If you’re unsure what a packraft is, well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a raft that you can easily pack into your backpack to take with you on your next adventure. It has become something that has slowly generated popularity over the years, so you are bound to run into fellow packrafters out there on the water just like you would run into fellow hikers. They are easy to throw on your external frame backpack and hit the trail without the fear of water obstacles getting in your way. Besides, when your legs become fatigued, it’s nice to let the current do the walking for you sometimes.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
Easy to inflate
Comes with additional oars and air pump
Top 10 Picks
1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
Easy to inflate
Comes with additional oars and air pump
Some users have encountered the skeg falling off
Heavy (weights almost 40 pounds)
Offered at such an affordable price, there is really no reason not to try out this packraft. This model has landed a spot at number one for a reason, and it is because it is easy to inflate, comes with lots of extra features that even some of the higher priced packrafts do not come with, and looks sharp.Read more
The dimensions of this model are 10.3 feet long and 3 feet wide, and it is able to carry up to 2 passengers that have a total weight of approximately 400 pounds. Due to the fact that this is a little smaller than full-sized kayaks, it’s ideal for modest rivers and gentle lakes. The seats are also removable or adjustable, so if you want to leave your chatty friend on the shoreline so you can enjoy the stillness of the lake, you have the option to do so.
The kayak itself is made from a tough and puncture resistant nylon and sports Boston valves that are able to be inflated and deflated relatively quickly. If you are worried about the floor not being as stiff, this unit has an inflatable I-beam to help keep the floor more rigid. It also has 2 separate air chambers, so that if one chamber happens to be losing air, you won’t immediately find yourself swimming to the shoreline.
What makes this model special is all of the extra features that come with it. Not only does it come with a repair kit for those rare times you snag your vessel on some unknown sharp object lurking under the surface, but it also comes with a set of quality aluminum oars and a high output air pump.
The value is what is really shocking when it comes to this model. It is offered at a shockingly low price point, a price that is almost a third of what some of the higher end models are selling for.
Past customers cannot stop raving about not only how great this packraft is, but just how affordable it is as well. If you are looking to give packrafting a try, there is really no reason not to try the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak.
2. Intex Seahawk 4
Can hold up to 4 people or 814 pounds
Oars and pump included
Soft floor makes standing difficult
Some find seats are uncomfortable (no back support)
Heavy (weights almost 40 pounds)
Intex lands another top spot on this list with another model of a packraft that not only looks sharp, but also comes with a lot of additional features, and it is available at a fraction of the cost that other packrafts are offered for.
It can hold more people than the Intex Explorer and only landed the number 2 spot because of the design that is more tailored to fishermen and less for universal use.Read more
This packraft can hold an impressive 4 people (or you and three dogs if you prefer the company of canines). It measures to be approximately 133 inches long and 19.5 inches wide. Where this model really shines is how much weight is capable of supporting (a whopping 814 pounds).
This packraft is made from incredibly durable and rip-resistant PVC vinyl. It is durable enough to be approved by the US Coast Guard. The oars that are included with purchase are made from lightweight, but durable aluminum.
What makes this packraft a little different is that it comes equipped with places around the edges of the raft to hold your fishing poles in place. The entire design of this model is constructed with fishermen in mind. It has plenty of extra space to leave your friends on the shore and pack up one day's worth of tackle and snacks. As stated above, it also comes with two high-quality oars, and it also comes with an air pump for fast inflation and deflation.
As with all Intex products, it is offered to you at a fraction of what other packrafts sell for on the market. Even though this boat holds more weight and offers more room than the Explorer, it will cost you about the same amount.
If you are looking for a packraft that you can pack with you, yourself, and supplies for fishing or you wish to spend the day on the lake with friends and bevies, this is an excellent option that won't break the bank.
3. Klymit Litewater Dinghy
Only weighs 3.5 ounces
Easy to throw into a backpack
Some find that water tends to seep in and pool at the seat
Only suitable for one person
The Klymit Litewater Dinghy is perfect for travelers that want something that will fit easily into their framed backpacks without adding as much weight as some of the Intex models can add. This packraft is so small and lightweight that you might not even remember that you packed it into your backpack.Read more
This dinghy is designed to hold just one person (that weighs up to 350 pounds) comfortably. When inflated, it measures in at 76 inches long and 45 inches wide, and when deflated it can fit into a carry pack that is an impressive 4.5 inches wide and 9 inches long.
The exterior is composed of a rugged 210 D ripstop polyester, which places it in Class 2. Class 2 is designed for waters that are still to waters that have moderate waves. The floor of this vessel is double lined so that you can use it on colder waters.
