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August 08, 2022 14 min read

Packrafts

Red and Yellow Packrafts

Packrafts are one of the best boating options for people who enjoy paddling in the most remote destinations and waterways. These rafts can fit at the bottom of your backpack and can be used to tie together trips where water and hiking are involved. Or, you can tackle some whitewater runs and get your adrenaline pumping. 

In this article, we have put together a list of 8 of the best packrafts that’ll transform your outdoor journeys without adding a ton of weight to your already full backpack. 

What Is Packrafting? 

Packrafting is a watersport that requires an inflatable boat designed for only a single paddler. Packrafts are incredibly tough and durable, but as they’re inflatables, they’re also compact and lightweight. In fact, packrafts are so compact that can fit in a backpack, hence the pack in their name.

Your packraft, paddle, pump, and PFD can weigh as little as 10 to 15 pounds, making it an excellent option for paddlers who like to explore extremely remote waterways. Many people even use packrafts to loop up a linear trail. For example, they will hike for several hours (or days!) and then paddle their way back down a river to their original starting point. 

Packrafts, in some ways, look fairly similar to inflatable kayaks, but their sides are thicker, and they’re typically shorter in length.

What to Consider When Choosing a Packraft

Man Packrafting on a lake

Before making any purchase, there are things you need to consider. You can’t just buy the first packraft you see after all. 

Three main things you need to think about are the packrafts durability, its maneuverability, and how lightweight and compact it is. 

Durable

Even on the calmest of waters, rafts are going to come into contact with debris that could potentially cause them some damage. As you’re more than likely going to be carrying your packraft to remote locations, you don’t want it to be of poor quality. 

If the material that your packraft is made from isn’t strong, then you could risk getting a puncture and cutting your trip short. When purchasing a packraft, you need to pay close attention to its denier. As a rule, the higher the denier, the more durable the raft will be. 

Lightweight

As you’re going to be hiking with your packraft on your back, you want it to be as lightweight as possible. Some recreational packrafts weigh as little as 4 lbs, but whitewater rafts can be a tad bit heavier.

You should also remember that packrafting requires other gear like your paddle and pump, so factor that weight in when making your decision. 

Maneuverable 

The shape of the packraft will play a huge role in how it maneuvers through the water. Wider rafts create more stability, but they have greater water resistance. And then longer packrafts are able to maintain straight lines through the water, but they’re more difficult to maneuver. 

If you’re looking to purchase a packraft, you want to find that sweet spot somewhere in the middle. Not too long, but also not too wide. 

GILI’s Top Picks: By Budget

Best Budget
Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak, Red
Advanced Elements Packlite

The Advanced Elements is not only the cheapest packraft on our list, but it is also the lightest. It weighs in at just 4 lbs making it an excellent option for those who want to travel to remote waterways.

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Best Mid-Range
NRS Packraft, Green
NRS Packraft

NRS’ Packraft has dual air chambers, small air valves so you can top up or adjust the air pressure in your raft, and tie-down points to secure all of your belongings in place. The raft may look simple, but sometimes simple is all you need.

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Best Premium
Kokopelli Twain
Kokopelli Twain Packraft

With the Twain Packraft, you have the ability to paddle with two paddlers or your furry friend. It holds up to 600 lbs, can come with a TiZipper so you can store your gear in the chambers, and has supportive backbands to improve the raft's comfort over long journeys.

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8 Incredible Packrafts

Advanced Elements Packlite

Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak, Red

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

7’10” x 35”

4 lbs

250 lbs

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Advanced Elements constructed their Packlite packraft from lightweight PVC-free reinforced materials. These materials make the boat easy to compact into a small mesh carry bag, and they make it extremely durable to tackle a range of water conditions. 

To give their raft a good level of stability, Advanced Elements decided on a 35” width and a 7’10” length. The entire raft is made up of three air chambers fitted with twistlok valves to give you reassurance when out on the water. 

