Have you seen photos of people paddling inflatable boats down rivers or across lakes with massive backpacks strapped to the front? Chances are they were using a packraft – one of the hottest new trends in the world of outdoor adventure gear.
What Is a Packraft?
A packraft is essentially an inflatable raft that folds up into a compact size so you can carry it in your backpack on hiking trips. They are made from lightweight, durable materials and inflate with either a hand pump or your breath. Many models weigh 5 pounds or less – so they add minimal weight to your pack.
Packrafts have a pointed bow and stern to cut through the water efficiently. They usually feature inflatable seat pads for comfort and adjustable thigh straps to keep you secured inside. There are even paddle holders and d-rings for strapping down gear.
When deflated, a packraft folds up into a bag or roll roughly the size of a Nalgene bottle. Some fold into the width of the inflated raft, while others fold into the length. They compress down surprisingly small for such capable little boats!
With the rising popularity of packrafting, choosing the right boat for your adventures can be tricky. Packrafts come in a range of shapes, sizes and features to suit different paddling styles and priorities. In this comprehensive buyers’ guide, we will walk through the key factors to consider when shopping for a packraft so you can find your perfect match. Here is our list of the best packrafts on the market.
List of the Best Packrafts
Check out the thorough reviews of the best packrafts below.
The Sevylor QuickPak K1 packraft offers a unique foldable design that allows you to hit the water in just 5 minutes. Weighing only 18 pounds, the durable 21-gauge PVC construction and tarpaulin bottom provide rugged puncture protection while packing down into an easy-to-carry backpack. Multiple air chambers give added security, allowing you to stay afloat if one chamber is punctured. The rigid floor and flat bottom shape ensure stability and tracking while the adjustable footrests and backrest allow you to customize your fit for superior comfort. The front cargo area secured with bungees gives you quick access to snacks and gear during your adventure.
With the SuperStrong enhanced molecular PVC formulation, the Intex Challenger packraft has high impact and abrasion resistance. The streamlined, low-profile design enables easy paddling across 9 feet of water with a 220 pound weight capacity. The removable and adjustable cockpit seats are spacious for comfortable leg room. For directional stability, a removable skeg is attached to the underside. When deflated, the packraft folds into a compact size to fit inside the included carry bag for convenient transportation and storage. The high output pump rapidly inflates the kayak in minutes.
The Sevylor QuickPak K5 packraft offers rugged performance for kayaking adventures. Its innovative foldable design packs into an easy-to-carry backpack that transforms into the kayak seat in just 5 minutes. The 24-gauge PVC construction and tarpaulin bottom provide durable puncture protection, while the polyester cover shields against splashes. The packraft is equipped with multiple independent air chambers, so you can stay afloat even with a puncture. The Double Lock valves use a two locking point system for quick and reliable inflation and deflation. D-rings allow you to securely attach other equipment. There’s plenty of onboard storage thanks to the secure bungee storage areas.
The KLYMIT LITEWATER packraft offers advanced performance in an ultra-portable and lightweight package, weighing only 2.75 pounds. Inspired by professional kayakers and pack rafters, the arrow-shaped LWD tracks well and provides stability while remaining highly maneuverable for use with a kayak or canoe paddle. The inflatable raft packs down small to 4.5 by 9 inches for easy storage and transport. With an efficient dry sack for inflation that doubles as a storage bag, the LWD inflates quickly with two valves. Six tie-off points allow gear lashing, and the built-in, insulated seat ensures comfort.
The NRS Packraft packs down small enough at 18” x 15” x 5” to fit in any backpack or vehicle, weighing only 8 pounds. With a 70-D nylon tube and 210-D nylon floor, this packraft is abrasion-resistant and can withstand rugged use. Dual inflation chambers provide maximum safety with backup flotation if one chamber is compromised. The inflatable seat gives comfortable support. Front and rear tie-downs securely lash gear. Perfect for backcountry exploration or fishing trips, the NRS PackRaft provides a stable, portable way to travel over water through remote areas not accessible by traditional watercraft.
