After being pulled out of the Matkat this was much more like. I was gliding along, whoosing forward with each paddle stroke, tucked under the deck of the MRS Microraft. Yeah, baby! However unfair, we all admitted that whichever boat you used after the Bin Bag was the best boat of the day.
A Chinese-made packraft sounds like a hard sell, especially when it so closely resembles a Gen II decked Alpacka that it risks being labelled a cheap knock off. But the price of the Microraft isn’t cheap, and as far as we could tell neither is the build quality. With China’s enduring if outdated ‘made in Hong Kong’ reputation and MRS’s unsophisticated website on Aliexpress, this can be something that’s hard to get your head around. But we forget that good and cool stuff is made in China too: when’s the last time someone scoffed at an iPhone because it was made in Chengdu? The difference is that iPhones are probably designed in some groovy Californian creative play pen. That’s not the case with MRS but whoever’s behind them is definately not in the knock-off or pool toy game and has gone out of their way to make this comparable with Alpacka in more than just looks.
The deck may look identical to the thin velcro-and zip item I had (but rarely used) on my first two Alpackas. But the Microraft differs significantly in having parallel side tubes (like a white water raft) and less bow upturn. You imagine the parallel tubes simplify construction a little and I didn’t sense any noticeable tracking drawbacks on the water. On the contrary this arrangement makes for a footbox that’s as wide as the seat so that even in this Small/Medium 120-cm-long model my large feet weren’t jammed as they are in my 177-cm long Yak.
At 27cm the Microraft does run the thinnest tubes of the bunch and I noticed that Bob (at 85kg – right) looked quite low and back-heavy (I’d have been even lower) while Hannah and Lois looked just right in this raft. And we’re told that a side benefit of slimmer side tubes is better edging in rough water. The picture from the Store (left) clearly show that the Microraft can tackle the white water with the best of them.
The seat is threaded in with string like Alpackas and our boat came with nine attachment loops, four up front, two at the back and three inside. The fabric has less of a shiny sheen too, but is applied to both sides so is more puncture resistant. Another thing I liked about the MRS was the non-featherweight air bag that feels so much nicer in the hand than my Alpacka’s net curtain. (They say restos with heavy cutlery can charge more). And the valve cap attached to the valve body: a simple solution to lost caps held on with string.
I never trusted that lightweight ‘Cruiser’ deck on my Alpackas, and the attachment was messy with exposed positioning tape peel;ing away on a hot day. But as our test day grew increasingly chilly and wet, so everyone in the MRS including me was pleased to tuck in and zip up, like a granny by the fireside. It’s not a bomb-proof solution to white water – the decked Trekraft or self-bailing BAKraft are probably better, but it sure slows down the swamping while keeping your legs warm.
Only the 1000-euro price tag needs some getting used to; it feels too close to an Alpacka while you assume Chinese workers’ wages aren’t, even if their workmanship and the materials used are hard to tell apart. If you took off the MRS label, I could have easily been fooled that this was a new Alpacka model. And that alone must be worth the price.