9 Best Lightweight Packrafts

A guide to packrafting and what to look for in the best packrafts.

by Sam Schild
Updated on September 14th, 2021

© Adam Ciuk

Packrafts are compact and inflatable rafts that you can carry in a backpack. With a packraft you can explore backcountry waterways that would be impossible to bring a kayak or canoe to. And, if you pack a lightweight raft on your next hike you can cruise down a river or paddle across an alpine lake when you reach the water.

With a packraft, your backpacking trips are no longer limited to crossing the land. How cool is that?

These aren’t pool toys either. Packrafts are serious watercraft, made to withstand abuse from branches, sharp rocks, and whatever else nature throws at you. 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.

Let’s dig into some things to look for as well as our picks for the best packrafts.

Table of Content

Here's what's coming. Click on any item to jump straight to it:



This comes down to comfort and packability. You are going to be hiking and carrying this thing on your back, potentially for long distances. Also keep in mind, packrafting requires more gear than just the raft itself (paddle, etc).

Ultralight backpackers with flatwater in mind should aim for rafts around 2 to 3 pounds. Whitewater rafters will start at the 5 lbs, minimum. You can expect for a complete packrafting gear kit to add somewhere between 6 to 12 pounds to your pack.


Even on calm lakes, rafts will contact debris, branches, rocks, etc. Sacrificing durability means risking rush repair jobs in the wilderness, or worse, an early end to your trip.

"Denier" is a unit used to measure the thickness of fabric. Quality tubing and flooring fabric will be coated and made of, at minimum, 70 D and can go on up to 840 D.

person packrafting© Paolo Marchesi


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.

lightweight packraft on whitewater
© Erik Mauer

Best Packrafts

From ultralight dinghies to bombproof rafts.

Model Weight Load Capacity Price
Kokopelli Hornet Lite 4 lbs 15 oz 275 lbs $525
Alpacka Scout 2 lbs 8 oz 220 lbs $595
Kokopelli Rogue Lite 5 lbs 2 oz 300 lbs $899
Klymit Litewater Dinghy 2 lbs 3 oz 350 lbs $170
Supai Adventure Gear Matkat Flatwater Boat 1 lb 12 oz 325 lbs $350
NRS Packraft 7 lbs 5 oz 350 lbs $575
AIR BAKraft 7 lbs 2 oz 350 lbs $1,649
Alpacka Caribou 4 lbs 400 lbs $945
MRS Microraft Ponto 6 lbs 4 oz 330 lbs $700
kokopelli hornet lite

KOKOPELLI - Hornet Lite

  • Weight: 4 lbs 15 oz
  • Load Capacity: 275 lbs
  • Price: $550

My personal favorite. Kokopelli has only been around a few years and already has a loyal following in the packrafting community. The Hornet is as light as it gets 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.

For those looking for a more serious raft, their Rogue-Lite is just 0.3 pounds heavier and comes with a Kevlar-reinforced floor. For spraydecks and self-bailer options, see their complete Series.

See on kokopelli.com

alpacka scout


  • Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz
  • Load Capacity: 220 lbs
  • Price: $595

Alpacka is a dominant brand in the packrafting world. They have been around for decades and have a reputation for quality and innovation. The Scout is their most basic, stripped-down model. However, it still has additional volume in the bow and stern to make it handle as well as possible. This makes it an ideal candidate for ultralight adventures that require some 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. However, since this is designed to be as light as possible it does get pretty tight when sitting in this raft. For larger packrafts, more durable whitewater rafts, spraydecks, and endless customization. See Alpacka’s full Series.

See on alpacka.com

kokopelli rogue lite

KOKOPELLI - Rogue lite

  • Weight: 5 lbs 2 oz
  • Load capacity: 300 lbs
  • Price: $899

This is a packraft for the minimalists. It is 7 feet long, 3 feet wide, and rated for class 1 rapids. So, it is best used in lakes, flat water, and easy rivers. This raft is ultra-lite and packs down to the size of a roll of paper towels. It has an inflatable seat cushion, has double reinforced seams, and a Kevlar-reinforced floor system for durability. The raft also has a protected quick-release air nozzle along with a new TIZIP feature which creates a waterproof, airtight zippered storage compartment for gear.

All these features make this packraft a great option for backcountry excursions that will require a significant amount of water travel and dry gear after leaving the water. This raft only takes around 5 minutes to inflate using the included inflation bag, too. The Rogue series by Kokopelli won “gear of the year” in Men’s Journal Magazine, 2019.

See on kokopelli.com

klymit litewater dinghy

KLYMIT - Litewater Dinghy

  • Weight: 2 lbs 3 oz
  • Load Capacity: 350 lbs
  • Price: $170

This is an ultralight cruiser that resembles more of a dinghy than a raft. It is extremely compact and lightweight to easily stuff in your pack. This is a good option for those looking for a lightweight option to cross calm waterways on a backcountry route.

With a lifetime warranty, these are inexpensive and very durable. So, they’re great for beginners looking to get started with packrafting. This is spacious enough for you and your gear and includes tie-off points to secure it. The padded floor allows for more comfortable and efficient paddling. But, keep in mind this is only good for calmer waters since the walls are very low. And this packraft doesn’t hold shape well, which decreases handling and stability.

See on amazon.com 

supai adventure gear matkat flatwater boat

SUPAI ADVENTURE GEAR - Matkat Flatwater Boat

  • Weight: 1 lb 12 oz
  • Load Capacity: 325 lbs
  • Price: $350

This packraft is one of the lightest you will find. This alone makes it an obvious choice for expeditions with extended deep water crossings. It handles well enough on flat water but is not intended for strong rapids or choppy water.