The Advanced Elements PackLite+ XL two person packraft delivers versatile performance for calmer inland waters up to Class II rapids. Its innovative modular design features a removable high-pressure drop-stitch floor that enhances rigidity and stand-up stability. Without the 4.5 lbs floor, the PackLite weighs just 10.5 lbs, making it one of the lightest 2-person packrafts available. The adjustable inflatable seats maximize on-water comfort during multi-hour paddling sessions. At 10’8” long with a 37” beam, the PackLite provides ample capacity for two adults plus gear. The military-grade valves allow for quick inflation and deflation. Additional features include a large rear storage zipper, removable tracking fin, quality hand pump, and comprehensive repair kit—though the paddle must be purchased separately.
The lightweight and packable Kokopelli Rogue-Lite packraft delivers durability and comfort for backcountry adventures. With compact dimensions of 26″ x 11″ x 8″ and weighing just 12 pounds, this inflatable raft packs down smaller than a roll of paper towels for easy transport in a backpack. But don’t let the small packed size fool you – the durable TPU nylon construction can handle Class III rapids while the inflatable seat and backband system provide comfort on long paddling days. Made in the USA, the Rogue-Lite has the key features for exploring remote rivers and lakes including front and rear rope holds, a zippered rear storage pocket, and removable thigh straps. Its versatility and portability make the Kokopelli a great option for thru-hikers and weekend warriors alike.
The award-winning packraft from Uncharted Supply Co. is an ultralight yet durable inflatable raft designed for versatile outdoor use. Weighing just 3 lbs, this compact 72” by 33” raft packs down to the size of a loaf of bread but can hold up to 400 lbs. Made from rugged 200D nylon Oxford fabric with a 400D floor, it inflates fully in under 60 seconds thanks to a quick fill valve. The one-way valve allows easy adjustment of air pressure and buoyancy. Once inflated, the Rapid Raft provides reliable performance for 8-10 hours before needing refilled. Durable welded seams ensure water-tightness.
The lightweight 13 lbs Kokopelli XPD Packraft packs down to fit into a 25 x 2.5 in backpack for easy transport, making it ideal for entry-level paddlers embarking on weekend adventures. Constructed with reinforced 1,000d PVC on the floor and sidewalls, the same rugged commercial-grade material as full-sized rafts, it has a 300 lbs load capacity. The welded seams and reinforced V-seam tape provide durability when riding lakes, oceans, flat waterways, and calm Class 2 rivers. Equipped with 4 front and 2 rear stainless steel D-rings, a GRI push-push valve, inflatable seat, and included Nano pump, the innovative features enable convenience while exploring via this portable vessel.
Weighing only 6 lbs, this packraft packs down small so you can easily transport it for your next lakeside or river adventure. Constructed from high-quality 210D and 420D TPU material, it is sturdy enough for flatwater rafting yet portable enough for a solo expedition. Features like the arrow-shaped design provide maneuverability while the inflatable seat offers necessary comfort and stability. With a large load capacity, you can pack this boat for longer trips, fitting extra gear like bicycles and camping equipment. Whether you want to go fishing, drift down a river, or explore new terrain, the WONITAGO packraft is built to last through all your exploits.
Weighing only 5.7 lbs, the HIKULA packraft is easy to pack and carry, making it ideal for transport to lakes, rivers, or oceans. The raft is constructed using 210D TPU on the sides and upgraded 420D TPU on the bottom for enhanced puncture resistance. Dual-layer airtight sealing further prevents leaks. Upgraded features like the arrow-shaped design for maneuverability, inflatable seat for comfort, and large capacity for carrying gear or pets make this a versatile choice. With high-quality materials and performance-driven details, the HIKULA packraft enables outdoor enthusiasts to explore coastlines, race down rivers, or paddle across placid lakes while traveling light.
How to Choose The Best Packrafts?
As an avid backpacker and paddling enthusiast, discovering packrafts changed my outdoor adventures forever. These ingenious inflatable boats allow you to explore places that were once inaccessible on foot alone. But with so many models on the market now, it can be tricky to pick the right packraft for your needs. This guide will walk you through the key factors to consider.
