The 8 Best Packrafts for Water Adventures in 2022

Photo: Advanced Elements PackLite Kayak

Water sports have evolved considerably over the past couple of decades. With the preponderance of stand-up paddleboarding and electric surfboarding, we seem to be living in a new renaissance of sorts for these types of activities. Packrafting is among the most popular and practical no matter what era you’re in. A packraft is essentially an inflatable raft that can fit inside of your backpack when you’re hiking or traveling. Great for spontaneity, function, and fun, they can give you the option of converting your outdoor exploration to a full-on aqueous adventure, but can also be helpful when wanting to go for a quick row after a long work week.

If you’ve been thinking about making the jump to inflatable boating, take a look at our guide on the best packrafts available. While the list of quality companies is surprisingly short, there are still a lot of individual options to choose from. Like bicycles, each packraft is designed for different capabilities, so read through our selection carefully to figure out which ones are right for your own needs.

The Benefits Of Packrafting

Inflatable Wonders

For the uninitiated, packrafts may seem like a niche activity tailored to extreme sports lovers and the most adventurous outdoorsmen. However, these inflatable boats provide just as much utility as they do fun. Here are the main advantages to taking along a packraft on your next outdoor adventure.

Size Traditional kayaking and canoeing are a lot of fun, but if you’re planning on beginning and ending your adventure close to where your car is parked, you’ll be pretty limited on your starting and stopping points with those cumbersome options. That is, unless you’re willing to lug a giant boat through the wilderness. Often as light as a gallon of milk, a packraft can be carried easily in your backpack or duffel so you’re no longer limited on where your journey can take you. Likewise, even if you’re not planning on going for a ride, you can bring one of these inflatable boats with you in the off chance that opportunity strikes.

Adventure Accessibility There are certain locations on this here Earth that are simply inaccessible by foot. If you’ve ever reached a dead end during your hikes and wished to see what else there was to explore, a packraft would be an excellent way to keep the journey going. You just inflate the boat, stow your gear, and paddle to destinations you’d never dreamed you’d make it to.

Versatility Hiking, especially for days on end, can be tiring and grueling. A packable raft is an excellent way to take a load off your feet while still being able to explore the wilderness and get a workout at the same time. If your feet need a break and you don’t want your excursion to end, just take to the nearest lake or river and explore the great outdoors in an entirely new and different way altogether.

The Electric Pump

Blow It Up

GIGA Pump 2.0

While most packrafts come equipped with an inflation bag, a hose, and/or a standard manual pump, many of us will want to conserve our energy on our rigorous outings by opting for a battery-powered pump. Equipped with a 1,300mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the GIGA Pump 2.0 is just the device you need for inflating your packraft. Weighing just 2.8oz, this little machine takes up minimal room in your pack and can also deflate your raft to save some time and energy once you’re done.

Purchase: $46

The Best Packrafts

Float On

Klymit Litewater Dinghy

While several brands have quality packrafts for beginners, the Klymit Litewater Dinghy is designed with maneuverability in mind. Built with an inflatable seat and an ergonomic build, this raft sports an arrow shape that lets you cruise along at your own pace. It’s easy to inflate and at just 44oz is relatively unnoticeable in your backpack. Abrasion-resistant with a 210D polyester build, the Litewater Dingy has six tie-off zones for strapping on extra gear or having tie-up options on shore.

Purchase: $200

Advanced Elements PackLite Kayak

If you’re an experienced rider looking for a good budget pick for rafting in remote inland waters, check out Advanced Elements’ PackLite Kayak, an 8-foot boat that weighs just 4lbs for hassle-free transporting. Built with three air chambers for better peace of mind out on the water, this raft is equipped with military-style valves for inflation, a repair kit, and a selection of D-rings for tying down gear. The reinforced polyurethane construction is eco-friendly and durable. Additionally, it can fit into the included mesh carry bag which doubles as an onboard gear bag.

Purchase: $380

Sea Eagle PackFish7

While most of these picks can be used on any fishing trip, none of them are built to be a fishing boat like Sea Eagle’s PackFish7. Able to be set up in just 5 minutes, the brand’s updated single-rider packraft allows you to hike to your remote, fish-filled locale to give yourself your best chances at having a plentiful outing. The raft comes with an array of pockets for tackle gear as well as two rod holders on board. Likewise, the PackFish7 also features a wooden floorboard for those rodmen who like to stand up now and again.

Purchase: $469

Kokopelli XPD

Kokopelli has a wide range of packrafts with different capabilities, and yet the XPD is easily its most versatile. With a built-in inflatable seat, the boat was updated last year with a 9” removable fin for better tracking but can be swapped out for a motor as well. This lightweight yet rugged raft is built from 1,000D reinforced PVC and sports a commercial-grade Leafield D7 valve that helps you fill it up in under 3 minutes. It weighs just 14lbs and has six nylon D-rings for strapping on your gear. While this single-person boat is ideal for class 1 flatwater, it has the durability and stability to let experienced riders push it a little further.

Purchase: $799

Alpacka Classic

Although packrafting was around well before the company’s launch in 2000, Alpacka ignited the craze that continues today, establishing the benchmark with its first model, upon which the Classic is built. Another brand that loves to segment its boats by their capabilities, Alpacka favors simplicity and versatility with its flagship boat, which comes in three sizes and four colorways, and is built with a proprietary 210D nylon material for the walls and 840D ballistic nylon for the floor. The seat is easy to set up with an inflatable back and ample configurations are available to ensure that you don’t have to leave your favorite boat at home if you anticipate a bigger outing than normal.

Purchase: $990

Kokopelli Recon

Kokopelli’s flagship Recon packraft is the next level up from the XPD. Made from the same 1,000D reinforced PVC, the boat is made for longer multi-day trips, including solo whitewater rafting, and features a self-bailing design if water happens to get inside thanks to the inflatable floor and draining holes. Weighing just under 16lbs and stretching 7.5ft when inflated, the Recon has two chambers for extra safety, a Leafield D7 valve, and an included repair kit for unexpected emergencies.

Purchase: $999

Kokopelli Nirvana X

The Nirvana is Kokopelli’s most capable packraft. The Colorado-based company’s X-Series boasts a Kevlar system that’s been hugely popular over the years, and here it’s been applied to the top-of-the-line model. Prepped for rivers Class I through IV, the Nirvana X weighs just 14.3lbs and is fully outfitted in DuPont Kevlar on the sidewalls and floor so you can do anything from fishing to whitewater rafting to canyoneering with complete peace of mind. Like the Recon, this packraft has a self-bailing design for better safety, especially when venturing out alone.

Purchase: $1,499

Alpacka Oryx

Optimal for traveling through lakes and calmer rivers, the Oryx from Alpacka is well-known for its similarities to a canoe. Where a majority of packrafts are single-seaters, the Oryx is capable of holding two people, with a pair of comfortable ergonomic seats to make paddling all the more seamless: a mushroom seat for the rear and a touring seat for the front. Although this boat is a good deal thinner than other models, it’s also nearly 11ft in length. Weighing less than 11lbs, the raft is more than able to traverse waters up to Class II or more if you and your partner are experienced paddlers.

Purchase: $1,950

The 10 Best Men’s Hiking Shoes for Outdoor Exploration

If you need to trek for a bit before getting to your packrafting spot, then head over to our guide on the best hiking shoes you can buy.