Have you ever thought about buying a kayak? Well then you probably shouldn’t read this article. Because in this kayak versus packraft I’m going to give you every reason to buy a packraft instead of a kayak. However, to be objective, I will also share in which cases you should buy a kayak rather than a packraft.

So this article covers the basics of packrafting, including:

What is packrafting? Packrafting could be described as carrying a small inflatable kayak while hiking or cycling.

10 reasons to buy a packraft: Focussing not only on technical aspects but also on what the possibilities are with a packraft, which to be honest it’s mind blowing!

When to buy a kayak instead of a packraft: If none of the above apply then go and buy a kayak. Or better for you, have both!

What is packrafting?

Packrafting could be described as carrying a small inflatable kayak while hiking. These special rafts are tough and durable but also light and compact. So it can be packed down to a size which is tiny enough to carry in your backpack, or in your bike, without weighing you down. Packrafting is a game changer because it allows us to reach places which would not be accesible otherwise. To draw new lines on the map and create new routes crossing lakes, reaching rivers or hidden beaches. In other words, to explore nature like never before!

10 reasons to buy a packraft:

I’m going to share 10 good reasons to buy a packraft, but there are more! Feel free to leave a comment if you find more in favor. 

Space: not everyone has a big house with a nice garage to store all the toys we want. So having a packraft in your house is more convenient. Specially for the urbanites one. You can even rinse a packraft in the shower!

  • Weight: 2 – 5kg for a packraft versus 12 – 25kg to a kayak. That one was easy
  • Length: from 2m to 5m you find all the packraft range (also 2 person packrafts) and for a kayak you find even longer boats but again, heavier.

Transport: for a kayak you always need a car! Not just that, you definitely need a car with roof rack. As for a packraft you just need a 40L backpack, that’s all the space you need. And I’m being generous, because well packed it fits smaller. By the way, if you go bikerafting you don’t even need a car! You ride your bike with your packraft strapped in to the handle bar and once you arrive to the water you put the bike on top of the packraft, in the bow. So simple, so easy.

Airplanes: I know people usually don’t think about airplanes when buying a kayak. But they should! We all know what an ordeal it is to board an airplane, right? Then imagine you buy a 20kg hardshell kayak because you like whitewater kayaking, and the next year you travel to another country with your kayak. Good luck with the logistics… Iv’e travelled with my packraft as hand luggage.

Versatility: you can have a packraft to surf waves that is also suitable for crossing lakes, descending rivers or to go sea fishing. And of course also valid for multi day trips! With a kayak you need more than one model, sometimes just to suit one discipline. Like for example when doing whitewater, there is the kayak you own for day trips and then you probably would need another kayak for multi day expeditions.

Durability: with good care and the correct maintenance you will have packraft for many years. You can fix easily a puncture in the field. I can’t say the same for a hole in a kayak though.

Fashion: you trow your packraft to the ground, you grave that garbage bag we use to inflate the packraft in under 5 minutes. Everyone is staring at you and then, you realize that you are awesome, unique, and they are impressed.

Bonding: packrafting is something that you can do with your family, including the kids. Also with best friends or even with your pet.

Community: packrafters accept everyone as their own. From Sunday hikers to elite athletes everyone have their place in the packrafting community. You can be a hiker, a runner, a climber, a canyoning, a cycling, a whitewater kayaker, a fisherman, a hunter, a skydiver, a free diver, a skier and so on. You can mix packrafting with all your favorite sports and do amazing things.

Packrafting gatherings: you can find lots of packrafting meetups around the globe where we share our love for this sport, share our knowledge, share good practices in and out the water and of course, have a good time in the evening party.

Benefits for you health: as you can combine many activities with packrafting, you gather the good things of them all. It gives you a complete outdoor sport experience. Physical and mental advantages. Improves your cardiovascular health, muscular strength, endurance, range of motion and stress relief.

When to buy a kayak instead of a packraft:

Extreme kayaker: right now If you are a solid class IV whitewater packrafter and want to go for class V rapids in the river then you should buy a hardshell kayak. Although you probably already have a whitewater kayak, so better buy a packraft and combine it with multi day trips for example. 

Racing kayak: If you have a racing soul and you enjoy doing miles in the water or run against the chronometer, then join a canoe sprint racing team.

Sea kayaking: If you are more an “speed person” than a relaxed pace one, a sea kayak allows you to enjoy the landscape and fight better the wind and waves. Although with courage, good planning and some extra days you could navigate the same waters with a packraft. 

Freestyle kayaking: If you would like to do all those impressive freestyle moves in a wave or even compete on this category, then you definitely should buy a freestyle kayak. Although you can surf waves, and do certain freestyle moves with a packraft, but not at that level.

Still wondering if packrafting is for you? Good news – you can always rent a packraft to help make up your mind whether packrafting is for you or not. Or join us in a packrafting guided route so we can share our passion with you.

*Most photos in this post are property of my good friend Carlos Izquierdo. Check some other beautiful shoots in his flickr account.