© Adam Ciuk
Packrafts are compact and inflatable rafts that you can carry in a backpack. You can explore backcountry waterways that would be impossible to bring a kayak or canoe to and your backpacking trips are no longer limited to crossing the land.
There’s a wide spectrum of different packraft designs made for everything from glassy lakes to Class V rapids. The best raft for you will depend on the body of water you’re planning to travel and how much weight you’re willing to add to your pack.
We tested the best packrafts on the market today. Read on to see which model is best for you and get some buying advice.
Bonus: We also take you through the anatomy of a packraft, what gear you need to complete your kit, and some FAQs.
Table of Contents
The best packrafts are:
- Best Overall Packraft: ALPACKA SCOUT
- Best Ultralight Packraft: SUPAI ADVENTURE GEAR MATKAT FLATWATER BOAT
- Best Packraft for Whitewater: MRS MICRORAFT PONTO
- Best Budget Packraft: KLYMIT LITEWATER DINGHY
- Best Bikepacking Packraft: ALPACKA CARIBOU
|1. Alpacka Scout
|3 lbs 13 oz
|12 x 6.3 in
|210d Nylon Tube Fabric and 420d Floor
|2. Supai Adventure Gear Matkat Flatwater Boat
|1 lbs 13 oz
|"About the size of a water bottle"
|75 Denier Polyester Ripstop
|3. Klymit Litewater Dinghy
|2 lbs 13 oz
|9.5 x 5.75 x 5.75 in
|4. Alpacka Caribou
|4 lbs 13 oz
|17 x 6 in
|210-Denier High Count Nylon Hull and 840-Denier Ballistic Nylon Floor
|5. Kokopelli Hornet Lite
|4 lbs 13 oz
|12 x 7 in
|Sidewall 70d TPU + Nylon, Floor 210d TPU + Nylon
|6. MRS Microraft Ponto
|6 lbs 6 oz
|15 x 8 in
|Body 210d, Floor 420d
|7. Kokopelli Rogue Lite
|5 lbs 8 oz
|12 x 8 in
|Sidewall 210d TPU + Nylon. Floor 210d TPU + Dupont Kevlar Aramid-Nylon Blend
|8. NRS Packraft
|7 lbs 6 oz
|18 x 15 x 5 in
|Urethane 70-Denier Tube Material And 210-Denier Floor
Best Overall Packraft:
Price: $695See on ALPACKARAFT
✅ Packs down small
❌ 250lb load capacity
❌ Small sitting space
- Weight: 3 lbs 13 oz
- Load Capacity: 250 lbs
- Rolled/Packed Size: 12 x 6.3 in
- Material: 210d Nylon Tube Fabric and 420d Floor
The Scout is Alpacka's most basic, stripped-down model. But don’t let this fool you, we love the Scout’s great versatility making it an ideal packraft for ultralight adventures that require water travel, like canyoneering or excursions across mountain lakes. This packraft comes complete with clips on the tube interior to prevent gear from shifting around too much.
We found the lightweight design makes it a bit of a squeeze to sit in. We wish the 250-pound capacity was a bit better, it’s the smallest capacity on our list. However, this is the closest to a do-it-all packraft we’ve tested, making it our best overall packraft.
Best Ultralight Packraft:
SUPAI ADVENTURE GEAR MATKAT FLATWATER BOAT
Price: $349.99See on GARAGEGROWNGEAR
✅ Packs up small
❌ Thin fabric
- Weight: 1 lbs 13 oz
- Load Capacity: 325 lbs
- Rolled/Packed Size: "About the size of a water bottle"
- Material: 75 Denier Polyester Ripstop
The Matkat Flatwater Boat is one of the lightest packrafts you will find. We are impressed that it weighs under two pounds. This alone makes it an obvious choice for expeditions with extended deep-water crossings. We found it handles well enough on flat water but is not intended for strong rapids or choppy water.
The 75D polyester ripstop is very thin and needs to be treated carefully to avoid punctures. To keep it light the design is minimal with few features. But this also means it packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle. This is our favorite ultralight option, especially for those not needing a rugged boat.
