10.04.2016

Review MRS Alligator 2S, a trip report from Italy

Antonio and friends
The trip was actually a family vacation, even during Christmas time. However, it turned out to be some good testing opportunities for a new (whitewater) packraft, the Alligator 2S from MRS (Micro Rafting System), especially for meeting Antonio Piro, Italy's man in things packrafting! Infact, to hook up with his friends was our upbeat and very first stop in Italy.

1. River Brenta in northern Italy

The Brenta is Antonio's home run and he was delighted to show me his backyard. Contrary to the extreme low water situation in late December 2015 throughout Italy, the Brenta had enough water, it is runable all year. 

Date: December 22nd 2015
Section: Valstagna - Campologno (~8km)
Difficulty: Class II, special slalom parkour with class III parts


Certainly not a backcountry river, the road is always close, but the water runs free and open, there is no water regulation in the section and  the vistas to the mountains are stunning, worth integrating in the trip.

Antonio plans a packraft round up later the year (September/October) in the region. If you are intrigued by the showing, connect with him. It is planned to combine it with a city trip to Venice, see Part 2 of the report.

Snug fit, but comfortable position.
Anyways, back to the boat. I had two pre-serial models with me, so Antonio could join in to test. Having had several other different packrafts before, he was very keen for a new try out. According to him, the boat distinguishes for the following features:
  • a beefy skirt - which truly stays on
  • an excellent geometry - making it an agile boat
  • the pressure resistance - providing a stiff boat
  • the thigh strap configuration - for a connective seating 
Apart from the thigh straps, he liked the snug fit and superior hip connection, which really gives control over the boat.

MTBs may have gotten the 29er, packafts are going 27er ;) 

Quickly one get used to the 27cm tubes. A new standard in agile boating with inflatables? They are still plenty stable, I mean, the boat remains 86cm wide, compare that to any hardshell kayak, even recreational ones, so lateral stability is not the issue. But acceleration, edging and punching through hydraulics is second to none.


Despite not being extreme, the river Brenta provided any test spot needd. Especially the slalom parkour was good for practising eddy turns, boofing small steps, surfing the holes, even playing verticals (see video). The channelled current made high ferry speed needed. 

Locked in, but quick release.
The Alligator performed well in all parts. Catching eddies was especially a surprise, eddy in, eddy out, the bow grabs the current effectively.  Something I was not used to!

The bow also excels in wave trains. Either climbs or pushed through them, depending just on the size. If you can, you can also boof it, lean back an accelerate on the edge of a step to jump over an hydraulic :)


Shape and volume punching through hydraulics fine.

Other parts of the river got really broadened - with its effect on the water level :( We had several ground contacts to scrub over. Fortunately something the material put away.

2. Urban Packrafting in Venice and Rome

By any means, it would be a shame to have a packraft only for whitewater fun. A packraft should always remain versatile! It is a multipurpose tool. Of course the Alligator 2S also is such a craft.

It remains suitable for touring, providing good touring speed and allows to store luggage on bow and stern. It can even be family worthy if along with another boat, as this trip proved.

Excursus on fit and comfort

I am 190cm tall with relatively large torso (my inseam is 'only' 34") at 80kg. My partner is 169cm (inseam ~30"). My guess for Antonio is 182cm (inseam 32"). We all fit the boat basically fine, with differences in leg length of course.

Some individual fitting never did a boat any harm

I fitted the (narrow) foot box with a 3,5cm foam plate, which provided just the right amount of space reduction (122cm) for my leg length as well as some wider, flat plate for my feet.

Other body sizes can have additional (or less) fitting - but luggage can also play that role. The thigh straps generally give adequate hold to the front, if that is needed at all on touring and moderate whitewater.

Otherwise the fit was just right (for me). Seating was real perfect. Slightly bend knees gave a defined but comfortable position. Thigh straps were only used on demanding parts. My partner did not complain on our long city strolls.

Venice lagoon

Even family worth, as long as having a second boat.


Venice is an urban packrafters paradise (Quote Jacob Kastrup Haagensen). There are already many reports and information on paddling in Venice out there, so I keep it short. Unfortunately, we also face some regulations. Many are canals are banned for small boats. The general rules are:

  • Canale Grande: only crossings are allowed
  • Motor boats must keep to the right along the canals, while boats with oars must respect the left. 
  • A safe, yet demanding route to be found here.
Venice is an hour train ride from Bassano (our stop over with Antonio) and the recommended approach to the city anyway. It was certainly not high season for the town, be it for the weather (7° fog) or the time (a day before Christmas eve), but provided its own special atmosphere.

Rome on the Tiber




Reaching Rome on the water has a special appeal. Its monuments show up unexpected and from a different perspective, yet they are as stunning as Rome's has a reputation for.

Recommended put in: Camping Tiber, some 15 (road) km from the city centre, allow 5 hours for it on the water. The Tiber is flat water, except one decent wave train half way after the second bridge (inner city ring). Stay left or get off before the bride to scout.

Beware of the falls just before the city island. They are deadly! Get off well before, big side walls will prevent landing in time. Current river descriptions (our source: DKV) do not mentioned  these features!

Do your whitewater, I have my city stroll!

Conclusion

The family road trip proved the versatility of the Alligator 2S, kept in the trunk just in case. Despite being marked as whitewater packraft, where it certainly holds potential for, it can make any application.

Final (holy) destination, the Peter Dome.

Even (almost) without water: stress test for paddler and material. Terme di Saturnia.

Disclamer: The trip was done with two pre-serial models. Changes to the final manufacturing are minimal. We collaborate in concept and design with manufacturing by MRS (Micro Rafting System). Our connection to sales should be widly known

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