If you are unfamiliar with why an inflatable raft may have two or three air chambers, then let us explain. If one of the air chambers happens to puncture during your paddle, you will still have two fully inflated chambers to get you back to shore. If the boat was made up of only one chamber, and it punctured, then all the air would exit the inflatable, and you would end up in the water. 

Although inflatable packrafts are soft, squishy, and comfortable, Advanced Elements also added an additional built-in inflatable seat which really makes a difference when paddling over long distances. And finally, the last notable feature of the Packlite is its front mesh storage area, which actually doubles up as the raft’s mesh carry bag. 

Package

We already mentioned that the front mesh storage area doubles up as the packrafts carry bag, but the Packlite also comes with an owner's manual and a repair kit.

Unfortunately, it doesn't include a pump or a paddle, so you’ll need to purchase those separately.

Specifications and Features

  • Made from lightweight PVC-free reinforced materials
  • When compacted down, the raft measures 11″ x 11″
  • Three air chambers with twistlok valves
  • Built-in inflatable seat
  • Front mesh storage area that doubles up as a carry bag

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Packlite is very lightweight and compact.
  • Its bright red color makes it easily noticeable in case of emergencies.
  • If one of your air chambers pops, you still have two left to get you back to shore.
  • The front mesh storage bag has a dual purpose as the packrafts carry bag when it isn’t in use. 
  • The package doesn’t include a paddle or a pump. 
  • It’s only suitable for paddlers under 6’2″.

Alpacka Raft Expedition

Alpacka Raft Expedition, Blue and yellow

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

S - 7’5” x 36”

M - 7’8” x 36”

L - 8’ x 36”

S - 7.9 lbs

M - 8.1 lbs

L - 8.2 lbs

350 lbs

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The Alpacka Raft Expedition comes in two variations: a whitewater deck and a removable whitewater deck. The latter is slightly more expensive, but it does give you the option to remove the whitewater spray deck if needs be. 

When you purchase the Expedition, you also have the option of a small, medium, or large length, which goes off the paddler’s sitting length. The width and weight capacity remain the same for all three rafts, but at least taller paddlers can find an option that suits them a little better.

Alpacka Raft made the Expedition from 210 denier high count nylon, and they also added an 840 denier ballistic nylon floor to improve to raft's stability and durability. The Expedition features Alpacka Raft’s classic seating, its patented 4-point thigh straps, a whitewater foot brace, and numerous D-rings for additional gear.

As we mentioned before, you have the choice to purchase the Expedition with their standard whitewater deck or their removable whitewater spray decks. The standard deck is Alpacka Raft’s driest and warmest configuration making it an excellent choice for class III whitewater paddlers or paddlers exploring waters in cold climates. 

The Expedition’s standard deck features a one-piece pex coaming, a large, almost kayak-style cockpit, and a fitted spray skirt with shoulder straps. The removable option, on the other hand, has a zipper running its perimeter so you can convert the packraft to an open boat for relaxing on warmer days.

Alpacka Raft also included a unique feature on the Expedition raft, and that is a Cargo Fly internal storage system. This system has an airtight zipper installed at the back of the raft so you can store all your gear inside the raft’s tubes. As I’m sure you can imagine, storage space is limited on a packraft, so this feature comes in particularly handy. 

Package

The Expedition raft comes with its own inflation bag, a stuff sack, and a basic repair kit. You will need to purchase your paddle separately. 

Specifications and Features

  • Made from 210 deniers high count nylon with an 840 denier ballistic nylon flooring
  • When compacted down, the raft measures 17” x 7 - 8”
  • Whitewater spray skirt
  • Three sizes to choose from
  • 4-point thigh straps
  • Whitewater foot brace
  • Cargo Fly internal storage system

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • You have the choice of three different sizes when purchasing the Expedition.
  • The whitewater spray skirt protects you from water and cold temperatures.
  • You can attach additional accessories to the D-rings throughout the boat.
  • The Expedition has a Cargo Fly storage system to keep your belongings safe and dry.
  • It comes with an inflation bag in replace of a bulky pump.
  • The Expedition is incredibly pricey.

