The Scout

So now Alpacka has the ultralight, ultra-simple Scout:

We have one (Thanks Alpacka!), and I’ve been testing it out a bit (while Erin has been experimenting with wearing Katmai.) I thought I’d share my first impressions:

I expected that the lack of seat would be a substantial compromise and I’d have to experiment a lot to figure out the ideal solution. But just throwing a thermarest in worked great… I didn’t miss the seat at all. My favorite arrangement with a 3/4 length thermarest was to inflate it to about the level it self-inflates to, then stuff about half of it into the seat spot, letting the rest stick up as a tall seat-back. I did nail my butt on one rock, so maybe I’ll experiment with putting something under the thermarest to spread impact a bit, but really it seemed pretty much fine.

But then I didn’t expect how much wetter I’d get with the slightly smaller tube. I took way more water over the back than I’m used to, even in minor rapids and minor waves at sea. It helped when I blew the boat up REALLY tight (repeated tempering, eyeball popping inflation pressure), but was still wetter than I’d like. If I were to change anything about the boat, I’d go with a fatter stern. This would increase weight and likely price, but I think it’d be worth it.

Other than that the performance was really good. The smaller tube made it very slightly tippier, but after about 10 minutes in the raft I felt totally comfortable with that. I think that most of what we could do in the full Alpaca would be doable with this raft, except it’d be wetter.

And the low bulk is at least as awesome as the low weight. That raft just vanishes into the pack… makes me wish I had a smaller paddle to match. The scout will definitely be with me whenever I travel for reasons other than packrafting… I’m thinking back to pleasant floats on the Mad River and under the Golden Gate Bridge during trips for conferences in California. And hey, it’s still big enough to serve as an airport bed.

The single tie on one end (which I called the bow… it’s symmetric) worked fine. But I think I’ll add some more ultralight ties so I can use a more robust rafttachment system. Alpacka puts on a bomb-proof tie which is nice, but I think it’s possible to have a simple light tie that is very strong… I’ve been experimenting with using a bit of floor material as an anchor, and stitching a ring of ribbon double thick that can rotate freely around the anchor. Basically I thread the ribbon through and stitch along the edge to spiral it to double-thickness plus a little more for overlap, so there’s no “end” to the ribbon. Because it rotates freely, you don’t wear through the thin ribbon… wear is distributed over the whole ring. And a small bonus is that the double ribbon is just slightly stiff, so it holds an open loop that’s nice for threading through.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the Scout goes in coming years. Alpacka makes their boats tough enough that I think there’s ample room for a lighter, slightly more delicate model, and I’m excited to see them exploring that.

Hi Hig,

I spent alot of time arguing with myself about exactly what I wanted to put into the scout. Every single inch of fabric adds weight and no one boat is perfect for all uses. Adding size back to the tubes really adds the bulk as well as the weight. And this boat is all about being ultra light and more for trips when you aren’t planning on doing lots of floating ( after all isn’t that what a regular alpacka raft is for?) . I had to constantly keep reminding myself of those requirements. Andrew and I went in many circles arguing about how tough the boat needs to be. He was more in your camp, go for the ultra light. I keep rolling back to "I don’t want anything out there that will be vulnerable to tears. Field repairing is just not my idea of a good time. We will continue to look for materials that can cut the weight, but don’t plan on me getting swayed into doing any kind of fabric that i think won’t take the abuse. You are right, it will be fun to see how the scout evolves.

Cheers, Sheri

Yeah Sheri, I hear you. I’m very glad to have you designing the boats we hang our lives on, since you’re very conservative and careful to make them incredibly strong.

For me personally, I’d find it not that big a deal to fix an occasional tear in the boat, but it’s rather a pain to have water coming over the stern. So the balance for me would be to go with lighter floor, but a bigger tube in back (I think the 10" tube is plenty in front and along most of the sides.) But I’m sure that other folks would balance things very differently than me, especially if they were planning on getting wet anyway.

For those running shallower, faster water, or who aren’t such “hard-asses” as the guy and his wife who pretty much followed the coastal range of devil’s club from end to end, it’s often more comfortable to take a closed cell foam pad (3/4 length is fine) and roll it and cinch w/lash strap or p-cord and sit on that.

My favorite seat for boats without seats (e.g., the Scout’s ancestors like Sherpa, Curtis, Sevylor, and early Alpackas) is the Cascade Designs Z rest ( These hold their shape well without a cinch strap or shoelace and need no supplementary drying (sun, fire, air-time) for sleeping on after wetting, due to their egg carton texture that drains so well.

Just remember: if you flip, to try and catch hold of the pad before it escapes (again – mostly a problem if the water’s moving), or better yet put a tie-down on the bottom of the boat and lash the pad to that…