Gear Guide 2012: Alpacka Denali Llama

A one-person pack raft

Few gear innovations spawn entirely new sports, but that’s exactly what pack rafts—backpackable inflatable boats—have done. From Alaska tundra routes to remote desert canyons, hike-and-float fans are using these craft to explore terrain that was formerly all but off-limits. The one-person Denali Llama is slightly oversized at 7’9”, allowing you to ferry all your gear across rivers and even transport two paddlers in a pinch.

Durable urethane-coated nylon makes the boat light, 12-inch-diameter tubes keep waves from swamping it, and a newly designed, pointy “big butt” stern (wider than the bow) increases speed, tracking, and stability. “It holds its line really well once you get it going,” says a tester who packed it in to Colorado’s Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area to fish a remote lake. Inflated in five minutes with a bellowslike nylon sack, the tub-floored (non self-bailing) Llama can easily handle up to Class III whitewater. It packs down to 9 by 24 inches (in its included sack) and can be stashed in or lashed on a pack. $850; 5 lbs. 3 oz.;