23.07.2012

Scout Review

This is a guest post by Pekka from Finland.

Introduction

Hi, my name is Pekka. I'm 23 years old Finnish geophysics student / packrafting / hiking enthusiast. As for my background, I've done most of my paddling and all of my whitewater in a packraft. I'm not very experienced, so keep that in mind while evaluating my observations. I lately did a ~100km raft&hike trip into Lapland with a friend of mine and we had both my green Yukon Yak and red Scout with us. Reviews, information and even pictures of Scout are scarce, although it is a great boat. So I like to share my experiences. 

General picture

Henri is double-checking his pack's attachment.
I already have a Yukon Yak so I can compare these two boats relatively easily. While the Scout is much smaller than Yak, its inner volume isn't  that limited. I'm 170cm tall, I have shorter legs than most people, and I can just barely stretch my legs straight. 
Scout's seat is also a whole different story when compared to standard seat. This mylar foil toy, which looks awfully lot like a wine bladder made me laugh when I first saw it. But after first test run I noticed that it's quite comfortable, as mylar foil reflects heat. It's not very durable though, I got mine bleeding air after a few uses. I replaced it with simple piece of foam mattress and this solution worked fine. I tried attaching tiedowns for a standard  seat. As the tubes are smaller, the standard seat is a bit too high and even I am too big to fit into the raft comfortably when the seat's back rest is chewing on the precious inside space. But if you leave the backrest uninstalled and deflate the seat to about 1/3 of it's maximum volume, it gets very useful.

Flotation

The little red man Henri has about 20kg pack fastened into
Scout's bow and the boat is perfectly balanced.
Scout's air volume is computationally 70% of a standard line raft's volume, since tubes are 5cm smaller. In real life the flotation is even smaller since Scout is a lot smaller in all other dimensions too. I don't have the tools (or ambition) to measure and calculate accurate values, but Scout hold approximately 600 liters of air. Technically this means it effectively floats about 300kg of mass but in practice this isn't really true. In any case, a normal person's body weight alone should not be a problem.
Roman Dial states in his book that optimal pack weight in whitewater is one sixth (1/6) of boaters body weight. In my case it would be 11,5kg. Technically this should be corrected with Scout's air volume factor. When Scout-corrected this value becomes 21kg which is still quite a lot of gear, but as the bow is not upturned, the weight presses it down. 
Conclusion: We used the bow-tying method of loads for both boats (Yak and Scout) on our latest trip and in calm water the outcome was very similar. Yak was of course a bit faster since it has longer hull, but in other terms Scout was very useful in calm waters.

I wouldn't recommend sitting on pack, as pack tends to be
bigger than the boat.
How to raft your pack?

I ordered 4 grab loops to attach to the bow same way as they are in standard Packrafts so I could test how this works on the Scout. Gluing was done with glue and instructions offered by Sven and Marc. I must say I was little doubtful when I applied the glue but it worked out perfectly. Just make sure that you use right amount of hardener.
Some sources suggest sitting on your pack while rafting but I can't see that convinient in any way. It's unstable, unfriendly to your belongings and rarely the pack is small enough to fit inside the raft. 


Handlability

Once balanced, Scout handles really well.
Under normal conditions, the Scout handles similarly to any Packraft. The hull is sensitive to wind and there's nothing you can do about it. But the wave retention ability of the upturned bow (which the Scout does not have) is a thing you will be missing. While floating over ~70cm waves is no big deal for a standard raft, never even think about getting Scout into conditions that wild.
As with all Packrafts, a bag tied into bow makes raft more stable. The Scout is no exception and that alone is IMHO reason enough to spend 24€ plus a little work to glue the tiedowns into the bow. But this is only the situation while rafting in calm water. In whitewater conditions the non-upturned bow of the Scout is really not good and surplus weight on it only makes things worse.

Two-person crossings?