Best Packraft for Whitewater:
MRS MICRORAFT PONTO
Price: $750See on MRS RAFT
✅ Good on class 2 whitewater
- Weight: 6 lbs 6 oz
- Load Capacity: 300 lbs
- Rolled/Packed Size: 15 x 8 in
- Material: Body 210d, Floor 420d
For us, the MRS Ponto is a great option for those looking for comfort and space without sacrificing a straightforward design and durable build. It’s the most versatile boat on our list and can be used from calm lakes up to class 2 whitewater. Because of this and its excellent durability, the Ponto is our top pick for rough and whitewater use.
We also like the ample space for transporting gear and large items. What is unique to us is the optional zippered internal storage system. This allows you to securely store gear at the rear of the boat. Although this gear can’t be accessed when using the raft. What we don’t like is the higher cost, weight, and large rolled size. We also don’t like that the Ponto doesn’t include a spray deck.
✅ Best budget option
✅ Packs up small
❌ Low walls decrease versatility
- Weight: 2 lbs 13 oz
- Load Capacity: 300 lbs
- Rolled/Packed Size: 9.5 x 5.75 x 5.75 in
- Material: 210D Polyester
The Klymit Litewater Dinghy is an ultralight cruiser that resembles more of a dinghy than a raft. We love that it’s extremely lightweight and compacts small to stuff in your pack. With the low walls we’d be comfortable using this on calm water, but not much else. We found it doesn’t hold its shape as well as models with bigger side baffles.
The padded floor is comfortable and it includes tie-off points to secure it. It’s the least expensive model on our list making it our best budget option. We recommend the Klymit for those new to packrafting and looking to try before investing a large chunk of change into a more robust packraft.
Best Bikepacking Packraft:
Price: $875See on ALPACKARAFT
✅ High load capacity
✅ Best bikepacking packraft
- Weight: 4 lbs 13 oz
- Load Capacity: 400 lbs
- Rolled/Packed Size: 17 x 6 in
- Material: 210-Denier High Count Nylon Hull and 840-Denier Ballistic Nylon Floor
The Caribou is a full-sized ultralight packraft and one of the lightest in its class. It’s versatile enough to cross calm rivers, lakes, or small rapids. We like the airtight zippered fly at its stern for keeping gear dry. We found this to be a rugged and durable packraft made with a 210-denier nylon hull and 840-denier floor.
Like the Scout, the Caribou forgoes extras like footrests and thigh straps in favor of keeping the weight down. We’re not stoked that even with fewer features, this is still a pricey boat. What makes this boat stand out for us is the 400 lb load capacity, the highest on our list. It’s designed to allow you to secure larger items to the front of the raft making the Caribou our top pick for bikepacking adventures.
The Other Noteworthy Models
Kokopelli Hornet Lite
Price: $550See on AMAZON
✅ Great balance of features
❌ Doesn’t excel in any one category
- Weight: 4 lbs 13 oz
- Load Capacity: 300 lbs
- Rolled/Packed Size: 12 x 7 in
- Material: Sidewall 70d TPU + Nylon, Floor 210d TPU + Nylon
Kokopelli has only been around a few years and already has a loyal following in the packrafting community. We found the Hornet to be an excellent lightweight choice for a complete packraft.
This raft has a single chamber, an inflatable (and removable) seat, 2 strategically placed D-rings for gear storage, 1-inch taped seams, and plenty of space. And, it comes with a complimentary repair kit. The Hornet scores straight down the middle in all of our scoring categories making it a solid choice.
Kokopelli Rogue Lite
Price: $899See on AMAZON
✅ Quick inflation
- Weight: 5 lbs 8 oz
- Load Capacity: 300 lbs
- Rolled/Packed Size: 12 x 8 in
- Material: Sidewall 210d TPU + Nylon. Floor 210d TPU + Dupont Kevlar Aramid-Nylon Blend
The Kokopelli Rogue Lite is 7 feet long, 3 feet wide, and rated for class 1 rapids. We found the inflatable seat cushion to be comfy. And we like the durability of this boat’s double reinforced seams, and a Kevlar-reinforced floor system. The feature that caught our eye is its fast inflation. This raft only takes around 5 minutes to inflate using the included inflation bag.
The new TIZIP feature creates a waterproof, airtight zippered storage compartment for gear. We found it to be on the heavier and bulkier side compared to the other packrafts on our list. The biggest downside for us is the price. This is the most expensive packraft on our list.