This packraft sports an arrow-shaped design that makes it a little bit easier to control when the waters begin to pick up. It has six tie-off zones to either secure your gear in place or tie the vessel to the shoreline so that you can stop for a picnic lunch without taking your raft out of the water. This unit also comes with an air pump for easy inflation and deflation. Once deflated, it fits in a small carrying case that you can place into your backpack.
While this model costs a little bit more than the Intex models, the lightweight features and ease to throw it into a backpack make it well worth the slightly padded price tag. In addition to the reasonable price, Klymit also offers a limited lifetime warranty if you run into any problems with their product.
If you are a backpacker that is looking for a packraft that won’t weigh you down very much, and can safely deliver you down modest rivers without breaking the bank, this will be a great addition to all of your outdoor adventures.
4. Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
Easy to inflate
Cargo mesh hold gear in place
Removable skeg has the tendency to fall off while in use
Back of seat isn’t very sturdy when users lean back
Again, Intex makes the list with another great and affordable packraft. The Challenger K1 is a little more lightweight than some of the other Intex inflatable kayaks, and it is one of the most affordable models to make this list.Read more
This model measures in at 9 feet long and 2.6 feet wide, and it is capable of comfortably supporting one person that weighs up to 220 pounds. When not inflated, it weighs just over 27 pounds.
The materials that compose this inflatable kayak is made from high puncture resistant vinyl that is separated into 2 separate chambers to keep the user safe in the event of a leak. It also has 2 Boston style valves to make for easy inflation and deflation.
What will likely catch your eye about this model is its sharp green, blue, and black design. The cargo net that appears on the front of the kayak is used to keep all of your gear safe and secure (while in your sight at all times). The skeg is easily detached to create more room in your backpack when deflated, and the seat with a nice backrest can be removed if needed. There is also an inflatable I-beam to create a more rigid floor. As with many Intex products, it also comes with an aluminum oar that can fold into four pieces
The best feature about this model is that it is one of the least expensive packrafts available on the market, and will likely set you back the same amount of money it takes to fill your gas tank when heading out to the late for the weekend.
If you are in the market for a great packraft for one, and you want something that is durable and inexpensive, this model is a perfect addition to all of your outdoor adventures this summer.
5. AIRHEAD Travel Kayak
3 air chambers
Lots of legroom
A little more expensive
Some have found that it can become somewhat difficult to control
You are going to pay a higher price tag for the AIRHEAD Travel Kayak, but for the price, you get a lot more features and superior design than you do with some of the others out there that are set at the lower price points. It sports a sleek and smart design and is made for waters that can get a tad more choppy.Read more
This model measures in at 9 feet long and is capable of sustaining one person that weighs up to 300 pounds. If you weigh under the 300-pound mark this model is capable of comfortably carrying you, your backpack, and a cooler filled with drinks and snacks for down river.
There should be no need to worry about leaks or tears since this packraft is made from incredibly durable 840-denier nylon. However, if you do encounter a rip or a tear in your kayak in the middle of a river, there’s no need to worry about having to swim to shore.
Many of the packrafts out there are designed with 2 separate compartments in the event of a hole, and this model has 3 compartments to keep you above water no matter what you encounter out there.
Users are given a little bit more room than some of the other models and have enough room to store a backpack and other belongings. It also comes equipped with 4 bottom fins, so that you always feel you are in control (no matter how choppy the waters become). It comes with an air pump that fastens the threaded drain plug for easy inflation and deflation.
The cost of this model is quite a bit more than some of the others on this list, but it runs about mid road compared to some of the higher tier models on the market. This may run you about the same price as you might pay for an older used kayak.
If you want to buy a packraft that has a few more features than some of the other models out there and have the extra money to spend, this will be a comfortable and welcome addition to your next summertime adventure.
6. Sevylor Quikpak K1 Kayak
Oar and pump included
5 air chambers
Some users have difficult tracking straight
Some reports of faulty valves
The Sevylor Quikpak K1 is a great option for adventurers that are looking to tackle waters that are a little bit more difficult. It has many additional features that protect the kayak against punctures to make sure that you stay on top of the water at all times.Read more
This model is able to hold one adult that weighs up to 400 pounds, and it measures in at just under 9 feet long and 3 feet wide.
The materials that this packraft is made out of is where it really shines. It is made from 21-gauge PVC with a tarpaulin bottom as an extra measure to protect the vessel against rips and tears.
It has multiple air chambers in case one happens to catch a leak, the other chambers are there to keep the kayak above the water so that you aren’t ever in danger, or on the position where you will have to swim to the shoreline.