Assess Your Needs
First, think about how you plan to use your packraft. Do you dream of multi-day wilderness trips mixing hiking and floating? Or will it be for day paddling close to home? If you’ll tackle whitewater, consider a burlier boat. Fishing the mirror-calm lakes of the Boundary Waters? Prioritize stability and storage.
Here are some common packraft types based on intended use:
– Whitewater: Durable, maneuverable, spray deck compatible
– Backcountry exploring: All-around design balances weight, handling, and cargo space
– Fishing: Wider frame for stability, storage for gear
– Lightweight: Minimalist design strips down to the bare essentials
Research the Specs
Once you zero in on a category, dive into the nitty gritty specs of different models. Key factors to examine:
Weight: Ultralight designs start around 2 lbs, while whitewater models are 5+ lbs
Packed size: From as small as a 1L Nalgene to a bit bulkier
Durability: Measured in denier; higher is tougher
Frame design: Catamarans slice faster; flat bottoms are more stable
Seating type: Infltable pad, aluminum frame, or simple foam
Test Drive Time
If possible, test paddling a packraft firsthand. REI and some outfitters offer demos. Pay attention to:
Comfort: Thigh and seat straps should keep you secure
Maneuverability: How easily does it turn and edge?
Stability: Will it tip if you lean or rock side-to-side?
Speed: Does the hull shape glide smoothly?
Ease of setup: Practice unpacking, inflating, and packing up
The right packraft will open up a whole new world of adventure. With some thoughtful evaluation of your needs and the packraft features available today, you’ll be primed to pick the perfect boat for the journey ahead!
Frequently Asked Questions When Picking The Best Packrafts
What is a packraft?
A packraft is an inflatable raft that can be easily packed into a backpack and carried on hiking or backpacking trips. Packrafts are made of lightweight, durable materials and are designed to open up waterways for backcountry exploration.
How much does a packraft weigh?
Packraft weights range from about 2 lbs for ultra-minimalist models up to 7 lbs or more for whitewater packrafts. Many high-quality recreational packrafts weigh between 3 and 5 lbs.
What are the parts of a packraft?
Packrafts feature an inflatable tube for flotation, inflatable or removable seat, bow and stern handles, thigh straps, foot pegs, and cargo straps. Whitewater models may have spray skirts. Advanced designs have an inflatable floor.
How durable are packrafts?
Most recreational packrafts are made with ripstop nylon or polyurethane coated nylon in the 400-1200 denier range. This makes them sufficiently durable for backcountry use. Whitewater packrafts use heavier fabric with 2000+ denier.
How do you inflate and deflate a packraft?
Most packrafts are inflated using a hand pump or blow tube to fill the main tube and seat. High volume boats take about 10-15 breaths. Deflate using the valves, roll up, and pack into the stuff sack.
What is the best packraft for beginners?
Beginners do well with stable, forgiving all-around recreational packrafts from companies like Alpacka, Kokopelli, and Nemo. Get a feel for packrafting before specializing.
How much weight can a packraft hold?
Weight capacity depends on the model, but many 1 person recreational packrafts can carry over 200 lbs of cargo plus paddler weight. Tandem models can hold 500 lbs or more.
Can you use a packraft on whitewater?
Yes, but you need a true whitewater packraft made with heavy duty materials. Leading whitewater models come from Alpacka, Anfibio, and Kokopelli. Beginners should start on Class I-II rapids.
What paddles work best for packrafting?
Packable whitewater paddles that breakdown into 4 pieces or inflatable paddles are popular choices. You can also use canoe paddles or lightweight kayak paddles.
How much do packrafts cost?
Entry-level packrafts start around $300. High-performance recreational models run $800-$1200. Top whitewater packrafts cost $1500+. Custom outfitting adds expense.
With so many excellent packraft options on the market today, it may seem tough to narrow down your choice. But keeping your specific needs and preferred features in mind will help you select the perfect vessel. Test rides and demos allow you to experience different models up close. And don’t forget – the beauty of packrafting lies in the remarkable places these boats can take you, not just the boat itself. Whether you pick an ultralight solo boat or a fully outfitted tandem whitewater rig, the best packraft for you will be the one that enables your next grand paddling adventure.
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