Price: $595See on AMAZON
✅ Fits 2 people
- Weight: 7 lbs 6 oz
- Load Capacity: 300 lbs
- Rolled/Packed Size: 18 x 15 x 5 in
- Material: Urethane 70-Denier Tube Material And 210-Denier Floor
At nearly 7 feet long and with a 350 lb capacity, the NRS Packraft can fit 2 people along with their gear. We found the long design keeps it stable and is easier to paddle straighter than shorter packrafts. We love the thick floor and cushioned seat, which keeps it very comfortable.
It includes 4 front and 2 rear webbing loops to tie down all your gear. And, it comes with a repair kit. However, you might need that repair kit soon.
The biggest downside to this packraft is that the material is known to tear and puncture relatively easily, making it unreliable for even a modest amount of whitewater. We also don’t like the packed size, the largest on our list.
Key Factors To Consider When Choosing
Packraft price is largely driven by what the packraft is designed to handle. The most expensive models are rugged boats that can tackle whitewater, rocks, and gravel while still remaining intact. The lightest packrafts tend to be the cheapest. This is because they are made with thin, less durable material and are designed to be used in flat, calm water only.
Packrafts that provide the greatest value:
Premium packrafts (most expensive):
Packrafts will often be the heaviest item in your pack. It may be tempting to grab the lightest option, but be sure the packraft meets your needs. The lightest rafts are often made of thin, easily punctured material. Fine in flat, deeper water. In faster-moving water or shallow water where you expect bumps and scrapes, we recommend adding durability and sacrificing weight.
The Lightest Packrafts:
ROLLED SIZE (Packability)
Packrafts are designed to be practical, packable, portable, water-maneuvering devices you can take just about anywhere. We like pack rafts with a smaller rolled size for multiday trips. For shorter trips, you can get away with a larger rolled size. Packrafts roll up similar to packing a sleeping bag, with some compressing down as small as a roll of paper towels or even a water bottle.
Packrafts with the smallest rolled/packed size are:
From a safety standpoint, durability is the most important consideration for a packraft. You (and your expensive gear!) sinking due to a puncture at the very least will ruin a trip. Packrafts should be made from strong, waterproof, UV-resistant material. The best-designed packrafts use treated nylon called Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) which is a modified version of Polyurethane (PU). TPU is an incredibly durable and tear-proof material that’s lighter, stronger, and more flexible. Less expensive boats may be made from PVC or PU which punctures much easier.
The most durable packrafts:
Other Things to Consider
AVOIDING THE MANUAL WORK
Some rafts come with holes or vents to let water flow in and out of the raft floor freely. This prevents water from getting trapped inside the raft and forces you to manually bail it out yourself. Don't worry, those holes won't cause you to sink. Remember, unlike a closed-floor boat, your inflated pontoons are keeping you afloat. Prepare to constantly have a wet floor though.
KEEPING YOUR PACKRAFT AFLOAT
Yes, your pontoons are inflatable and buoyant... only up to a certain point though. You need to consider how heavy you are and how heavy your gear is. Most rafts can carry 200 lbs and some up to several hundred pounds. This is called "load capacity" or "maximum weight" or "carrying capacity". Pack light and stay above water my friend.
HOW WELL DOES IT HANDLE IN THE WATER?
You want your raft to be wide enough for stability, but narrow enough for smooth hydrodynamics and minimal water resistance. The longer a packraft is, the better it will be at maintaining a straight path through the water. However, longer rafts are more difficult to maneuver. Dinghies are notorious for drag and being dead in the water, but they are often the lightest. Longer, wider boats will float better and be more stable but will be harder to steer and heavier.
Make sure your raft can handle your expected conditions. Lightweight, cheaper packrafts often aren’t as versatile, best for lakes and smooth water only. Heavier, more expensive models are durable boats that can tackle whatever you throw at them - whitewater, rocks, and swift currents.
FROM 30 DAYS TO LIFETIME
Limited warranty, lifetime limited warranty, 30-day money-back guarantee, repair, or replacement offerings. Most packrafts come with a warranty that includes at least one of these options, so before investing that hard-earned cash of yours into a pricey packraft, be sure to give each company’s warranty policy a good read-through. Check the fine details, do some comparing between products, and once you make the purchase—keep the receipt!
Anatomy of a Packraft
The pontoon is the buoyant part of your raft. It contains the air chamber that keeps the boat afloat, and sometimes includes extra space for you to store your gear in it.