In addition to being constructed from rugged materials to keep you on top of the water, it also comes with a lot of extra features to help you enjoy the ride. The carrying case straps to your back like a backpack, and the seat cushion is actually the part that sits on your back.
The air pump that is included will help to make inflation and deflation a snap. It also comes with an oar that detaches in three pieces to make for easy hauling and storage when it is not in use.
The cost of this is just a little bit more than the Intex models, and will likely set you to pack the same amount of money you spent to fill your gas tank on the way to the lake (and then one more fill-up for the drive home). It also comes with a 90-day limited warranty, so if anything goes wrong with this product in the first 90 days, you can return it for a refund.
If you are in the market for a packraft that can transition from still lake waters to moderately choppy rivers, this is a great option that is easy to put together and offered at a reasonable price point.
7. Sea Eagle SE370
Comes with foot pump
Easy to navigate
Not as high-end as others on the list
The Sea Eagle SE370 inflatable kayak is a product that was designed with fishermen in mind; however, it is also great for those that are looking for a nice and quiet afternoon on the lake or a tame river. It is able to support more than one person and has a sharp and eye-catching exterior design.Read more
When fully inflated, this packraft is able to support up to 3 people. It measures in at 12.5 ft. long, and 2.8 ft. wide and has a capicity of up to 650 lbs. The size of this packraft is great to bring along on a family trip.
The Sea Eagle SE370 is made from extra thick 38-millimeter Polykrykar on the hull.
This product has extra rigid floor construction, inflatable spray skirts, removable inflatable front and rear seat, front and rear rope handles, and a self-bailing drain valve that is extra helpful on whitewater or ocean surf.
It also comes with an air pump that is operated by your foot to make inflating and deflating simple and easy. The double-sided oar that is included is able to mount to the side when you make it to that perfect fishing spot and need to keep your oar out of the way.
The cost of this packraft is one of the least expensive on our list. This doesn't mean it isn't on par with some of them though. Made from great heavy-duty materials and a lot of awesome fetures, the Sea Eagle SE370 holds its own amongst the others on this list.
If you are in the market for a great packraft to bring out on the lake to go fishing this summer and that is able to be easily deflated and packed away when it is time to head home, this is an excellent choice.
8. Advanced Elements PackLite Kayak
Easy to inflate
Mesh carrying bag
Does not come with a seat
Wider design forces the user to lean forward to propel forward
Advanced Elements makes a great packraft that has a sharp and sleek design that is made to be easy to control when out on the water, and you will look good doing it. It has plenty of room for storage, and it is incredibly easy to inflate to transition from the trials to the water in no time.Read more
This kayak is capable of carrying one person that weighs up to 250 pounds down the river and can hold all of your gear.
The materials used to make this packraft are constructed from eco-friendly materials and reinforced with a polyurethane shell to avoid rips and tears in the water. The valves that are used to inflate this model are military style and are both durable and easy to use.
The arrowhead design of this kayak makes it easy to navigate and maintain control even when the waters become a little choppy. The mesh carrying case that comes with this model is able to be affixed to the front and is used to store all of the gear that you require, and keeps it safe and secure and always in your eye line.
This unit also comes with a hand pump that is used to pump each of the separate chambers, as well as the vessel floor. What makes this model particularly fantastic is that it weighs in at just 6 pounds (making it great for attaching to your backpack).
The price is a little bit more expensive than a lot of the others brands on this list, but given the lightweight design and ease of use, it is worth the little bit of extra cash-.
This model is great for backpackers that want something that folds up easily and is lightweight enough that it won’t weigh you down on long treks outside this summer. It does cost a bit more, but if you have the money to spare, you will not be disappointed.
9. Advanced Elements FireFly Inflatable Kayak
Easy to inflate
Design makes it easy to control
Slightly more expensive than most
Doesn’t have a seat
Advanced Elements is gracing this list again with their fantastic FireFly model. This model not only makes you look like a yellow bullet cruising down the river, but it is also a cinch to inflate and is made from strong and sturdy materials. The only reason it is ranked below the PackLite it is significantly heavier.Read more
The FireFly can comfortably hold one passenger that weighs up to approximately 250 pounds, or a lighter passenger with the addition of their trusty canine companion or their gear (as long as the total do not exceed 250 pounds). When inflated, it is 7 feet 10 inches long and 35 inches wide.
The exterior of this is comprised of incredibly strong 600 D polyester cover that is tough and resistant to rips and tears. The Twistlok valves make filling this unit with air quick and easy.
A skeg tracking fin that sits on the bottom of this model makes it easier to control while in quickly moving waters. The bow and the stern on the kayak are tight and rigid that helps water from splashing up by cutting through it, and helps the user maintain control at all times. Extra leg room makes it perfect for the longer leg, as well as providing extra storage space for coolers, backpacks, and hiking gear.
