A packraft is one of the most enjoyable pieces of outdoor recreation equipment I’ve ever used. I paddled my first whitewater river in an army surplus packraft in Washington’s Olympic Range in 1988, and I never looked back. Here, my son Chase is paddling aft in an Alpacka Fjord Explorer on Montana’s Madison River with Bozeman’s Eagle Mount, an organization that provides therapeutic recreation opportunities for young people with disabilities and cancer.
- Provides an overview of packraft types, terminology, and design principles;
- Identifies specific brands and models and compares their key features and specifications;
- Suggests specific packraft models for various applications.
This report features open boats (i.e., packrafts without integrated spray decks or skirts) designed to be paddled with a double-bladed kayak paddle, where gear (i.e., a backpack) is secured to tie-down loops affixed to the outside of the tubes. However, many of the packrafts featured in this report can be rigged with add-ons that add functionality to the boat. Examples include:
- Rowing frames and detachable skegs for more efficient flatwater paddling with dual oars;
- Self-bailing floors, spray decks, and/or spray skirts for whitewater use;
- Zippered cargo bays that allow for storage of gear inside the tubes;
- Additional tie-down loops that can be glued to the tubes for increased gear attachment options, or grab lines;
In an attempt to normalize the comparison of packrafts in this report and distill the market to its core designs, packrafts specifically featuring these add-on options have been omitted from the comparison table. Where appropriate, however, the availability of these add-ons have been noted, and packrafts featuring them will be highlighted in the “Applications” section later in this report.