There are few things that beat sitting beside a high alpine lake after a full day of hiking. But here’s one of them: paddling on that alpine lake.
The fledgling sport of packrafting is perhaps best known for feats involving whitewater. But there is also a quietly emerging contingent of flatwater packrafters. And, there are several ultralight brands that cater specifically to this side of the sport. Today, we bring you the best packraft brands for flatwater.
(If you want to know more about whitewater packraft brands, check out this article).
Supai Adventure Gear Canyon Flatwater 2
Built for canyoneering and high alpine lakes
Weight: 1.5 pounds
When Aaron Locander started exploring the Grand Canyon, he needed a boat light enough to carry, but durable enough to cross the Colorado River. His trial and error lead to creating Supai Adventure Gear, with his wife Shannon Flowers.
The Supai packraft, called the Canyon Flatwater 2, condenses down to the size of a Nalgene water bottle and weighs only 1.5 pounds, making it perfect for hauling in on camping and hiking trips as a way to relax and enjoy high mountain lakes, or to use for exiting canyoneering adventures.
Also be sure to check out Supai's ultralight 4-piece paddle that weighs a mere 12 ounces.
Click here to read the full story about how Supai got its start.
Alpacka Scout and Ghost Scout
Best for long-distance trekking, mellow river crossings, and lightweight travel
Weight: 3 lbs , 9 ounces for the Scout and 1.5 pounds for the Ghost Scout
Price: $545 for the Scout and $595 for the Ghost Scout
Alpacka Raft is best known for its line of whitewater packrafts. But among it growing quiver of options there are two flatwater standouts: the Scout and the Ghost Scout.
The Scout is a stripped down version of Alpacka's whitewater boats. It's durable and versatile. It works well for long-distance trekking, mellow river crossings, canyoneering, spelunking, lake fishing, and lightweight travel. It also is a good beginner boat for teaching children to packraft, as it has smaller side tubes.
New this year, the Ghost Scout mirrors the design of the Scout, but at 1.5 pounds weighs half as much. The downside? It's a fragile boat that needs to be handled gently. It also comes at a high price. Alpacka recommends keeping the Ghost Scout in your fishing vest just in case.
Best for multi-purpose adventurers
Weight: 2 pounds 13 ounces
“Less weight, more adventure” is FlyWeight’s motto. The CrossFlyte packraft is perfect for touring alpine lakes and crossing calm rivers. It’s also durable enough to handle Class II whitewater. FlyWeight Designs started to develop quality, ultralight products for backpackers and fishermen. Its packraft the CrossFlyte features an innovative “skin” over tube design that allows users to switch out skins based on use.
Best for roadside paddles, short approaches and splashy water
Weight: 7.4 pounds
Compared to some of the other packrafts on this list, the NRS is heavy at more than 7 pounds, but it also is better able to handle splashy class II (maybe class III) water. Plus, once it's inflated, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out. The boat is almost seven-feet long and three-feet wide. Yet it still folds down to fit in a backpack, if you don’t mind hauling the weight. The ultra-durable fabric makes this craft ideal for fishing your favorite mountain lake.
Klymit LiteWater Dinghy
Most economical choice and great for comfort seekers
Weight: 2.9 pounds
Even a day on flatwater can be exhausting and leave you sore. The LiteWater Dinghy from Klymit weighs only 35 ounces and features ergonomic seating for a comfortable and well-supported paddling position. Alpine lakes and rivers are now fair game for your adventures. You can stay dry canyoneering or camp on an untouched island. The boat design moves the center of buoyance directly under the paddler.
Advanced Elements PackLite
Best for taking to a tropical beach
Weight: 4 pounds
Advanced Elements started as a way to combine the portability of inflatables with the durability of rigid component kayaks. And just as the name implies, the Advanced Elements PackLite Inflatable Kayak is shaped more like a kayak. This improves tracking but reduces stability.
The PackLite weighs more than the other packrafts described above (excerpt for the NRS). Also it is best inflated with a foot pump (versus an inflation bag) so that adds extra weight and bulk as well. People tend to select the PackLite for lakes, bays, and inland waters. It fits in luggage and works great for playing in calm waters.
Want to know what else is out there? Click here to read about the best packraft brands for whitewater.