Just like the PackLite, this model will set you back a more money than the Intex models. However, it is far from being the most expensive packraft out there on the market.
If you are looking for a tough packraft that will transport you from point A to point B in style, this is an excellent choice that if offered at a slightly higher price tag than some of the others here. Keep in mind, however, that it’s not as lightweight as the PackLite (weighing in at approximately 16 pounds) it will weigh you down just a little bit on the trails.
10. Outdoor Tuff Inflatable Kayak
Inflates in minutes
Some users have reported leaky valves
Some find that it is a little too small
This is a great choice if you are looking for a packraft that doesn’t cost as much as the higher end models, and sports a sleek design that is both easy to control and easy to set up.Read more
This model is capable of comfortably transporting one passenger (with or without a canine companion) that weighs up to approximately 275 pounds. When it is fully inflated, it measures in at 9 feet 1 inch long, and 30 inches wide.
The exterior of this raft is made out of tough materials that are rip and tear-resistant when confronted with malicious sharp objects that are hiding just under the surface just waiting to ruin your weekend. The has 3 separate PVC chambers that will keep you safe no matter what the river has in store for you.
The purchase of this kayak comes with an 87 in rotatable and high-quality oar. It also comes with a pump that can take this packraft from the carrying case that it comes into the water in a matter of minutes. Included with purchase is also a seat that is able to be removed if you need to make more room for your dogs or extra gear that you need to bring along with you.
The cost of that product is more on the affordable side of things, however, it does cost a little bit more than the Intex models. In addition to a great price point, Outdoor Tuff also provides a 1-year warranty in case anything goes wrong with your purchase or it doesn’t work out for you for any reason.
If you are in the market for a sleek and competent packraft that is easy to set up and will keep you safe if the water becomes a little bit choppy, this is an excellent option that will leave you a little extra money to spend on road trip snacks.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
There seems to be no consensus on how heavy a packraft should be. Some weigh just mere ounces, while some can climb closer to 50 pounds. We tried to keep them as light as possible. Some weigh in at mere ounces, while others are closers to 40 pounds.
Unless you intend on taking this raft on a spin around the public pool, you will want to find a packraft that is made from strong materials, but you also want to remain light enough that it won’t break your back when you are making your hike to the water. A canvas that is coated with polyurethane or PVC is probably one of the toughest materials out there, but it has a tendency to become a little bit heavy. Puncture resistant nylon is an incredibly strong and durable material (it’s the next best thing to canvas), and it a little bit more lightweight so it won’t weigh you down as much. These are the types of material we were drawn to when selecting the best products for this list.
Some of these products come with everything you would need before hitting the water, and we liked that. The number one question everyone always seems to ask when curious about how inflatable kayaks work is, “How do I blow it up?” Almost every single product making this list comes with a hand or foot pump of some sort, so you can rest assured that you will not be out of breath before even getting into the water. Many of these pumps are big enough that they are capable of blowing up the entire raft in a matter of minutes. Another feature that we like is when it comes with oars or carrying cases.
The price of these products seems to run all over the map. There are some really great and affordable options that will cost you about the same amount of money that it takes to fill up your gas tank. On the flip side, there are some surprisingly expensive packrafts that rival the cost of an actual kayak. While we were curious as to what made those packrafts so expensive, we ultimately decided that their higher price points weren’t necessarily justified, and the more affordable options served basically the same purpose.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Many people underestimate the skill involved with rafting. You need to practice often and be in control of your stokes. Know the waters that you will be facing and be sure that you have the experience to handle them.
It is a great idea to let someone know your plans before heading out. Tell a friend or family member your route and when you plan to be home. Hiking and rafting can be dangerous and it's always good to have someone looking out for you.
Other Factors to Consider
Safety is the number one thing that we always look out for when selecting the best outdoor gear, because while we want you to have a great time out there, more importantly, we want you to stay safe. One of the best features we found when selecting items for this list is if it has separate air compartments. You may have noticed that many of the products on this list have something called air chambers, some have 2, and others have up to 5 or 6.
Air chambers basically divide the raft into multiple parts, so if one section of the raft manages to get a hole in it, only that section of the raft will lose air, while the other sections will remain unaffected. This will give you enough time to find your way to shore and fix the problem. A lot of these units comes equipped with repair kits, so you will have all of the tools that you need to find and patch the leak, fill it back up with air and get back out there on the water.