Madre de dios! This is possible and quite easy if done in a calm lake. If done in "Honeymoon" position the raft is more stable than you can imagine. If you're in calm water, you may tow your pack(s) in a drybag behind the boat. It provides a little tracking and only a slight offset if using the standard grab loop for towing. Paddling gets a little heavier though, but with two people in that tiny raft it will be an exhausting run anyway. Just keep in mind that most drybags are not immersion proof so don't float it for too long or be prepared to find some of your gear wet after a crossing. 

I wouldn't take Scout into waters wilder than this.
Whitewater?

I was curious about seeing what it is really capable of. We ran everything from class 1 to class 3 and the truth is that I got too scared even after class 1. Without the pack in bow things got a little better, but for real whitewater experience you should really go for standard models. But as for using a Scout in expeditional/trekking use where you may face a few streams this is acceptable. We actually found that in semi-intermediate not-so-rocky whitewater it's kinda useful to tow your gear same way as in two-person crossings. Both the boat and drybag are pretty much travelling with the stream anyway, but do not try this in long and/or demanding whitewater sections. This is a matter of entangling danger.

Conclusion

Scout is extremely light and useful, but smaller tubes and flat bow means it cannot handle waves and water will splash inside quite easily. The four attachment points for pack tying and boat stabilizement and a decent seat are  necessities you will want. Any questions are welcome in the comments!

Henri enjoys a sip of Jaloviina after an exhausting run.


Henri seems content.

17.07.2012

Sceneticker, Europe

After the latest insight on the past, back to current developments. And there is some real cool stuff!

First off, we have to redefine the 'European Scene'. It was meant Packrafters from Europe, obviously, but also Packrafting in Europe by anyone. And now we have a third category: Packrafts from Europe anywhere. Yes, Packrafts from Europe, thats right, our 'Quasi-Packrafts' (page bottom) from communist times made it to America. Offering them in our latest used sales, some were acquired by Americans! See the picture below documenting their journey:

'Quasi Packraft' B73 in Yosemite NP

Ted says: "Took it out for a test run in the Pacific Ocean of La Jolla Shores here in San Diego California. I packed the boat in 9 miles on the Lyle Fork of the Tuolomne River in Yosemite National Park this weekend.  Nice easy float out, with about 6 portages around rapids, falls, and trees. Boat works great! Looking forward to more fun with the boats in the near future!"

Gerhardsin Austria (Schladminger Tauern) 
Latest applications

Canoe against packraft in Finland, will Joni win?

Packraft for two in Italy, will I fit in?

The Belgians finally found together, Joery reports

Radu's 9 day bike/packraft trip in Dobrogea region in Romania

Packrafting with handicap in France, first descent for Arthur who is paraplegic, pretty amazing:


Mathieu, Arthur (young blond with pink helmet) and Dom packrafted the Allier River between Saint Etienne du Vigan and Chapeauroux in Lozere, France end of June 2012. The water level was really low but the fun was there anyway. More info on www.capexpe.org/

More trips


PackHoping between Canary Islands, Mateuz and Anna on a 6 weeks bikerafting trip:

We packrafted along the coast of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura (short bits), crossed the strait between Lanzarote and La Graciosa (hardcore waves) and back, it was slightly on the edge - going between the islandstook us more than 1,5 hours of hard paddling - against the wind and current. But everything was under control - weather and currents checked, paddles lashed. Went then from Faro the Teno to Los Gigantes, Tenerife, discovering beautiful beaches on the way.

David finally had the time to write up his trek through the Northwest of Scotland

Tipps & Tricks

Magnus' stand for fishing rod  built  from a simple PVC tubes


Drybag as Inflationbag by Marcel
Packraft sailing on veminra.net




























.
The big ones

Polandtrek is completed, but one is missing: the packraft got stolen (along with the car)! Any hints are welcome.

Marcel is just back from Mongolia, hope to see a report here soon :)

Steve, Katrijn and their Explorer are finally preparing for their gap year, another two in one packraft

Wilem is in full flow: Transscandinavia 

Luc will come to the EU, fabulous to see another prominence ;) from the US

Latest Whitewater course in Leipzig, which Vitek enjoyed

11.07.2012

Recent History

This post is part of the History series, a follow up on the previous article about 20th century packrafting.

