Designed for the hunting and fishing market, the Ranger is the smaller brother of the Forager. Both boats are more than capable in all sorts of water. If you can handle it, so can the boats. The Ranger is a 1-person boat and the Forager is for 2-people. Both boats are self-bailing boats with a fully inflatable floor.
The Forager is the aircraft carrier of all the boats. That thing is capable of carrying an entire moose, the passenger and a kitchen sink! Both boats are more than capable in whitewater – the Alpacka guys took the Forager down the Grand Canyon.
Single or double? Doubles can be beaten in terms of speed (but that should not be the first consideration when looking at packrafts, unless you go racing.) Doubles require a bit more skill from its paddlers and react differently (obviously) when going through waves, and entering and exiting eddies. Advantages of a single: much faster. Disadvantages of a double: takes a lot longer to inflate.
We want to test these boats a bit more. We’ll be doing some more testing over the coming season, so will report back to you guys on this one.
There are multiple packraft options / configurations you can have with these two boats. These include:
Open boat: super lite, small packing volume, colder than a decked boat, more water gets inside.
Cruiser deck – super easy to use, does not add a lot of packing volume, warmer than open, less water in the boat but you do still get wet.
Fixed whitewater deck – dry cockpit, warmest deck option, bigger packing volume, more gear to carry, more gear to break or loose, slower to get in and out of the boat.
Removable whitewater deck – same as fixed whitewater deck but with the option of leaving it at home. Zipper may let some drops of water through.
Self-bailer: super quick to get in and out of the boat, however colder in the cockpit. The bigger seat keeps you mostly above the waterline, however you will always have a little water in the boat. Water level in the boat will not change when adding more water to it, little slower than a non self bailer, bit more stable.
Cargo zipper or T-zip? Allows you to store gear inside the boat – a great advantage when doing whitewater as the center of gravity is lower and you can see easily over the front. All gear will stay dry. Downside – if you want to get to your gear in the boat will need to be deflated. Bit harder for rivers with lots of portages.
Thigh straps and backrest – absolutely great for adding control, the backrest is brilliant for adjusting seating position for more relaxed paddling (backwards) to more control (more center). Adds a good point for holding on to the boat when capsizing, however adds risk of entrapment. Adds the ability to roll your boat – you will definitely need practice getting out when capsizing.
A couple tips from us…
What are my requirements on weight? Going super lite means a less capable boat for technical water.
Hull speed? Packrafting is for sure slower than kayaking, but with the biggest benefit of easy to carry if, for example, winds are too strong to paddle.
Caribou = 5km/h easy paddling – max longer distance 5.5km/h.
Alpacka Classic = 5km/h – max 5.5km/h.
Expedition = 5.5km/h – max 6km/h.
Gnarwahl = 6km/h – max 6.6 to 7km/h.
Oryx = 7 to 8km/h.
Wolverine = 5.5km/h.
Ranger = has not been testing yet.
Please note: all the above speeds are measured on an empty boat and lake paddling with very little to no wind. There will be slight differences depending on who is paddling and between different boats. In general self-bailers are a bit slower.