One tends to compare new boats against Alpacka because they were the innovators who took the whole packrafting game forward. Now that I’ve tried the competition I can see the gap between the Colorado-made boats and the two similar packrafts from China and Russia is much smaller than most would imagine.
But between them these five boats occupy three different categories, with some overlap. The MRS, Nortik and Alpacka all make great do-it-all boats, especially as the later two have spray skirt options. The Supai and the Aire (in prototype form) are more single-minded and uncompromising: extreme lightness or kayak-like hair-boating agility.
Back in the day the question was ‘which Alpacka should I buy and what specification can I afford?’ Now it’s great to have the choice that’ll no doubt see the new contenders evolve and others emerge.
Other vendors do exist but you can see the full range of the Packrafting Store’s 14-odd packrafts here. And don’t forget, you can rent before you buy to save you making an expensive mistake. Thanks to the floating foursome: Bob, Hannah, Lois and Robin, for giving up a day to help out with this group packrafting test.