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New Ultra-light Float Hunting Rig!

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  • New Ultra-light Float Hunting Rig!

    Hi folks,

    Haven't posted much lately, but I thought with all the interest in light-weight floating hunting boats, I'd make you aware of a new rig that just came out in January by AIRE, out of Idaho. The second boat in the BAKraft genre that debuted last spring, the brand-new BAKraft Expedition is going to fill the gap between a conventional packraft and an inflatable canoe.

    The boat is made out of Dyneema, which is reported to be the world's strongest synthetic fiber. Like most of AIRE's boats, it uses an inner bladder system, which makes field repairs a cinch in the unlikely event that you punctured the dyneema shell. I passed around a sample of the shell fabric last spring during my seminar on boats for float hunts, and nobody could tear it, though it had a slice halfway through the material. I've been around the inflatable boat industry in Alaska for nearly 30 years and have never seen a material this strong. Here are the specs on the BAKraft Expedition:

    Length: 10'2"
    Outside Width: 40"
    Inside Width: 15"
    Tube Diameter: 12.5"
    Bow and Stern Rise: 9"
    Weight: 10.5 lbs.
    Chambers: 2
    Inner Bladder: Urethane
    Outer Shell: Dyneema
    Valves: 2
    Floor: Self-bailer
    Stated Load Capacity: 650 lbs.
    Retail Price: $1,999

    The boat comes with a seat, thigh straps, a repair kit, an inflation bag, and a unique light-weight top-off pump that's operated by squeezing the two sides together to force air into the tubes.

    I spoke with the manufacturer rep at the Great Alaska Sportsman Show last weekend, and probed a bit to see what's coming next in the BAKraft line, and he just smiled and said that he really could not say. From his expression, and I've known him a long time, that's a pretty strong indication that big things are brewing at AIRE. I do know that a new iteration of the BAKraft Expedition will sport a grommet strip on each side, for securing gear. You have to remember that the primary purpose of this boat is for whitewater trips with no loads. AIRE was founded by whitewater river rats, and they've never left those roots. All of their boats are tested on local whitewater haunts in Idaho like the Lochsa, the North Fork Payette, and others. But AIRE is well aware of the needs of Alaska float hunters, having sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of boats and accessories to them over the years. So I fully expect to see the BAKraft Expedition sporting some new features float hunters need, not to mention the possibility of some entirely new ultralight boats in the future.

    The boat comes only in a neon green color right now, and I asked whether other colors were forthcoming. The answer was that the Dyneema material has to be purchased in large lots, enough to produce a hundred or so boats. So with the relatively low demand for boats of this type, it's not a simple matter to throw out an assortment of colors for a niche boat like this one. That said, there were strong indications that we'll see at least one other color in the near future. I saw a couple of early prototypes that were light blue, and gray. Personally I wouldn't prefer gray, because you could easily lose track of it on a glacial river, but light blue would be great. As a famous television personality once said, "It's not easy being green."


    The outer shell material is out of this world. Frankly, (and this is the ONLY raft fabric I would say this about) I don't think you could puncture this boat in normal field conditions. You might be able to ram a very sharp antler point through it, but I don't think a beaver punji stick would penetrate it. You MAY be able to lacerate it with very sharp shale, but that's about all you'll have to worry about with this material. Even if you did manage to puncture it, a field repair is simply a matter of unzipping the shell, locating the puncture on the inner bladder, and covering it with urethane tape. No need to glue anything, and a repair like that has you back on the water in five or ten minutes.

    The boat's weight. You won't find a boat in this size class that only weighs 10 lbs. This is going to open up many new opportunities for float hunters on a budget, who are up for a long hike away from the road system, to rivers that cannot be accessed via aircraft. It's another tool in our arsenal.

    The load capacity. AIRE is typically very conservative with their load capacity stats, more so than most companies are. That's probably because they're used to traveling very light themselves, but regardless of the cause, a 650# load limit puts this boat well into a useful category for float hunters. If you can adjust your field tactics with respect to proper field care of your game meat, this boat could be used for sheep hunting, caribou hunting, bear hunts, and even to tag-team a moose between two hunters.

    The price. I can find only two ultralight boats close to this size class, besides the BAKraft Expedition; the Feathercraft Bolder, and the Feathercraft Beast. They are 7'3" and 9' long, respectively. The Bolder prices out at $1482 and the Beast is $2045. When you figure that both boats are made of much more fragile material and are shorter in length, there's no question that the BAKraft Expedition is a better value for the money.


    Here's how the current ultralights stack up against each other. Pricing, with the exception of the BAKraft Expedition, are from last year (I don't have time to pull this year's numbers, but this should give you a rough idea):

    Alpacka Polyester-backed urethane 4.8# 7'3"x36.5" $895
    Denali Llama Polyester-backed urethane 5.3# 8'10"x37.5" $795
    Fjord Explorer Polyester-backed urethane 5.6# 7'77"x37.5" $945
    NRS Packraft Polyester-backed urethane 4.8# 6'10"x36" $575
    Feathercraft Baylee I Urethane 6.5# 6'8"x31" $1321
    Feathercraft Bolder Urethane 9.5# 7'3"x31" $1482
    Feathercraft Beast Urethane 11# 9'x43" $2045
    PR-49 Polyester-backed PVC 15# 9'x43" $1550
    AIRE BAKraft Hybrid Dyneema shell, urethane bladder 6.4# 7'x42" $1299
    AIRE BAKraft Expedition Dyneema shell, urethane bladder 10.5# 10'2"x40" $1999

    You can find out more about this boat, and purchase it directly from AIRE AT THIS LINK, or you can call them directly.


