First, I have to make it clear up front that the Alpaca Guitar is not made from actual alpaca fibers. And no animals were harmed in the making of these guitars. Quite the opposite, actually. Using as many US-sourced materials as possible, it’s made in Vermont, and could probably be considered the first “organic carbon fiber” anything that I am aware of. How so? Well, the guy who designed it, Chris Duncan, wanted a guitar rugged enough to survive the great outdoors, and was aware that a traditional wooden hollow body can be a bit on the fragile side. So he came up with a compromise that’s anything but. The Alpaca Guitar is built with a mix of environmentally friendly flax fabric and carbon fiber, with the actual resin sourced from pine sap. Compared to your typical carbon fiber bicycle frame or fighter jet, that’s downright organic.
Just making a carbon fiber body wouldn’t have been enough though. The typical guitar design leaves the tuners (or geared machine heads) hanging out in the open atop a fragile neck, just waiting to get smacked, whacked, cracked, and broken. So Chris lopped the top off the neck, and put six gearless Steinberger tuners at the bottom of the body, where they are better protected. As long as he was redesigning the wheel, he gave it a more ergonomic shape, and moved the sound hole in the body out from under the strings. I’m no expert on acoustics, but it still retains excellent sound quality, which you’ll hear in the embedded video. This also had the added bonus of allowing the guitar to do double duty, as the cavity can be stuffed with essentials like dry clothing or other soft, not terribly heavy cargo. Although I can’t imagine actually dunking a guitar under water, it does serve as a drain hole as well. Don’t try that with your Gibson or Martin. Little details haven’t been left out either. On the features list, there’s a molded in carbon fiber daisy chain on the back, so you can strap it down when you’re on the go. More traditional design cues include 20 stainless steel frets and Vermont Sugar Maple inlays on the neck. So despite the green-tech, when you’re sitting around the campfire knocking out some John Butler Trio covers, it still feels like a regular guitar.
The Alpaca carbon fiber guitar is perfectly suited for hiking, backpacking, or just about any other outdoor activity. Ok, so maybe not hang gliding, mountain biking, or whitewater rafting. But it’s about tough enough, and I’m willing to get that if you’re motivated enough, you could figure out a way to take it just about anywhere. And that’s the whole idea. For those with the musical ability to at least strum a few chords, a guitar beats an MP3 player any day. If you can make your music, rather than just bring it, all the better.
I’d like to thank Andrew White, of alpacaguitar.com, for bringing his product to my attention. He’s a partner with the company (along with Chris Duncan and Matt Bogosian). Together, they’re committed to domestic manufacturing using local craftsmen and sustainable practices. Andrew didn’t have a fancy email signature listing a title like “Marketing Director”, or anything so pretentious. It was actually just his email address and a link to the site. The email itself was short and to the point too – to quote him: “I hope you dig it. We think campers will!” Dude was spot on. I dig it, and think our readers will too.