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DIY Packraft Early Review

What the Heck?

Packrafts are inflatable rafts that are light enough to pack on a bike or in a backpack. Though they are all light, many have whitewater capability. In general, the lightest flatwater models weigh 1-3kg and the whitewater styles can be as heavy as 5kg.

I heard about through internet searching. He is a one-man part time operation making raft kits that customers must assemble for themselves. By assemble, I mean cut, align, heat weld, and seal. The kits consist of a pile of fabric scored with the pattern, and some valves. There is an optional TZip waterproof zipper to allow you to open the tube and store bags in it.

I Bought Some.

Manufactured packrafts are great, I’ve tried a few. But I wanted packrafts soon, and that meant I needed to improve drastically on the $4000 cost of a pair of manufactured packrafts. DIYpackraft fit the budget.

I bought the required tools while waiting for the rafts to arrive. They arrived on time, with the password for the instructions, and the kits enclosed in a no-frills wrapping. I was glad to see that I hadn’t wasted money on frivolous packaging.

I Build Some Rafts:

The kits are very basic, the fabric is scored, but needs to be cut out. I was a little disappointed in the depth of the scoring, it was inconsistent and sometimes even hard to see. The uneven scoring was my biggest complaint about the whole experience.

In any case, in about 27 hours I had yellow raft built. Sealing the leaks was definitely not as difficult as some of the customers on the forum complained of, but neither was it easy. In hindsight, I would have practised some large seams like the floor seams before doing the actual raft welding.

Let’s Paddle!

Once the first raft was assembled, it was time to hit the water. I strapped the raft to my bike and fit a test paddle in between running some errands. Though there were some leaks, I could refill on the fly, and I was happy with the performance.

After some quick patching, I was ready to bring a passenger, and by that I mean a kid.

I arranged a field trip with one of my Hobo Daycare™ girls on a day when she was the only client.

The Red Raft:

Once I had the second raft made, I brought Fiona with me. Her paddling experience is limited, and highlighted how well the rafts handle. With a slight load on the front to keep it down and help the raft track, she could manage the raft in the riffles of the river.

Post Testing Use:

I’ve had my rafts out for several weekend outings now, I’ve written about them previously on this blog. While both rafts had some persistent leaking, I’ve only had to re-inflate about once per hour or less. I spent a couple of hours last week doing some further sealing and they seem to be much improved. None of the leaks have been random, they have been consistently in the hardest to seal places, or in places where I made an error in assembly.

Conclusion (for now):

I really like these rafts. After re-working the yellow one due to some deficiencies with my iron, it has been great.

I feel confident taking my rafts up to class 2 rapids (with a bike strapped to the bow!), though by some standards I’ve paddled class 3 with them. I built spray decks for both of them, and they really help keep the waves out.

Make no mistake, these are not an easy weekend project. They require attention to detail and meticulous assembly. They will not forgive poor assembly. I am confident that if I get a third, it will be incrementally better than the first ones.

For those willing to commit the time to assembling them properly, these are a budget-friendly entry into the world of packrafting. For others, these will be a frustrating experience. If you enjoy working with your hands, crafts, or sewing, than these are the bargain start to a packrafting hobby.

Stay tuned for a longer term review some time next year!

Post Script:

Yes, you want the zipper!, I bought these paddles (amazon associate link) for easier water, they are very light, but not robust.


I bought these with my own money. I have no relationship with other than as a customer. I did not warn him that I was doing this review, nor did he ask me to do it. I did not get a discount for being an obscure winter bikepacking blogger.

5 thoughts on “DIY Packraft Early Review

  1. Great post Doug! Until seeing it, I had no idea there were DIY packrafts – that’s pretty intense. While the economy is appealing – I’m still lacking in the tools/patience/time department at the moment – but will add it to the Possible Adventure To-Do list. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Time and patience are definite requirements, but the tools can be had for about $60. Frankly, unless you enjoy making stuff, then the time to build them probably boosts the price to what an Alpacka costs. I had originally hoped to get the kids involved in building, but it takes lots of pressure to get a really good seam, so Fiona wasn’t really big enough, and Tadhg isn’t super adventure-focused these days.

  2. Hi. I apologize in advance if you posted the model name of these DIY rafts. I’m trying to figure out dog space in the raft and am curious about what raft model you built. Thanks for all the great info! Lori in Courtenay BC.

    1. Mine are the V3, I believe they have been replaced by the Skeena. I got the Largest ones (140) since I’m a 6’3″ guy and my son is only a couple of inches shorter. For big dogs, I’d need to look at a 2 person boat.

  3. […] and cancelled the 4th day, I set out from Radium late Friday afternoon. My bike was loaded with my packraft, paddles, pfd, 4 days of food and camping […]

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