The most important thing is that you stay safe. If you find yourself unsure about the speed of the current and the capabilities of your packraft, it is always better to err on the side of caution. In fact, before you take your raft out on a river, it might be best to test it out on still waters so that you can determine how easy or difficult it is to maneuver and control so that you know what to expect when the waters begin to pick up speed.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to these types of products is that the more features it has, the heavier it is going to be. Some packrafts weigh mere ounces, and you will most likely even forget you even packedit into your backpack. The downside to the lighter rafts is that they don’t have a lot of the features, such as storage, skegs, and fishing mounts, as some of the heavier options.
Take into consideration just how important weight is to you. If you intend on throwing a packraft into your external frame backpack to be used when needed, you certainly want to keep an eye on how much it weighs. If you are buying one to keep in the trunk of your car, so you can take it out on the lake whenever you manage to get some free time, weight won’t be so much of an issue.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is a packraft?
A packraft is exactly as it sounds, it is a raft that resembles a kayak (most times) that is able to be packed away in a backpack or carrying case and inflated once you get to the desired body of water. As packrafts gain popularity, many of the manufacturers are making them more rugged and tough to take on more and more challenging waters. Many use a hand pump to be able to inflate, so you can easily transition from the trails to the water. Some packrafts are so light that you can throw them into your backpack and completely forget about it even being there.
q: Who uses packrafts?
Packrafts are used by long-distance hikers that want to change things up by taking their raft out of their backpack and spend some time sailing down the river or relaxing on a lake. They can also be used by folks that don’t want to spend the extra money on a full kayak and don’t have the right car or tools to bring a cumbersome kayak to water. Inflatable kayaks can easily fit in the trunk of your car and then inflated right on the scene in a matter of minutes.
q: Are they easy to inflate?
If you don’t have an air pump, you’ll probably be too winded once it is inflated. Luckily, almost all of the packrafts out there come standard with either a hand pump or a foot pump and are able to be fully inflated in a matter of minutes. When you inflate it, you don’t want it to be overly full, but you don’t want it to be underinflated either. The perfect way to tell if it has enough air is to press on it, and if it feels like a ripe avocado then it should be ready for the water.
q: Can I bring my gear with me on a packraft?
As long as you aren’t afraid of your gear getting a little wet (you can always cover it with a tarp or a plastic bag), many of the packrafts out there come with mesh storage options. Additionally, you can always place your gear on the floor as long as the total weight doesn’t weigh more than approximately 250 pounds (many rafts are capable of carrying more).
q: What type of waters are packrafts designed for?
Generally, you don’t want to take on waters that are too crazy challenging, because your vessel just won’t have the same weight as a traditional kayak. These products are used primarily for sailing on still waters, or rivers that are moderately choppy and have small white caps.
q: What should I wear when out on the water?
If you are a backpacker that has decided to take a hiking break by traveling down the river, you probably want to make sure that you are wearing lightweight and water-resistant clothing. Pants that are quick drying and lightweight will prevent you from finishing out your day’s hike with uncomfortable and wet pants. If you are bringing your gear along with you, be sure that it is in water-resistant materials, and that it is covered with plastic (just to err on the side of caution). There is always the possibility of tipping over. Accidents do happen, so before you even set foot in your vessel, be prepared to fall out at least once. You may not, but it is always better to be prepared.
q: Can I bring my dog along with me?
You might be apprehensive to bring your dog along with you because you might be afraid that their nails could puncture the fabric, but you would be mistaken. Many packraft users love bringing their dogs along. The materials these packrafts are made from are designed to be tough to avoid rips and tears, so your dog should be just fine. Your cat, on the other hand, may be a bit of a problem. However, we are pretty confident in assuming that your cat doesn’t want to go kayaking with you anyway, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
q: Can packrafts be used in saltwater?
Yes, most canvas and nylon inflatable kayaks can be used both in fresh water and salt water without running into any additional problems.
q: What happens if I get a hole in my packraft?
Sometimes you will run into instances where you will get a hole in your kayak, but there is no need to panic. Many of the packrafts available on the market are inflated by the use of multiple chambers that are designed to keep you safe. If one of the chambers begins to lose air, the other chambers will stay inflated, so that you can make it to shore to repair the hole and get back out there.
Additionally, a lot of these products come with a repair kit. Repair kits typically come with a type of tape that is waterproof, so that you can patch the hole without waiting for the kayak to dry. If you don’t know where the leak is coming from, a neat little trick is to keep a small spray bottle with a little bit of dish soap in your repair kit. Simply spray the soapy water over the area you suspect the air is escaping, press down on the kayak slightly, and keep a lookout for bubbles. Wherever you see bubbles is the point where the air is escaping.
- A Beginner's Guide to Packrafting, Outdoor Blog ,
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