B. THIGH STRAPS
Thigh straps are a common feature in whitewater packrafts. These help keep boaters secure in the boat, significantly increase control, and can even allow skilled paddlers to roll their boats. If you’re buying a packraft with thigh straps, make sure they’re easy-release. Easy-release straps are a safety feature that allows rafters quick escape in an emergency situation.
C. SPRAY DECKS AND SKIRTS
Spray decks are the top part of the boat that covers your lower half. Spray decks and skirts are specifically designed to prevent water from actually getting inside your raft. They are usually "worn" and are made of neoprene material that attaches to the deck with a zipper or velcro.
You're on the water already... so why would you want to keep water out so much? Some rafters want to protect their gear, or, especially in colder weather, stay dry. Water can also accumulate and puddle up inside your raft as dead weight. To keep weight down, most ultralight models forgo a spray deck though.
D. INFLATION VALVE
There are two ways packrafts are inflated - inflation bags and tube valves. The amount of air needed to inflate the raft is way more than your lungs can handle. Enter the inflation bag. They make it easy to take a large amount of air and physically push it into the air chamber. To adjust it to the optimal inflation level, or "top-up", you can blow into smaller tube valves.
Packraft seats are usually inflatable, although thin foam pads are popular as well. Some seats are built into the craft, while others are separate, optional pieces.
Why seats? First off, sitting directly on the bottom of your boat can get uncomfortable. Depending on the level of cushioning of the floor, your butt might literally bump and skid across every little thing. Also, adequate seat height provides a deeper paddle and more leverage, which improves the overall quality of your stroke.
F. GEAR STORAGE AND ATTACHMENTS
If you're only paddling around mountain lakes, storage is a minor issue. Most open boat designs allow your gear to ride right in front of or behind you. Otherwise, there will be attachments and "D-rings" to lash down the gear securely.
To optimize every part of the raft, some models have a cleverly placed zipper to store gear in the actual pontoon. Your gear will slide around more (some models have clips to help prevent this) and be inaccessible during the day. But, this can save a significant amount of deck space... and keep your gear dry. The zipper also doubles up for ultra fast deflation. Note most packrafts are 1 continuous pontoon chamber, while some models have 2 or 4 chambers.
Complete Your Kit
✔️ Paddles: Aquabound Manta Ray
The second most essential piece of packrafting equipment is after the raft itself. Keep 'em collapsible and packable. Materials range from affordable aluminum to ultralight carbon fiber.
✔️ PFDs: Astral V-Eight
Personal Flotation Devices might be tempting to skip to save money or pack space. But modern PFDs can save your life without adding much weight. Double up as a pillow, backrest, or seat.
✔️ Inflation Bag: Manufacturer's
A lightweight bag, sometimes the stuff sack, is used to trap air and inflate the raft.
✔️ Repair Kit: DIY
In case of a hole or tear in the backcountry. Most manufacturers include one with purchase. If not, make your own.
✔️ Helmet: NRS Havoc Livery Helmet
Crucial if you intend to ride whitewater for obvious reasons. Depending on how rough the rapids are, you may get away with using a climbing helmet, which is generally lighter than a whitewater-specific helmet but won't provide the same level of impact protection.
✔️ Knife: Morakniv Companion
Again, crucial for whitewater in case you capsize and need to detach from anything with the potential to keep you under.
✔️ Throwbag: Hyperlite Mountain Gear River Rescue Throw Bag
A bag with a loosely packed rope in it is used as a safety line. Keep it around 30 ft.
✔️ Wetsuit or Drysuit: Kokatat Hydrus
You'll need one for insulation if you're rafting in cooler climates. These puppies can get pricey (and heavy), though. Dry suits are meant to keep you dry while wetsuits are built to keep you warm when dry. If the water is not too cold, you can use your rain gear instead.
✔️ Dry Bag: Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks
A waterproof, usually roll top, bag used to keep your gear dry on deck. This includes your food and water, inflation bag, packraft repair kit, extra clothing, wallet, electronics, etc.
Are pack rafts worth it?
Pack rafts are worth it not only for backcountry users but for those looking for a fun way to access local waterways and streams.
What are packrafts used for?
Packrafts are used for paddling lakes and rivers in backcountry environments. They roll up small enough to fit into a backpack while backpacking.