    As I wrote this, I noticed that Alpacka has completely updated their product line. In fairness to them I suggest visiting their site for updated info, and some new boats that have been developed recently. Same goes for Pristine Ventures. There's a heavy-duty version of the PR-49 that's certainly worth a look. Larry has always been an innovator and it's worth your time to poke your head into his site now and then to see what's cooking. The focus of this piece was on the new Dyneema boat by AIRE, so I didn't want to wander off into the weeds too much into the other boats on the market. Check them all out!


    No single boat will fill all the needs of a serious Alaska float hunter; as the saying goes, "You have to let the river choose the boat." And we're fortunate to have so many choices available to us these days. Not that long ago, the main debate was whether to choose a cataraft or a round boat!

    It's safe to say that Alaska has pioneered more new boats and accessories related to expedition float hunting than any place in the world, and for good reason. We have over 365,000 miles of rivers to float, and much of those rivers flow through very isolated wilderness settings where the gear absolutely must hold up to the conditions. We put more wear and tear on our float hunting gear than it would see in any other context. There are many boats out there that fill the bill for float hunters, and it's nice to have a choice. Many of these choices simply did not exist as recently as ten years ago. Kudos to all those who have invested their time, money, and in some cases life and limb to bring these tremendous products to us. If you're shopping for an ultralight rig for float hunting, and can make the limitations of these boats work for you, it would be wise to compare your options, and to stay on top of the changes that are emerging. The BAKraft Expedition is certainly worth a look.

    Michael Strahan
    Site Owner
    Alaska Hunt Consultant
    1 (907) 229-4501

  • #2
    Good info, thanks Mike.
    Vegetables arenít food, vegetables are what food eats.


    • #3
      Very interesting stuff Mike. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out for their full size rafts with this new Dyneema outer shell. Sounds like good stuff that is lightweight and strong.


      • #4
        Something else to think about spending money on!


        • #5
          a bladder/shell boat at 10 pounds? Wow...


          • #6
            Thanks for the review :-)
            "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather


            • #7
              Originally posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
              Very interesting stuff Mike. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out for their full size rafts with this new Dyneema outer shell. Sounds like good stuff that is lightweight and strong.
              The biggest negative issue I see with Dyneema is that nothing wants to stick to it. So a glued patch isn't an option. That's why it's a perfect shell material for AIRE's inner bladder system.

              Dyneema would make a killer base cloth. If the obstacles could be overcome, you'd have a fabric that's both tear-resistant and stretch-resistant. Nylon and polyester are the two fibers currently being used as base cloths. Nylon is often used with rubber coatings (CSM-Hypalon and neoprene), while polyester is often used with PVC and urethane. Nylon is stretchier than polyester, but Dyneema doesn't stretch at all. That means that a fabric made with a Dyneema base cloth could withstand very high air pressure without any concerns about catastrophic tube failures due to ripping. I wouldn't be surprised if you could run it up to 4 or 5 psi before being concerned about delamination along the seam lines. You could still puncture it, but it won't tear. And, depending on the denier and thread count of a Dyneema base cloth, you might even have a very hard time puncturing it. I doubt you could punch a beaver punji stick through it like you can with conventional fabrics.

              I don't know that you could get heated rubber or plastic to adhere directly to Dyneema, but if the weave was open enough to allow extrusion through the base cloth, you could conceivably get a top coating to adhere to a bottom coating through the Dyneema base cloth. Unfortunately so-called "raft fabrics" are not usually made specifically for boats, but are manufactured in large quantities for other applications (hazardous waste pit liners, for example). The raft companies pick and choose among the fabrics available. So unless the fabric manufacturers recognize an industrial use for a material using a Dyneema base cloth, we're probably out of luck. And even if they did come up with it, there's no guarantee that the coatings wouldn't be too thick or present other problems making them unusable for inflatable boats.

              We can dream, though, and we don't have to look far to find folks here on this site who dare to dream big!

              Michael Strahan
              Site Owner
              Alaska Hunt Consultant
              1 (907) 229-4501


              • #8
                You had me at 10.2 lbs.. but their site says max payload at 350lb not 650


                • #9
                  Originally posted by dougisnow View Post
                  You had me at 10.2 lbs.. but their site says max payload at 350lb not 650
                  That number was a verbal from an AIRE representative at the Sportsman Show, not numbers posted on their site, if memory serves. AIRE is very conservative with their numbers (if they post them at all), so there's that. Probably a bigger factor is that capacity ratings aren't based on anything tangible, as far as I can tell. There's certainly no standard that you would be able to test yourself. The only exception is one vendor who bases their numbers on how much weight it takes to submerge the tubes to the mid-point (generally the D-rings on a conventional boat). But I tried that on the Upper Kenai River a couple of summers ago with a 14' self-bailing round boat and I backed off at 2,000#, because the 3/4" plywood I was using to support / distribute the load was about to break in half with all the weight (water in fish totes). The tubes were elliptical at that point, and the inflatable floor had hogged up nearly to the top of the tubes, and I wasn't at the D-rings yet. I was concerned that the slightest bump would explode the tubes. Should have taken a pressure reading on them.

                  Anyway, sorry for the difference; hopefully this sheds some light on why it's there. Apparently whoever wrote the numbers was more conservative than the guy I spoke with (it was Shaun, if I remember correctly).

                  Michael Strahan
                  Site Owner
                  Alaska Hunt Consultant
                  1 (907) 229-4501


                  • #10
                    thanks Mike. I would suspect for that 10'2" design and reading about the material it would realistically (and safely) hold more than 350.. I will do some more research, because I am in the market or a packable raft... thanks again for the info/review


                    • #11
                      A guy on the AIRE product page gave a review where he ran it with 440 pounds and considered that a good actual max in rough water. At that weight no water came in on the floor through the self bailing feature.


                      • #12
                        Thanks for the review.


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