Alpacka Raft Gnarwhal

Alpacka Raft Gnarwhal, Violet and Black

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

M - 7’8” x 38”

L - 8’ x 38”

XL - 8’3” x 38”

M - 7.9 lbs

L - 8.1 lbs

XL - 8.4 lbs

450 lbs

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The second of three Alpacka Rafts to make this list is the Gnarwhal. Similar to the Expedition packraft, the Gnarwhal also comes in three sizes. However, these sizes are slightly longer and can accommodate taller paddlers.

Along with the Gnarwhal’s additional length, it can also hold 100 lbs extra, giving it a total weight capacity of 450 lbs. Alpacka Raft designed the Gnarwhal out of 210 deniers high count nylon and again gave it an 840 denier ballistic nylon floor to improve its stability and durability. For an additional cost, you can also opt for a 420D nylon hull to improve the boat's quality even further.

Although the standard Gnarwhal comes with a self-bailer deck, it is also available in a whitewater version which includes spray skirts just like the Expedition. Throughout the boat, you’ll find grab loops, D-rings, and strap plates, as well as Alpacka Raft’s convenient Cargo Fly gear storage system to protect your backpacking gear or personal belongings from getting wet.

Package

Included with the Gnarwhal package is an inflation bag, a stuff sack, and a basic repair kit.

Specifications and Features

  • Made from 210 deniers high count nylon with an 840 denier ballistic nylon flooring
  • When compacted down, the raft measures 20” x 7.5 - 8.5”
  • Optional whitewater spray skirt
  • Three sizes to choose from
  • D-rings and grab loops
  • Cargo Fly internal storage system

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Gnarwhal can hold up to 450 lbs which is great for larger paddlers.
  • You can store gear in the Cargo Fly tubing. 
  • The boat's D-rings allow you to attach additional items.
  • You receive an inflation bag which is lightweight and acts as a pump. 
  • The Gnarwhal isn’t the lightest packraft on the market.

Alpacka Raft Forager

Alpacka Raft Forager, Artic Blue

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

10’3” x 43”

13.4 lbs

1000 lbs

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The last Alpacka Raft is the Forager, which is a considerable amount longer than most other rafts on this list. It is even big enough to hold two paddlers or a large amount of gear. In total, the Forager can hold up to 1000 lbs worth of weight, and thanks to its self-bailing open deck, it is the perfect raft for activities such as mountain lake fishing or general recreational paddling. 

Much like the other Alpacka Rafts, the Forager also has a Cargo Fly system to keep your gear dry in the tubes of your boat. When creating the Forager, Alpacka Raft wanted it to be as durable as they could make it, so they constructed it from 420 denier nylon and added an 840 denier ballistic nylon floor. 

The inside of the boat features D-ring grab loops, D-rings for cargo, and a bow handle to make transporting the raft easier once inflated.

Package

The Forager also includes Alpacka Raft’s standard package of an inflation bag, a stuff sack, and a repair kit. You would then need to buy your paddles and the additional passenger seat separately.

Specifications and Features

  • Made from 420 deniers high count nylon with an 840 denier ballistic nylon flooring
  • When compacted down, the raft measures 20” x 10”
  • Ability to hold an additional passenger
  • D-rings and a carry handle
  • Cargo Fly internal storage system

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • You won’t need to worry about how much weight you’re carrying as the Forager can hold up 1000 lbs. 
  • It is a suitable whitewater packraft and a recreational packraft.
  • Taller or larger paddlers can paddle solo and not feel claustrophobic or uncomfortable.
  • It is made from a durable fabric, meaning you won’t have to worry too much about damage when out on the water. 
  • It is expensive.
  • It weighs 13.4 lbs which aren’t the lightest packraft on our list.

