Updated in 2020! Some sites now no longer selling packrafts. Some alternatives have been tracked down. If you know of anyone not on this list (even if it’s you!), please let me know and I’ll add it to the post.
Looking for the best packrafts in the UK? It can be difficult to find packrafts to buy, especially because packrafting hasn’t yet caught on here in the same way as it has elsewhere. However, there are possibilities, if you know where to find them. This post will help you discover some of the top options available so you can strike out on your next adventure.
Packrafting is the solution to going on an adventure if you’re travelling over both water and land. For many, a packraft or inflatable kayak is an entry-level purchase when getting into paddling. It’s easy to carry anywhere, so you don’t need to mess about with roof racks or trailers, or even have a car. With a packraft, you could travel around using public transport, cycling and walking, and still paddle where you please.
Packraft vs Inflatable Kayak/Canoe: What’s the Difference?
When you’re considering a packraft, you’re likely to come across plenty of inflatable kayaks and canoes too. But is there a difference, and is it significant? While they might look similar, there are some ways they differ from each other.
Firstly, a packraft is designed to be a lot lighter and more compact than a standard inflatable kayak, making it much easier to carry. This means they’re more suited to carrying while hiking or biking. An inflatable kayak is going to be heavier and take up more space in your bag. However, because a packraft is made of lighter fabric, they’re also not as tough as inflatable kayaks. They can be more vulnerable to tearing and other damage – so they might not be the best choice for canals full of shopping trolleys or for rocky rivers.
A packraft is still a great choice, though, especially if getting something lightweight and compact is your goal. But where can you find packrafts in the UK?
The Best Packrafts in the UK
Alpacka Packrafts from Backcountry.scot
Alpacka is one of the top brands for packrafts, and Back Country is where you can find their packrafts in the UK. They have seven options for rafts, plus a range of accessories and spare parts. There’s the Caribou, Forager, Gnarwhal, Wolverine, Scout and Explorer 42, as well as the Classic Series. The Forager, Gnarwhal and Wolverine are from their Whitewater Series, offering a few tough options designed to handle rapids. Each raft can be customised in some way, with different colours, sizes, fabrics, seat options, build configurations and cargo fly options.
Alpacka has packrafts of all sizes, with the smallest being the Alpacka Scout. It weighs a mere 3.25lbs (1.47kg) or 3.44lbs (1.56kg) with the cargo fly, offering a maximum capacity of 275lbs (125kg). It has a packed size of only 15 x 5 inches or 38cm x 13cm.
There’s a fantastic range of packrafts and ways to customise them, with a good choice of price points too. However, with the cheapest raft reaching almost £600 and the most expensive tipping over the two grand point, you still need to be prepared to invest to benefit from the great quality. When you order from Back Country, your raft will be made to order in the US before being shipped to the UK. This means you could be waiting a number of weeks before your order arrives.
Back Country also offers plenty of accessories, parts and upgrades. They sell Alpacka branded items, as well as a few other brands.
Alpacka Packrafts from Packraft Europe
For an alternative place to buy Alpacka packrafts, Packraft Europe is a possibility. Packraft Europe is based in Austria, but they ship to all countries within the EU (they presumably still ship to the UK at this time). They offer free shipping on orders over €500, which means that all packraft orders come with free delivery. They have a slightly larger range than Back Country, including the Alpacka Oryx and Alpacka Mule, but the prices are largely the same.
For another European option, take a look at the Germany-based Anfibio Packrafting Store.
Nortik Rafts from Addnature
Nortik offers a balance between quality and price. Addnature has a choice of Nortik rafts, including the TrekRaft, CityRaft, Lite-Raft, Family-Raft, and TrekRaft Expedition. There’s the option of choosing some of them with a canopy/spraydeck to help keep you and your things dry while you’re rafting. 2020 Update: The Family-Raft appears to no longer be in stock.
Made from a durable PU material, these rafts mostly weigh around 3kg or less, with some weighing a little more. The CityRaft, for example, weighs 2.8kg and packs down to 70cm x 20cm. The CityRaft has been specially designed for urban environments, making it great for hopping onto a canal or river, whether you’re in Stockholm, Manchester, Hamburg or Amsterdam. Its design was created with directional stability in mind, so it’s ideal for navigating flat waters.
The largest of the Nortik packrafts is the Family-Raft, which is 3.9m long, but still weighs under 4kg at 3.8kg. It even packs down to a mere 55cm x 30cm. It comes with a seat, but there’s probably space for an adult and child, or possibly even two smaller adults.
Addnature sells a range of other watersports and outdoor equipment too, including paddles, clothing and shoes, life jackets, and more.
Kokopelli Packrafts from Escape Watersports
Escape Watersports has a choice of Kokopelli packrafts in the UK, including the Kokopelli Nirvana, Kokopelli Rogue and the Rogue-Lite, the Recon and the Twain. These packrafts come with or without spraydecks and also have the option of the Tizip zip, which allows you to store your things in the pontoons. Kokopelli rafts offer something for various environments; the Rogue-Lite is great for lakes and calm rivers, while the Nirvana has been designed with whitewater in mind. The Twain is a two-person packraft in a canoe style. 2020 Update: Some slight changes to the available rafts – out with the Twain, in with the Moki I, Moki II, and XPD, the cheapest option of all models.
