this by accident. You can buy Tyvek® Tape at any hardware store that handles Tyvek® House Wrap. This tape is almost as good as the Patch-N-Go®, it just isn’t as strong. With 15 feet (4.5 meters) of tape, you can literally re-assemble your boat after a Grizzly bear uses it for a chew toy, and it will probably get you home. Consider wrapping a few yards of it around your paddle or around a lighter in your repair kit. The longer you leave it on, the better it sticks! Be sure to remove any temporary repairs that you don’t want to become permanent when you get home. We have seen small Tyvek® Tape repairs last several seasons, though we prefer more permanent methods.
- Tenacious Tape®: A strong repair tape for the uncoated side of raft and spray-deck fabrics. Great for backing (inside) tube repairs and spray-deck repair. Can be used for temporary repair of small holes (>1/2” 1cm).
- Gorilla Tape®: For backing the inside of tube repairs and quick spray-deck repairs. Can be used for temporary tube and floor repair in a pinch. Works best on the uncoated side of fabrics, as in the underside of the spraydeck.
- Aquaseal®: Aquaseal is an air-curing adhesive sealant. It’s great for patching small holes, reinforcing stitches, sealing seams, and much more. It’s flexible when dry and completely waterproof when properly applied. Requires a minimum of 6-8 hours to dry and cure! Cotol® Accelerator will reduce cure time to 2-3 hours. Does not work well for attaching grab-loops or bonding fabrics, as it needs air to cure.
- Aquaseal® UV: Instant curing version Aquaseal. Apply in the shade and then move to direct sun or use a UV light pen and sealant will cure in seconds. Perfect for instant repairs and long lasting, but not quite as good of a bond as regular Aquaseal.
- Urethane tube and floor fabric: You should have received small pieces of both tube and floor fabric in your basic repair kit. Aquaseal can be used as an adhesive in a pinch, but doesn’t bond well sandwiched between layers, as it needs air to cure.