NRS Packraft

NRS Packraft, Green

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

6’10” x 36”

7.4 lbs

300 lbs

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NRS designed their packraft model from polyurethane-coated nylon, and they also decided on two air chambers to keep you afloat even in the event of a puncture. Both chambers have large inflation valves and a smaller twist valve to help you top up or adjust the pressure once the raft is inflated. 

At the front and rear of the raft, you can find webbing tie-down points that allow you to secure down any additional gear with some loosely packed rope, and for extra comfort on long journeys, they added an inflatable cushion. 

Packrafts like the NRS model are simple and ideal for flat water paddling over your favorite calm lakes and rivers.

Package

NRS included a storage bag and a repair kit with their packraft. 

Specifications and Features

  • Made from polyurethane-coated nylon
  • When compacted down, the raft measures 18” x 15”
  • Two air chambers with small and large twist inflation valves
  • Webbing tie-downs
  • Inflatable cushion

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • It’s on the cheaper end of the packraft price scale. 
  • Dual air chambers mean that if one punctures, you’ll still have a second to get you back to land. 
  • Smaller air valves in the chambers allow you to top up or adjust the air pressure inside. 
  • Numerous webbing tie-down points give you the option to secure down your belongings and any other gear. 
  • It may be too small a boat for larger paddlers.

Kokopelli Nirvana Self Bailing X Packraft

Nirvana Self Bailing X, Black

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

7’5” x 37”

14.3 lbs

300 lbs

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The Nirvana Self Bailing X Packraft by Kokopelli was designed to be able to tackle whitewater classes I - IV. Once deflated, the raft can pack down to the size of a sleeping bag so you can transport it to remote runs, on backcountry fishing trips, or on hiking trips. 

Kokopelli created the Nirvana Self Bailing X Raft from TPU and DuPont Kevlar Aramid-Nylon Blend Fiber to give it a high blend of durability and stability while tackling choppy and fast-moving waters.

One thing we particularly love about this packraft is the seat's comfortable backband. Many rafts of this type only come with an inflatable cushion, so if you plan on paddling over long distances and appreciate some back support, then the Nirvana could be a good option for you.

Along with the EVA backband, the raft also has numerous D-rings, so you can attach additional gear, and at checkout, you have the option of adding a TiZip Zipper. This zipper section means you can store all your personal belongings in the chamber section of the raft. 

Package

Included with the Nirvana Self Bailing X raft is an inflation bag, an inflation tube, a compression strap set, an EVA backband, a repair kit, and the raft’s inflatable floor.

Specifications and Features

  • Made from TPU and DuPont Kevlar Aramid-Nylon Blend Fiber
  • When compacted down, the raft measures 14” x 10”
  • Two air chambers with the option to add a TiZip Zipper
  • EVA backband
  • Inflation bag and tube

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Nirvana raft is one of the more compact rafts on this list. 
  • It can tackle a range of whitewater classes. 
  • The EVA backband adds an extra layer of support for paddlers during long-distance paddles. 
  • You have the option to add a TiZip Zipper for additional storage. 
  • Although once it is packed down the Nirvana is extremely compact, the boat actually weighs 14.3 lbs making it one of the heavier rafts on our list.

Kokopelli Rogue-Lite X Packraft

Kokopelli Rogue Lite X, Black

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

7’ x 37”

10.4 lbs

300 lbs

Check Price

For a cheaper, shorter, and slightly lighter option then look no further than the Rogue-Lite X by Kokopelli. If you take a quick glance, the Rogue-Lite X and the Nirvana X actually look fairly similar, but there are some really big differences. Unlike the Nirvana X, the Rogue-Lite X is better suited to flatter waters or class I rapids.

