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Thread: Packraft vs Inflatable Kayak

  1. #1

    Default Packraft vs Inflatable Kayak

    I am considering a packraft or inflatable kayak and was wondering the good and bad point of each? It sounds like a packraft would be lighter weight for hauling but would be a tighter fit for gear and a little tougher to negotiate rapids and rough water? Any thoughts would be appreciated!

  2. #2
    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Palmer, AK


    To me you seem to have it down. I look at an inflatable kayak as a way to get from a drop off point to a pickup point where as a packraft will get you back out of the woods from a long hike in. The IK will certainly haul more but don't leave much room if any for anything else in a pack.

    At the end of the day they are different boats for different purposes.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2006


    Quite a bit of weight difference. An Aire Lynx weighs about 35lbs compared to most packrafts of under 10lbs. If you were packing it, those 25lbs would be significant. There are some IK that weigh less, and some packrafts that weigh more, but there is still a substantial difference. The fabric on an IK is thicker and heavier, so it should be more durable.

    An IK will have a longer waterline, so they are often faster. But you sit lower in most packrafts, so they are often more stable. IK's don't come with skirts, but they do self bail. Both are wet inside, and both do amazingly well in whitewater. I have an old Thrillseeker IK that surfs pretty well; something I've not seen packrafters do much of, but most IK's don't surf well either.

  4. #4


    I own two IKs and I have friends that own pack rafts. These boats are designed for completely different things and we rarely float together. I take treat my IKs as mini rafts and take them on multiday trips, fishing trips, and booze cruizes. They are also excellent whitewater boats. I really only see packrafts use their boats in hiking/floating combo day trips. The other part is comfort. I don't like sitting in the same spot in the same way. In my IK's, on a longer trip, I have the freedom to stretch my legs out, sit cross legged, straddle the tubes, or even sit on my knees.... you can't do that with a pack raft. In the boating world, a raft is a truck, a kayak is a subaru outback, and a pack-raft is like a geo metro.

  5. #5


    Depends on what you want to do. There are a few very clear lines. If you want to do hike in trips with your boat (and don't want to carry an ultra heavy pack/multiple trips), a packraft is the choice. If you plan to use your boat to do some extended paddling on flat water like long lake traverses, paddling in Baja, etc. (but don't plan to pack in), then you'll want an IK. Most everything in the middle is a matter of personal choice as packrafts are certainly capable of handling severe whitewater in the hands of the right boater. I believe there are places you can rent both in Anchorage. If you can, try to take each out for a day or to and see what you like. Then pick.

  6. #6


    Thanks for the tips guys! I like the rental idea to test them out. Does anyone happen to know some Anchorage rental stores to try 1 or 2 out? Another obvious advantage to the packraft would be airlines and fly-ins. It would be nice to have something small and light enough that you aren't charged extra baggage or need an extra flight to get dropped off.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Default Performance of boats

    I have used kayaks, IK's, and Pr's on at least class IV whitewater, and have been boating with a quite a few boaters on class V in different types of boats.
    Here is what I have found out, so far, in regards to the performance each boat yields on whitewater, as well as long multi day trips.

    First off, the quality of some IK's is simply unbelievable, I have severly abused my Lynx for 5 years and cannot understand how material, that is flexable, can be so tough, I guess thats why they have a 10 year warranty... The best part is the inner bladders, which are protected by a exoskeleton of tough PVC, and one that you can patch, sew, glue, with no effect to performance. I just fixed a Tomcat, for a friend, with a 58 inch rip (really) and the boat will be fine.

    At almost 8 ft long, the new 2011 packrafts essentially did away with the IK, as far as whitewater usage, in many ways. They figured out how to extend the stern, making more of a kayak shape out of a bath tub shaped boat, and kept the integrity of the structure, when under force, in a 6 pound boat. This corrected, what I originally hated about packrafts, the backender. Add some thigh straps, and you have a capable boat which can handle breaking waves better than the old style, tracks much better, and can glide over some holes better. Still a longer boat performs better on holes, when edging is not in the mix, but most boaters will not be able to tell much difference for awhile. The packrafts also have solid floors, without drain-holes that grab water and slow down the intial burst of speed at the onset of paddling something, so they burst out well at the start. They also come with a spray deck that is about 90 percent effective.

    The Ik and its self bailing feature is still a feature that is excellent. When exploring unknown streams,or whatever streams, this allows the boater to just jump out of, and back into their boat. For instance, you see a piece of wood, you get in shallow water or close to shore and go for it, and you need no eddy to get back in.

    The two hardshells are a river runner with edging, and a creekboat with minimal edging, only a ring at the water-line. The idea behind this creekboat was the lack of edging would allow the water to slide under the boat when doing a ferry, and the water-line edge would grab the water, and pivot the boat when the boat is put on edge, when catching eddies. In turn, the boat does not track as well as a river runner, such as the orange boat, so most creekboats do have more edging now. The river runner has a round bow to deflect off rocks, like a creekboat, but also has edging for better surfing and carving on the water, and it does just that.
    Hardshells are harder to master, but you get far more performance, than any other boat, and with a brace and good balance, they are the most realiable for stability, because of their instability(hmmm). If you ever get sick of swimming, try it. I feel much better having my son in a kayak than any other boat, and he has combat rolled, with ease, but still has the swim option if he can't roll.

    So here's the skinny, they all perform well. If you do less hiking, under a few miles, and more gear hauling an IK may be for you. If you want to be a whitewater monster, a kayak is the only way to go. If you want a boat that can do a large portion of all the attributes(including easy hikes, portages,with all above mentioned) adhered to, safely and commonsense-wise, exploring Alaska whitewater, I think the new packraft may be a good choice.

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