3. The reinvention and breakthrough (2001), diversification

Presetting

Inventor by request
In the 1990s packrafting manufacture was dormant. Nevertheless, Packrafting as an activity had evolved in the decade, mainly up north, where there is a lot of water, but no roads. It is fair to say modern packrafting is based in Alaska, where you can’t walk without crossing a river. So people were applying pool toys, inner tubes and out of production packrafts from Sherpa and Curtis.

The time was there and the one who took it on was Sheri Tingey, a former ski clothing designer – and kayaker. The founding story came from her son however, one of the desperados who regularly destroyed pool toys. He challenged her by asking: Can you make me a proper boat? [1] 

Reinvention

Boat Number 1!
Sheri was the first since Halkett who took on the concept of packrafting seriously and with dedication. She focused on a functional boat with no sacrifices to weight. The innovation was the vision to actually run along rivers, not just crossing them or  floating lakes. As Sheri states: “I understood what I wanted with the boat.“ [2]

Breakthrough

Needless to say the lightweight movement in the outdoors has spurred development. The ultralight backpacking community quickly adopted the concept expanding their range of activities. Without them, the Internet and new material technology it would have not been possible to spawn a whole new sport of packrafting out of a niche. The new millennium brought packrafts into real watersports. 

Fabrics had been specifically designed and it took a year and a half to get the company to work with. Urethan coated nylon is a generic term, no quality label. It can be everything from tent canvas to Alpacka’s incredible stuff. State-of-the-art fabrics make the boat so great. Or put directly by Sheri: "I'm just too old to make junk." [6]

Development

Evolution of sprayskirts
Evolution of shape, by Chris S.
Alpacka has written its own history in the latest 10 years. In many development stages the boates advanced from stubby backpacking crafts to classy “packyaks”. However, as the design evolved, seam construction and original material remained with the innovative “body as frame” idea (individual boat sizes). The same thinking explains for the one-chamber decision and non-inflatable floors. However spraydeck advances were major milestones. 

In retrospect these are logical progressions but why did it take so long? Well, if development would have gone the way of reduction and lightening of boats starting from existing shapes and types of watercrafts - a sub 3 kg boat would have never been made! There was a need to start from scratch and this development ten years to reach current forms.

Diversification

The niche, technological advancement and low-profile marketing policy gave Alpacka little competition. Alternatives go into extreme directions. The specialization goes as far as 'glorified lilos' (Klymits Lightwater Dingey) on one end of the spectrum and with Feathercrafts Baylees towards traditional rafts (or yacht tenders). What one consider a packraft is still subject to definition. Pure imitators as yet do not exist because of a very competitive product price compared to hand made production and material. There has lately been a discussion on price point [3], but there is a good reason Alpacka has been unrivalled for ten years. Even so from a consumer perspective, as such a craft is a long term investment that pays off during many, many years of service. Safety also is a key element. A low price is not a good reason for tube failure on cold water. [4]



Future

Nevertheless, there is room for future developments. The return to simpler shapes and lighter boats might be a way and there is huge potential for specific accessories.
Packrafting generally can withstand some more recognition in the boating and outdoor community. That would include a pure whitewater boat with decent rolling ability as well as using packrafts by two persons. [5]

Sources/Reference:

[1] Alpacka Raft, About, A Brief History of Alpacka
[2] Tough Rivers, Tougher Rafts;  King, Rachael; Interview with Sheri Tingey, Bloomberg Businessweek, 2005
[3] Shea, Marc (Flightweigt Designs) and others, Discussion about Cheaper Raft Options on BPL Forums, 2011
[4] The Classic Report, Packrafts, 2009
[5] Schellin, Sven; Tingey, Sheri, Interviews 2012
[6] Alaska Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, Armstrong, James O., Senior Citizen’s Guide, 2006

Image courtesy of 'The classic report'
Early Alpacka Raft, model from 2003