The Rogue-Lite X has one air chamber with the option to add a TiZip Zipperif you’d like some additional storage. Along with this, the Rogue-Lite X also features a diamond rip-stop nylon inflatable seat, an auto pressure relief valve, and four D-rings to attach webbing to keep your gear in place. 

If you before thought that the Nirvana X packed down was compact, then the Rogue Lite blows it out of the park. Once the Rogue-Lite X is packed and compressed, it only takes up 12” x 8” worth of space in your backpack making it one of the best options for paddlers intending to hike vast distances prior to paddling.

Package

Included with the Rogue-Lite X is an inflation bag, an inflation tube, a compression strap set, an inflatable seat, and an emergency repair kit.

Specifications and Features

  • Made from TPU and DuPont Kevlar Aramid-Nylon Blend Fiber
  • When compacted down, the raft measures 12” x 8”
  • Single air chamber with the option to add a TiZip Zipper
  • Inflatable seat
  • Front D-ring attachments
  • Inflation bag and tube

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Rogue-Lite X is one of the most compact packrafts on our list, making it a great option if you have limited space. 
  • You can add an additional TiZip Zipper if you require extra storage. 
  • The front D-rings allow you to attach webbing to secure gear in place.
  • The auto pressure relief valve keeps the PSI inside the raft perfect at all times.
  • The black material could get extremely hot in warmer climates.

Kokopelli Twain Packraft

Kokopelli Twain

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

10’1” x 37”

11.2 lbs

600 lbs

Check Price

The final packraft is the Kokopelli Twain Packraft that is actually designed for two paddlers or one paddler with a pup companion or excess gear. 

Just like Kokopelli’s other rafts, the Twain is made from DuPont Kevlar Aramid-Nylon Blend Fiber and it has a reinforced floor system for extra stability on the water. Kokopelli designed the raft with two separate chambers that you can inflate through Leafield D7 valves.

What makes this raft unique is the fact is has a removable tracking fin on its underside to help it perform well in lakes and rivers. You can even attach an e-motor to the fin box and let it do all the paddling work for you. 

Surprisingly though, the Twain is still fairly compact as once it is deflated and rolled down it will only take up 16” x 10” in your backpack or gear closet. Both seats in the Twain raft are removable and adjustable and you also have the option to add a TiZip Zipper for storage in the chambers.

Package

With the Twain packraft you’ll receive an inflation bag and an inflation tube, two sets of compression straps, two EVA backbands, two inflatable seats, and an emergency repair kit.

Specifications and Features

  • Made from TPU and DuPont Kevlar Aramid-Nylon Blend Fiber
  • When compacted down, the raft measures 16” x 10”
  • Two air chambers with the option to add a TiZip Zipper
  • Two Inflatable seats with EVA backbands
  • Inflation bag and tube

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Twain can hold up to 600 lbs worth of body and gear weight. 
  • Even though it is designed for two people it is still fairly lightweight and compact.
  • Its bright yellow color makes it easy to see in the event of an emergency. 
  • You have the choice to add a TiZip Zipper so you can store your gear in the chambers.
  • It doesn’t come with its own bag to protect it during transit. 

FAQ’S

🏆 Are packrafts any good?

Packrafts are a fantastic option for those who want to paddle on waterways in remote locations. You see, packrafts are extremely lightweight, with some weighing as little as 4 lbs.  So, as I’m sure you can imagine, they’re fairly easy to carry and are small enough to fit in the bottom of your backpack. 

A slight problem with some packrafts is their lack of storage space, but if you’re a minimalist when it comes to hiking or camping gear, then this won’t be too much of an issue.


👍 Can you packraft on a lake?

You can Packraft in whitewater, on mountain lakes, down vast stretches of river, and in the open ocean if you really want to. Packrafts are extremely versatile, and because of their lightweight properties, they’re able to be transported to even the most remote locations.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant

Based in Bali, her favorite SUP spot is the GILI Islands themselves. Travel is another passion of hers - she dreams to see the entire world one day.


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