Alpacka Scout: the verdict
Late last year I took advantage of Alpacka’s annual holiday sale and bought a Scout. You can read about the initial weigh-in here and my thoughts after a few months of use here. Since that May post I’ve put the Scout to its primary use: longer trips combining lots of tough backpacking with moderate floating in nice weather. My thoughts haven’t changed much, and I’m quite pleased with my purchase.
The weight and volume savings with the Scout versus a main line Alpacka are significant. Enough to tip the balance from no-raft to raft in some cases. For a summer hiker on milder rivers in the mountainous lower 48, or more broadly in the southwest, it should be seriously considered. It’s a non-starter in cold weather, except on truly mild water. In middling class II or more, you’re going to get soaked. You can beat on it just like a main-line boat. It’s a hair faster than the main-line boats, and considerably better against a headwind. It absolutely cannot carry a bike. The fore-aft balance is dead on, even with a 30 pound pack in the bow. I can and do lean back aggressively in whitewater with no fear of bandersnatching.
My rigging, above, has proven solid. I’d keep the three pack tie-downs the same. I’d move the floor strap plate back 4 inches. The XS Prolite, folded in thirds, is an excellent seat, just as good if not more comfortable than the Alpacka toilet bowl seat. The strap plate on the floor, and particularly the bartacks, are a weakness insofar as they create a minor hang point for abrasion. This is analogous to how abrasion is more severe on the seam joints along the edge of the floor. The arrangement holds the pad in place well with minimal fuss, so I’d probably do that over again. A hand loop of 1/2″ webbing through the rear tie-down is a good idea for those inevitable hasty bails before strainers. As on any packraft, a keeper loop for the main valve is mandatory.
The chief limitation of the Scout could be solved by making it longer, and adding a deck. A backrest is not necessary with the huge stern, and the lack of a dedicated seat is not a detriment for multi-day trips. The small tubes and lack of bow rocker would still plow waves and take on more water, but the lighter weight and smaller wind profile would be worth it in many contexts. Alpacka makes the Curiyak, which is unfortunately a significant step up from the Scout in cost. They also, as of this writing, will not put a deck on it. This is truly unfortunate. Part of me is tempted to sell the Scout and buy a Curiyak. A smaller part of me is tempted to then DIY a deck on it.
My only other quarrel is with Alpacka’s quality generally. It is good, but could be better. On both my boats I’ve had to periodically aquaseal places where the seam tape, and on one occasion, tie-down, started delaminating. This is only acceptable on a 500+ dollar piece of gear if you’re the only game in town. Until this summer that was the case. I’ve not heard anything about the Kokopelli Raft Company, but look forward to what some legit competition will bring.