This packraft packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle. So, you’ll have plenty of room in your pack for all the essentials along with this raft. This raft is very minimal and needs to be treated carefully to avoid punctures. However, it is not flimsy by any means and has been relied on by many to get far into the backcountry. It features one gear attachment point, but only one. It does feature a large dump valve for quick deflation, but not much else.

For an even lighter and smaller packraft from Supai Adventure Gear, check out the Canyon Flatwater Boat.

See on supaiadventuregear.com

nrs packraft

NRS - Packraft

  • Weight: 7 lbs 5 oz
  • Load Capacity: 350 lbs
  • Price: $575

NRS has been making reputable water sports gear for many years. And, their packraft is no different. At nearly 7 feet long and with a 350 lb capacity, it can fit 2 people along with their gear. Since it is so long, it stays stable and goes straighter than shorter packrafts, too.

This raft features a 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.

See on amazon.com See on nrs.com
aire bakraft

AIRE - BAKraft

  • Weight: 7 lbs 2 oz
  • Load Capacity: 350 lbs
  • Price: $1,649

The BAKraft is more of a hybrid of an inflatable kayak and a packraft. The 2 vertical chambers give it a banana shape, yet it is wide like a raft. This design allows the BAKraft to handle serious water. And, this raft’s design allows for better maneuverability and stability than a standard packraft. This is a great option if you’re looking for something that can handle real river rapids and can be stowed away in your backpack.

This can take some abuse, too. The Dyneema covered hull protects it against tough abrasions without adding a lot of weight. And, the built-in inflatable seat and backrest double as a roll-top dry bag. This raft is self-bailing, too, which helps keep the raft extremely maneuverable and light. It comes complete with thigh straps, 14 tie downs, D-rings, an inflation bag, and a repair kit. In short, this is a seriously high performing raft with everything you need for about 7 lbs.

See on aire.com

alpacka caribou

ALPACKA – Caribou

  • Weight: 4 lbs 12 oz
  • Load capacity: 400 lbs
  • Price: $945

This full-sized ultralight packraft is one of the lightest ones you’ll find. This is best used for crossing calm rivers, lakes, or small rapids. Its specialty load bow strap design makes it perfect for balancing and securing larger items to the front of the raft.

But, the heavier the raft, the harder it is to maneuver. Although it does remain well balanced even when loaded down, you probably don’t want to paddle too far with your fully loaded bikepacking rig strapped to the front. This raft has an airtight zippered fly at its stern for keeping gear dry, too. The Caribou forgoes most other extras like footrests and thigh straps, though. If you’re after a raft with more features or comfort check out the Whitewater Series.

See on alpacka.com

mrs microraft ponto

MRS Microraft Ponto

  • Weight: 6 lbs 4 oz
  • Load capacity: 330 lbs 
  • Price: $700

This is the larger version of the MRS Tulo and was created for those looking for more comfort and space without sacrificing the straightforward design and durable build of MRS Microrafts. It is best used in calm lakes, rivers, or class 1 and 2 rated white waters. It comes with a 3-year warranty, a backrest, horseshoe seats, straps, and repair materials.

This raft provides ample space for transporting large items, too. And, you can order your Microraft Ponto with a zippered internal storage system. This allows you to securely store gear at the rear of the boat. Although, anything stored in the ISS won’t be accessible while using the raft. The Ponto doesn’t include a spraydeck, either.

See on packraft-sverige.com



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 forcing 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.

best ultralight packraftsCC BY 2.0 | Paxson Woelber


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.

attaching gear on a best lightweight packraft
D-rings allow you to secure your gear at the front of the packraft.


Packrafts are designed to be practical, packable, portable, water-maneuvering devices you can take just about anywhere. These inflatable boats are strong enough to cruise bustling rivers or mountain lakes while still compressing down small enough to fit in your backpack. They 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.

CC BY-SA 4.0 | Wikimedia (Esben~dewiki)

rolled lightweight packraft in backpack
Once rolled, packrafts take minimal space compared to hard shell kayaks.


Packrafts should be made from strong, waterproof, UV resistant material that’s able to easily adjust to changing water temperatures. The best-designed packrafts use treated nylon called Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) which is a modified version of Polyurethane (PU). Although there are cheaper packrafts made from vinyl PVC on the market, TPU is an incredibly durable and tear-proof material that’s lighter, stronger, and more flexible than PVC.

inflation valve on packraft


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

anatomy of a packraft


The pontoon is the buoyant part your raft. It contains the air chamber that keep the boat afloat, and sometimes includes extra space for you to store your gear in it.


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 boat. 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.


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.


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 a separate, optional piece.

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.


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 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. 

inflating a packraft with an inflation bag

Complete Your Kit

✔️ Paddles: Aquabound Manta Ray

The second most essential piece of packrafting equipment after the raft itself. Keep 'em collapsible and packable. Materials range from affordable aluminum up 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, back rest or seat.

✔️ Inflation Bag: Manufacturer's

A lightweight bag, sometimes the stuff sack, that is used to trap air and inflate the raft.

✔️ Repair Kit: DIY

In case of a hole or tear in the back country. 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 potential to keep you under.

✔️ Throwbag: Hyperlite Mountain Gear River Rescue Throw Bag

A bag with a loosely packed rope in it 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 your 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.

Sam Schild photo

About Sam Schild

By Sam Schild (aka “Sia,” pronounced sigh): Sam is a writer, thru-hiker, and bikepacker. You can find him in Denver when he’s not out exploring in the mountains somewhere..

About Greenbelly

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. This post may contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you.
Stoveless Backpacking Meals
  • 650-Calorie Fuel
  • No Cooking
  • No Cleaning