I have recently purchased an MRS Alligator 2S Pro Packraft from the packrafting store in Germany.
I’ve always wanted a boat, but given that most of my travels are by motorhome, and I neither want to tow anything or heave the booody thing up onto the roof, the boat had to be an inflatable.
My original thought was a traditional inflatable kayak such as those sold by Advanced Elements. The setup time would be longer, it would be more troublesome to dry out and they still weighed some 15-20KG and came in a massive bag, but once on the water they would be the most comparable to a proper hard shell boat.
Over the next few weeks I swung between the PR/IK options many times, read a load of reviews. Some friends own an IK (which they rate highly); they said they had seen some guys making short work of Loch Maree in a Packraft, and that this is something they might have considered if buying today.
What finally swung the Packraft decision is seeing what some nutters are able to achieve with them in youtube video’s and just the general simplicity, inflation/deflation ease and the fact that it was so small once packed that it could live in the van ‘just in case’ there was an opportunity for a paddle.
The Alpacka’s were the obvious choice, but having done Kayaking and Sea Kayaking many years before, I fancied a proper spray deck to keep the drink out and extend the season somewhat by keeping the warmth in, I also fancied the option to get it into some whitewater. Alpacka of course covers all these bases, but getting anything other than an open boat/cruiser deck from the Alpacka UK Reseller based in Aviemore was near impossible – the standard boats were rarely ‘in stock’ – they probably sell out as soon as they get them in! Then there was the price – based on the price of the basic open boat, an Alpacka with a WW Deck, thigh straps etc was going to run to well over £1500 and their white-water specific ‘Alpackalypse’ boat would be over £2K (ouch!)
It was then that I came across the German Packrafting Store – they looked to have a great range of boats; they had originally resold Alpacka models, but the import charges on these boats meant that the sale price in Euro’s was eye-watering. They now sell boats from Anfibio, Supai, Kokepelli, Nortik and MRS (micro rafting system). Many of these still originate from outside Europe, but at a wholesale price that meant a still ‘reasonable’ retail price once marketed in Europe.
Their MRS Microraft is their basic Alpacka equivalent, and is available with a Cruiser style deck. This comes in at 999EUR which is significantly cheaper than an Alpacka once all the import charges have been paid.
As I said previously, I fancied a proper spray deck as that’s what I have been used to previously, the Packrafting store came up trumps with several offerings including the MRS Alligator 2S/Alligator 2S Pro.
The Alligator is the result of a collaboration between MRS and the Packrafting store. Its more the equivalent of Alpacka’s white water ‘Alpackalypse’ boats than their standard boats, and various comments like ‘it paddles like a Kayak’ from reviewers and you-tubers sealed the deal.
I went with the pro version – its slightly more durable, has a better seat, and came with the cargo zipper as standard and slightly better rigging. Its a couple hundred grams heavier than the non pro version – a penalty that I will accept for greater durability, the actual packed size is comparable.
Thus far the boat has been out in several lochs, both fresh and sea lochs, and performs very well. I have had it out surfing on the isle of Harris (where I got bailed!), and also out on a linear paddle come sailing trip that saw me in a good 4ft swell, and pack the raft in some panniers on a previously abandoned bike for the trip back to the van.
The surfing on Harris was a consolation prize, the original intention had been to take the boat out to the island of Taransay (where the reality TV programme ‘Castaway’ was filmed in 2000), but after paddling out through the waves it became clear that it was much rougher than it looked from the shore, running a good 5ft swell – I decided against it pretty quickly – not ready for that just yet!