These rafts are rugged and durable, and lightweight, but not as light as some other options. The Nirvana, for example, weighs 9.2lbs (4.2kg) together with its inflatable floor and seat. However, the heavier weight is balanced out by the durability of the tough material that’s used. Lighter materials aren’t always better if you don’t want to worry about potential rips and tears. The Rogue-Lite is the lightest option, at only 4.2lbs (1.9kg).
Prices start at £709.99, although you might also be able to grab yourself a deal on an ex-demo raft. Escape Watersports also sells a range of Kokopelli accessories, including repair kits, valves, inflation bags, gear packs, and more.
On-One Calder Pack Raft
Seeking a budget option? On-One make the Calder 250 packraft, which is available as an open model, with a spraydeck, or with a spraydeck and T-zip from only £377. The open style weighs in at 3.2kg, and the raft comes with a removable seat and seat back, stuff sack, inflation bag, repair kit, and stern and bow grab loops. It’s made from 201D single and double TPU, 840D double-coated TPU floor, and 420D single-coated TPU seat. As a bike-focused brand, On-One also sells a bike carrier for the raft.
Update 2020: this site now appears to be Planet X – with narry a raft in sight!
Longshore International is a UK-based company offering a choice of packrafts that are on the more affordable end of the scale. Their rafts start at about £500 and don’t get much more than a couple of hundred pounds more. They have six rafts, including super light rafts, an expedition packraft, a raft with a removable spraydeck, a whitewater self-bailer, whitewater raft with spraydeck, and cross packraft.
Their super light packrafts weigh 2.73kg and 3.24kg, including the seat and backrest, inflation bag, and carry strap. The tubes are made using single-coated 210D nylon and the floor is made from 840D double-coated nylon. They inflate in about three minutes with the Boston valve and inflation bag, and feature an inflatable U-seat, plus a number of webbing tie points at the stern and bow. The Expedition is another Longshore packraft that offers a versatile raft for one or two people, while their whitewater raft is designed for more challenging waters.
Update 2020: Unfortunately, Longshore International is no longer offering packrafts for sale. However, they remain as a packrafting blog, so check them out if you’re interested.
Build Your Own Packraft with Iron Raft
As you can see, most packrafts are sourced from the US, making them pretty expensive. However, there is an alternative if you want to save some money. The Iron Raft, so called because you iron it together, allows anyone to make their own packraft using similar materials to those used by the big brands. If you’re willing to put in the time to build your raft, it could be a great option.
The DIY kit costs £170-185, depending on whether you choose small, medium or large. It includes pre-cut fabric that’s ready to seal together using heat from your iron, plus TPU/PU coated nylon 210D tubes, and a 420D floor. It also comes with a Boston valve, an inflation bag, and urethane glue. Everything is marked and precut, apart from the valve sealing fabric, and it even includes some offcuts of 420D fabric so you can make some optional luggage straps.
You only need household items to put this kit together, so if you want to take on a challenge, it could save you a lot of money.
New to this post in 2020:
Packraft & Adventure has a selection of packrafts from the likes of Anfibio, Kokopelli, and MRS. There’s a broad price range, from the cheapest at £315 (the AnfibioNano SL) and the most expensive currently priced at £1,389 (MRS Alligator 2S Pro).
AS Watersports sells a selection of Kokopelli crafts, including the Moki I and II, Nirvana, and Rogue-Lite.
Radical Rider Kayak Shop offers another option for Kokopelli, ranging from the £700 Moki Lite to the Nirvana.
Coming soon: packrafts from NERIS. They currently have a range made primarily for the rental market, but they’re working on a lighter option suitable for backpacking.
Choosing the Best Packrafts in the UK: What Should You Look for in a Packraft?
Now you know where to buy a packraft in the UK, how should you choose between the different brands and models available? There are a few things that you might want to consider when you’re deciding which packraft is right for you.
- Suitability for different types of paddling – are you looking for a packraft that’s good for river rafting, whitewater, multi-day trips or even urban paddling?
- Number of seats and capacity – do you want a raft with space for two, and how much weight does it need to be able to take?
- Portability – weight and folded size are important; a packraft needs to be compact and lightweight.
- Time to set up – how long does it take to inflate?
- Durability – is it made from tough material that’s going to stand up to a few bumps and scrapes?
- Handling in the water – what does it feel like in the water, and is it easy to steer? This can be hard to tell without testing, but reading reviews helps.
- Comfort – is it comfortable to sit and paddle in? Again, check reviews and watch videos to see what others think.
- Extras and accessories – what else comes with the packraft? Does it have a storage bag, paddle, straps, spraydeck or any other accessories or extras?
If none of the options for buying packrafts in the UK appeal to you, you might want to consider an inflatable kayak instead. They’re usually not as lightweight, but some of the lighter options are comparable to some of the heavier packrafts.
Do you have any experiences of buying a packraft in the UK, or any favourite places to buy?